They are characterised by their distinctive layout, their abundant architectural details, and their welcoming spirit which has endured over the centuries. Discover the bastides of south-western France.
Understanding the origin of bastides
"New towns" built during a period of prosperity, bastides are fortified towns that appeared in their hundreds in the south-west of France during the Middle Ages. What made them special? Surveyors, who were skilled and pragmatic mathematicians designed them around a central square, which for centuries hosted the town's events. They designed straight streets to facilitate exchanges and the circulation of carts. A regular layout, if the terrain allowed it, where you can still enjoy getting lost in the maze of time.
Cordes sur Ciel
An open book on art and history, this timeless city has a unique magical quality. Great authors, such as Camus, have fallen in love with it. As well as its ramparts and fortified gates, it is the legends and history that make it so fascinating. What secrets does the Halle Well hold? What is the meaning of the grotesques that decorate the façades of the Gothic houses?
The bastide can be explored on foot by strolling along the steep streets, there are breathtaking views from the top of its ramparts. Wrapped around the rocky ridge of the Puech de Mordagne, this town has already been named one of the Most Beautiful Villages in France. From the Place de la Bride, there is an exceptional panorama over the Vallée du Cérou. Continuing into the centre, the Maison du Grand Ecuyer is worth a visit, with its pretty façade decorated with very fine, but strange sculptures. A treat for those with a sweet tooth is the Croquants de Cordes biscuits, which, made of egg whites and sugar, are a real delight for the taste buds!
Lisle-sur-Tarn, an iconic old bastide-port mid-way between Toulouse and Albi, is known for its covered square (place à couverts), the largest in south-west France! In the past, it was an important trading site: barrels of wine from the Gaillac vineyards and kilos of cereals left the quays in a joyful din. Nowadays, you can walk along the banks of the Tarn, admiring the red façades that line the streets: who can be the first to spot a "pontet"? (A room built between two buildings that overlooks the street.)
Try a square of dark chocolate at the Musée du Chocolat or enjoy a coffee on a terrace: life is so good when you take the time to enjoy it.
Finally, explore the stunning church of Notre Dame de la Jonquière. Built in bricks in a style known as "Southern French Gothic" or "Tolosano-Albigeois", you can see its 50-m tower from afar. Inside, the vaults of the nave reach 17m and the building stretches over 42m: measurements that reflect the spirituality felt in such places. Another way to cool down: the Lac de Bellevue, located just a stone's throw away with its leisure centre, hiking trails and an unmissable firework display over the Tarn in July.
Don't leave without… taking a selfie in front of the Fontaine de Griffoul on the Place Centrale. This centuries-old building is a testimony to the foundation of Lisle-sur-Tarn. It deserves a souvenir photo!
Founded thanks to Simon Briseteste, this bastide is today a fine example of this south-western French architecture. Through the narrow streets of this fortified village, the walls seem to still whisper the stories of centuries past. We advise you to take a look at the Messire de Montalivet residence, which is in itself an open book on the history of the Wars of Religion that marked Briatexte. The church that stands outside the old fortifications is also a monument to be explored, as is the town's last defensive ditch, which is known here as Le Dadou. Stroll through Briatexte's gridded alleys, characteristic of bastides, and you're certain to come across the main square lined with a covered marketplace. Briatexte is also a departure point for various hiking trails, the best way to explore the Tarn in its unspoilt state!
If you watch "The Hundred-Foot-Journey" by Steven Spielberg with Charlotte Lebon, keep an eye out. The Briatexte mill appears in the background of a scene in the film.
How about staying an extra night?
Various hiking trails are accessible departing from our bastides, ideal for exploring the Vallée de la Vère, Grésigne Forest or the Gaillac vineyard. Choose from among the many signposted trails in our region or even consider a mountain bike or horse-riding excursion.