Despite having the fourth biggest population in the country, Toulouse has been often overlooked as a go-to destination until now.
Whilst other major French cities have received their fair share of attention already, it’s now Toulouse’s turn in the spotlight!
With tourism having the potential for a small meteoric rise – quite literally if you visit Toulouse’s Cite de l’Espace – it’s easy to see why. In the centre getting from A to B is a doddle, the city has lesser crowds and there are a nice variety of contrasting things to do.
Toulouse may have an intriguing history dating back to 257AD and boast the largest Romanesque Basilica in Europe, yet it’s the city’s aviation industry that also plays a part as it echoes the present and the future. From stars to Starlings, Toulouse also throws in more airborne attractions along the way.
The city has been popular for business travellers during the week. Now, Toulouse is getting a name for itself for being a trendy spot for a European weekend away.
The Centre of Toulouse
Undoubtedly the heart of Toulouse, The Capitole is everyone’s starting point in the central square. Numerous cafes, restaurants, hotels, bars and outward streets surround Toulouse’s central hotspot. Toulouse acquires its nicknamed as ‘The Pink City’ by the distinct pink colour of the brickwork in some of its buildings.
The Capitole is also rooted in history. It is the place where St Saturnin was martyred back in 257AD – the Bishop of Toulouse. The Romans used it in the thirteenth-century and during the French Revolution it acted as army barracks!
Nowadays, it’s used as a city hall and is the venue for Toulousain’s to get married.
Historical, Art & Museums
Saint Sernin Basilica is one of Toulouse’s most popular historical attractions and is the largest remaining building of Romanesque architecture in Europe. If you’ve ever seen Toulouse advertised, St Sernin will likely be the main thumbnail or postcard photo. A UNESCO World Heritage Site both the exterior boasts a bell tower and spire, added in the 15th century. Inside, there is a crypt with Saint Saturnin’s remains, the Bust of Louis of Toulouse and the grand 19th-century Cavalle-Coll organ.
Jacobins Museum is a classic example of 13th to 14th-century Gothic architecture in France. It is best known for housing the remains of historic philosopher Thomas Aquinas and having an interior ‘palm-tree’ appearance made of brick columns to support the apse vault. Exploring further you’ll be able to witness the interior Jacobins gardens, whilst numerous rooms are home to permanent and temporary exhibits!
The Musee Des Augustins is not something to miss in Toulouse as it’s home to art dating back to the Middle Ages up until recent times in the 20th century. From March until September it will also hold a temporary exhibit called ‘Toulouse in the Renaissance’ that will have on show fascinating paintings, sculptures, drawings, weapons, manuscripts and much more during the Renaissance period in the city.
Aviation & Aerospace
Cite de l’espace, recently celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, is a theme park and a museum that you could honestly spend several days exploring. With many interactive activities – including sticking your hand through an astronaut’s glove – there are valuable learning exhibits and life-sized models of spacecraft’s that really provide you with an infinite of things to see here!
Aeroscopia Museum provides a fascinating insight into the history of aviation. Not only that it houses several real-life aircrafts the museum includes none other than the Concorde and its flagship aircraft the Airbus. Whether you’re an aviation addict or just a curious cat, Aeroscopia delivers with flying colours!
Rivers & Canals
Leading all the way to the Atlantic Ocean, if Toulouse were a human body, the River Garonne would be its spine. To get up close and appreciate its beauty, wander by the footpath between the bridges, St Pierre and Garonne during the day. If you’ve already had a gander at some of the Toulouse artwork at the Capitole there are some notable masterpiece paintings of the Garonne throughout recent centuries.
Don’t miss this: at night, groups of Starlings fly sporadically across the skies as if it were a carefully choreographed performance. It’s a truly spectacular sight!
In Toulouse, the Canal du Midi sometimes lives in the shadow of the Garonne but it really shouldn’t. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is nearly 300km long and links the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea. In Toulouse, enjoy the canals waters on a barge or even go cycling beside it.
Cuisine & Markets
The Toulousain Cassoulet is the city’s famous culinary dish, a pork and white bean casserole rich with flavour and finesse.
Restaurant Emile (13 Place Saint Georges, 31000) is a top-notch place to try your first Toulouse de Cassoulet. If you want to take our advice make sure you try the crayfish ravioli as an entree, it’s divine!
If Toulouse had a stomach full of food, Victor Hugo Market (named after the author) would be it. For many, this is Toulouse’s top attraction. With hoards of delicious foods from local produce to fresh seafood, you could spend breakfast lunch and dinner here.
Toulouse is officially the European City of Science hosting a bunch of festivals and events. From March 29th until September 30th there will be a Gravity Exhibition at the Abattoirs (Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art). Also in July Toulouse will hold the Science in the City Festival and EuroScience Open Forum.
Where to stay?
Splash the cash at Grand Hotel de l’Opera, a fantastic build that used to be a monastery. Here marvel at the glowing five-star decorations and antique styled rooms.
Hotel Albert 1er is modern and cosy that won’t burst the bank and is tucked away by rue d’Alsace.
St Aubins Market, open Saturdays, is a real Toulousain market to check out. Full of junk, punk, vintage and cheap street food it’s the local’s weekly go-to destination to shop.