How to spend 24 Hours in Toulouse? There is no better way to discover an unknown city than to discover it through the eyes of a greeter (local guide). What is a greeter? Greeters are residents who love their cities and are eager to share their passion with visitors. Their visit is very informative, tailored to your needs and most importantly free. Of course, since they are volunteers, it is advisable to donate but it’s not mandatory. I used them previously so when I decided to visit Toulouse, I wanted to make the most of my stay in the Pink City, therefore, I made sure to book a greeter. I was welcomed by Elie, a lover of Toulouse and the manager of Toulouse Greeters.
If you want to book one during your next visit, you just have to check their website (above link and social media below).
We spent the Friday afternoon with one of them, and we were able to explore the city from a different angle, I hate guides too formal, we were delighted with our visit. We booked a greeter via the site for the Friday afternoon, which allowed us to discover some areas that we might not have done and some lesser known historical places.
- 1 How to spend 24 Hours in Toulouse
- 1.1 10:00 am – Explore the heart of the city.
- 1.2 11:00 am
- 1.3 12:30 am – Markets, markets, markets
- 1.4 1:30 pm – Toulouse street art
- 1.5 2:00 pm – Stroll along the banks of the Garonne River
- 1.6 3:30 pm
- 1.7 4:00 pm
- 1.8 5:30 pm – Shop for candied Violets
- 1.9 8:00 pm
- 1.10 11:00 pm – Sweet dreams
How to spend 24 Hours in Toulouse
10:00 am – Explore the heart of the city.
After meeting up with my Greeter at my hotel reception, we discussed the visit and my expectations. After finalising the itinerary, we set off. Our first stop was Place du Capitole, and the city’s its impressive Town Hall. Built in 1750, the 135 m long building is made of pink brick in a neoclassical style. It features 8 columns which represent the former governing magistrates. If you have the time, I highly recommend that you step inside the building an admire the courtyard as well as the Salle des Lustres (all free of charge).
Outside the Capitole, you can admire the square and browse the several stands in the flea market. Be sure to walk under the arch by the restaurants to see the painting referring to Toulouse aviation history through the life of its pioneers.
Another place we visited on the square is the Foundation d’Entreprise Espace Ecureil pour l’Art Contemporain (squirrel foundation for contemporary art). From the outside, it looks like any high street bank. But in reality, it’s an art gallery. As you enter, you are welcomed by the owner and explained the concept of the exhibition. My visit coincided with the exhibit by French artist Chantal Vey expressing her take on travelling in Italy.
The gallery is set on three floors. The ground and first-floor host pictures and objects the artist collected from her trip. You can also see a video interview of the artist with the gallery owner which helps to understand her visions. The lower ground floor is, in contrast, has a darker setting with lighting and sounds effect giving it an almost scary feeling.
We took the Rue du Taur leading to the Basilica Saint-Sernin. The story around the Basilica of St. Sernin and Rue du Taur is a little sinister. Legend has it that Saturnin, the first Bishop of Toulouse was attached and dragged through of the city by a bull because he refused to worship the Roman pagan gods. It is said that the bull stopped at the location of the church. The church was converted to a basilica to accommodate believers on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Before reaching the basilica, we turned right on rue de Périgord to contemplate the Carmelite chapel. The chapel built in the 17th century the convent managed to preserve its chapel with an exceptional décor, the rest of the convent was destroyed during the Revolution.
12:30 am – Markets, markets, markets
Like many French cities, Toulouse has lots of markets. With nearly thirty markets including three covered markets to choose from, it’s a paradise for any foodie. Every day is a market day in Toulouse! I have managed to see three markets during my stay. The first one was Marché Le Cristal, near the métro station Jeanne D’arc. It’s a food market open every day except for Mondays. With Elie, we stopped there to grab some fruits. 500g of cherry and five apricots less than €3,00. I couldn’t believe how cheap that was! I was so excited about the cheap and delicious fruits that I forgot my cardigan in the market!
If you are staying more than a couple of days, then you have to visit the covered market Victor Hugo. In my opinion, it is the most amazing of all the markets in Toulouse. With about 100 stalls selling anything from fresh fruit and veg, charcuterie, cheese, fish and artisan chocolatier (Busquets), you have everything you need in one place. Cheese lover like me will not be able to pass by Chez Betty without stopping. This cheesemonger has a fantastic selection of the kind of French cheeses. As well as the fruits and veg section, there are five restaurants on the first floor. Note that they don’t take reservations, so it’s preferable to arrive early during the weekend. We didn’t have any trouble as I bought my food from the stall and ate outside.
1:30 pm – Toulouse street art
After having our fill of fresh and juicy fruits, we made our way to see some of the cities’ street art. Just like me, Elie likes urban art. We didn’t explore all of the areas displaying street art, but I was able to see some hidden locations that I would not have noticed if I wasn’t with a local.
2:00 pm – Stroll along the banks of the Garonne River
We made a quick detour by Espace EDF Bazacle for a tour of the hydroelectric plant. As well as visiting the facilities, you can see the little passageway designed to facilitate the fish migration. It was amusing to see them and realise how far below the level of the Garonne you are!
A visit in Toulouse will be incomplete without a walk along the riverbank. Hence why The port de la Daurade is the summer hotspot for locals and tourists alike. Walk there in the late afternoon, and you will be sure to see families, groups of students or friends and couples meeting up to drink, have a picnic, play music or relax by the river’s edge. It’s also the best location to see the sunset over the Garonne river. Plus with Saint-Pierre square around the corner, you will be spoilt for choice with the significant number of bars and restaurants.
Elie and I parted ways on the Saint-Pierre square. He left but not after telling me even more tips about Toulouse. As we parted, I decided to stop in one of the many bistros for a refreshing drink. After all, I walked a lot, and Toulouse is very hot in the summer.
Having come across the boat tour with Elie, I decided to try it out. I boarded Les Bateaux Toulousains for a 70 minutes tour of the Garonne river and Canal de la Brienne. The boat departs from Quai de la Daurade. The tour was fantastic as it took us through the peaceful canal via the lock St-Pierre. For more information about the different tours on offer, including prices and booking method click here.
5:30 pm – Shop for candied Violets
On the way back to the hotel, I noticed this little shop. Located between Place du Capitole and the Garonne river, and opposite the Jacobins Abbey, La Marchande de Violettes is a cute boutique and workshop offering a range of violet related confections, scented products, and other gifts ideas. As well as being known as the Pink City, Toulouse is also known as the city of Violet.
After the tour, I was desperate for some food. The tour finished not far from Saint-Pierre square lined with lots of restaurants, but I decided to head back to the hotel and try out 7 du Plaza. It’s a lovely bistro typed restaurant with a beautiful outdoor space. Even though it was secluded from the main road, it was busy with locals and guests. Understandable as the food was delicious.
11:00 pm – Sweet dreams
After walking all day discovering the many sights and attractions of Toulouse, I was ready to get into the comfortable bed at Crowne Plaza.
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