Planning a trip to Toulouse? Get some inspiration on what to do while you’re there with our idea of a perfect three-day itinerary. History, culture, entertainment, restaurants… Pack it all in at a comfortable pace and don’t miss a thing!
In Toulouse, the world appears as if through rose-tinted glasses. Indeed, the city is known as the “pink city”, thanks to the rosy tint of the brickwork. During medieval times, after fires ravaged the city, the residents were encouraged to build their houses using brick, rather than wood. These bricks were made from local clay from the banks of the Garonne, lending them a lovely pink hue. With its well-preserved and harmonious architecture, Toulouse is one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
To begin exploring the city, head directly to the Place du Capitole, a vast square bordered on three sides by roads, and on the fourth by the Capitol. This very large building, which dates back to 1190, has for 800 years been the seat of municipal power, or city hall, and it also houses a theatre.
Take the Rue du Taur, north of the Place du Capitole, and you will find yourself in front of the Basilica of St. Sernin, a World Heritage Site. Built between the ninth and thirteenth centuries, it is the largest Romanesque church still standing in Europe, and serves as a major pilgrimage point on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela. Inside, you can visit the five naves and the treasury of the Basilica, which contains the relics of St. Saturninus (or Sernin), the martyr of Toulouse to whom the church is dedicated.
For lunch, try a restaurant called Occi’Fast Good on the Rue du Taur, which combines the convenience of fast food with the pleasures of the local cuisine.
After lunch, head back Rue du Taur to the Capitol, then fork right, and you will come across the Convent of the Jacobins, a thirteenth century church representative of local Gothic architecture. Inside you can admire the “Jacobin Palm”, a unique, 28-metre high column.
Once out of the church, keep the Capitol behind you and you will come to the Garonne and its banks, a popular place to meet and relax for the people of Toulouse. Follow the river downstream, then cross the Saint-Pierre lock over the Canal de Brienne, and you will find yourself at the Espace EDF Bazacle, a hydroelectric plant, which offers exhibitions and a lovely view over the river.
The next day, head to the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne, to the south of the Capitol. This cathedral is very eclectic in its architecture, combining several different stylistic elements, inspired both by Northern French Gothic art and by the architectural styles prevalent in the South. The cathedral houses the tomb of Riquet, the engineer who designed the Canal du Midi, which you will visit very soon.
Upon leaving, continue south to reach the Boulingrin square, a pleasant eighteenth century garden which is perfect for a picnic.
Then it’s time to head east to discover the famous Canal du Midi, a Unesco World Heritage of Humanity site. You can go for a walk along part of its towpath. It took 15 years to construct this 240 kilometre canal, connecting Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea: a major feat of human and technical prowess. The Canal du Midi is one of the oldest canals in Europe still in operation today, and is surely the most impressive. Leaving the canal near the Georges Labit Museum, you can pop into the botanical garden and its museum for a visit.
In the evening, return to the centre of town where the best restaurants are, such as Balthazar, a renowned bistro in Rue des Couteliers, near the Pont Neuf, or L'Accolade in the same street which offers simple and original French cuisine in a pleasant setting.
The next day, set your sights on infinity and beyond with a visit to the Cité de l’Espace (Space City), in the east of Toulouse, accessible by public transport. This vast 2500m exhibition space will remind you that Toulouse is a pioneer when in comes to aeronautics. You will discover the planetarium and flight simulators that allow you to imagine what it’s like to be astronaut. Afterwards, head back to the centre of town where you will finally cross one of the bridges and see a little of the Left Bank.
In the Raymond VI Garden, beside the Garonne, you can visit the Abbatoirs, the city’s modern art gallery that also organises contemporary projects and plays host to exhibitions which reflect Toulouse’s cultural vitality. You'll find works by Dubuffet, Duchamp, Vasarely, Arman and Brassai here.
For your last night in Toulouse, you’ll find that its nightlife is very much focused on the city centre, especially in areas like Saint-Pierre, Arnaud Bernard and on the banks of the Garonne. Here you will find the city’s most famous bars and clubs, like Communard or Breughel l’Ancien.
Known as “The Pink City”, the “City of Violets” (the flower is a city emblem), Toulouse evokes colour and warmth. Colours, scents and a friendly spirit pervade in the warm climate of the South of France. Toulouse embraces relaxation, sunshine and warmth as a part of its way of life. In three days, you will be able to see the key sites, but Toulouse still has many more wonders to discover. If you have the opportunity to spend more time in Toulouse, visit the tower of the Capitol, while away the hours at Cafe Bibent and treat yourself to a trip to the ABC cinema, the oldest arthouse cinema in the city.