In the sunny south-west of France lies the stylish university city of Toulouse - nicknamed the ville rose or pink city because of the rose-brick buildings of the historical centre.
The city's many attractions include a modern art centre in a converted abattoir - home to Picasso’s La Dépouille du Minotaure theatre curtain - the enormous Cité de l’Espace space park, and two beautiful cathedrals.
When it comes to deciding what to eat and drink the region is famous for such specialities as cassoulet, sausages, foie gras, Cahors red wines and Armagnac.
Gatwick is a good option for a long day in Toulouse; arrival times are in brackets and all times are local.
For more information on who flies to Toulouse and from where, check out our booking and travel planning section.
Toulouse-Blangnac airport is about two hours from the UK, and just four miles from the city centre.
A shuttle bus leaves every 20 minutes - at 15, 35 and 55 minutes past - from a bus stop in front of door C on the ground level of the arrivals hall.
Return tickets cost €8 and can be bought from the driver or the ticket office by the bus stop. A taxi to the centre should set you back around €25.
The historical centre is compact and easy to explore on foot. It's surrounded by 18th and 19th century boulevards, and bordered on three sides by the Garonne river and the Canal du Midi - the oldest canal in Europe still in use and a Unesco world heritage site.
There is a good bus network, and a clean and efficient one-line metro system. A day ticket costs €4.60.
If you fancy some exercise after lunch you could hire a bicycle and investigate some of the 150 picturesque miles of the Canal du Midi.
Between June and September you can also do your sightseeing on the tourist train or you could take to the water on a cruise boat or barge.
You can explore the city in advance with this excellent interactive map, which shows the location of all the important and historic buildings and exactly what they look like.
What To Visit
Toulouse has plenty of things to do and places to visit, and here are a few attractions that are well worth visiting.
It was an important stop and resting point for pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela. The church's crowning glory is it's beautiful tiered octagonal bell tower.
Cathédrale St-Etienne - built over several centuries, this is a very unusual building inside and out.
It looks as though bits of different buildings have beenstuck together by someone wearing a blindfold - after the office Christmas party. And that’s what makes it so uniquely striking. Map
Cité de l’Espace - for lovers of anything to do with space and space exploration, this massive site is a must.
Attractions include a planetarium, a full-size replica of the Ariane 5 rocket and the Mir space station, interactive exhibits and an IMAX 3D cinema.
It’s a 15-minute taxi ride from the centre or a short hop by metro and bus. Map
Eglise Notre-Dame de la Daurade is situated on the right bank of the Garonne river, and built on the site of a pagan temple and Benedictine monastery.
The church was constructed between 1765 and 1863 and its ornate gold leaf and mosaic interior gave it its name, Deaurata, which means gilded or covered with gold. Map
Hôtel d’Assézat - work on this outstanding, Renaissance style palace began in 1555. Sadly, the man who gave the building it’s name - Pierre D'Assézat - never got to live in it. He died bankrupt in 1581.
It’s now home to Foundation Bemberg, a private museum with a permanent collection of paintings, bronzes and objets d’art. Map
Les Abattoirs - the city’s 19th century abattoir has been put to good use and turned into a museum of modern and contemporary art.
The pearl of the collection is Picasso’s theatre curtain La Dépouille du Minotaure en costume d’arlequin, but there are also paintings, sculptures and photographs by over 700 artists from around the world. Map
Les Jacobins - a masterpiece of Gothic architecture built during the 13th and 14th centuries. Its most famous feature is the unique palm-tree vault with 22 ribs, or branches, supporting the roof of the apse. Map
Musée des Augustins - in the heart of the city you’ll find this gorgeous Augustinian monastery, which houses a unique collection of Romanesque sculptures, as well as paintings and sculptures from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century.
The museum has works by Rodin, Camille Claudel,Perugino, Guido, Guardi Vigié-Lebrun, Delacroix, Courbet, Henri Martin, Toulouse-Lautrec and Monet, to name but ten. Map
Place du Capitole - is the epicentre of Toulouse and home to the town hall with its sumptuous interiors and the Théâtre National du Capitole.
It’s also where you’ll find the luxurious Grand Hôtel de l’Opéra and Les Jardins de l’Opéra restaurant, one of the best places to eat in the city. Map
If you want to find an address that’s not listed on this page click here.
Cahors red wines are an excellent accompaniment to many regional dishes and you could finish your meal with an Armagnac, France’s oldest brandy, which is produced exclusively in this area. If you want to book a restaurant, the dialling code is 00 33.
Les Jardins de l’Opéra restaurant in the Grand Hôtel de l’Opéra is one of the best and more expensive in town, but if you’d prefer something a little lighter on the stomach and kinder on the wallet, try Le Grand Café de l'Opéra, the hotel’s brasserie. Map
Fancy eating some where with a Michelin star? Michel Sarran has two and is set in a lovely 19th-century building with a charming indoor garden. The food is superb, and it's probably the best and most stylish eatery in town. A three course set lunch, including wine and coffee, is unfaultable value at around €60 and there are also tempting €100 and €132 menus. Map
On the right bank of the river, opposite Pont Neuf, you’ll find Brasserie Flo Les Beaux-Arts - part of the Flo group - an authentic and traditional French brasserie once frequented by artists such as Matisse.
Oyster fans will love the different varieties on offer and if you like crepes, the Grand Marnier flambé is a must. A great location, attentive service, excellent food and wine, and fixed-price menus from around €25. Map
If you’re around the Basilique St-Sernin at lunchtime, Le Sept, 7 place St-Sernin, overlooks the cathedral and offers reasonably-priced, modern cuisine in a contemporary setting. Set meals from €25. Map
Emile overlooks one of the city's most picturesque squares - Place St. Georges - and has a terrace for summer alfresco dining. It serves excellent and beautifully presented local cuisine, and is famous for its wine list. The atmosphere is relaxed and the staff are unobtrusively attentive. Fixed-priced lunches start at around €22. Map
Le J'Go - this busy mid-priced bistro and (upstairs) restaurant opposite the indoor market in place Victor Hugo is spread over two floors, several rooms and an outdoor terrace. It serves tasty, good-quality food but as it specializes in meat dishes, particularly lamb, it’s probably not a good choice for vegetarians. Service is friendly and attentive, and there are fixed-priced menus and a reasonable choice of wines. Map
As you'd expect from a university town, Toulouse has a lively and colourful choice of bars and cafés.
If you’re in the mood for a beer, La Tireuse at 24 rue Pargaminières is a small and friendly bar with around 15 varieties on tap. Map
If you fancy sitting outside, the following bars have terraces and nice atmospheres.
Toulouse hosts several major events throughout the year including music, visual arts, dance, and flower festivals. For a full list, click here.
In the mood for a little retail therapy? There is something for everyone here, from speciality foods and local produce to… well, anything you can think of really.
If you enjoy the eclectic charm of street markets, the city has much to offer.
On Wednesday between 6am and 6pm, place du Capitole turns into a large open-air market selling all sorts of everything, and on Saturday morning from 6am to 1pm the vast square hosts an organic market.
Marché du Cristal is the town’s largest fruit and vegetable market and is held at Boulevard de Strasbourg from Tuesday to Sunday between 6am and 1pm. Map
Marché aux Puces de St-Sernin is an antiques/odds and ends/flea market held on Saturday and Sunday in place St-Sernin between 6am and 1pm. Map
Like all big cities, Toulouse has its share of petty crime, so take the same precautions you would at home - be vigilant in crowded places and don’t flash cash around in public or leave valuables unattended or exposed.
The main roads in Toulouse are busy at all times of the day, so if you’re thinking of hiring a bicycle, watch out for the traffic because it may not be watching out for you.
Credit cards are widely accepted throughout the city and there are plenty of ATM machines.
The currency is the Euro.
Tips and service charges - a service charge of up to 15% is standard in most restaurants and its inclusion is normally indicated somewhere on the bill - service compris - but it’s customary to leave a small tip for the waiter if the service has been good.
If service is not included, and depending on how you rated your experience, anywhere between 10 and 15% is reasonable. Most people also leave some small change in cafés.
You don’t have to tip taxi drivers, but it’s customary to give them around 10%.
Local time and other useful information.
Learning the language - if you'd like to brush up on your French, or you'd just like to learn some basic phrases, you might find these sites useful.
BBC Languages - multimedia courses for beginners and the more advanced.
Fodors - a range of useful phrases with audio and written pronunciation guides.
Ielanguages - basic to more advanced French with pronunciation guides.
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