Lauthentic France

Tarbes

Nestled in the Haute-Pyrénées region in southwestern France, Tarbes is one of the popular places to visit in France. A beautiful commune, full of rich history and well-maintained by the locals, Tarbes is a welcoming ray of sunshine in southern France. Famed for excellence in equestrian activities, the National Stud in Tarbes cares for and raises horses.

Information

 

Shops are open Monday-Saturday from 09.00 or 09.30 to 19.00 in high season and 09.00 or 09.30 to 18.00 at other times. Shops are generally closed on Sundays.

How to get there
Tarbes is situated close to both Toulouse and Biarritz. Other nearby places include Lourdes and Pic du Midi. To reach Tarbes, you can take the bus route along line 251 from Toulouse. This bus will take you directly to Tarbes. You can also reach Toulouse by bus or train. Toulouse has an airport you can use to fly in. Intercités and Ter run trains that travel between Toulouse and Tarbes every two hours. Another place you can reach Tarbes from is Lourdes. Lourdes also has an airport you can use to fly to the town. From Lourdes, the bus along line 965 will take you to Tarbes. Trains from Intercités, Ter, and Tgv can also take you to Tarbes. These leave Lourdes every three hours. From Toulouse, Tarbes is one and a half hours by car. From Lourdes, the village is a twenty-minute drive away.
History & Culture
Tarbes has existed since Roman times. It was called Turba, or Tarba. Since then, the commune has developed into a robust equestrian destination. Raising and breeding horses is a part of the village's history. Right up to the Second World War, a unit of French cavalry was positioned in Tarbes. Today, the village is a well-known place to vacation in the South of France. Tarbes gets thousands of tourists yearly, not just for its scenic beauty but also for the European Equestria festival held every summer.
Do & See
You can visit many places in Tarbes, most of which showcase the village's rich history with horses. You can visit • The National Stud • The Jardin Massey • The Massey Museum • The Haras National • Halle Marcadieu market, held every Thursday
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Discover Tarbes

Activities to Try

Learning about horses and even horseback riding are popular activities to try in Tarbes. You can also try taking heritage walks that will take you to all the must-see places in France’s Tarbes.

Eat and Drink

Both local and international flavors are popular here. Try French, Indian, and other kinds of cuisines.

Stay

Hotels are available for rent in Tarbes. The bigger towns nearby have more accommodation facilities as well.

Maison Natale Ferdinand Foch

Martial Foch, in charge of the Allied forces, coordinated the final push that defeated Germany in the First World War. The armistice was signed in his private carriage in 1918 and almost every city in France has an avenue named in his honour. But Tarbes was where he was born in 1851, in this classic Bigorre house from the 1700s on Rue de la Victoire. The home where he lived until he was 12 has been turned into a museum and contains family documents, photos and memorabilia from the French Academy and World War I to help you make sense of his illustrious career.

Jardin Massey

Declared a French “Jardin Remarquable”, the highest commendation for gardens in the country, Jardin Massey was plotted in the 19th century and has a handful of Tarbes’ museums and institutions in its boundaries. The park is named for its architect, Placide Massey, the horticulturalist and landscaper who was in charge of two gardens at Versailles in the 1800s. Come for walks and picnics in the company of exotic flowers and trees, surrounded by refined buildings like the Massey Museum and orangery. The garden’s statues add a dash of culture to the park, and one, L’Ouragan by Edmond Desca, caused a stir in 1887 for representing a nude man.

Musée Massey

Massey also designed this grand oriental-style museum hall for the centre of the park. The museum’s most prominent exhibition is about the history of the Hussars, charting 400 years of light cavalry around the world from 1545 to 1945 with weapons, uniforms, busts and paintings. Tarbes is still where France’s 1st Parachute Hussar Regiment is stationed, and this is closely linked to the National Stud which is also in the town. The museum’s fine arts wing has painting from the Italian, Spanish, Dutch, Flemish and French schools, while there’s also an ethnographic museum showcasing the old-time trades in Bigorre’s four valleys.

Haras National

This stud farm was ordered by Napoleon I in 1806 as part of a military horse-breeding program that had been running since Louis XIV in the 17th century. Tarbes’ Haras National was the cradle for the Anglo-Arabian breed, which is now widespread across France, the UK and America and was favoured by the French hussars who were based in the city. On an engaging tour you’ll pass through the 200-year-old stables, saddlery, bridleways and blacksmith forge, all set in eight hectares of parkland, to get the inside track on the breeding and conservation work still taking place.

Quartier d’Arsenal

Work is ongoing, but a large swathe of industrial land just up from the Jardin Massey is being transformed into a leisure district. One building already renovated is the city’s former arsenal. This was founded immediately after the defeat in the Franco-Prussian War in 1871 and churned out cannons and then munitions for the army for the next 100 years. Recently the city has revitalised the Arsenal building while looking after architecture, and it now has restaurants and amenities like a cinema, bowling alley and branch of Laser Quest.

Tarbes Cathedral

The first stones for the cathedral were laid in the 1100s, and if you come round to the outside of the apses on the church’s east side you’ll be looking at brick and stone checker-board walls that were constructed 900 years ago. This is by far the oldest section of the building, as the rest was removed and replaced, leaving an odd composite of styles and even colours: The 18th-century western facade is bright yellow, clashing with the grey 14th-century Gothic nave. Enter to get a good look at the fine Baroque marble canopy above the main altar and the painted vaults in the nave.

Parc aux Rapaces

With more than 110 species the Parc aux Rapaces (Park of the Raptors) is a much-loved family day out that will bring you nose to beak with all kinds of birds of prey. Keep your eyes on the time to make sure you’re at the “Théâtre de Verdure” for a memorable falconry display, and take advantage of the workshops that allow you to try your hand at this ancient skill. The rest of your visit you’ll be metres away from raptor species from Norway to Japan, like the southern crested caracara from South America or “Edwige”, the snowy owl, which also takes part in demonstrations.

Musée de la Déportation et de la Résistance

During the Second World War Tarbes was a hotbed of Resistance activity, and ambushes and acts of sabotage happened almost daily in this region. Such was the city’s commitment that it was awarded the Croix de Guerre by the Fourth Republic after the war. So you’re in the right place to learn about the Resistance networks in the Hautes-Pyrénées. The cache of weapons, photos and documents from the war found a permanent home in a former school in 1989, while the museum also tells the story of the everyday people who were rounded up and deported to concentration camps.

Caminadour

The right bank of the Adour River has been left to nature so there’s a ribbon of parkland that winds through the length of the city from north to south. You can amble beside the river on this serpentine path for as long as two hours without having to cross a road. At stages the vegetation is so dense that it will be hard to believe you’re close to a city, and the path is breathtaking in autumn when the colours change. If you keep going south you’ll end up at the Soues Lake, while the path begins not far from another large body of water, the Bours. The city has also set up information boards every few hundred metres informing you about the history of the Adour and the species that make a habitat from it.

Festival Equestria

The tree-lined promenade of Cours Dajot is a perfect location for long walks with loved ones. Beautiful vies of the harbour unfold from here, and many restaurants in the vicinity offer great seafood and are especially known for crabs. One end of the promenade is marked by a medieval castle.

Grand Marché

On Thursday mornings set your alarm for the weekly market in the massive hall at Place Marcadieu. This marvellous building dates to 1883 and takes design cues from Victor Baltard’s iconic works in Paris. There’s a farmers’ market in the hall selling regional specialities like Pyrenean cheese and cured ham, while outside are bric-a-brac and flower stalls. But of course, you won’t have to wait until Thursday for your French market experience as the new Halle Brauhauban is open every morning. A little smaller, this indoor market is your destination for fresh produce and giftable treats to bring home with you.

Square Mathon

If you’re inspired by the views of the mountains on the horizon to the south you could hop in the car for unforgettable trips into the Pyrenees. The stupendous Cirque de Gavarnie is 70 kilometres away, as is the colossal natural gap at the Brèche de Roland. A little closer is the Pic du Midi, the site of a world-renowned astronomical observatory. The geology also starts to get interesting much closer to Tarbes, as within half an hour are two show-caves, the Grottes de Bétharram and Grottes de Médous, both created by underground rivers and rich in stalagmites and stalactites.