ALBI AT A GLANCE

France - - Take A Stroll -

Stay the night at… the four-star Mer­cure Albi Bastides (tel: (Fr) 5 63 47 66 66, mer­cure.com) in the town cen­tre. The ter­race over­looks the banks of the Tarn, while the 56 rooms – 12 of which en­joy river­side views – are fur­nished in a mod­ern style. The Mer­cure also has a good restau­rant and bar. Dou­bles from €81.

Stop for lunch at… La Ta­ble du Som­me­lier (tel: (Fr) 5 63 46 20 10, la ta­ble du som­me­lier. com/restau­rant-albi), a must for wine en­thu­si­asts. The bistro’s menus are tai­lored around owner Daniel Pestre and his son Jeremy’s se­lec­tion of wines, which are avail­able by the glass and can be bought to en­joy at home. The in­te­rior has a cosy am­bi­ence, while the out­door ter­race is ideal for din­ing al­fresco dur­ing warmer months. Open Tue-sat; lunch menus from €18, din­ner menus from €28.

Have din­ner at… L’épi­curien (tel: (Fr) 5 63 53 10 70, restau­rantlepi­curien.com) for award-win­ning lo­cal cui­sine with a twist. Rethought clas­sics such as foie gras and baba au rhum are ar­tis­ti­cally pre­sented in a mod­ern, stylish restau­rant. Three-course menus from €29.50.

WHERE TO VISIT

The Musée Toulouse-lautrec (tel: (Fr) 5 63 49 48 70), which re-opened in 2012 af­ter a ten-year restora­tion project, houses more than 1,000 works by the PostIm­pres­sion­ist artist, in­clud­ing paint­ings from his child­hood in Albi to por­traits of his fam­ily and friends, and his posters ( pic­tured above). There is a sep­a­rate gallery for tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions, a col­lec­tion of mod­ern art and a gallery ded­i­cated to Albi it­self. Ad­mis­sion to the per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions costs €10. The mu­seum is lo­cated in the Palais de la Ber­bie, the me­dieval Bish­ops’ Palace which forms part of a Unesco World Her­itage site, along with the cathe­dral.

The Cathé­drale Sainte-cé­cile d’albi (tel: (Fr) 5 63 43 23 43) is the largest brick cathe­dral in the world at 113 me­tres long by 35 me­tres wide, with a bell tower stand­ing 78 me­tres high. The Gothic build­ing’s in­te­rior con­tains in­tri­cately painted chapels and re­li­gious fres­coes in­clud­ing a daz­zling por­trayal of the Last Judg­ment (1474-84). On Wed­nes­days, visi­tors can hear the largest pipe or­gan in France at the weekly con­cert. Ad­mis­sion to the chan­cel and trea­sure-house costs €6; un­der-12s free.

GET­TING THERE: The near­est air­port is Toulouse-blagnac, a 1hr drive; The train jour­ney from Lon­don to Albi via Paris and Mon­tauban takes 10hr 10min; Albi is a 9hr 30min drive from the north­ern ports. TOURIST IN­FOR­MA­TION: Albi tourist office, tel: (Fr) 5 63 36 36 00, www.albi-tourisme.fr.

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