Toulouse in Midi-Pyrénées is the 4th largest city in France and is famed for the rose-coloured bricks of its architecture that have given it the nickname the 'ville rose' (the pink city).
From the Romans to Charlemagne to the Revolution, Toulouse has been at the forefront of French history and was especially important because of its links to trade from the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and the Pyrénées. Today, it is the home of European aerospace and is a vibrant university town. Start your explorations of the city from the Place du Capitol where the Capitole de Toulouse, a glorious mostly 18th century building, houses the city hall, opera house and a donjon (keep), which is now the Tourist Office, all under one spectacular roof. There is much to see with numerous fine houses and palaces throughout the Old Quarter of the city, many built between the 15th and 18th centuries and incorporating Renaissance and Neoclassical architectural styles. Other architecture not to miss are the curious cathedral St Etienne, a building of two parts that was built at different times and the basilica St Sernin, a former abbey church built in the Romanesque style that became an important stop on the pilgrimage route, the Camino de Santiago, after Charlemagne donated relics to it. Several religious orders set up convents here with the 13th century convent of the Jacobins, a splendid example of religious Gothic architecture. The Augustins also set up a convent here in the 14th century, which now houses the Musée des Beaux-Arts and is full of sculptures, Roman capitals (columns) and paintings by the European schools between the 17th and 19th centuries.
Toulouse has many museums but some of its best are the fantastic Natural History Museum, the art museum of the Foundation Bomberg and the Musée les Abattoirs, a contemporary art museum in a converted slaughterhouse. For a more unusual visit, why not go to the Cité de l'Espace, a theme park with attractions about space including a planetarium, exact replicas of the Mir Space station and Ariane 5 rocket as well as an IMAX theatre, a moon-walk simulator and much more! At Toulouse airport you can take a tour of the Airbus factory where ad tour will show you around the factory and you'll visit a scale replica of the Airbus A380. If you prefer travelling on water, why not hire a boat and follow the Canal du Midi, a pretty 150 mile stretch of canal going from Toulouse to Séte? Toulouse has many splendid gardens if you need some quiet time away from the buzz of the city including the Botanical Gardens beside the Natural History Museum and the beautiful Jardin Japonais, a Japanese garden designed as a place of peace and rest. There are several festivals throughout the year in Toulouse including the Rio Loco, a festival of world music, Printemps de Septembre, a contemporary arts festival, and Piano aux Jacobins, a classical music festival hosted in the cloister of the convent of Jacobins. Don't forget to buy the city pass, Carte Toulouse en Liberté, from the Tourist Office for some fantastic discounts across the city in museums, restaurants, concerts and more!
Shoppers will love the eclecticism of Toulouse with bookshops alongside chic boutiques, and many antiques shops in the centre. There is even a shop devoted to everything TIn Tin! Toulouse has lots of markets and there are always a few on every day of the week selling fresh produce, books, antiques, bric-a-brac - you're sure to find something to buy. As a lively university town, there is much nightlife to choose from, and lots of great restaurants. Try some foie gras or a cassoulet (a stew of beans in a wine and tomato sauce, topped with pieces of duck, goose or pork) with local wines from Cahors and Bergerac. The Saucisse de Toulouse (Toulouse sausage) is a herby sausage that is great when braised in red wine.
Why visit Toulouse?
- Capitol de Toulouse
- The Architecture
- The Museums
- Cite de l'Espace
- Country: France
- Region: Midi-Pyrénées
- Department: Haute-Garonne
- Population: 865,000
- Coordinates: 43.611968,1.446024
Coordinates shown are based on the WGS84 system, please check driving directions before departing.