15 things to do in Montauban (France)

Montauban, Tarn-et-Garonne, an hour north of Toulouse, complements the beautiful brick buildings of its neighbors.

Almost everything is made of this red material, which adds a lovely pink glow to the city.

In the brick building, you will learn the story of the sieges and battles that took place in these streets during Montauban’s staunchly Protestant religious wars.

Cross the Medieval Old Bridge, have a coffee in the vaulted National Mall, and meet outstanding artists born in the city, such as Ingres and Antoine Bourdel.

Let’s explore the best things to do in Montauban:

1. National Mall

National Mall

Like all medieval Bastide towns, Montauban has a central arcade square, but this is a more grandiose square than usual.

A two-story vaulted walkway sits beneath the striking brick townhouse.

The explanation for this is that the fire in the 17th century destroyed the wooden houses in the square. This is the devastation that King Louis XIII made concessions to help rebuild.

Wooden buildings were banned and the result was this uniform and very atmospheric gathering place.

Cafes, bars and restaurants are hidden under the arches, and their tables are spread out in the square.

If you are a morning person, you will catch the mini market here every morning.

2. Ingres Museum

Ingres Museum

At the end of his life, the famous 19th-century painter Jean-Auguste Dominique Ingres donated works and personal property to the city of Montauban, where he was born.

Eventually, the collection was moved into the city’s 17th-century Bishop’s Palace, with four floors dedicated to Ingres, his students, 15th- to 19th-century art, and archaeology of various periods and locations.

Ingres acquired more than 50 paintings during his career, including reproductions and originals by Raphael da Vinci.

At the time of writing, the museum is temporarily closed for renovations, but since it’s one of Montauban’s cultural highlights, it will be one of the first ports you’ll see when it reopens.

Meanwhile, Ingres’ paintings will hang at other venues in the city.

3. Center du Patrimoine

former jesuit college

For a real insight into the history and culture of Montauban, look no further than the old Jesuit college on Rue du Collège.

Centering the courtyard is the gallery and resource center, all of which feature an engaging, contemporary design and museum.

The main permanent exhibition will take you through the urban development of Montauban, always conveying the political, social and economic situation.

There are also artifacts from the city’s various museums to make the story even clearer.

Temporary exhibitions study specific monuments or periods of Montauban history, and there are rotating exhibits of local art.

4. Port Canal

Montage Canal

The Canal de Montech is a short, sweet waterway that connects the Tarn in southern Montauban with the Garonne Canal, which in turn connects Toulouse with the cities of Bordeaux.

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Over the past few years, Montauban has invested heavily in its “port canal,” installing new berths for ships and opening an event center and a bar that plays live music in the evenings.

Just a 10-minute walk from Centre-Ville, the port is the perfect starting point for a stroll along the water.

Bikes can also be rented here and are cheap, 3 euros for a half day.

5. Old Town Tour

Mirador Cabario

As you wander around the center of Montauban, you get a sense of the town’s unique architecture that relies almost entirely on red brick.

This applies to many of its neoclassical buildings, which combine brick and stucco, and even balustrades, arches and statue bases made of brick.

Some places to mark on the map include the Hôtel Mila de Cabarieu on Rue des Cames, the palace mansion on Rue de la Comédie, Place Maréchal-Foch and the brick arches of Hôtel Lefranc de Pompignan.

Many works by the turn-of-the-century sculptor Antoine Bourdelle grace the square, another Montauban contribution to French culture.

6. Old Bridge

Laoqiao

In the 12th century, Montauban was oppressed by the Abbey of Montolior in the north and was given permission to build a fortified bridge to defend the city from them.

These are the origins of the bridge across the Tarn into the old town, even if it will not be completed for another 200 years.

Reminisce about the violence that took place during the 16th and 17th century sieges as you walk through and admire the views of the Bishop’s Palace, the Church of Saint-Jacques and the wooded banks.

First, the Huguenots took over, making Montauban Protestant for 50 years until Louis XIII ousted them in 1629. Sadly, these clashes claim that the old fortifications may have been demolished in 1663 to build the Bishop’s Palace.

7. Victor Bren Museum

Victor Bren Museum

Montauban’s natural history collection is located on the first floor of this noble palace in Place Antoine Bourdelle.

The neoclassical building is worth mentioning because it was once the Cour des Aides, the sovereign court of the old regime, related to public finances and customs.

Before you step through the gates, get ready for the taxidermy army of birds, mammals and reptiles.

These include monkeys, elephants and kangaroos, and while they won’t be to everyone’s taste, minerals and fossils may be: there’s phosphate rock from Quercy dating back 50 million years, and fragments of the Orgueil meteorite, which fell on 1864 area.

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8. Montauban Cathedral

Montauban Cathedral

Montauba is unusual because its cathedral isn’t one of the top attractions.

Standing on the highest point in the city, the monument clashes with the rest of Montauban because its facade is made of white stone rather than red brick.

During the 16th century and most of 1629, Montauban remained Protestant.

The Huguenots destroyed the old medieval cathedral in 1560, and this classicist replacement did not begin until the late 17th century.

The scale of the building is astonishing, and the central portal is the tallest in Europe, even higher than St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Left cross section is Ingres’ painting, “Vœu de Louis XIII”, 1824.

9. Complexe Aquatique Ingreo

Complexe Aquatique Ingreo

Opened in 2013, Montauban’s Aquatic Centre is more than just a municipal swimming pool. It’s the third-largest water park in France and has as many visitors as it does locals.

There are six indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a hammam, sauna, a state-of-the-art gym and a balcony area where you can relax.

Kids can have fun in the pool and slides, while adults and serious swimmers will go crazy for the Olympic-sized outdoor pool.

It is open even in winter when the water is heated above 20°, even when the outside temperature is below zero.

10. St Jacques Church

St Jacques Church

Together with the old bridge, this church is the only medieval remains of Montauban.

The oldest part of the church is also the most spectacular; the octagonal bell tower, dating from the 1200s, rests on a slightly newer pedestal with a mechanism.

The church suffered losses during the French Wars of Religion, when the church’s clergy were massacred, and the building was used as a fortress and arsenal.

If you study the façade, you can still see the damage caused by the cannonballs when the city fended off a royal siege in 1621.

11. Museum of Resistance and Combat

Resistance and Combat Museum

In the park surrounding the Ingreo pool complex, there is a museum showing the history of the Second World War in the area around Montauban.

It was established in 1989 when a former Resistance deportee held an exhibition of war memorabilia.

Since then, many donations have expanded the museum’s collection of WWII artifacts, and now you’ll get a full chronological account of how the war unfolded locally.

The exhibition showcases the internment camp of Sett Franz and the ranks of foreign fighters who fought alongside the resistance during the occupation.

12. Mossack Abbey

Mossack Abbey

Since you’re just over 20 minutes away from this medieval masterpiece, it’s a pity not to see it.

The Monastery of Moissac is a UNESCO site and a historic stop on the pilgrimage route of St. James to Compostela, with architecture and decoration dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries.

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The complexity and quantity of Romanesque sculpture is almost unparalleled, and you can expect to lose track of time by staring at these carvings made nearly a thousand years ago.

Beginning in the church tympanum above the portal, representing the apocalypse in the Book of Revelation.

Then tiptoe to the cloister, where there are 76 stunning capitals showcasing stories from the Old and New Testaments, as well as the lives of martyrs.

13. Bruniker

Bruniker

Also within range is one of France’s “most beautiful villages”, perched on the cliffs of the Aveyron gorge.

You’ll first see the towers of the two medieval castles that control the town.

The earliest of these, dating back to the 1100s, was the home of Tudela William, who composed the Albanian Crusader Song, detailing the brutal 13th-century repression of the Qatari sect.

If you suffer from vertigo, avoid viewing from the galleries on the cliffs! The ‘young’ castle was built in the 1400s, with striking prehistoric axes, needles and harpoon heads found in the caves of the canyon.

Be sure to wander the narrow streets crammed with old timber-framed houses.

14. Montauban wines

Coteaux et Terrasses de Montauban

To the north of the city, along the clay-limestone slopes of the Aveyron valley are the vineyards of Coteaux et Terrasses de Montauban vin de pays.

They grow a variety of grapes here, such as Merlot, Syrah, Dana, Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and several others for red, white, and rosé wines.

White wines are described as fragrant and fresh, red wines are elegant and supple, and finally, rosés are described as fruity and lively.

You can find out if these descriptions are accurate in Montauban’s many caves (Blanc Rouge, La Cave L, Paisirs du Vin, V and B), which support their choices with advice and expertise.

15. Local Food

Boulet de Montauban

To commemorate the efforts of 6,000 Huguenots who fought off 20,000 royal troops in the 1621 siege, the city sold the Boulet de Montauban (cannonballs). These are hazelnuts wrapped in chocolate and sold in lovely packaging.

Montauban is located in the foie gras district, a delicacy that can be tasted in restaurants and served in cans and cans that you can buy at the market and take home.

The local cheese is Cabécou Autan, a creamy goat cheese that is very rich with a hint of hazelnut.

Finally, “Mountalbane” is a local brioche filled with orange blossom water, rum and vanilla, garnished with sugar and candied fruit, and then wrapped in crumpled parchment.

Where to stay: The best hotels in Montauban, France
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