Are you visiting Toulouse for the first time? Below is a list of “Insider Tips” for things to see and do in “the pink city.”
When I have a visitor from out-of-town the first place that they want to see is the Capitole, a beautiful town hall with large reception rooms and several arcades. Of course they want to see the Basilica Saint Sernin, listed by UNESCO as one of the stops on the pilgrimage of Compostela. The Jacobins monastery, surrounded by cloisters and palm tree columns is also a popular place to see. The Hôtel d’Assézat is a gorgeous private mansion filled with beautiful facades and internationally renowned for its art foundation.
I also take visitors to the Victor Hugo covered food marketplace for a more local, authentic experience. With its 100 stalls and range of small, local restaurants on the first floor, the marketplace is nationally famous and recently celebrated its 127th birthday this year.
When I want to escape the crowds of tourists, my favorite place to visit is Saint-Etienne District, an antique district boasting of antique tiny boutiques and local artcrafts. It is also famous for the Jardin des Plantes and the beautiful mansions surrounding the district.
The art and history museums in Toulouse are wonderful, but if you are traveling with kids, you’ll most likely want to visit the newly designed Natural History Museum. It is the second best children’s museum in France.
Food in the south of France
Best place to go for French pastry? The new tea time place is Le Petit Magre.
Looking for cheap food in Toulouse? Go to Chez Navarre. The restaurant doesn’t have a website, but is located at 49, Grande Rue de Nazareth – 31000 Toulouse.
The Bibent or Les Beaux Arts is a great spot for late night dining.
For an expensive, yet quality meal, go to Michel Sarran restaurant. It is rated 2 Michelin stars, but the lunch menu is all included for only 48 euros! Prices may vary.
Toulouse colors of pink and blue
You’ll notice a lovely shade of pastel blue around the windows, towers and private mansions of Toulouse. In fact, I got a little carried away with pictures of windows and doors in Toulouse and nearby Albi, France. Toulouse is often referred to as “The Pink City” because of its unique brick architecture which looks pink in the sunlight.
When you come to Toulouse, get your picture taken at the beautiful Capitole Square.
The best vantage points are taken by walking to the top of the 7th floor of the Galeries Lafayette Mode (4-8 rue Lapeyrouse) or going to the Belvédère of the Jardin Raymond VI nearby the Abattoirs museum of modern and contemporary art.
The Garonne river offers great views of Toulouse. The Prairie des Filtres park is the best place to watch or experience unique annual events like the Rio Loco held in June; and the Toulouse Plages, which is open in July and August.
In Toulouse, outdoor enthusiasts will want to cruise, bike or run along the bank of the Canal du Midi, listed by UNESCO, for its beautiful scenery and well-groomed trails.
Looking for a little exercise? Walk along the Garonne river or the Canal du Midi for an authentic Toulouse experience.
If you are a museum lover, Toulouse’s best museum are :
– Augustins museum is famous for the fine arts.
– Abattoirs museum for modern art.
– Natural History Museum is a worthwhile visit with the kids.
– Bemberg Foundation is an art foundation located inside of the Assez Hotel.
Enjoy a night out on the town? For a night of dancing, go to :
– L’Ubu Club; an especially great visit for people in their 30’s or older.
– Le Puerto Havana; famous for salsa music and dancing.
– Le Ramier; a glitzy dance club complex.
– The famous Place St. Pierre; although the St. Pierre is not famous for dancing, it is well-known for its great bars and concerts. The Bar Basque does have a dance floor if you are looking for a bar with music and dancing.
The local daily newspaper “La Dépêche du Midi” will keep you posted on what’s happening in Toulouse.
Things to see and do in Toulouse
In the spring you should attend Le Printemps de Septembre festival. Starting in 2013 the festival will take place in May. For art lovers and connoisseurs, the festival will include free international exhibitions of contemporary art throughout the city.
Did you know that Toulouse is known for its Violet flower, its gastronomy (for example : 6 Michelin stars restaurants) and popular dishes (like Toulouse sausage and Cassoulet), its Airmail Adventure / Airspace and Aeronautics industries, its rugby team, its Canal du Midi and Garonne cruises, its lively nightlife (3rd university city of France, a quarter of its population is composed of students) and its south way of life (quite Latin and Spanish)…
Plan a visit to La Maison de la Violette (Graine de Pastel/ Taxiway/ Cité de l’espace ) in the fall.
Come to Toulouse for the Journées Violette in the wintertime. The Violet festival is held the 1st or 2nd weekend of February.
Insider Tip: Check out the often over-looked Saint-Etienne district and Carmes District in Toulouse.
Just outside of Toulouse you can visit the Europe Cité de l’espace theme park, have lunch at the 1 Michelin star restaurant Le Metropolitan nearby with chef Jérémy Morin, or visit the Airbus factory where they make A380s, Concordes and Caravelles. If you are looking for a delicious dining experience have lunch at the 2 Michelin stars restaurant, L’Amphitryon.
What are your favorite things to do in Toulouse?
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