The very old and the very new is to be found in Toulouse. This is a city with an ancient footprint but where you can experience the modern art of moon walking like an astronaut at the Cité de l’Espace space museum.
The red brick buildings of old Toulouse give it a strangely intimate air that suits its artistic vibe, and its nickname ‘la Ville Rose’.
Toulouse City Guide
The cobbled streets of the inner old town are pedestrianised but outside and around there’s a modern tram system and a free bus service. Take a tour on foot, by bike, or by river boat on the Garonne.
Wandering the city’s streets is a great way to get a feel for old Toulouse and all roads lead to the 18th century Capitole, a magnificent and grand building that houses the town hall (and the opera house amongst much else). Check out the Salle des Illustres, with spectacular 19th century paintings on the ceiling and walls. Enter via a door in the arched passage of the Capitole – it’s free.
On a Sunday morning don’t miss the picturesque market held around the church Eglise St Aubin, it’s a “bobo” (bohemian bourgeois) style affair with clothes, flowers, spices and great produce on offer; it’s like a village within a village (08h-13h)
There are several world-class museums but whatever you do, don’t miss a visit to the Minotaur’s lair! The Halle de la Machine is extraordinary, fantastical, magical and it’s home to some of the weirdest creatures you’ll ever encounter!
Eating out in Toulouse
Cassoulet is one of the most famous dishes of the area and there are plenty of restaurants dishing it up. Toulouse has a lovely sunny climate so eating outdoors is the order of the day and you’ll find plenty of elegant squares like the Place St Pierre, where you can sit and enjoy watching the world go by and revel in the luxury of al fresco dining late into the night.
Locals love: Maison du Cassoulet, where the local speciality cassoulet, a mouth-watering stew of beans, pork, sausage, black pudding and duck confit looms big on the menu and is served in traditional stone pots.
Fancy a nibble: One for those with a sweet tooth and a penchant for pretty décor, Le Petit Magre is a green and pink delight serving fresh salads and seasonal produce. Opened by a famous chef whose desserts are legendary in Toulouse “his waffles and Paris Brest are memorable” say the locals (4, rue Baronie).
Push the boat out: Relax over a lunch or dinner cruise on the Canal du Midi which runs through Toulouse. Enjoy picturesque scenery whilst bobbing gently along on the restaurant boat l’Occitania. (Reserve in advance: toulouse-croisieres.com).
Snack: Enjoy street-food style grub at the atmospheric, plus 100 year old covered market (called Victor Hugo), with its 100-plus active stalls. It’s a great place for foodies to discover the local cheeses, charcuterie, wines, herbs and the freshest fruit and veg.
The old town has a great atmosphere; Place St Georges is the place to go for a taste of local life and lovely terrace cafés. Encircled by classical style buildings and charming shops this is where those in the know hang out.
Special: La Bibent, a beautiful Art Deco listed café at 5 Place Capitole, great at any time of the day for a drink, coffee, breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Locals love: Bar Basque, Place St Pierre, this square is a part of local life. Charming gardens, great views over the Garonne River, sublime on a sunny Toulousian day.
Don’t miss: No. 5 Wine Bar. US Wine Spectator rates it as one of the top wine bars in France. Cool, chic, retro décor and an amazing array of wines and Champagnes, served with superb tapas. (5 rue de la Bourse).
The Inside Track
Relax at the Museum of Toulouse, enjoy the exhibitions but don’t miss the botanical gardens, Les Jardins des Plantes. Here you’ll find the museum mascots, colourful peacocks, preening and primping, and if you’re lucky you’ll even spot a baby peacock! It’s also a great place for a snack at Le Moaï café (and there’s free WiFi).
Have a go at being an astronaut: try your hand, or rather your feet, at moon walking in a moon gravity simulator. Cité de l’Espace is a treat for space fans, gaze at the stars in one of the biggest planetariums in the world, climb a full size rocket and much more.
Take a Selfie
For locals the number 1 selife spot is Place Capitole. The pedestrianised square is emblazoned with the Occitan cross, a medieval symbol of the region.
Home to one of Europe’s most vibrant shopping cities. Make your way to the roof terrace of Galleries Lafayette for a fabulous view over the red roofs of Toulouse.
How to Get There
Toulouse-Matabiau station is close to the city centre which is within walking distance.
More on Toulouse
5 Top Things to do in Toulouse – Culture vultures and foodies guide to the city
Toulouse the Pink city with shades of Blue the town the locals call La Ville Rose and whose wealth was based on the blue dye from woad…
Towers of Toulouse – a look at the astonishing architecture of the city – and its 50 towers…
The Violet Festival of Toulouse – the city is famous for its violets and once a year the town turns mauve!
Toulouse in the Pink – living it up in the city… let the good times roll – fab food, pulsating night life.
Toulouse Tourism Wesbite