Planning a trip to Toulouse of Occitanie? Then this Toulouse travel guide will provide you will all the information you need for the perfect trip.
Toulouse is a city famous for its rugby team ” le Stade Toulousain” (any Rugby fan will know how good they are!), and for being the “Pink City” due to the colourful pastel coloured buildings. Overlooked by well-known cities to regions like Paris, Nice, the Provence, Dordogne or Normandy, Occitanie is a region that shouldn’t be missed. Its capital, Toulouse, offers the perfect city getaway full of history, food and culture without the big crowd.
I went to Occitanie on a week-long tour exploring some of the cities along the Canal du Midi. If you are looking for an off the beaten path destination, why not explore Toulouse? If you like the sunny southern climate, sipping on a drink at the terrace of a bistro, then I suggest you stop in Toulouse. Here’s why Toulouse is the perfect city break destination…
- 1 Planning your trip to Toulouse
- 2 Hotels in Toulouse
- 3 Things to see in Toulouse – 7 things you should not miss when you come to Toulouse
- 4 Things to do in Toulouse
- 5 Where to eat and drink in Toulouse
Planning your trip to Toulouse
Plane – the Toulouse-Blagnac international airport is the city’s main airport. Air France has several flights a day from Paris and flies to Toulouse from London twice a day in high season. British Airways and EasyJet fly from the UK to Toulouse as well.
Trains – If you prefer to take the train, TGV trains run from Paris Montparnasse or local trains from major cities like Bordeaux, Marseille or Montpellier. Train information and schedules are on SNCF. Alternatively, you can visit Eurostar or Raileurope.
Visitor Information — To help you get all the information you need before or during your trip, check the Office de Tourisme website. You can also pop into their shop in the Donjon du Capitole for more tailored information. Another alternative is to get in touch with Toulouse Greeters, a group of locals who love their city and love to share their knowledge with visitors.
Getting around Toulouse
Public transport – Buses, trams and metro lines in the city are operated by Tisséo and are easily accessible. Depending on your travel need, you can buy a one, two or three day passes or purchases a book of 10 tickets. Tip: there is a free shuttle that will take you to the heart of the historic city. It operates every day except for Sunday, you just need to wave to the driver, and they will stop for you.
Airport Shuttle – The shuttle provides a link between the airport at Toulouse-Blagnac and the train station at Matabiau departing every 20 minutes, every day. The cost of a single ticket is 8,00 €.
Taxis – You can get a taxi from or to the airport or to get to the train station.
Bicycle – Toulouse is bike friendly and accessible city so has lots of bike lanes and rental bikes available like VélÔToulouse.
Driving – I most of the time prefers to walk or take the public transport, but if you are visiting Toulouse as part of a road trip, then you will be able to find lots of parking spaces. To avoid the high cost, it is preferable to park outside the town centre and take the metro or buses to your destination.
Hotels in Toulouse
Crowne Plaza is a lovely hotel opposite the Capitole. Part of the IHG Group, this hotel offers all the amenities for the ideal stay, closeness to the main attractions and shops but also provides all the right things you need for your perfect stay.
Ibis Styles is another good choice. Located in a former mansion within only five minutes from Place du Capitole it’s an ideal cheaper alternative (Crowne Plaza, doubles from £94)(Ibis Styles, doubles from £86)
Things to see in Toulouse – 7 things you should not miss when you come to Toulouse
Place du Capitole
There are lots of places (squares) in Toulouse and in France for that matter but Place du Capitole is the grandest. Built with the city’s trademark red bricks, the Capitole is a grandiose building. It houses the Town Hall, the National Theatre and Opera House. The Capitole is open to the public except when there is a wedding. Step inside the building and marvel at the impressive staircase and beautiful Salles des Illustres. You will think that you’ve just entered a room in a castle! The brick and marble facade is stunning both during the day and night.
Musee des Augustins
If you like museums and architecture, then the Musée des Augustins must be in your itinerary. The Musée des Augustins also known as Toulouse Museum of Fine Arts is located in a former Gothic convent which was unused since the suppression of the monastic orders during the French Revolution. Dating back to 1795, the museum is one of France’s oldest museums. Admire the Gothic sculptures and the Pardo room on the first floor, then check the temporary exhibitions in the church. Finish your visit by watching more statues and paintings on the first floor.
Couvent des Jacobins (Monastery)
Don’ be intimidated by the austere appearance of the Jacobins monastery, the inside is quite something with the beautiful cloister. Built in the 13th century for the Dominican monks, it’s worth a visit, so do explore the site, especially Saint Antonin Chapel.
Basilique St-Sernin (Saint-Sernin Basilica)
Constructed on the site of a fourth-century basilica, this Romanesque church was and is still an essential stop on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela.
Toulouse was back in the days an important trading city, with its traders becoming extremely rich. Their wealth can be seen in the Vieux Quartier (old quarter). Check out some of these grand mansions (50 of them are still standing) like Hôtel d’Assézat, which is now a museum.
Toulouse’s former slaughterhouse is now home to the museum of modern art. Fan of contemporary art will love this place. The neighbourhood is pretty too so ideal for a little stroll.
Travel to Japan for an afternoon in the Jardin Japonais
France seems to have a love affair with Japanese gardens. And it looks like I do too! This Japanese garden located in the middle of the city’s botanical garden is beautiful and free. It’s complete with a koi pond, stone guard, tea pavilion and an iconic red bridge. A stroll there takes visitors on a quick trip to Japan!
Things to do in Toulouse
Toulouse has an exciting history, stunning architecture and lots of lots of things to see. There are lots of walks available like a walking tour with a local Greeter, a history tour and a food tour offered by the tourist office. I joined a visit with a Toulouse Greeters (see how to spend a day with a Greeters)
Boat tours along the Garonne
You take cruises throughout the year with Bateaux Toulousains and take boat tours along the Garonne River and the Canal du Midi. There are three courses you can choose from Croisiere Garonne where you can view the main historical monuments of Toulouse, Croisiere Nocture, night cruise around the Garonne and finally Croisiere Ville Rose where you cruise around the Garonne and Brienne Canal. I took the last journey which takes about 1 hour an half and cost 12,00€. It was the perfect boat trip to see all the pink buildings that give Toulouse its name of Ville Rose (Pink City)
Stroll along the Canal du Midi
One of the best places to take a lovely stroll in Toulouse is along the Canal du Midi. The Canal du Midi is a not only a UNESCO World Heritage Site but also one of Europe’s best engineering achievements of the 1700s. This man-made waterway was designed to facilitate the commerce and link the Atlantic to the Mediterranean. Now, people cruise along the canal, take a bike ride or stroll along its beautiful banks. With so many trees, it’s the perfect place to hide under the shades and protect yourself on a hot summer day. It was one of my favourite places to take an afternoon walk. You should definitely explore the Canal du Midi when you visit Toulouse and its surrounding cities.
Have a drink, and people watch
Le Florida, located in the Place du Capitole or Cafe des Artistes are some of the restaurants where you can stop for a quick bite or enjoy the region’s gastronomy. Take in the beautiful atmosphere of the busy squares while drinking a cup of coffee on the lovely terrace of the restaurant.
Admire the colourful city
Toulouse is a city of colour: pink, blue and violet. Wandering the streets of Toulouse, you will not have a hard time to locate them while strolling. An array of pink buildings and blue shutters create the typical architecture of the city. Despite being the fourth biggest city in France, Toulouse is pretty laid back and feels like a country town rather than a provincial capital. The pedestrian city is a delight for visitors, you can easily walk to most locations in the city centre.
Take a trip into space
Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, delightful experience for kids will be to explore and learn all about planes and aerospace at Airbus factory, Cité de l’Espace (theme park focused on space) and Aeroscopia Museum (modern aeronautical museum).
Day trips from Toulouse
The Canal du Midi links many of the region’s cities with Toulouse by waterway. So you can rent a boat or take the train to get there.
The small hilltop village is one of France’s most charming towns and a famous pilgrimage destination. Similar to Toulouse, the city is part of the itinerary to the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela.
Things to do in Rocamadour
- Wander around the village and admire the stone houses
- Visit the chateau and sanctuaries: Rocamadour’s chateau is a series of ramparts at the highest point of the village where you can have an amazing view of the village and valley. you can walk around the ramparts to get a remarkable view of the village down below. follow the footpath downward to see the seven religious sanctuaries.
As one of the ancient town, Béziers is rich in culture and architecture. Stroll along the old part of the city or along the Orb river to take in the atmosphere. Béziers is along with Nîmes the two French cities which still celebrate the Feria.
Things to do in Beziers
- Visit Béziers Catherdral
- Check out the Romanesque Vieux Pont, a 13th-century bridge crossing the River Orb.
- See how boats cross the Canal du Midi at the Fonserannes Locks
- Take a break in the English style park called Plateau des Poètes
- Walk along the Old Town
Montpellier is the southern city by excellence. Warm, friendly and welcoming. The town has an impressive architecture with a mixture of old and new neighbourhoods. Explore both Écusson and the Antigone District.
Things to do in Montpellier.
- People watch at Place de la Comédie
- Wander in the Old Town
- Discover street arts
- Visit Arc de Triomphe and the pretty garden of Porte de Peyron
- Relax in the Jardin des Plantes
- Go to the beach
Where to eat and drink in Toulouse
Toulouse and Occitanie have a rich and diverse culinary heritage. The food in the region is very traditional and rustic. You will have no problem finding a charming bistro or sampling dishes like cassoulet (white bean stew with sausage, onions and duck), foie gras, Toulouse sausages, duck etc… For the best experience, head to Victor Hugo market. If you would instead cook for yourself, then the several markets will provide all the best local products you need.
This is it, the ultimate Toulouse travel guide. Whether you visit solo, with friends or family, you won’t feel short of things to do.
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