Lautrec (or Lautrèc in Occitan), in the department of Tarn, is one of the Most Beautiful Villages of France. A former city and seat of the local viscount, it is now a rural settlement of 1,755 (2018). The Toulouse-Lautrec family originates in the town, although by the time Henri was born, the family had relocated to Albi. Aside from its tenuous link with the famous 19th-century painter and poster artist, Lautrec is known for its pink garlic (ail rose), a product which is celebrated by a festival every August.
The tourist office (open Feb-Dec: Tu-Su 09:00-12:30, 14:00-17:30) is housed at the Benedictine Convent.
Lautrec has archaeological records of human habitation for at least 2000 years. It was first occupied by a Celtic tribe, and later by the Romans who apparently constructed a temple to Eleuisis, a goddess of fertility and harvest.
In 940 CE, Bernard, Viscount of Albi, divided his lands between his two sons; the younger son, Sicard, took the title as first Viscount Lautrec. By 1306, the viscounty was yielded to Philip IV (Philippe le Bel), King of France. The viscounty lasted in one form or another until the French Revolution in 1789.
Lautrec saw some turbulence in the late middle ages. It was captured by English troops in 1426, until recaptured the following year by the Count of Foix; nevertheless, the English made off with 7000 gold coins for their troubles. The Wars of Religion in the 16th century also left a painful mark. In 1565, Catholic canons from Saint Pierre de Burlats sought refuge, which ended in Protestant forces besieging and capturing the town, burning the churches and massacring around 400 inhabitants.
Tourism became increasingly important in the second half of the 20th century; Lautrec was classed among the Most Beautiful Villages of France in 1983. The town's pink garlic was awarded the Label Rouge assurance of quality in 1966, and has been protected at the European level since 1996. There are some 1000 ha dedicated to garlic production, which results in around 4000 tonnes of yield per annum. Lautrec is also home to a number of artisan stonemasons, metallurgists and woodworkers.
Castres-Mazamet Airport (18 km) is linked by twice-daily flights from Paris Orly. However, Toulouse-Blagnac (75 km, in the neighbouring department of Haute-Garonne) is much better served by airlines from all over Europe.
Lautrec is on the Toulouse to Castres railway line. For more info, see the SNCF website.
From Toulouse, leave the A68 autoroute at junction 7, and follow the D12, D631, and D83 roads. From Albi, drive south on the D612. A 1 parking area for campervans is available by the Aquaval leisure centre on route de Vielmur (D92). Other car parks are found around town, e.g. at place du Mercadial.
Very small town, easily walkable. In the village of Lautrec, you can get around by bike, car and bus.
Lautrec has a very rich heritage for its size:
- 1 Benedictine Convent (Couvent des Bénédictines), Rue du Mercadial, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. 17th century convent which has preserved the nuns' original bread oven. You can visit a small exhibition on Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and see a model of the village as it would have looked in the 13th century. Also houses the tourist information centre which sells local produce.
- 2 Saint Rémy Collegiate Church (Collégiale Saint Rémy), 12 rue de l'Eglise, ☏ . Dating from 1394 and classed as an Historic Monument by the state, this is one of the oldest buildings in town. Magnificent painted ceiling and marble altar.
- 3 Market Hall (Places des Halles), Place Centrale. The heart of the town since the Middle Ages. A triangular market place with 15th-century stall covers and surrounded by timber-framed buildings. Market every Friday morning.
- 4 Ramparts and fortified gate (Remparts et la porte fortifiée de la Caussade), rue de la Caussade. In 1338, Lautrec was once of the most heavily-fortified cities in the Languedoc, completed encircled by a 1,200-metre wall. The Porte de la Caussade is the last remaining of eight fortified gates.
- Old laundry house (Lavoir). Linked to the Caussade Gate by a Roman pathway is this former laundry house.
- 5 La Salette Windmill (Moulin à vent de la Salette), 1 place de Lormeau. Built in 1688 and productive until the 19th century, it was subsequently restored by the local council to working order in the 1990s. It's a beautiful monument all year round, though is only open and working a couple of times a year - the 3rd Sunday of June and over a weekend in mid-September (European Heritage Days).
- From the windmill, a path contours up the hill to a 6 Christan cross (Calvaire) at the summit. From here, a magnificent view southward awaits you. On a clear day, you can see as far as the Pyrenees.
- 7 Archaeology exhibition (Exposition archéologique), 18 rue du Mercadial (1st floor (upstairs) of the Hôtel de Ville). By appointment only, through tourist office or phone ☏ . A small collection of ceramics, millstones and oil lamps. Self-guided and guided group (for 10 or more people) tours available.
- 8 Clogmaker's Workshop (Atelier du sabotier), rue du Saint-Esprit. April to mid-June: F 14:00-18:30; Su 10:00-12:00, 14:00-18:30; mid-June to October: M W Th F 10:00-12:00, 14:00-18:30; Sa Su 14:00-18:30; bank holidays year-round 09:00-18:30. Clog expert Alain explains and demonstrates the artisan production of wooden shoes (sabots), which were made and worn in Lautrec from the time of the Gauls until the 1960s. Free.
The local tourist office has a number of walking route suggestions, from a simple 4-km circuit of the town to a 16-km trail linking two châteaux. Download the full itineraries here.
- 1 Aquaval, Route de Vielmur, ☏ (season), (out of season), ✉ email@example.com. Pools: June-August daily 10:00-20:00; "dry land" activities daily dawn-dusk. A leisure complex with outdoor pools, waterslides and water-based games. Other activities on dry land include minigolf, volleyball, outdoor fitness trail and kids' play area. You can also fish in one of two lakes; get your permit from the tourist office. Summer brings fast food vendors and the freedom to bring your own picnic or barbecue. Complex, pool and fishing pontoon accessible to wheelchair users. Pool season: adult €6, child (3-14 years) €5, under 3 free. Out of season: free.
- 2 Pétanque, Place du Mercadial. Daily dawn-dusk. It wouldn't be a proper southern French town without a dusty, shady park set aside for pétanque. Thursday evenings in summer are competition nights, all welcome. Free.
- 3 Tennis Club de Lautrec, Complexe sportif, rue Louis Cros, ☏ , ✉ firstname.lastname@example.org. Open air and indoor courts for hire. The club also hires out racquets and balls.
- The shoe maker workshop, to able to see the machines used. ☏
- You can take bike rides, to see the beautiful landscapes. ☏
- You can go to visit the medieval village.
Festivals and events
- Fête générale de Lautrec (General festival). Last weekend in May. Funfair, concert, belote/pétanque competitions, food and drink.
- Fête des Moulins et Vide Grenier (Windmill festival and junk sale). 3rd Sunday of June. Open doors at the windmill and junk sale in the village.
Fête de l'Artisanat et du Sabot (Artisanry and clog festival). 3rd Sunday of July. Exhibition and demonstration of old tools, machines and techniques, gourmet farmers' market, pink onion soup tastings.
- Fête de l'ail rose (Pink garlic festival). 1st Friday of August. Tastings, onion art competitions, biggest bunch of onions contest, fraternity parades, evening music and dancing...
- Festivaout. Mid-August. Series of free open-air concerts over a long weekend. Includes the Fête de pains et saveurs (festival of breads and flavours), which features demonstrations of flour milling and street entertainment.
- Les Pinceaux de Cocagne. 1st weekend in September. Competitive painting in the streets.
- Journées du Patrimoine (European heritage open days). 3rd weekend of September. Free access to the archaeological museum, the clogmaker's workshop and the windmill.
- 1 Traditional Market (Marché traditionnel), Place Centrale. F 08:00-13:00.
- 2 Pink Garlic Market, Allée des Promenades (on the south side of the village, at the bottom of rue de la Caussade). August-winter F 09:30 - 10:30. Local garlic sold in various sizes between 250 g and 5 kg. Garlic sales from the farm can be booked by phone.
- You can buy local products at the ferme au village ☏ or ☏
- You can go to fabric dyeing and prinying company, to buy fabric.
- There is a craft shop, with local products.
- In Lautrec you can eat at the brasserie "O terrases". It's easy to find because it is located by the road,. It has are very good pizzas. ☏
- You can drink but aloso eat at " Café Plum", it's a super bar because it's a musical bar, 05 63 70 83 30. Finally, you can eat at a French gourmet restaurant, the " L'oc-Xalis" ☏
- In this village you can sleep in the bedrooms of the Caussade, you can bring your animals with you. You can go to guest apartment "Temps de Pause", this apartment is in the medieval city of Lautrec, twenty meter from the collegiate church Saint-Rémy. Then you can also sleep at the "belle étape" it is an accomodation of the 15th century. Finally you can sleep at the hotel "La calvetié", this institution has implemented actions to respect the environement, there is a swimming pool.