On the banks of the River Tarn and near to Toulouse, Rabastens has always retained strong links with the city they call ‘La Ville Rose’. This is in large part thanks to the wine trade and trade in pastel dyes. The flat-bottomed barges, known as ‘gabarres’, would head down the ‘commercial motorway’ of the River Tarn to serve the ports of the River Garonne. Their cargos were then distributed all over Europe.
Rabastens, a magnificent red brick city that lights up when the sun goes down, has always been both a holiday destination and a place of residence tucked away in the hinterlands of Toulouse.
After staying loyal to the Counts of Toulouse, Rabastens had to abandon its military role in 1229 in accord with the Treaty Of Paris that ended the Albi Crusade. In the 17th and 18th centuries, merchants selling wine and pastel dye had become rich thanks to a trading boom and soon took up posts as lawyers and advisors to the king at the Toulouse parliament. They built magnificent townhouses that, when mixed together with the regular houses, created the timeless charm of the city centre.
Notre-Dame du bourg and the parish centre of Rabastens rise above the River Tarn here, and there’s a sublime view of the Tarn and its banks from the city’s ramparts. In summer, you’re allowed to swim here too, as ‘Rabastens Beach’ opens for business.
Notre-Dame du Bourg, 700 years old and still in great shape!
Rabastens is a traditional stopping point on the pilgrim route to Santiago de Compostela. Since 1240 there’s been a hospital in the area around the chateau. This ancient route that once joined Lyon to Toulouse is still used by pilgrims today. The Notre-Dame du Bourg church was built between 1230 and 1260 by the Benedictine monks of Moissac. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, designated a place of note along the Santiago de Compostela route.
In 2018 we’ll be celebrating 700 years of this amazing ‘old lady’. But don’t think this is about honouring faded glory. Her incredible beauty shines on the inside of the church and she’s lost none of her bold and bright colours!
You can visit Rabastens market every Saturday morning on the Promenade des Lices, which circles the town where the old moat, which was filled in during the 19th century, used to be. Saturday’s the right day to visit the town to enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of the region at an event that’s much loved by both the townsfolk and the traders. (64)
Wine producers and wine cellars
A land of bricks and a land of vines, the history of Rabastens is intimately linked with the Gaillac vineyards that surround the town. If you take a visit to meet the winemakers they’ll be only too happen to see you on their estate. Or you could pay a visit to the Vinovalie winemakers in Rabastens itself to pick out the best rosés, the liveliest whites and the smoothest reds.
The Rabastens Tourist Office
Why not pop in to the Tourist information Office at Rabastens? You’ll find it in the foyer of the Rabastens Museum (so you can also check out both the temporary and permanent exhibitions at the museum, such as the magnificent collection of Giroussens pottery). Whether you’re looking for a campsite, a hotel or a chambre d’hote, we’ve always got a friendly welcome for you as we help you enjoy a perfect holiday.
It’s well worth celebrating both the Spring Festival and August 15th Festival with us. Each offers three days of parties in the town, with fairground attractions, dancing and a carnival parade of floats decorated with flowers. The ‘Moments Musicaux du Tarn’ celebrates classical music in the streets, courtyards and chateaus of the town in July so you can spend an evening serenaded by the sounds of Rachmaninov, Brahms, Debussy or Satie. The ‘Unis Sens’ festival focuses on World Music in June, while ‘Rabastock’ is more about two days of plugged-in electric sounds in July.
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