According to CachedHealth, Toulouse is the fourth most populous city in France (after Paris, Marseille and Lyon) and the largest cultural, scientific and industrial center. At the same time, Toulouse, with its beautiful historical center, is one of the brightest and most distinctive cities in the country. Spanish, Basque, Aquitaine, Languedoc, Provencal and French traditions are mixed here in equal proportions.
The city on the Garonne River stands on the ancient ruins of a Roman settlement. But even today, the outlines of those ancient streets follow the curves of Toulouse lanes and boulevards, and some red brick houses were deliberately erected in a pseudo-Romanesque style. It is because of them that Toulouse got its romantic nickname La Ville Rose (“Pink City”). In the Middle Ages, Toulouse was one of the richest cities in France, selling the amazing sky-blue color of woad extract. The monopoly came to naught after the Portuguese began to export indigo to Europe. Toulouse inherited elegant mansions, more than 50 hotels and estates from the enterprising and wealthy inhabitants of the city from this dyeing industry.
Over the past 20 years, Toulouse has become the main center of aviation and space flight in France. More than 35,000 local residents (out of 400,000) work in the space industry, and Airbus is considered the largest employer in the entire region.
The information office can be found behind the Capitol.
How to get there
There are no direct flights from Russian cities to Toulouse. Optimal: with a change in Paris (Air France) or Amsterdam (KLM). It is easy to get to Toulouse from Andorra thanks to shuttles from Andorra la Vella and from ski resorts to Toulouse Blagnac Airport.
Having reached France, it will not be difficult to get to Toulouse. Trains can be reached from Paris (high-speed TGV in 5 hours, normal in 7.5 hours), Bordeaux (2 hours) and Marseille (4 hours). It is better to buy tickets in advance on the iDTGV website, in which case the treasured ticket Paris – Toulouse can cost some 55-70 EUR. Trains to Barcelona also run from here, in just 3 hours 7 minutes and 45-70 EUR.
Despite the fact that Toulouse is a large city, its historical center is not difficult to get around on foot. All the most beautiful and famous sights are within walking distance.
To get to the outskirts or outside the city, you can use the extensive public transport system, which includes a network of bus (Tisséo) and tram routes and metro lines. The metro, however, consists of only two branches: one goes from west to east (line A), the second from north to south (line B).
Shopping and markets
Once in Toulouse on a Sunday, you should definitely visit the flea market, which opens early in the morning at the Saint Sernin Basilica. It is unlikely that you will be able to make a high-quality or exquisite purchase here, but it is easy to buy a funny vintage souvenir, and just spend half an hour wandering the rows with stalls littered with junk. Another flea market opens its doors every first weekend of the Grand Rond
Fans of organic food and homemade wine will love the farmers’ market around St Aubin Basilic, which also opens every Sunday morning until around noon. Fresh vegetables and fruits can be bought on weekends until noon on Boulevard de Strasbourg (cheap and delicious).
Interesting second-hand shops can be found on Rue Gambetta. This street is in the center of the city’s so-called ‘arts quarter’, dominated by the School of Fine Arts (‘Ecole des Beaux Arts’). Here and around the place de la Bourse there are a lot of shops with art, antiques and textiles – the historical craft of Toulouse.
Entertainment and attractions of Toulouse
The main attractions of the historic city center are the churches of Saint-Georges and Saint-Sernin, the Capitol and the pink facade of the big town hall. Other attractions: the narrow streets of the old quarters, built up with rich mansions, botanical gardens and the neo-Moorish pavilion of the Georges Labit Museum (an excellent collection of Egyptian and Oriental art).
The characteristic local pink brick gives the old buildings of the city an unusual colorful look, especially at dawn and dusk.
Notable is the Cathedral of Saint-Etienne, which was founded in 1073 in the style of southern French Gothic, but its construction was completed only after many centuries. In addition, Toulouse is notable for its civil architecture of the 16th and 17th centuries. Particularly impressive are the multi-story mansions of dye dealers – the same blue woad – with the splendor of their facades. Some of them were designed by the Renaissance master Nicolas Bachelier, in particular the Asses Palace (now the Bamberg Foundation and the Academy of Flower Games).
The main square of Toulouse is named after the Capitol located on it – the city hall of the mid-18th century. In the center is a giant Occitan cross. Massive on the outside and airy on the inside, the red-brick Gothic Jacobin cathedral is famous for the relics of St. Thomas Aquinas. This first and main temple of the Dominican order was erected in the 13th-14th centuries.
The Basilica of Saint-Cernan – the first attraction of Toulouse, which adorns almost all postcards with views of the city, was built in 1080-1120. for the needs of the pilgrims who traveled along the path of St. James. Previously, on the site of the basilica, there is a late antique temple, which was founded by the first bishop of Toulouse, Saint Saturninus. Together with other pilgrimage churches, Saint-Sernin is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 1218, a stone was fired from the roof of the basilica, killing the crusader leader Simon de Montfort.
Museums in Toulouse
The old mansion complex of the Hotel d’Assezat now houses the art gallery Bemberg (website), while the Hotel du May houses the rustic Museum of Old Toulouse.
The Augustinian Museum is located on the territory of the ancient Augustinian monastery. It houses some paintings and an outstanding collection of medieval sculpture.
Space City is a great place to take a break from churches and historical museums. Something between a museum of cosmonautics and a pre-flight training center. Opening hours vary according to a complex algorithm, it is better to check on the website.