Visit time : 1 day.
What is striking when you first arrive in Albi is the brick, to which the city’s urban complex owes its unique splendor. Unique in its colors – pink, red and yellow-orange – that change from sunrise to sunset. Unique in the power that exudes from the façades of the Saint Cécile Cathedral and the Berbie Palace. Unique in its architectural harmony, maintained for centuries, where Romanesque, Gothic and southern Renaissance styles collide, and merge. Located on the edge of the Tarn River, the old medieval town of Albi offers visitors a charming and harmonious architectural and urban ensemble.
The Episcopal City of Albi presents a building complex representative of the type of urban development in Europe from the Middle Ages to the present day. Its monumental and urban elements are complementary and well preserved, in a subtle harmony of tones and appearance thanks to the use of local fired brick. It is a testimony to a programme which was simultaneously defensive and spiritual, and which was implemented by the Roman Catholic bishops following the suppression of the Albigensian, or Cathar, heresy in the 13th century. The Saint Cécile Cathedral is the most remarkable monumental symbol, in a Gothic architectural style unique to southern France, to which grand internal painted murals, a choir, and a late-Gothic statuary were added in the 15th and 16th centuries. Finally, the outstanding value of the city is expressed by a medieval urban landscape that is both well preserved and extremely authentic.
Criteria for selection
Criterion (iv): The historic city of Albi presents an outstanding medieval architectural and urban ensemble. It is homogeneous and is expressed through a high-quality urban landscape that possesses high visual coherence because of the generalised and enduring use of local fired brick. The Saint Cécile Cathedral is an exceptional architectural and decorative example of the adaptation of the Gothic style the context of Southern France.
Criterion (v): The Albi urban site developed gradually over the centuries, and notably from the Middle Ages onward. The events of the Albigensian Crusade transformed it into a symbolic Episcopal city structured around its Cathedral and its Episcopal fortress-palace. This is one of the rare examples of ensembles of this kind that are complete and well preserved to such a high degree. It expresses, in a very comprehensive way, a type of urban settlement that was characteristic of medieval and Renaissance Europe.
Source : UNESCO / ICOMOS
In ancient times, the city was an oppidum (fortified village), first occupied by the Celts, then by a small Gallo-Roman settlement. From the 10th century onward, the town thrived on an economy based on agriculture and trade thanks to the Tarn River, which allowed goods to be transported from Albi to the Garonne River. During this time and until the 13th century, the city was ruled by the Counts of Toulouse and then later under the dynasty of the Trencavel viscounts.
From the 13th century onward and with the support of the king, the city became a powerful Episcopal city in the wake of the Crusades against the Albigenses (or Cathars). The Church committed itself to the elimination of the local elites, who were favorable to catharism. The bishop became lord of the city, and oversaw its spiritual and material development, and eventually the diocese of Albi became one of the richest in France until the Revolution. Local nobles continued to challenge the financial, military and spiritual power of the bishops, and fearing an uprising, these builder-bishops began erecting an Episcopal city to assert their power, starting with the construction of the Berbie Palace and the Saint Cécile Cathedral.
From the 13th to the 18th century, the urban landscape, at its origins austere and military, was gradually shaped by different architectural styles. During the 15th century and thereafter, threats receded and the city regained a certain economic independence thanks to the extraction of pastel, which provided a new period of prosperity for the city. The architectural style became more opulent and harmonious, and buildings opened to the gardens and the city. In the village, individual Renaissance-style mansions flourished.
And so the Episcopal city became, and remains, an exceptional urban landscape, unique in its harmony and the power it generates, its beauty only enhanced by the light reflected by and on its brick façades.
The heresy of the Cathars was most likely a sort of souvenir brought back from the East by the Crusaders, and was quickly circulated in the southwest of France in the 12th century. This belief probably blossomed as a response to clergymen who were seen as disconnected from the social realities of the time. The Cathars advocated high spirituality, justice for all and non-violence, and as such they quickly gained the respect of the local population. Their belief system included two worlds: in the first, the living world, existed the work of the devil; in the second, the immaterial world, reined the God of good. The Earth was considered the work of evil, as if the final judgment, and thus the end of the world, had already taken place. And as such they rejected the idea of incarnation, redemption and resurrection. Two crusades against the heretics, decreed by the Church between 1208 and 1229, put an end to catharism.
The “brique foraine”, oven-fired brick that was produced locally, had many advantages: easy to use, quick to put into place, and strong. It was used as the base material for all construction in the area. Unlike stone, the simplicity of brick represented a response to the luxurious places of worship for which the Church was criticized.
Palais de la Berbie , Place Sainte Cécile , 81000 Albi
Website - tel : 05 63 36 36 00
November through February, Monday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday and holidays: 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
March through June and October, Monday to Saturday: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 1:30 p.m. to 18 p.m., Sunday and holidays: 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
July, August and September: Monday to Saturday: 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., Sunday and holidays: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
The Tourist Office offers guided tours and discovery circuits of the city :
Guided tour "the Must" (in French)
Tour of the episcopal city (all year), the Sainte Cécile cathedral or the historic center (in summer).
Episcopal City (1hour and 30 minutes) in French, English, Spanish
Walking tour in the historical heart and a presentation in 7 steps of the Episcopal city.
- Toulouse-Lautrec Museum (duration: about 1hour) in 5 languages
Rental at the Tourist Office: € 4.
- Cathédrale Sainte Cécile Audio guides in 9 languages. Rental: € 2.
Tailor-made tours possibles. Contact the Tourist Office on 05 63 49 48 97.
The tourist office offers walking tours arrows in town, like "circuit pourpre" (purple circuit) that crosses the historic center (1h30).
Tips for Visitors
Albi City Pass: €12. Provides discounts on entrance fees at different attractions, as well as on merchandise in selected shops. More information available at the Tourist Office.
Palais de la Berbie, Place Sainte Cécile, 81000 Albi
Website - tel : 05 63 49 48 70
Full price / reduced price: €9 / €5. Free for children 14 years old and under. Family package: €17. Audio guide in 5 languages: €4.
From November to March: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., closed on Tuesdays.
April, May and June, every day 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.
July, August and September, every day: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
October, Wednesday to Monday: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., closed on Tuesdays.
Accessible to people with reduced mobility.
This world-class museum houses collections left to the painter’s hometown by his family (Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec: 1864-1901). Two floors retain over one thousand works (paintings, posters, lithographs, drawings, etc). Museum visitors can follow the evolution of the artist in a chronological and thematic discovery of his work.
Musée Lapérouse (with children)
41 Rue Porta, 81000 Albi
Tel: 05 63 46 01 87.
Full price / reduced price: 4 € / 2,50 €. Free for those under 12 years old.
From March to June, September and October: 9 .a.m to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. Closed on Mondays,
July and August, Monday to Friday: 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.
From November to February, Tuesday to Saturday: 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. / 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday: 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Jean-François Galaup de Lapérouse was only a captain of a ship when Louis XVI entrusted him with the greatest expedition of his reign in 1785. With his two frigates, he embarked on a world tour that will never finish. He .will run aground in the South Pacific in 1788.
For children: booklet in French for a funny discovering of the museum.
Académie des Miniatures (with children)
16 rue Rinaldi, 81000 Albi
Website - tel: 05 63 79 00 98
Full price/ reduced price: 5€/ €3.50. Free for children under 6 years old.
Open daily excepted on Mondays. Closed on JAnuary
April through October: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
November through March: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
This museum of miniatures presents a large collection of houses and miniature shops - scale 1/7 ° - Set of 34 rooms including two parts: rooms of a wealthy end 19-century residence and traditional buildings including shops on the ground floor and the apartments in floors.
For children: cooking and creative workshops on Wednesday afternoons.
Albi Carnival (February)
One of the first carnival celebrations of the year. Main events include a parade.
“Place aux Artistes” Festival (“Make way for the Artists” Festival) (end of July)
Free. Many shows and concerts (music, theater, street arts) at various sites in the city.
Pause Guitar Festival (July)
Website. Free. A tribute to French music with more than 70 musicians. Concerts concentrated around the cathedral.
Outdoor markets on Saturday mornings: Place Fernand Pelloutier and Boulevard de Strasbourg.
Organic outdoor market on Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., on Place Pelloutier.
Indoor market every morning (excepted on Monday) on Rue des Foissants.
Getting to Albi
From Toulouse and Carcassonne: Highway A68 then highway N88, exit 15 (city center)
From Millau: D999
Nearby classified sites :
Toulouse (Midi Canal): 76 km (47 mi), time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Carcassonne 110 km (68 mi), time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.
Millau (Causses and Cévennes): 104 km (65 mi), time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Place Stalingrad, 81000 Albi
Website - tel : 3635 or 08 36 35 35 35
Toulouse/Albi: 17 daily connections
Toulouse - Blagnac Airport
Website - tel : 0 825 38 00 00
National and international connections. Time to Albi by car: 1 hour (via the A68). Shuttle to Albi possible.
Place Jean Jaurès, 81000 Albi
tel : 05 63 80 57 64
Petit Train Touristique (Mini Train)
Place de la Pile, 81000 Albi
Tel : 05 63 36 36 00
Full price/ reduced price: €6.50/ €5.50/ 5-12 years old : €4/ Free for children under 5 years old.
Loop commented in 7 languages. Duration: 45 min. Buy your tickets on board. Departure in front of the Cathédrale Sainte Cécile.
Albi Croisières, cruise aboard traditional boats
Berges du Tarn, 81000 Albi
Website - tel : 05 63 43 59 63.
Many cruise on the Tarn aboard traditional boats, half an hour to two hours.
Bicycle for rent
Les vélos de Frédo
1 Place Saint Julien, 81000 Albi
Tél : 05 63 54 16 17.
Canoe or Stand-up Paddle Rental
Albi Kayak Canoë
Berges du Tarn, 81000 Albi
Tel: 06 85 94 90 86.
Sleeping / Eating
The selection of accommodation proposed below consists of establishments that offer quality services at competitive rates, they are considered as references in their respective categories. For Albi the addresses are inside or nearby the classified area. The prices shown are for the off season, on the basis of 2 people.
Hostellerie Saint Antoine ****
17 Rue Saint-Antoine, 81000 Albi
Website - Tel: 05 63 54 04 04.
Hôtel Mercure Albi Bastides ****
41 bis rue Porta, 81000 Albi
Website - Tel: 05 63 47 66 66.
Price from €105.
10-12 Place du Palais, 81000 Albi
Website - Tel: 05 63 76 18 18
Hôtel Albert 1er ***
8 Rue Rivals , 31000 Toulouse
Website - tel: 05 61 21 17 91.
Price from €79.
Hôtel Saint Sernin ***
2 rue Saint-Bernard, 31000 Toulouse
Website - tel: 05 61 21 73 08.
Price from €89.
Hôtel Le Grand Balcon *****
8 Rue Romiguières, 31000 Toulouse
Website - tel: 05 34 25 44 09.
Price from €119.
On a Houseboat
Chambres d’hôtes "La Péniche Amboise"
17 Boulevard Griffoul Dorval, 31400 Toulouse
Website - tel : 05 62 16 94 37.
Price from €89.
The selection of restaurants proposed below consists of restaurants that offer a good price/quality value. For Albi the addresses are inside or nearby the classified area. “Formule” corresponds to a lunch special with a starter and a main course, or a main course and a dessert. The “menus” usually consist of a starter, a main course and a dessert," for lunch or dinner.
Le Jardin des Quatre Saisons - fresh products
5 Rue de la Pompe, 81000 Albi
Website - Tel: 05 63 60 77 76.
"Lunch Formule" €17. "Dinner menu" from €29.
La Table du Sommelier - fine cuisine
20 Rue Porta, 81000 Albi
Website - Tel: 05 63 46 20 10.
"Lunch menu" €18. "Dinner menu" from €28.
L’épicurien - traditional cuisine
42 Place Jean Jaurès, 81000 Albi
Website - Tel: 05 63 53 10 70.
"Lunch formule" from €18.50, "menu" from €31
Le Lautrec - traditional cuisine
13-15 Rue Henri de Toulouse Lautrec, 81000 Albi
Website - Tel: 05 63 54 86 55.
"Lunch formule" from €16, "menu" from €34.
Restaurants du marché Victor Hugo – market cuisine
Place Victor Hugo, 31000 Toulouse
"Menu" from €13.
Only open for lunch time.
Le J’Go – traditional cuisine
16 Place Victor Hugo, 31000 Toulouse
Website - tel: 05 61 23 02 03.
"Lunch formule" : €16. "Menu" from €28.
Solilesse - creative cuisine from fresh products
40 Rue Peyrolières, 31000 Toulouse
Website - Tel : 09 83 34 03 50.
"Lunch formule" €17.50. "Dinner menu" from €35.
Les Sales Gosses – seasonal cuisine
7 Rue de l'industrie, 31000 Toulouse
Website - Tel : 05 61 99 30 31.
"Lunch formule" €17.50. "Dinner menu" €32.
Chez Emile – traditional cuisine
13 place Saint Georges, 31000 Toulouse
Website - tel: 05 61 21 05 56.
"Menu" from €22.
Le Genty Magre – revisited local cuisine
3 Rue Genty Magre, 31000 Toulouse
Website - tel: 05 61 21 38 60.
"Menu" from €40.
Le Bibent – revisited french cuisine
5 Place du Capitole, 31000 Toulouse
Website - Tel : 05 34 30 18 37.
"Lunch formule" €19. "Dinner menu" €32.
Restaurant Michel Sarran - gourmet cuisine
21 Boulevard Armand Duportal, 31000 Toulouse
Website - tel: 05 61 12 32 32.
"Lunch menu" : €55. "Dinner menu" from €100.