Toulouse is France’s fourth-largest city and is situated in the southwest of the country. It is a relaxed, friendly and very cosmopolitan city. Situated by the River Garonne and the Canal du Midi, Toulouse has a large student population, excellent university and is home to the world’s aerospace industry. Toulouse has long had the nickname ‘La Ville Rose‘ from the pink/red bricks of many of its buildings. There is certainly plenty to do in Toulouse by day and night. One of the city’s newest attractions for daytime is its new space museum which has a life-size version of the Ariane 5 rocket on display outside and a state of the art planetarium.
Toulouse is a great place to spend a long weekend or midweek break and this is possible because it has a large international airport – Toulouse-Blagnac – just northwest of the city.
1. Visit an elegant square
Place du Capitole is a huge square that is situated in front of the sprawling old city hall which is now combined with an opera house. The building with its majestic pillars and clever floodlighting looks particularly spectacular at night. The square is full of restaurants and cafés that are not the cheapest, but the food is good – don’t forget to try one of the region’s favorite dishes which is a cassoulet made with Toulouse sausage and haricot beans in a thick tomato sauce. Alternatively, why not opt for just Toulouse sausage which is tasty and meaty. If you are looking for cheaper restaurants head off down some of the side streets or Place Wilson which is another of the city’s lively squares.
2. Enjoy good live music
Discover Connexion Live which is situated close to Jean-Jaure Metro. Connexion is a cultural club with great live music – French rock, pop, blues, and funk can all be enjoyed in the main stage area. There is a separate bar and an attractive outdoor terrace is a great place for cocktails and tapas.
3. Spot Le Bikini
The Canal du Midi lies just south of the city and is a 240-kilometer long canal that begins in Toulouse. If you take a walk along the towpath you will come to Le Bikini, the best-known club of them all! Le Bikini first opened in 1983 and hosted so many different groups and singers since then, including Elvis Costello!
4. Join a tour
Why not hop on one of the open-topped Citytour buses and enjoy a 75-minute tour of the city at sunset? There is audio commentary in eight languages and you learn so many interesting facts about the places you pass.
5. Relax in a pretty neighborhood
Les Carmes is one of the city’s prettiest neighborhoods with lots of attractive Renaissance buildings. It is fun to sit at one of the outside tables and relax with a beer or glass of French wine accompanied by some tapas or charcuterie ( a plate of cold cuts of meat).
6. Go stargazing
You have to be quite energetic to climb Jolimont Hill but the effort is worth it because the Jolimont Observatory is at the top! The observatory is open every Friday at 9.00 pm for some fun stargazing.
7. Explore St Pierre’s Bridge
Several bridges span the Garonne, but St Piers is the nicest of all and it is fun to take a stroll over the bridge and see the lights in the city and many of the monuments floodlit. St Pierre’s Place by the bridge has a lively collection of bars and is a fun place to pass the evening.
8. Say salut at a top wine bar
N°5 Wine Bar is a rather special one as it has been selected as the Best Wine Bar in the World (2017). There is a tasting menu that is a creative selection of seasonal tastes that match many of the different wines perfectly. Wines can be bought by the bottle, but most customers choose wines by the glass – and there are more than 300 to choose from!
9. Relax to great summertime jazz
La Guinguette is a large floating terrace that is situated near Quai de Tounis. There is a great view of Pont Neuf – the name of this bridge means ‘New Bridge’ but in reality, this is the city’s oldest bridge with seven asymmetrical arches and it dates from the 16th century! There is live jazz every evening between July-September and it is a great place to relax to good music and enjoy views of the lit-up monuments of Toulouse.
10. Sample Les violettes
Violets are an edible flower that is closely linked to the city. It is thought that violets were first brought to Toulouse by soldiers returning from the Napoleonic Wars. They are first mentioned in the early 19th century. A few years later, they were first made into sweets and soon became a local specialty. By 1910, there were 600 producers in the city and a violet co-operative. Looking in some of the city’s shops you will find violet flavored liqueur, honey, jelly and mustard as well as the more traditional sweets, which are widely available in bakeries and sweet shops.