ALBI AT A GLANCE
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.