Cassoulet and Airbus. One foot in tradition, the other in the future, Toulouse shows remarkable dynamism. A preserved historic center, a pleasant living environment and an astonishing concentration of bars and restaurants: Toulouse has everything to seduce, starting with a warm atmosphere. On the occasion of the publication of the new Routard Toulouse, here is our best of the Pink City.
La vie en rose
A shot of blues ? Head for Toulouse, the "Pink City", which owes its nickname to its terracotta brick architecture. A pink in which Toulouse declines all shades, tinting them, depending on the time of day or place, with ocher or red. Colorful, the 4th largest city in France, which attracts 15 new arrivals each year, is a city where life is good.
Good news for the visitor: Toulouse can be traveled on foot, the distances never being very great. Start your walk with the famous Capitol Square (photo), seat of municipal power and gathering place for Toulouse residents. Show guaranteed at any time of the day.
From the Capitol rises the interlacing of lively alleys that make up old Toulouse, like the shopkeeper rue Saint-Rome or rue du Taur with its colorful facades. The old town is full of sumptuous buildings, admirable churches, preserved mansions, but also small squares and alleys that make you think of a large village. How not to fall under the spell?
Saint-Sernin, Augustins, Jacobins ...
The holy Toulouse trilogy, not to be missed. Jewel of the city, the Saint-Sernin basilica, this "coral flower watered by the sun" (Nougaro), dominates old Toulouse from the top of its octagonal five-storey bell tower. Built in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, this major stage of the pilgrimage to Compostela is the largest Romanesque church in Europe. Nothing less.
Not far from Saint-Sernin, the Jacobin convent is a marvelous illustration of Languedoc Gothic art. This religious fortress, erected in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries, seems to touch the clouds. In its cloister, concerts are regularly organized.
Another exceptional religious site, the Augustinian convent became a museum during the French Revolution. Today, this former Gothic monastery houses a rich collection of medieval sculptures and paintings (XNUMXth-XNUMXth century).
And yes ! Toulouse holds the French record for the number of XNUMXth century mansions. A heritage inherited from the golden age of the pastel trade. At the time, the wealthy Toulouse residents had real brick palaces built in the center, often topped by a tower.
They are found in particular in the very chic Saint-Étienne district. Look up, observe the ornamentation of the facades, track down the caryatids… You have not finished marveling!
The Assézat hotel, the most beautiful in the city, houses a very interesting museum: the Fondation Bemberg, to visit for its collection of XNUMXth-XNUMXth century art, but also its room dedicated to Pierre Bonnard.
Pastel and violet
Two Toulouse treasures brought up to date. Growing in the vicinity of Toulouse, the cake made the wealth of the Pink City in the XNUMXth century. This plant gave after treatment a superb blue dye, very coveted at the time. Pastel sheets transformed into balls called "cockles" then earned Toulouse the nickname "land of plenty".
Today, pastel is experiencing a revival thanks to its cosmetic virtues and to the Toulouse-based company Graine de Pastel, which markets perfumes, beauty creams, soaps, but also massage sessions. In July, a wellness center (Terre de Pastel) will open its doors in Labège, in the Toulouse suburb.
Another flower rediscovered in Toulouse, the violets is celebrated every year in February. La Maison de la Violette, installed aboard a barge-boutique on the Canal du Midi, houses a small museum dedicated to violets and a tea room. A very nice place.
An afternoon at the Museum
Go there with your kids! Second natural history museum in France, the Muséum has a collection of more than two million pieces, including an impressive quetzalcoatl skeleton which "welcomes" the visitor. The visit, fun and interactive, allows you to explore the mysteries of life.
On leaving, stroll through the Botanical Garden (2 species), go through the Garden of plants to join the Grand-Rond garden and walk along the canal du midi, from bridges to locks. It is no longer the Pink City, but the Green City.
Saint-Cyprien and the Slaughterhouses
On the left bank of the Garonne, Saint-Cyprien has long been the poor district of Toulouse. Its impressive dome, the Hôtel-Dieu-Saint-Jacques, classified by Unesco, is also the only notable monument in the district.
Popular and cosmopolitan, Saint-Cyprien today attracts a young and trendy population. The Abattoirs museum, devoted to modern and contemporary art, undoubtedly has a lot to do with it. You can see daring exhibitions and a rich collection of 3 works, exhibited in rotation. Another interesting place, the Water tower is today a gallery dedicated to photography.
In the factory of the A380
All the Airbuses in the world (or almost) pass through Toulouse, where they are assembled. A windfall for the Pink City, where nearly 20 people work for the aircraft manufacturer, whose order books are full.
The visit of Airbus site in Blagnac is a must! Three 1-hour itineraries are offered to the public, including the Airbus A30 circuit, with the discovery of the wide-body assembly hangar, and the panoramic coach circuit across the entire Airbus site.
Right next door, the Museum of Ancient Wings will delight enthusiasts with its forty or so old planes (Mig, Caravelle, Mirage, etc.) brought together by volunteer collectors. Note also the opening in 2014 of a large aeronautical museum: Aeroscopia.
A trip to space
La Cite de l'Espace is a park entirely devoted to space adventure. Go there with your family: the place, both fun and educational, has something to arouse vocations. This is the dream science class!
La Cité explores the mysteries of the universe (planets, meteorites, etc.) and traces the history of astronomy. We also discover the terrestrial applications of the conquest of space (weather forecast, satellite, GPS, telecommunications…).
Highlights of the visit: the Moon Runner who makes "walk on the Moon", the IMAX cinema, the reconstruction of the full-size Ariane 5 rocket or the visit of the real Mir station. Exciting, even for beginners.
Stroll along the Garonne
On sunny days, people from Toulouse like to meet on the right bank of the Garonne for a walk, basking in the sun, picnicking or having a drink with friends. Do like them! When the sky is clear, you can even see the Pyrenees.
When the sun sets, the beautiful bourgeois residences of Lucien Lombard quay, between the Pont Saint-Pierre and the Pont-Neuf, set ablaze and take on orange or ocher colors. Sit on the Place de la Daurade at the Café des Artistes for an aperitif, while watching the sun decline over the river. Isn't life beautiful?
Sausage, goose, duck, fenetra and, of course, cassoulet. With nearly 1 restaurants, Toulouse is one of the gastronomic capitals of France. There is something for all tastes and all budgets. Something to feast on, then.
To shop, the Victor Hugo market (daily 6 am to 13 pm) is a real institution, particularly for its restaurants on the 1st floor. In the surroundings, a real quarter of Cocagne: cheeses from Xavier, foie gras from Samaran, sausage from Garcin, foie gras or truffle ice cream from Philippe Faur, you will be in for a treat!
With more than 100 students, Toulouse is a festive city and not only on the evenings of rugby matches. From bar to bar, from bodega to bodega, the Pink City takes on the air of Barcelona. There are people, and until late.
To start the evening, nothing like an aperitif on the terrace on the Capitol squares, the Trinity ou Saint Georges. For the party, go to the Saint-Pierre square, with its student headquarters bars (Le Saint des Seins, Chez Tonton, La Couleur de la Culotte, etc.): a lively 3rd half atmosphere.
Very lively atmosphere, but less hardcore, in the Gabriel Péri street, where we happily meet for a drink at the Telegram or at La Maison. Note: a great concert hall, the Connexion, with free access almost every evening.
Hush! Everyone is in bed or almost ... What if you went to admire the Pink City? At night, thanks to lighting effects, the districts, monuments and bridges of Toulouse are presented in a new… light. Ideal for a romantic stroll before going to bed.
New! Le Routard has released a guide entirely devoted to Toulouse Métropole: addresses, tips, anecdotes, itineraries, maps ... Everything you need to fully discover the Pink City!
Consult our Toulouse online guide
Toulouse Tourist Office
So Toulouse Tourism Pass: free access or reduced rates on 35 sites in the city and free transport.
How to get there ?
Daily TGV from Paris-Montparnasse (5 h) and Bordeaux (1 h 50). Intercity rail links with most French cities.
Daily direct flights from many French airports with Air France and EasyJet.
On site, self-service bike rental system Vélo Toulouse, Tisséo bus and metro, but Toulouse can be easily visited on foot.
Or sleep ?
On weekends and during school holidays, most hotels in Toulouse (and the surrounding area) sell off prices. Watch for specials!
- Hotel Saint-Sernin: 2, rue Saint-Bernard. A cozy hotel opposite the Saint-Sernin basilica. Double € 70-137, depending on comfort and period.
- The small inn of Saint-Sernin: 17, rue d'Embarthe. Between the lodge and the youth hostel. From € 22 per night in a dormitory.
Where to eat ?
- The J'Go: 16, pl. Victor Hugo. Bistro-bodega formula on the ground floor and restaurant upstairs, based on excellent regional products. A good address, very friendly. Carte 30-55 € at the restaurant, tapas 7-8 € at the bar.
- Emile: 13, pl. Saint Georges. The restaurant is part of the Universal Cassoulet Academy, that's saying it all! An institution where you can enjoy products from the South West, but also excellent fish. Superb wine list. Menus € 36-55.
- Le Chai Saint-Sauveur: 30, rue Bernard-Mule. A wine restaurant-bistro close to the city center. Very good local wines (but not only) to accompany a refined, inventive and tasty cuisine. Menus € 28-59 for dinner, € 15,90-18,50 for lunch.
- The Tables of the Fountain: Place de la Trinité. Right in the center, a pleasant stopover with an interesting and hearty lunch menu. Menu starting at € 13,5.
Where to have a drink? Where to go out?
- The bars of St. Peter's Square : third-half atmosphere guaranteed in these bars frequented by students (Bar Basque, Le Saint des Seins, Chez Tonton, etc.)
- The House: 9, rue Gabriel-Péri. You really feel "at home" in this cozy bar, ideal for an aperitif or an evening cocktail. Warm and original decor. In short, we love it!
- The Telegram: 1, rue Gabriel Péri. A resolutely trendy atmosphere in this bar-restaurant set up on 2 levels in a former printing house. Very classy design decoration. Concerts.
- Café connection: 8, rue Gabriel-Péri. Bar, concert hall in an old garage with underground decor. Good programming, very eclectic (electro, blues, rock…), and often free entry.