Toulouse gets its nickname ‘La Ville Rose’ (Pink City) from the colour of the brick used throughout the city and it must be said, Toulouse looks especially lovely at daybreak and dusk when the terracotta buildings appear to blush a deep, rosy pink. For coffee with a view, follow the locals’ lead and head to Place du Capitole, the city’s main square, where pavement cafés look out onto the spectacular facade of the Capitole city hall. Nearby, the narrow streets of the pretty Vieux Quartier (Old Town) are filled with plenty more easy-on-the-eye cafés, shops and restaurants. No filter necessary.
The kitchens of Toulouse are ready to spoil you with hearty helpings of cassoulet (a chunky stew of meat and beans), plump roast duck, rich foie gras and traditional Toulouse sausage. Leave room for desserts such as Fénétra, a sumptuous extravaganza of meringue, marzipan and apricot jam. For reasonably priced food and drink, seek out the bars and restaurants of the Place St Pierre area. Souvenir hunting? A box of Pavé du Capitole, the dark chocolate bon-bons invented by the Toulouse confectioner René Pillon or the famous Cachou Lajaunie liquorice should do the trick.
Toulouse is located slap-bang between the Pyrenées and the Mediterranean coast in one of France’s sunniest regions. Although the city is known to experience periods of heavy rain in March and May, you can generally expect hot weather over the summer months and mild temperatures during the rest of the year. Its pleasant climate makes Toulouse a popular tourist destination all year round, but late spring and early autumn are great times to visit – it’s comfortably warm and the weather is perfect for boat trips on the Garonne river.
Toulouse lives and breathes rugby. The city’s home side, Stade Toulousain or Toulouse for short, is regarded as one the best rugby clubs in the world and is one of the most successful teams in Europe. The club’s home ground is Stade Ernest-Wallon, but they usually host their matches at Stadium Municipal de Toulouse. Heading to a game? Le Dubliners pub, located just outside the Saint-Michel Marcel Langer metro station is a lively spot for pints on match days.
Toulouse is home to a thriving modern art scene and there’s no better place to appreciate the talent than at the city’s quirky slaughterhouse-turned gallery, Les Abattoirs. The gallery’s permanent collection includes over 2000 paintings sculptures and other contemporary pieces. The ‘Picasso Curtain’ exhibit is arguably the star attraction – the theatre curtain was commissioned in 1936 and features the surreal depiction of a minotaur dressed as a harlequin. Due to the fragile nature of the display, it’s worth checking in advance whether it’s open to the public during your visit.
Long regarded as France’s aerospace capital, Toulouse is most definitely a city with its head in the clouds. The Airbus factory, located just outside the city is a wonderland for aviation geeks, as is the Aeroscopia Museum which focuses on the history of the airplane and offers you the chance to see inside some of history’s most famous aircraft. And who wouldn’t be impressed by the Cité de l’Espace museum, which not only plays host to a shuttle flight simulator, but also full-size replicas of the Mir Space Station and the Ariane 5 space rocket?
Toulouse is surrounded by tempting day-trip destinations. Albi, a UNESCO World Heritage city is filled with spectacular pink architecture and medieval sights and can be reached within an hour from Toulouse. Heading a little further south-east, the beautiful fortified city of Carcassonne merits an overnight stay, while a short 40-minute journey will take you to the Fronton vineyards, a region that has been producing wine since Roman times.
Flights to Toulouse
- Fiona Hilliard