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If you've heard of Albi it's probably because of one of its two claims to fame: Albi is the birthplace of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; and it has a truly, truly impressive, almost fortified looking, cathedral, the Cathédrale Sainte-Cécile. There's a lot more to colourful, bustling, provincial Albi than these two big headliners, but many places would build an entire tourism industry around just one of these star attractions. Our recommendations for the best places to stay in Albi are not in the centre of town, but all the attractions of the area are easily accessible.
Albi's old town is petit, but charmingly majestic at the same time. With the two main sights right next to each other - the cathedral, which, when it was built in the 13th Century, was the world's largest brick building, is right beside the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, which now occupies the old Palais de la Berbie, or archbishop's palace.
The two arched bridges striding the Tarn into the old town also contribute to making this a very photogenic Episcopal City (it's really more of a town).
But Albi is more than just a pretty face with a few five star attractions, it's also a lively little place, with plenty of cafes and small restaurants worth trying out.
The cathedral, museum-nee-palace and almost everything else in the old town is built from handmade, slightly rosy coloured bricks, which also contribute to the city's beauty - especially at sunset.
And in amongst the muddle of half timbered houses and winding streets which make up the old town, you'll spot street signs both in French and ancient Occitan. This is also where you'll find the Maison du Vieil Alby, which houses a local history museum.
As well as housing more than 500 works by Toulouse-Lautrec, his museum also has some impressive pieces by Matisse, Gauguin and Dufy. It's more of a museum to the whole movement he was part of. But if you're interested in Lautrec's development as an artist then this museum offers some truly amazing insights.
The house where the artist was born, the Maison Natale de Toulouse-Lautrec, is a short stroll from the museum.
About a half hour from town is the Chateau du Bosc, where Toulouse-Lautrec spent a happy childhood, surrounded by beauty, in a home now owned by his great-grand niece.
This lovely city can become a very busy spot during the summer months, so if you want to book one of the best places to stay in Albi during July and August, plan well ahead. Alternatively plan your visit for the quieter months, when you can really appreciate the stunning sights without the crowds.
- The Chateau de Salettes is an elegant, tranquil choice. Now a thirteen room hotel, this chateau dates from the 13th century, and was once owned by the Toulouse-Lautrec family. Surrounded by vineyards, here it's possible to drink the chateau's own wine in a Michelin starred restaurant. Undoubtedly one of the best places to stay in Albi and the surrounding area for those who aspire to the finer things in life!
Still not sure? Browse through our list of all the best places to stay in Albi, or contact, one of our friendly gurus for advice. Alternatively widen the net and check out all our recommendations in the Tarn.
Best Hotels in Albi
Chateau de Touny 3 rooms from $104Albi (81150 Lagrave)
With its pretty buildings, luscious green gardens and swimming pool, Chateau de Touny is the perfect spot for relaxation. Individually styled guest rooms are chic and comfortable. Sit outside on the sun terrace and enjoy Gaillac wines straight from Chateau de Touny's very own vineyard.Local exploringSights nearby - Visit the episcopal City of Albi, the Saint-Cecile Cathedral and the Berbie Palace.Local markets - There are 5 different markets in Albi.Swimming Pool - Outdoor swimming pool with loungers
Chateau de Salettes 13 rooms from $154Albi (Cahuzac sur Vère)
The tranquility and comfort that this rural chateau boasts is a perfect chance to relax, even for families. But, with a Michelin-starred restaurant, wines from the vineyard, regular art exhibitions and surrounding historic cities Toulouse and Carcassonne, it never gets boring.Local exploring - Very close to some of France's most historic citiesRestaurant - Michelin-starSights nearby - Historic towns of Toulouse and Albi are nearbyGreat walks - Walks in the Gresigne forest
Hotel Alchimy 5 rooms from $300Albi
In a newly renovated Art Deco building, this contemporary family run boutique hotel adds a touch of the jet set to the sleepy historic town of Albi. It has a certain je ne sais quoi that couples wanting a luxurious base from which to explore the city and surrounding area will love!Sights nearby - Nearby Sainte-Cécile Albi's 13th-century cathedral is the largest brick building in Europe and well worth a visit.Local markets - Visit the Saturday market in Albi where you will find a whole host of local produce and yummy food on the go.Designer - Uniquely designed interiors.Romantic - Good for couples.
La Reserve, Albi 22 rooms from $307Albi
A smart and charming hotel near the gorges of Tarn. Elegant rooms, spacious poolside and the picturesque garden overlooking the river. Fishing, sailing, tennis and the sights of UNSECO-listed Albi nearby. Ideal for couple on an escape to France.Learning - A town of history: artist Toulouse-Lautre was born hereHistoric - Queen Mother made this hotel her base on trips to AlbiSights nearby - UNSECO listed town of AlbiSwimming Pool - Indoor/outdoorRecommended by - Relais & Chateaux