Toulouse is around 60 miles from the Spanish border and its sunny neighbour definitely influences the flavour of this vibrant city. From lively bistros and bodegas in elegant squares to a penchant for tango dancing and al fresco dining, lively Toulouse is a great place for a city break. There’s plenty to do and see with cultural attractions galore. Here are 10 things to do in Toulouse – and that’s just for starters. Scroll down to the bottom of this post to links for more recommendations and tips.
Meet and Greet
Meet the Greeters. They’re local volunteer guides in Toulouse who know their city best. Most of them speak English and they love to share their knowledge of Toulouse in this not for profit service. Details: ToulouseGreeters
Cool Canal du Midi
The 240 km long Canal du Midi was built under the reign of Louis XIV and flows from Sète to Toulouse. It was listed as a World Heritage Site in 1996. Make the most of the sunshine with a relaxing boat trip on the River Garonne or the Canal du Midi. There’s also a great bike route alongside.
Flea market fun
Browse at the monthly flea market. It’s held on the first weekend of each month, from Friday (considered part of the weekend in Toulouse!) to Sunday: Brocante des Allées François Verdier. If vintage shopping is your thing, you’ll love Toulouse as there are plenty of vintage shops too.
Flower power – the violet heart of Toulouse
Violets are the flower of Toulouse. The little purple petals have been cultivated here since 1854 and this species is a cousin of the fragrant Parma violet. They’re an important part of the heritage of Toulouse. Enjoy the scent and discover the history of the violet at the Maison de la Violette barge which is moored on the Canal du Midi in the city. Each February there’s a grand fete to celebrate the violet at the spectacular Place du Capitole.
Visit Maison Berdoues. Founded in 1902, the family run perfume company is a French household name and renowned globally. here they develop fragrances such as the legendary Violette de Toulouse. Discover the violet influence in Toulouse
Jardin des plantes
The beautiful botanical gardens are a perfect place to chill out and smell the roses. It’s right next to the Museum of Toulouse. You’ll find the museum mascots preening and primping – the peacocks, and if you’re lucky you’ll even spot a baby one! It’s also a great place for a snack at Le Moaï café (and there’s free WiFi here too).
Perfect Pastel products
Used for dyeing and as a medicinal plant since antiquity, Isatis Tinctoria was cultivated in the Lauragais, between Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne. Its blue pigment was exported throughout Europe and used as a dye for textiles. Having earned a fortune, the pastel merchants had sumptuous private mansions built in Toulouse. Visit Terre de Pastel, an unusual complex that combines, museum-spa-boutique-restaurant showcasing the plant. Read more about the pastel past and present of Toulouse
Festivals in Toulouse
There are more than 1000 events annually in Toulouse. Summer soirees are often very lively and the “fiesta” is popular. Don’t miss the Les Siestes Electroniques (June-July) and Toulouse d’Eté (July-August).
The unique Festival Toulouse les Orgues is held each October. It’s a great chance to listen to wonderful music and enjoy one of the best collections of organs in Europe.
Concerts take place each July in the Basilica Saint-Sernin. See the tourist office website for details (below).
On Thursday at midday listen to free concerts. The eclectic programme attracts a crowd of admiring spectators in the municipal hall of the Sénéchal in winter and in the courtyard of the Ostal d’Occitania when the weather is fine.
Summer in the city
Toulouse plages takes place in several locations in the city, much like Paris plages. In the summer, don’t miss being at the beach just head for the plages!
The Halle de la Machine and the Musee Aeropostale
The Halle de la Machine A is home to 150 mechanical machines born from the imagination of master machine maker François Delarozière. You may know him from the incredible Ile de la Machines in Nantes. You’ll believe in magic if you go here! A giant Minotaur roams the streets, giant spiders watch you and drums play unaided! There’s a great little café here – it really is a must see in Toulouse.
Next door is a brand new museum that pays homage to the Aeropostale (airmail) adventure and the first pilots who were brave enough to travel by plane.
More on Toulouse
Toulouse for foodies – where to eat out in Toulouse, plus the best bar in the world, it’s official!
Guide to spending a weekend in Toulouse
The Towers of Toulouse
5 of the best things to do in Toulouse