The home of winemaking, Gaillac is the Albi region’s second city. It owes its development to the pastel dye industry, to wine and to river trade. Gaillac has witnessed the Albi Crusades, the 100 Years War and the French Religious Wars. Nowadays it’s a town where people live well, enjoying its wine culture, the surrounding countryside and its summer festivals.
Gaillac: from the abbey to the vines
Gaillac grew around its abbey. The monastery that was given to Benedictine monks by the Bishop of Albi in the 10th century marked the beginnings of the city and the start of the development of its winemaking industry.
You can start a walk from the Abbey Saint-Michel and wind your way to the Quai Saint-Jacques area, the oldest part of town, where the flat-bottomed river boats that were loaded with pastel dye and wine would depart Gaillac to follow the River Tarn all the way to the River Gironde, then onwards to all the major ports of Europe.
Then why not take the time to discover the La Portanelle area with its timber-framed houses built of mud, brick and stone that are typical of the architecture you’ll find all along the banks of the Tarn? You’ll eventually reach the chateau de Foucaud that houses the Museum of Fine Arts with its listed Italianate garden.
Wherever you wander you’ll come across a number of wonderful buildings, including the mansion home of Pierre de Brens, which is classified as a historical monument, the Saint-Pierre church, which acted as a refuge for many Huguenots during the terrible French Religious Wars, or the Saint-André Hospital, built by the Count of Toulouse in the 17th century.
Place du Griffoul
This is the best known square in Gaillac, and is famous for its markets. The Griffoul fountain in the centre of the square dates from the 16th century and features a cockerel on top – both the traditional emblem of the town and the symbol of Gaillac wine – together with four figures depicting Silenus educating Bacchus.
The Natural History Museum
You’ll find the only natural history museum in the Tarn in a house built by doctor Philadelphe Thomas to house his private collection. The botanical garden has been renovated and is now open to the public. The pigeon loft within the garden looks over the old quarters of the town.
Wine, gastronomy and the art of living well
Gaillac is filled with the soul of the South West, where good eating works in perfect harmony with quality products and talented producers. It’s all about good living, and the pleasure of food that’s made for sharing, be it a lovely salad, a cheese platter or homemade tapas. And let’s not forget a glass of red, white or rosé, all washed down with a bit of good music.
Friday morning is when the biggest market in Gaillac takes place. It spills out excitedly across the town’s roads, squares and halls, turning them into a bustling hive of activity with local producers selling their fruit and veg, their cheese and, of course, their wine.
On Tuesday evenings between four o’clock and seven-thirty you can enjoy the Noctambio organic market at the Place du Griffoul. Here you can find local seasonal produce that carries the label ‘organic farming’ (‘agriculture biologique’) or ‘nature and progress’ (‘nature et progrès’) both of which indicate a commitment to organic agriculture and respect for the environment.
On Sunday mornings, meanwhile, you’ll find a small traditional market, also at the Place du Griffoul.
Wine-tastings and ‘apero concerts’
You’ll find the ‘Maison des Vins’ right next door to the Abbey Saint-Michel offering a hundred different varieties of wine, tastings and good advice to help you choose the very best of Gaillac’s produce. In the same building, the Tourist Information Office is there to help you organise a trip to visit selected winemakers who will be delighted to meet you, show you their estate, and help you discover their products.
On Friday evenings throughout the summer the Abbey hosts ‘apero concerts’ in its gardens. Lots of local producers also host their own apero concerts in the midst of the vines, too, where you can share some really enjoyable moments
The ‘P’tits Bouchons’ Festival is an unmissable musical extravaganza that tales place every spring and features dozens of national and international artists.
At the beginning of August the fantastic Foucaud Park hosts the Gaillac Wine Festival (‘La Fête des Vins’), a great place for a family gathering around the tasting booths, and where you can also enjoy live music, games and other activities for both young and old.
The Urban Festival, meanwhile, takes place at the start of the summer, celebrating both street culture and alternative sports. The Gaillac Book Fair happens right in the heart of town for two days every October. And the year always ends in style when the Lantern festival (‘Le Festival des Lanternes’) comes to town to celebrate popular Chinese traditions.
The Gaillac Tourist Information Office
Why not pay a visit to Gaillac’s Tourist Information Office right by the Abbey Saint-Michel and the Place de la Libération? Our friendly advisors, who know the region inside out, will help you organise your stay. Whether you’re looking for a chambre d’hote, a hotel or any other kind of accommodation, they’re the people who can help you. You can also check out a whole host of activities, such as canoeing, mountain biking or rambling in the outstanding surrounding countryside. You’ll find information about great places to swim, from rivers to lakes to swimming pools. Or why not organise a great night out, with plenty of choice of restaurants, bars and concerts? If you want to visit Gaillac itself, there are a number of discovery trails you can follow by day, or you can even head out by torchlight at night.