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Tarbes - a city with proud traditions

Tarbes is situated in south-west France, and is the principal town of the department of the Hautes-Pyrénées. Although much of the city suffered badly over a succession of wars, and hence is not renowned for its ancient monuments and architecture, it is nevertheless a city which upholds some proud traditions, and makes a very interesting base from which to enjoy the splendours that this region has to offer.

Tarbes's magnificent location

In fact you cannot fail to be struck by its location with the majestic Pyrénées as a dramatic backdrop. Lying as it does on the edge of the National Park of the Pyrénées, Tarbes is situated in a landscape of rich diversity. The dramatic peaks of the mountains provide some wonderful sporting opportunities on the doorstep, whilst Tarbes is also close to both Spain and to the Atlantic coast of France.

Well equipped and attractive town

The town itself is attractive and usually sunny, with wide streets and fountains (notably the Fontaine Duvignau, decorated with sculptures of animals and birds), and an imposing equestrian statue. There is also a lovely cathedral, the Cathedral of Notre Dame de la Sède, which has a massive dome. Tarbes is well equipped with amenities, and also has a great choice of shops, bars and restaurants to enjoy.

A town of horses and rugby

It may seem a strange mix, but Tarbes is famous world wide for both horses, having its own breed the Tarbais, and also for its highly respected rugby union team. However, you do not need to be interested in either to enjoy Tarbes, for the town itself is interesting historically and is ideally located to be a base for exploring this wonderful part of France.

Historical Tarbes

Tarbes was a centre of power in Roman times, a bishopric in the Middle Ages, and during the wars of religion it suffered the double tragedy of a massacre and a terrible fire. More modern times have seen the town benefit from the creation of a National Stud (horses) in 1808, and in 1814 Tarbes became a garrison town.

Memories of the Marechal

Everywhere you go in Tarbes you will find memorials to one Marechal Foch, hero of the first world war and Tarbes' most famous son. In the appropriately named Rue de la Victoire you will find a chance to look around his house, preserved as a national monument.

A town for horse lovers

A visit to the National Stud is strongly advised if you enjoy seeing beautiful horses. Horse lovers will find Tarbes very much to their taste. The proud tradition of equestrianism in the city was begun by Napoleon, who founded a riding academy here to train soldiers to be horsemen and therefore more efficient in battle. Today, thank goodness, this is no longer the reason for the excellent equestrian facilities in Tarbes, but the passion for horses continues and the town is the venue for some top competitions. If you are in Tarbes in the summer you will see the horses and carriages which take sightseers around the city... take a ride... it is definitely the best way to view Tarbes!

Tarbes's Jardin de Massey

In the north of the town there are the beautiful gardens of Massey, le Jardin de Massey, complete with a 40 metre lookout tower, which were designed by a director of the gardens of Versailles, and are really worth a visit. This lovely park is said by many to be the true glory of Tarbes, and in it you can enjoy not only the pretty and well kept gardens but also see a 14th century cloister, watch the ducks swimming on a lake and take the kids for a train ride around the park on a special children's train. Also here you will find a fascinating museum, the Musée de Massey, in which you can trace the history of folk art and horse breeding in the area.

Out and about near Tarbes

Should you wish to venture further afield, and you really should as there is so much to appreciate in this part of France, you might like to make a trip to the nearby famous pilgrim town of Lourdes, where miracles are said to happen. Or perhaps you might travel up into the mountains themselves, and enjoy the unparalleled views or take part in some of the adventure sports available there. The Pyrénées offer opportunities to try canyoning, white water sports, paragliding, rock climbing and caving, so all the adrenaline junkies will be able to put their nerve to the test! A little more down to earth and just outside Tarbes itself there is golf, horse-riding, tennis, swimming and fishing all close to hand.

How to get there

Getting to Tarbes from the UK is nice and easy, as the town is not too far from Pau, Carcassonne and Toulouse airports, where you have a choice of airlines and departure airports offering services. Budget airline Ryanair flies to Carcassonne and Pau, whilst Toulouse is served by easyJet, British Airways, bmi, bmibaby and flybe. Rail travel is also practical, as you can take the Eurostar to Paris and then catch a super fast TGV to Tarbes. The ferry to Bilbao-Santander is an interesting option for those who enjoy travelling by boat, as this crosses the infamous Bay of Biscay, This is a fascinating trip, but don't forget your sea legs!

Property prices and availability in and around Tarbes

Property around Tarbes has recently experienced a considerable rise in prices, as the area has become more popular with foreign buyers. It is still possible to find some bargains, however, with renovation properties not too far from the town. City centre properties will be at the higher end of the market.

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WHERE IS Tarbes?

Tarbes is found in the south-west of France, close to both the Pyrenean Mountains and the Spanish border. It lies in the north-west corner of the Hautes-Pyrénées department.

Tarbes Property Map


Midi-Pyrénées Guide

Midi-Pyrénées Property Map


Hautes-Pyrénées Guide

  Hautes-Pyrénées Map

Population: 46,275

Access: By air: Fly into Pau or Carcassonne with budget airline Ryanair or into Toulouse with flybe, bmi, or easyJet. By rail: Take Eurostar to Paris, then a TGV fast train to Tarbes. By boat: The ferry to Bilbao is another possibility.

Economy: The economy of Tarbes is varied, although tourism is beginning to play a more important part. It is a centre for industry, commerce, and agriculture, including horse and cattle breeding.

Interesting fact: There is a special breed of horse bred in Tarbes, known as the Tarbais. It was originally bred as a military horse.


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