City description

From the Victor Hugo market to the Saint Cyprien district via the Capitole, the streets of old Toulouse plunge visitors into the heart of a metropolis with a unique identity, between Occitan roots and Spanish influences. The history of ‘La Ville Rose’ illustrates this heritage perfectly. The fourth-largest city in France owes its nickname to the pink-coloured bricks that adorn buildings of all kinds. On Place Saint-Jacques, the remains of Gallo-Roman ramparts are a reminder that Tolosa prospered here 2,000 years ago. The past comes to life at Saint Raymond Archaeological Museum, behind a typically 16th century facade that has, of course, a pink tint. Visitors discover, among other things, examples of the tools, works and jewels of the first inhabitants who settled here during the Bronze Age. Other treasures include busts from the region’s Roman villas and a myriad of objects from the Visigoth kingdom, of which Toulouse was the capital. Facing the museum, Saint Sernin Basilica is the largest Romanesque church in Europe. Completed in the 12th century, it attracted pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela. The city centre is also famous for its Renaissance-era mansions, harkening back to a time when the city was made prosperous by the pastel trade. The jewel of this period, the immense Hôtel Assézat is now home to the Bemberg Foundation. The art museum’s collection extends from the 16th to the 20th century, including works by Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, Monet and many other French Impressionists, Fauvists and Pointillists.

By foot, by bike or by barge, the Canal du Midi is the ideal conduit for discovering the local heritage under the southern sun. Popular with boaters and fans of outdoor life, who are drawn to the reflection of the plane trees on the water, this UNESCO site has connected Toulouse to the Mediterranean port city of Sète since the 17th century.

More recently, the Occitan capital has become the centre of Europe’s aerospace industry. With a century-long saga in the city, the Airbus group is well established as a pioneer in this sector. If you like beautifully engineered machines, you should visit the A380’s assembly lines and the Aeroscopia museum, located in Blagnac, as well as the Cité de l’Espace. Aerospace fosters a culture of innovation, and contributing to that ambiance is the University of Toulouse – among the oldest in the country. Founded in the 13th century, it now has more than 100,000 students. The dynamism of this most attractive city is an indelible part of Toulouse’s long history.

But even as the Toulouse of today draws its vitality from a rich past, its social life seems to celebrate every day of the present. The banks of the Garonne – the river bisecting the city – are alive with people from morning until night. Stroll the riverside walkways before picnicking under the shade of a plane tree, or taste the generous gastronomy and fine wines of southwestern France aboard a floating restaurant. Other barges housing bars or dance clubs welcome revellers in the evenings, when lights on the Pont-Neuf, Pont Saint-Pierre and Pont des Catalans illuminate the river. The party scene also has a distinctively Spanish flavour between concert halls, trendy pubs, tapas and wine bars, cocktail lounges and more. From Place Saint-Pierre to the alleyways of the historic centre, from flamenco to electronica, Toulouse’s nightlife is famous throughout France.

Last but not least, Toulouse is also seen from the stands. Sports, especially rugby, are at the heart of local life. For an authentic local experience, attend a match at the Stade Toulousain or Stade Ernest-Wallon stadiums. A great time is guaranteed!

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