What to discover

Albi and its UNESCO World Heritage episcopal city

Admirably situated on the River Tarn, old Albi forms a magnificent group of buildings dominated by Sainte Cecile, a brick-built fortified cathedral and a real masterpiece of the Southern French Gothic style, Next to the cathedral is the Berbie palace, home to the Toulouse-Lautrec museum where you will find a large number of paintings by this Albi-born artist. Its collection is a must for all art fans. And this former episcopal palace also houses the unique Mappa Mundi, the oldest medieval map of the world. Don’t miss the collegiate church of Saint Salvi, its pretty cloister and the Renaissance mansion houses built by merchants who made their fortune from pastels. Take a leisurely stroll through the narrow streets of the historic centre with its beautiful old half-timbered brick houses. Albi the Red City (La ville rouge) does indeed live up to its name. Take time out to sample a glass of Gaillac or on of the delicious specialities of the South West. 


20 minutes'drive away. Cordes-sur-Ciel is no ordinary hill top town, its medieval streets and buildings are literally in the clouds… guaranteed to take your breath away!  Cordes is an amazingly well preserved bastide (fortified hill village). The town itself has a medieval feel though it is much older and is particularly famous for its gothic residences built between 1280 and 1350, its remarkable well and covered market. With narrow cobble stone streets, spectacular arches and winding lanes it’s the perfect place to wander. An added bonus is the stunning view of the surrounding countryside from the village square lined with plane trees.  

Route of the Bastides

Cordes is the most famous bastide but do take time out to visit other hill villages. The hilly terrain North of Albi was indeed ideal for these medieval villages to defend themselves. Here, along the route of the bastides, score of fortified villages (bastides) spill over hilltops, above rivers and between wheat fields. Here are villages among the most beautiful in France : Castelnau de Montmirail, Puycelsi, Bruniquel, Lisle sur Tarn. If you have to choose just two villages, do go to Puycelsi which has retained its character with its strikingly well restored facades and stroll leisurely along its narrow streets. Monestiès is also worth a detour with its outstanding Entombment of Christ (Mise au Tombeau) and then cross over the XIth century bridge and wander through the arboretum along the river bank. 

Southern Tarn

South of Albi, you can wander around the Wednesday-morning market in the bastide town of Réalmont . Lautrec in the south-west is yet another 'beautiful village' to visit (between Albi and Castres) and renowned for its pink garlic and saffron and its mid-August garlic festival. And a little further south, you come to Castres  with its imposing square. The highlight of your visit here is the view from the bridge of the pretty row of multi-coloured houses along the river Agout. And right by the theatre, the Bishop’s Palace with its stylized gardens which were planned and laid out by the famous landscape gardener, André le Nôtre. Regional Natural Park of the Haut-Languedoc The south-eastern part of the Tarn department falls within the Regional Natural Park of the Haut-Languedoc. And nature lovers are catered for too. In the very heart of the Haut Languedoc Regional Natural Park (south eastern part of the Tarn department) is the Sidobre, the largest granite plateau in Europe. The rock strewn scenery of the Sidobre region centred around Vialavert, Saint-Salvy-de-la-Balme and the Lac du Merle features a curious landscape of gigantic stones which defy the laws of gravity. With imagination you can see the Devil’s Armchair and the Goose’s Rock. The Sidobre is made for hikers too with interesting woods to explore on one of the marked trails. 

Toulouse, the Pink City

A truly beautiful city! In the early mornings and late afternoons,  rose-red brick buildings of Toulouse seem to glow, giving the Pink City its nickname «la Ville Rose». Journey back in time to the era of medieval pilgrimages at the UNESCO-listed Basilique  St Sernin Spend time walking around the Place du Capitole, Toulouse’s magnificent main square bordered by grand buildings. And don’t miss out on the Jacobins, a vaulted, elegant church, peaceful site of the tomb of Saint Thomas Aquinas. If you enjoy shopping, stroll through the winding, narrow streets with their array of swish boutiques. But don’t forget to look up from time to time to admire the rose brick facades. Magic! Wander along the waterfront of the Garonne, the Canal du Midi, then head to the trendy sidewalk cafés – a special mention for the Place Saint Georges - to sample delicious, inventive dishes alongside superb regional cuisine. And then head off to the Cité de l’Espace, Space Museum. Toulouse is one of the best days out from Le Pignié.  


Albi may be home to the Toulouse Lautrec museum but Montauban boasts its own Ingres museum housing works of the renowned artist, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. A very different style but what a genius ! Founded in 1144, Montauban is steeped in history - with its remarkable sights and attractive pedestrian streets, it is well worth a visit. Almost everything is built from rose-red bricks, lending the city a lovely pink glow. Cross the medieval Pont Vieux and you’ll come to the Place Nationale hemmed in on every side by magnificent double-vaulted arcades and tall pink buildings with shops and bars where you can relax with a cappuccino, a speculoos milkshake or a smoothie. Don't miss the market on Saturday mornings with all the delicious local products. Wander from stall to stall in the shade of the plane trees – a foodies’ paradise where you’ll be spoilt for choice – apples or pears, black radish or Jerusalem artichokes, local ham or cheese, olives or pistachios. And tune in to those lovely sing-song southern French voices. 

Outdoor activities

AThe Tarn department in south-west France might be landlocked, but this nature lover's paradise offers a huge variety of water sports, from canoeing and sailing to windsurfing and canyoning. With over 12 lakes and plenty of winding rivers to explore, you're never far away from the water. Close to Carmaux, Cap'Découverte, one of the largest European leisure and adventure parks, located in a former open-sky mine, offers a wide range of activities: skiing or snowboarding on a synthetic track, swimming, mountain biking, and such facilities as a luge track, a giant zip-line, a skate park, mini go-karts, a Mining Museum... Or just take one of the hiker's or mountain bike from Le Pignié.