What you need to know about Toulouse
Toulouse is one of southern France’s hidden gems – it attracts a fraction of Nice or Lyon’s visitors, yet it has heritage and culture galore, a vibrant student population and a stunning location in the heart of south western France.
Known as ‘La Ville Rose’ due to the pink bricks of the local architecture, this beguiling little city has a rich calendar of arts events, an old quarter full of elegant 18th century private mansions, and mouth-watering local cuisine and food markets.
If you’ve ever encountered the crowds of Paris or the faded polish of Nice and wondered what all the fuss is about, Toulouse is the kind of place that will make you fall in love with France all over again.
Food and drink
Food is a huge part of the authentic way of life in Toulouse, with local specialities like foie gras, cassoulet, Toulouse sausages, Roquefort cheese and Armagnac making up a pretty impressive local menu.
You can choose from the Michelin-starred Michel Sarran restaurant for outstanding (and very French) haute cuisine, or pick one of the many rustic bistros in Toulouse’s terraces and town squares for relaxed dining and outstanding local wines. Beware cassoulet in summer – it’s rich and hearty and may be hard going in baking hot weather!
Toulouse is a fabulous city for shopping, with plenty of local products and souvenirs to be found amongst the major brands, luxury stores and trendy boutiques on the Rue De Rome.
The covered markets at Place Victor Hugo are a great way to get a true flavour of Toulouse, with stalls offering fish, cheese and colourful fruit and vegetables. It’s open 6 days a week, excluding Mondays and is a great place to pick up some of the finest ingredients to prepare from the comfort of your serviced apartment.
Toulouse is famous for its outdoor markets too – the best are the Marche Cristal and the Sunday market at Place Saint Aubin, or you can have a rummage around the splendid Sunday morning flea market at Place St-Sernin.
Toulouse has long been associated with the aerospace industry, and is home to the headquarters of Airbus, Galileo, SPOT Satellites, CNES's Toulouse Space Centre, Thales Alenia Space and EADS Astrium Satellites.
It’s also home to Toulouse University, which is one of the biggest universities in France as well as one of the oldest in the world.
Whilst Toulouse is quite a big and sprawling city, the historic centre is nicely compact and easy to explore on foot. For travelling further afield, Toulouse has an excellent network of metro, tramway and bus routes. There’s a free green shuttle bus that circles the city centre every day except Sunday – it doesn’t have official stops, so just flag one down!
The metro only has two lines, but it’s cheap and efficient, and makes getting from one side of the city to the other easy. Parking is very limited in Toulouse, so we wouldn’t recommend driving yourself, but if you want to travel on your own schedule it’s a great city for cycling, with 253 VeloToulouse bike hire stations across the city and plenty of good cycle lanes.
Things to watch out for
The Canal Du Midi runs 240km from Toulouse to the Mediterranean port of Sete, passing through some of the region’s most beautiful towns. You can access the Toulouse end via the historic Port de L’Ebouchur, and it’s a lovely peaceful stroll along the canal towards the city’s suburbs (or Carcasonne 100km away, if you’re feeling energetic!)