Spending a weekend in Toulouse or moving there for a semester abroad? Then this article is for you! We tell you everything about the best things to do in Toulouse, France.
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Toulouse is a beautiful city, perfect starting point to discover South West France. Sitting along the bank of the river Garonne, Toulouse is called “La ville Rose” by the french. This means the Pink City. This name comes from a reason. All buildings (walls and roofs) are pink. It’s a lovely city.
I lived in Toulouse for 3 years. It will always feel like home. I love this city and can’t wait to share my tips and recommendations on what to do in Toulouse and also where to stay.
The city centre itself is quite small, which is very convenient. If you are staying in a hotel in the centre, you will be able to do almost everything by foot. Public transports are very good too, so if you want to jump in a bus or take the underground, it’s very easy too!
Here are my top things to do in Toulouse. Please note that some of these activities are free and others have an entrance fee. If you want to make the best of your time in Toulouse, I’d recommend buying a Toulouse City Card as it will give you access to most paying activities for free, also includes one free walking tour and access to public transport! It can be well worth it depending on what you want to do!
1 – Capitole
The Capitole is the central square. This where everything happen and definitely the most famous landmark in Toulouse.
It’s located right in the middle of what they call the hyper-centre. From Capitole, you can get anywhere you want with just a short walk. If you fancy going on a walking tour, this would be a good place to start.
The square itself is very pretty. You can see some Occitan crosses on the ground, fancy restaurants all around and more importantly the city hall. The city hall is absolutely gorgeous in Toulouse, whether it’s from the outside or the inside.
Unfortunately, you cannot visit it. However, it is open to the public as it’s still in use. Therefore people that need to do a request to the city council, renew a passport or anything like that get to walk in. Once a year, in January, you can go give your blood inside the Capitole. This gives you the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful rooms and paintings in the city hall while doing a good thing.
2 – La Daurade
La Daurade is the promenade by the river, the Garonne. It’s the locals’ favourite place in summer. During the day you can go for a walk along with it or just lay down and read a book. At night, it’s the perfect place to go for a picnic. Just take some beers and food and go there. You’ll see, that will be a great evening.
The view is particularly pretty too as you will get to see both bridges, the duomo of Saint-Cyprien and the big wheel.
3 – Basilique Saint Sernin
Located on Place St Sernin, between Capitole and Jeanne d’Arc, the Basilique Saint-Sernin is for sure the most beautiful church in the city. From the outside, you will get to enjoy a beautiful baroque facade with high spiky towers. Inside, it won’t disappoint either. You will find some amazingly well-preserved stain windows.
The Basilica is free to visit and open every day.
4 – Museum Les Abattoirs
The Musee Les Abattoirs is a contemporary art museum. You generally find very unconventional pieces. There aren’t really any permanent exhibitions. The museum hosts temporary exhibitions all the time. They change every couple of months.
As every national museum in France, the entrance is free on the first Sunday of the month. I’d recommend that you make sure to gather your visits to the museum on that day if possible. Otherwise, the entrance will be 8 euros.
5 – Museum Toulouse
Located in Carmes, by the Jardins des Plantes, the museum Toulouse is the natural history museum. It’s one of the best museums in Toulouse. It’s very interactive and well set up. You will get to discover plenty about volcanoes, mammals, fish and much more! It’s a very good activity to do with children as well.
The Museum Toulouse includes a permanent exhibition, a temporary exhibition and the gardens.
The entrance costs 7 euros for either the permanent or temporary exhibition. 9 Euros for both exhibitions and 3 euros for the gardens.
Like every national museum in France, it’s free on the first Sunday of the month.
6 – Compans Caffarelli park and japanese gardens
Compans Caffarelli is the business district in Toulouse. As Toulouse is a fairly small city, the business district is a bit of an overrated word. It is a very nice neighbourhood with a big park in the middle. The park itself is a good place to have a walk or a picnic. Many toulousains have lunch in the park in the summer. It’s a very nice park, the perfect place to break a workday. In the middle of the park, you will find Japanese gardens. A full-size original Japanese gardens. Have a walk around, it’s very pretty.
7 – Walk in the Jardins des Plantes, Carmes
The Jardins des Plantes is another very pleasant park in Toulouse. Located in Carmes, this green patch in the middle of the city is perfect for a walk. There are ponds, ducks, birds. It’s a very nice and relaxing place.
8 – Walk on the bridges (Pont St Pierre and Pont Neuf)
There are two bridges in Toulouse. They both go to St Cyprien. One starts in St Pierre quarter and the other in Esquirol.
They both offer a very nice view on the Garonne and the rest of the city. You will get some of the most beautiful photos from the bridges.
9 – Chill out at La Prairie des filtres and having a wonder in St Cyprien
The Prairie des Filtres is located on the other side of the river Garonne. If you cross the Pont Neuf it will be on your left. In summer, it’s a very pleasant place to be at. There are beach volleyball pitches and you will get to enjoy a beautiful view of the river. It’s also home to a Caribbean festival, Rio Loco. From there you can give walking another 5 minutes and reach St Cyprien. This beautiful neighbourhood is typically toulousain.
The arches mark the entrance to the old city. Fun facts, geese use to guard them. You probably know wonder how a goose can guard anything. Well, they are particularly noisy and can be nasty. Therefore, if someone would get closer to attack the city they would be able to warn the guards.
10 – Go on a cruise on the Canal du Midi
The Canal du Midi goes all the way down to the Mediterranean sea. In the 17th century, it was considered one of the greatest construction work. Nowadays, it is a nice and peaceful canal. To enjoy the canal, you can jump on a boat and go on a cruise. You will discover Toulouse from the water, in a very unique way.
11 – Go for a run or a bike ride at the park des Argoulets
Located in North Toulouse, the park des Argoulets is a very big park where you can enjoy walks and bike rides. Way bigger than any other park in the city centre, it’s perfect to spend a sporty afternoon.
12 – Grab food on Rue du Taur
The Rue du Taur goes from Capitole to the Basilique Saint Sernin. It’s full of little restaurants and is always a good option to grab food. It’s the locals first port of call for food. You will find loads of creperies and various french restaurants.
13 – Shopping in Rue Saint Rome and rue Alsace Lorraine
There are two main shopping streets in Toulouse: Rue St Rome and Rue Alsace Lorraine. They are both completely different but yet so complementary.
Rue St Rome is the traditional shopping street, it’s located in the old Jewish quarter and goes from Capitole to Esquirol.
The street is tiny and so are the shops. It’s the perfect example of a typical Toulousaine street: charming, narrow and pink! However, as it also is Toulouse’s most popular street, it can get very crowded.
Rue Alsace Lorraine is the complete opposite. Located only 5 minutes walk from rue St Rome, this parallel street goes from Jeanne d’Arc to Esquirol. The street is long and wide, the shops are mainly chains and bigger. It’s a way more modern version of shopping streets.
You will also find many shops in between these two streets. The luxury shops are located in the tiny streets near Rue Alsace Lorraine, in St George quarter.
The whole area is very lively and the perfect shopping place. Don’t set your mind on one of them, just go to Capitole metro station and take it from there. Have a wonder, the best shops are hidden in the narrow streets!
14 – Have a wonder in Francois Verdier
Francois Verdier is the most underrated quarter of Toulouse but yet it is such a nice place. The Place Du Puy is a gorgeous square, home to a beautiful music venue, La Halle aux grains. Francois Verdier also has a lot of little restaurants and bars, very local and welcoming. If you want to have a drink or grab a bite, Rue Riquet will be the best place. Locals particularly like the Petit London, Delicatessen and Burger’N’Co.
15 – Have a coffee in Place St George
St George is located in the historic centre of Toulouse. It is a pretty wealthy neighbourhood and the buildings are very pretty. The Place St George is full of bars with big outside terraces. They are the perfect place to enjoy a coffee on a sunny day.
16 – Eat on a boat on the Canal du Midi
As most of the boats on the Canal du Midi aren’t navigating anymore, some of them were turned into restaurants. If you want a very unique experience, you can go for dinner on a boat on the Canal du Midi.
17 – Having drinks in Esquirol
Esquirol is the perfect place to have a drink in the evening. It’s very lively and international. You will find all sorts of bars including Spanish dancing bars, English pubs and typical little French wine bars. You will enjoy sitting outside at the terrace of a bar, having some wine and cheese and chat away. If you want to dance, you will find a couple of Latino bars in Esquirol. Check out the Borriquito Loco, La Tantina de Burgos and L’Eldorado.
18 – Go clubbing in Jean Jaures
If you want to go clubbing in Toulouse, Jean Jaures is the place to go! Most of the clubs and dancing bars are located there. You can start by Rue Pery where you will find both clubs and music venues such as the Snapper Rock or Connexion. You can try in every little street you will always find some bars and clubs. If you want a dancing bar, the Cafe Pop is always a good option.
Toulouse is a beautifully lively city and is always good fun. These 18 things to do in Toulouse should give you a very good idea of what this french city is all about.
Travel Ressources to plan your trip to Toulouse:
The Toulouse City Card is available for 24, 48 or 72 hours. It includes:
• Toulouse Museum and gardens – Free
• Musée des Abattoirs – Free
• Musée des Augustins – Free
• Musée Saint-Raymond – Free
• Musée Paul-Dupuy – Free
• Musée Georges-Labit – Free
• Musée du Vieux-Toulouse – Free
• Fondation Bemberg – Free
• Le Château d’Eau – Free
• Muséum du Pastel (Terre de Pastel) – Free
• Quai des Savoirs – Free
• MATOU – Free
• Musée des Augustins (closed until spring 2020) – Free
Monuments and Heritage Sites:
• Couvent des Jacobins – Free
• Amphithéâtre Romain de Purpan – Free
• Ancienne Eglise Saint-Pierre-des-Cuisines – Free
• Déambulatoire et Crypte de Saint-Sernin – Free
Tours and Cruises:
• Tourist Office guided tours: 1 free walking tour
• Free travel on the buses
• Free travel on the metro
• Free travel on the trams
• Free airport shuttle
And many more!
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