Les Jardins du Palais de la Berbie: A ‘remarkable garden’ in Albi, France


Albi is a UNESCO world heritage city in the Occitanie region in the south of France. It is one of the most well-preserved episcopal cities of Europe. The city’s aura is checkered with religion, and medieval and gothic aesthetics. While I will be speaking more about all the things to do and see in Albi, this post is about one of it’s crowning glories: les jardins du palais de la Berbie or the royal gardens of Berbie Palace.

Whenever I am on the road in France, I make it a point to check if there are any ‘remarkable trees’ or ‘remarkable gardens’ nearby. In French, the official monikers are arbres remarquable and jardins remarquable respectively. The French Ministry of Culture has maintained logs of remarkable tree and gardens in France. If you love spaces, going through the list is one of the best ways to discover hidden gems and non-touristy things to do in France.

I wrote about another French remarkable garden, le Jardin du Palais Royal, Paris here.

Albi was once the seat of power for the Roman Catholic clergy who took control of the city around 13th century. They did so after fighting the Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars. The Cathars were considered heretics by the Catholic church, and their rule was brought to a crushing end by the crusade under the orders of Pope Innocent III.

Les jardins du palais de la Berbie is tucked away behind the striking Berbie Palace, a testament to medieval architecture. This remarkable gardens of Albi overlooks the Tarn river, which runs through the heart of the centuries-old city.

A view of Albi city from the royal gardens of Berbie
Along with a place to daydream, the gardens of Berbie palace offers magnificent view of Albi

Brief history of les Jardins du Palais de la Berbie

The Berbie Palace used to be the palace of the bishops of Albi. The fortified and once highly militarised palace symbolises the powers that the clergy of Albi once had. Over the course of the centuries, as the power of the church waned, so did the necessity of this palace as a fortified military centre.

The Berbie Palace became a princely residence. Following that, the garden of the Berbie Palace was constructed in the 15th century. Hyacinthe Serroni, the first archbishop of Albi gave the final orders for its construction. A pleasure garden was to be constructed where a former parade ground stood. And so, work began to turn it into a stunning work of art.

The garden is built in the classic French style. It is terraced garden, with the garden bed itself several meters below the walkways that surround it on all sides. In classic French style, the garden is made of embroidered boxwood in elegant design. Looking at the garden is akin to looking at a beautiful painting, one crafted laboriously with plants and flowers.

View of gardens of Albi from Musée Toulouse-Lautrec
View of the stunning garden of Albi from Musée Toulouse-Lautrec situated in Berbie Palace

What to expect when you visit the gardens of Berbie Palace, Albi

The fortified walls of the Berbie Palace of Albi surround the garden on two sides. Then, on the third, is a majestic view of the city of Albi along the banks of the river Tarn. It’s aquamarine waters reflecting the gorgeous red and orange coloured facades of Albi. Shaded walkways covered by vines on trellis, run the perimeter of the garden.

I happened to visit this garden in early autumn, around the end of September. The weather was perfect and the leaves were just beginning to get a hint of yellow. Luckily, the garden was not crowded at all, affording us the possibility to enjoy a slow leisurely walk around. The breeze from the river was perfect to cool down the hot afternoon sun. And so were the shaded walkways. I can only image how gorgeous the vines must look when the leaves change colour fully in the heart of autumn.

This gardens of Berbie Palace are a perfect stopover to take in the view of Albi, right before or after visiting the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec. One of the wings of the Berbie Palace houses the museum. A visit is an ideal way to discover both the legacy of the imminent painter who was born in Albi, as well as the rich architecture of the Palace itself.

While it is not allowed for visitors to descend onto the garden or walk around it in, the elevated walkways offer the perfect perspective. If you are in the south of France, I would highly recommend making a stopover to discover the many gems of Albi. Among them, of course les jardins du Palais de la Berbie.

Gardens of Palais de la Berbie, Albi, France with a view of Albi city
The gardens offer a sweeping view of Pont Vieux, the oldest bridge of Albi which dates back to the 13th century

Practical Information

Opening Hours:

8 a.m. to 19 p.m. from April 1 to September 30
8 a.m. to 18 p.m. from October 1 to March 31

Tickets: Free to visit all year long

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