When it comes to touring Southern France, Toulouse sits near the top of the must-visit list. With stunning architecture and warm hospitality, the city offers an escape from the ordinary, especially in the spring and summer. With food, experiences, and day trips galore, it’s safe to say there are few who will find Toulouse the Pink City lacking.
Places to Visit in Toulouse
Some of Toulouse’s best places to visit are located within the city center. The Capitole in particular is a great starting point. This building has served as Toulouse’s city hall for generations, and has become a much beloved landmark. Art exhibits often fill the interior, which serves as art in its own right. The square outside often features a flea market, as well as several nearby cafes. Only a short distance away lies Saint-Sernin Basilica. A cathedral that has stood for a millenia, this UNESCO World Heritage Site provides a marked contrast to other famous French cathedrals thanks to its unique yet beautiful architecture.
The Garonne River runs straight through Toulouse, and in a way serves as the city’s lifeblood. Unlike the Seine in Paris, the Garonne provides opportunities to explore it on your own. Several public beaches line the river in the summer, as do picturesque parks and walking areas. You can also indulge in activities such as rowing and canoeing, if you so choose. Don’t forget to explore the canals that branch off the main waterway, as they feature some excellent and eminently photogenic scenery. Round off your nature experience by visiting Jardin des Plantes, a botanical garden created in the 18th century for students of medicine. Here you’ll find herbs and medicinal plants alongside more traditional offerings.
While Toulouse has plenty to keep you occupied for days or even weeks, still more adventures lie beyond the city’s borders. Leading the pack is Carcassonne, a castle and medieval town that will take you back in time. Painstakingly restored to its former glory, the castle is one of the best examples of medieval French architecture standing today. Inside, you’ll find plenty of excellent dining options, as well as fanciful souvenir shops and a magnificent cathedral. The real star of the show, however, is the ticketed Castle Tour, which takes you through the restored quarters and out onto the ramparts. If you only take one day trip during your visit, this is the one not to be missed!
Carcassonne is not the only day trip available, however. Other options include a trip to Lourdes, a Catholic pilgrimage site, and Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site home to a beautiful cathedral and picturesque medieval town. Wine aficionados will be happy to note that wine tours are also available. In a completely different vein, the Cité de l’Espace (relatively close to the city) provides a look at massive rockets and France’s premiere space center. Be sure not to miss these unique places in France, as they are sure to complete your Toulouse experience.
As one might expect from a major French city, Toulouse offers fantastic cuisine sure to please any foodie. While international options are available, some of the best food comes in the French and provincial varieties. O Delices d’Emilie, a small (and affordable) cafe near the Capitole, serves up a wonderful (and ever-changing) breakfast spread. There are different size plates here, too, so feel free to indulge before you head out on your adventures.
Once lunch or dinner time rolls around, Toulouse’s food scene kicks it into gear. In the mid-range, La Creperie offers fantastic crepes and galettes in a rustic former wine cellar. Another great mid-range option, Le Chat Noir Bistrot, provides a beautiful bistro setting alongside its cheaper price point. For those seeking high-end cuisine, check out L’hippi’curien, a fine French establishment that serves up some of Toulouse’s best meals.
After a day of adventure and fine cuisine, it’s a great idea to settle into one of Toulouse’s many fine accommodations. There’s no need to restrict your hotel options to certain areas of the city – unless you really love them, that is – because Toulouse’s public transit system is excellent.
Those looking for a truly luxurious experience should head to Le Grand Balcon (~$100) and Villa de Taur(~$130), two fantastic hotels located in the heart of the city. Both serve as great entry points into the city, and balconies from which you can admire the city. Breakfast options are also available.
On the more affordable side (~$50), La Petite Auberge de Saint-Sernin is just a short walk away from the Saint-Sernin basilica. The hostel is a great option for those looking to take walking tours of the city. Hotels such as the Residhotel Toulouse Centre (~$55) should also merit your consideration, as it offers walks along the riverside and is only a short distance away from several major attractions.
Fun Facts About Toulouse The Pink City
- Toulouse is known as the “Pink City” thanks to its unique (and colorful) architecture. However, it is equally famous for another shade – lavender. The city and surrounding area grow a massive crop of lavender each year.
- Don’t let the city’s historical architecture fool you – Toulouse leads France in aerospace advancement and research.
- Toulouse made headlines in 2018 when it played host to La Machine, a troupe that puppeteered massive floats of a minotaur and spider through the street. The show was very successful, so keep an eye out in case these giant creatures visit again!