Forget Paris, Lyon and Nice. Toulouse might be the best city in France. Go and judge for yourself.
I’ve just returned from a weekend in Toulouse and I’m in love. This city may be the best thing that happened to France since… well it’s been around since 200 BC. Toulouse is just plain beautiful. The buildings are gorgeous, the people are friendly (and French, yes that goes together), the food and drinks (wine!) are good, the city is clean, public transport and citybikes are well arranged and cheap, and the atmosphere is relaxed.
What to do
– Drink coffee at place du Capitole: Capitol square. It’s in the center of the city. Enjoy the pink facades of the surrounding buildings. Grap a coffee and brunch at one of the cafes. You can visit the Capitole (City hall and opera). Behind the Capitole is the tourist office.
– Stroll along the Garonne and cross Pont Neuf: The river flowing through Toulouse is called Garonne. You can walk along the banks, you’ll find many young people sitting on the grass by the water, chilling. Go up, and walk across Pont Neuf, a 16th-century bridge. The other side gives a good view of the city.
– Look at the ceiling of the Jacobins’ Cloister: The church was built in the 13th century and rocks a stunning ceiling, also known as the “Palm Tree”. The relics of Thomas Aquinas rest here. There is a small tranquil patio at the back you can visit.
– Cycle along Canal du Midi: Considered one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century, Canal du Midi connects Toulouse to the Mediterranean. It is one of the two UNESCO world heritage sights in Toulouse. It is perfect for cycling/walking/running along. You can use one of the cheap city bikes, more on this you can read below under transportation.
– Visit (the surroundings of) Cathédrale Saint-Étienne: The first mention of a church builing at the site is in the 9th Century. The Cathedral today consists of two incomplete churches. Don’t forget to wander around the church. The buildings are beautiful. The photo on top of this post are the buildings across the Cathedral.
– Watch the sun rise at Basilique Saint-Sernin: The other UNESCO site. I was going to do this, and then I overslept and had to catch a plane. I’m sad though to have missed it. It was recommended by several people. One of them a student working at the hotel I was staying (his faculty is near the Basilique). Allegedly, there are also parts of the old city wall you can see there.
– Drink some wine and eat tapas at Place St Georges: After work, and on Saturday evenings, people from Toulouse go out for a drink. Place St Georges is one of the places to grab a drink with the locals.
– Roam the streets: Take in all the beauty that is offered for free.
Toulouse has an extensive network of busses and metro. A single ticket costs 1.60 EUR. This ticket can be used to get to the city center from the airport (take T2 to Arènes and switch to the red line metro). A ticket for two days costs 8.50 EUR.
Another option is to use the city bikes (more information velo.toulouse.fr). There are stations all across the city. A day pass costs 1.20 EUR. You pay an additional fee depending on how long you take the bike out (first 30min are free, then it’s about 1.50 EUR per hour). Don’t forget to properly put the bike back at any station, otherwise a 150EUR fine will be charged.
The suggestions above -on what to do- can easily be done in two days. If you only have one day, you might skip one or two things. I only had one full day (and a morning through which I slept), and the only thing I didn’t do was visit the Basilique Saint Sernin.
I did not visit any museums. Just because if the weather is good, and the city is nice, I refuse to be inside. Toulouse does have some good museums. For starters it is the center of the European aerospace industry and the headquarters of Airbus. You can visit the Space museum and the Airbus 380 tour. Then there are the ‘more usual’ museums: Musee foundation Bemberg, Musee des Augustins and Musee Saint-Raymond, for example.
Let me know if I missed some hidden gems, some cool spots, or whatever, that I have to visit next time. Because I’m definitely coming back.
No rights can be derived from this post. I did my utmost best to ensure that prices and times are correct, yet errors happen and prices change.