France is all about culture, food, wine, and fashion. Albi is a classic French city that will awe you with its astounding culture and breathtaking scenery. This city is located in the South French Tarn Department along River Tarn. Albi is an embodiment of timeless history, art, and culture less than an hour away from Toulouse. Check out our list of the top things to do in Albi for a memorable trip to Albi.
As you enter this episcopal city, you will be awe-struck at the sight of a magnificent Cathedrale Ste-Cecile and its massive bell tower. This Cathedral is visible from anywhere in the city. Furthermore, Albi is a 5000+-year-old city that has witnessed several significant moments of history, growth, destruction, and resurrection. The massive buildings and cobblestone houses dating back to13th-century and before are representations of Albi’s timeless history. There are so many tales and incidents embossed within the walls of the picturesque monuments of Albi. This city is also the birthplace of the famous 19th-century artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
When speaking of Albi, the first image that comes to anyone’s mind is the magnificent Cathedrale Saint Cecile and its 78-meter-tall bell tower. This Cathedral encompasses a Southern French Gothic style architecture. The stunning sepia tones from the red brick stones, and its gigantic character, symbolizes the authority of the Roman Catholic Church since defeating the Cathers in the 13th-Century.
Did you know? It took 200 years to construct this enormous monument. The fact that it is still in impeccable shape puts many travelers in awe. While the exteriors are as robust as a fortress, the interiors in this cathedral are extravagant. This cathedral boasts some of the largest and oldest Italian frescos, stained glass ceilings, and carved wooden sculptures. Furthermore, Albi Cathedral was declared a prominent UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2010. Travel through the rich past of the city by exploring the timeless architectural glory of this Cathedral.
- Albi Cathedral, Albi – by – Viktor Goloborodko/shutterstock.com
- View at Cathedral of Saint Cecilia of Albi, France – By – Elle-aimes-skier/shutterstock.com
Pont Vieux (The Old Bridge)
The first sight that anyone catches when entering the city of Albi is a beautiful bridge with arches through which the River Tarn flows. This bridge is a landmark attraction in Albi. Pont Vieux is 980 years old and a notable UNESCO heritage site. The story of the old bridge dates back to the 11th century when Albi was making great fortunes with the increase in Dyer’s woad yields. This bridge opened up more trading opportunities after its construction in 1040 AD. Today, it’s a popular photography spot offering spectacular views of the river, Albi Cathedral, and the Berbie Palace. There are marked spots on the footpath of this bridge where you will be able to capture the beautiful views of the arches, the river, and the city as its backdrop. This bridge is a symbol of growth and prosperity in Albi.
- Pont Vieux, Albi – by – rauschenberger/pixaby.com
When speaking of the different things to do in Albi, one cannot miss the exciting flatboat rides on River Tarn. Albi Tourist Center has created three different loops on the river, offering unique views of the city. There are two flat bottomed barges, namely, Les Copains d’Abord” and “L’hirondelle,” that will take you on one of the three loops. In this short tour, you can witness this episcopal city in a unique dimension. Enjoy the fantastic views of its old mills, stylish hotels, and red-brick buildings. The view of Berbie Palace and Albi Cathedral from the river is a picturesque memory that will stay with you for a long time. These river rides are available during June – September.
- River Tarn, Albi – by – tpf1959/pixabay.com
Berbie Palace Gardens
Berbie Palace is an exquisite monument and a well-preserved episcopal building in France. This palace was built in the year 1282 under then-bishop Bernard de Castanet. The biggest attraction in this palace is its spectacular gardens overlooking the river. The perfectly manicured bushes in tones of bright green and floral colors compliment the red-toned walls of the palace. This garden is a small-scale mirror work of the famous Palais de Versailles gardens. The elevated walkways in this place offer panoramic river and garden views. Also, the palace itself is a UNESCO heritage site that you cannot miss.
- Palais de la Berbie Gardens at Albi, France – by – Paul Atkinson/shutterstock.com
Albi’s Covered Market
As you explore the massive buildings and historic lanes of the city, keep yourself energized with fresh food from Albi’s Covered Market. Relish the aromatic and raw flavors of farm-fresh fruits and vegetables in this market. You will also get the finest of freshly caught fish, farm-bred poultry, cured French cheese, and freshly-baked crispy bread here. This market is just a couple of minutes away from the Toulouse- Lautrec Museum. It is open on all days except Mondays. Albi’s Covered Market is the most-lively place in the city. As you feed your brain with many historical tales of Albi, tantalize your taste-buds with the freshest foods in the market.
Albi’s Covered Market, Albi – by – Krzysztof Golik/Wikimedia Commons
Saint-Salvi and Collegiate Church
Saint Salvi, the Collegiale, was the first bishop in the episcopal city of Albi. Saint Salvi Collegiate Church is a 6th-century monument that offers daily prayers and worships even today. Although significant sections of the church fell apart during the French Revolution in 1776, its southern tower cloister still stands as a symbol of undying faith in Albi. The construction of this church happened in two periods before and after the Albigensian Crusade. Hence, it encompasses a perfect blend of Roman and Gothic style architectures. Walk in the historic cloister and offer prayers at Collegiate Church for a peaceful getaway in the heart of the city.
- Cloister of the collegiate Saint-Salvi, Albi, France – by – vouvraysan/shutterstock.com
As you enter the historical building of Musée Lapérouse, you will be able to witness a stunning bronze statue of Albi’s celebrated explorer at the entrance. Jean-François de Galaup is a famous naval officer and explorer from Albi, who led many exploratory expeditions from France in the 1700s. He met an unprecedented death in the Laperouse shipwreck in the Vanikoro in the Solomon Islands. Musée Lapérouse is a treasure chest consisting of many nautical artifacts, navigation tools, uniforms, maps, and paintings recovered from the shipwreck. This museum honors the life and works of Jean-François de Galaup. It is also notable that the museum is located on a 17th-century building that was a pasta mill until the 1850s. This museum is a must-see inspiration for every traveler.
- Lapérouse Bronze State, Musée Lapérouse, Albi – By – S. Pech/shutterstock.com
Although most attractions in Albi are of historical and architectural significance, this city also has a fair share of scenery. Parc Rochegude is one such scenic getaway in Albi. This park consists of perfectly symmetrical pathways, manicured gardens, and lush green cover. The park is home to more than 80 different species of trees. Additionally, there is a bird island in Parc Rochegude, where you can spot several unique bird species. This park has classic European and French-style gardens. The detail in the work and maintenance of these gardens make it a human-made masterpiece. This park is a nature lover’s abode.
- Parc Rochegude, Albi – by – MeridonialFrance/Wikimedia Commons
Albi’s Old Town
If you ever wonder what to do in Albi, the best way to explore the city is to go on a walking tour to Albi’s Old Town. You can traverse through many hidden gems in this city. Its red-hued lanes lined by magnificent structures dating back a hundred years and more is a treat to the eyes. Many old buildings in various shades of red have taken a new shape as stylish restaurants and cafes. Learn about the story behind each of these buildings for a satisfying city tour. As you walk along Albi’s Old Town, you will be surprised by the narrow cobblestone streets and the complex Cathedral architecture. You will also be able to interact with the locals and experience the warm culture of this city.
- Albi Old Town – By – Botond Horvath/shutterstock.com
Centre d’art Le Lait
Centre d’art Le Lait is a center of art and culture in Albi, located on the old flour mill buildings on the banks of River Tarn. This center has an extensive exhibition hall and an art gallery. There are numerous exhibits by local as well as renowned French artists in this center. These exhibits go well with the industrial structures and red-brick hues of the building. The exhibits keep changing throughout the year. The center also organizes workshops, talks, and art events in Modern Art. There is also an outdoor garden terrace in this building, offering mesmerizing views of the river and the city. Enter into a fantastic world of Modern art in this center.
- Centre d’Art de LAIT, Albi, France – by – Route66/shutterstock.com
Just So You Know:
- Albi has been inhabited by humans ever since the Bronze Age. Consequently, it was during the Roman Era; it found its spot on the map.
- Don’t forget to try out the Gaillac, and Languedoc wines, plus the lip-smacking meaty local foods in Albi.
- The grandioseness of the Albi Cathedral is seen as the symbol of the Church’s supreme authority after it crushed the Cathers. It is indeed a Fortress disguised as Church.
- “Earthquake,” a famous cocktail, is a mix of absinthe and cognac. This cocktail is an invention of the renowned alcoholic French artist Toulouse-Lautrec from Albi.
- You can spot 500-year old thumbprints on the hand-made red clay bricks used in the construction of the Albi Cathedral and Berbie Palace even today.
Where to Stay:
- ⭐⭐⭐ Grand Hotel d’Orleans – This hotel is located at less than five-minutes walking distance from the Albi Cathedral and is an excellent base to explore the city. The rooms are spacious, air-conditioned with all the amenities you need for a comfortable stay.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Hotel Alchimy – Hotel Alchimy is less than a mile away from the Albi Train Station and has an on-site brasserie and bar. You can also enjoy facilities like free Wi-Fi, mini-bar, and more during your stay at this stunning hotel.
- ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Relais & Châteaux Hôtel La Réserve – Set on the picturesque parklands along the Tarn River, this hotel encompasses an outdoor swimming pool and elegant rooms with upscale decor offering panoramic views of the river. Enjoy indoor or terrace dining of delicious local foods at the on-site restaurant.
Get Some Culture:
- Carnival d’Albi is an annual event on the banks of the Tarn river bringing everyone in the city together. This two-week festival happens between February and March every year. The first carnival occurred in the year 1951 to celebrate the rebirth of Albi.
- Fèsta Occitana de Còrdas is an annual celebration of the rich Occitan culture and lifestyle by the Talvera Association. This festival consists of several activities and events through which you can experience the Albigensian life.
- Musée Toulouse-Lautrec is yet another significant spot in Albi that houses the most extensive collection of works by the famous 19th-century post-impressionist artist, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Grab A Bite:
- Le Pont du Tarn is a fantastic French and contemporary European cuisine restaurant. This place serves the best tastes of local foods and international entrees alongside a great selection of wines. This place has a pleasant ambiance suitable for romantic evenings and fine dining.
- L’epicurien is a French and European restaurant that serves delicious vegetarian and vegan options as well. The salmon dishes and Gourmet specialties are a must-try in this place.