The Ville Rose on the Garonne
Chief town of the Haute Garonne (Midi-Pyrénées), a short distance from the Pyrenean mountain chain, the city owes its name of ‘Ville Rose’ (pink city) to the pink colour of the bricks used to construct the old town’s buildings.
Toulouse has a wonderful artistic heritage that ranges from majestic Romanesque and Gothic Churches to prestigious stately Renaissance buildings: the latter were, among other things, decorated in a special blue colour derived from woad or “pastel”, a plant that produced this very rare colour which was much coveted by artists and which, with its cultivation and trade, made the economic fortune of the city in the sixteenth century.
The noble Renaissance palaces
Important buildings in Toulouse include the Hôtel d’Assérat, a magnificent private seventeenth-century palace and headquarters of the Académie des Jeux Floraux and Fondazione Bemberg, which houses a collection of paintings, bronzes and art objects, and the Hôtel de Bernuy, home to the Pierre de Fermat secondary school, which is characterised by an octagonal tower, the highest in the city.
The religious buildings
The religious buildings are imposing, such as the Basilica of Saint Sernin, a large twelfth-century Romanesque church built to house the remains of Saint Saturnin or Sernin, with an unusual octagonal tower; the church is very popular with worshippers because it is located along the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, a pilgrimage that begins in the Pyrenees.
The Cathedral of St. Etienne, the city’s primary place of worship, is also Romanesque, while the Church of the Jacobins, which preserves the remains of the ‘Doctor’ of the church St. Thomas Aquinas, is built in Gothic style.
Among the many splendid civil buildings is the Capitole, the heart of municipal administration with a rich Baroque façade. A visit to the Museum, with its rich collection of palaeontology and ornithology items, is well worth while, as is the unique Museum of the History of Medicine, which illustrates the history of Toulouse in the field of health care and surgery in city hospitals over a period of seven centuries.
Each place, monument or museum is within easy reach, because Toulouse is small enough to be visited on foot, by bike or even boat on the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, or on the River Garonne, which crosses the city.
However, Toulouse is also an active industrial city where the latest prestigious airbus aircraft are built and where, at the factory, enthusiasts can visit the assembly line of these giants of the air.
The Space City
An indispensable addition to the city, therefore, is the Cité de l'espace (Space City), an interactive place where visitors, large and small, can find the MIR space station, jump on board Soyuz space modules, climb into the European Arianne V rocket or even watch on the Imax, a gigantic screen as tall as a six-floor building, a series of films taken in space.
Toulouse also holds numerous festivals, some of which are truly unique, such as the Fete de la Violette, emblematic flower of the city, which is held in February, the month in which this sweet-smelling flower, used by the people of Toulouse even in drinks and sweets, is gathered. The Festival of Rio Loco is instead an attraction for sharing the cultures of nearby countries; the Carnival is also very popular, with floats and costumes making their way through the town in the midst of a lively atmosphere created by residents, which is also expressed in the Marathon of Toulouse Métropole.
Considered the gateway to the region of the Midi-Pyrénées, near to Languedoc Roussillon, the position of Toulouse make it the ideal starting point for going in discovery of France’s most beautiful towns such as Albi, Lourdes, Moissac, Rocamadour, Carcassonne and many others.
Paté de foie gras
Cassoulet of Toulouse
In the evening the atmosphere is almost unreal, with displays of light that change the appearance of the facades of the monuments of the city, as well as the River Garonne. Restaurants and bistros propose the best of creations made from the products of the South of France: pâté de foie gras, duck fillets, cassoulet, Toulouse sausage, cheeses such as Roquefort or the Tomme of the Pyrenees, and superb wines such as Fronton and Gaillac, or the famous distilled Armagnac.
Text by Anna Glik
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Where to sleep in Toulouse
Toulouse. Photo: Copyright © Sisterscom.com / joyfull / Depositphotos
Toulouse is a welcoming city and offers different possibilities for accommodation.
To find the ideal hotel and the best offers you can do a search for the stars but also for districts or landmarks.
Hotel in tourist areas
WHERE TO GO IN TOULOUSE
Monuments and places of interest in Toulouse
Basilica of Notre Dame de la Daurade, Toulouse. PhotoCopyright /
BASILICA OF NOTRE-DAME DE LA DAURADE
The Notre Dame de la Daurade Basilica, in Neoclassical style, was built in the 5th century on the remains of an ancient temple, demolished at the end of the 18th century and then rebuilt. To admire: the gold leaf mosaics (Daurade), the Black Virgin protector of the city adorned in clothes designed by Christian Lacroix, Jean-Charles de Castelbajac and other couturiers; the paintings on the life of the Virgin Mary by the painter Joseph Roques.
BASILICA OF SAINT SERNIN
The Romanesque Basilica dating back to the 11th century, is a historic stop on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built between the 11th and 14th centuries in honor of San Saturnino (or Sernin), the first bishop of the city of Toulouse. Inside you can admire medieval frescoes, crypts and the reliquary of the True Cross, enameled and in the shape of a sarcophagus.
Toulouse City Hall. PhotoCopyright /
TOULOUSE CITY HALL - PLACE DU CAPITOLE
The Ville Rose building, facing the 18th-century Place du Capitole, houses the town hall, the Théâtre du Capitole and state rooms. Do not miss the Allegories of Love by Paul Gervais, the canvases of Henri Martin and the Salle des Illustres with paintings that tell the history of Toulouse. Outside, the imposing Neoclassical facade and the square are very beautiful.
Garonna river in Toulouse. Copyright /
In Toulouse, on the Garonne River, you can admire the Pont Neuf, the Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques and the dome of La Grave reflecting on the water. Along the banks of the Garonne River you can go for walks, sunbathe and relax. The stretch along the Promenade Henri-Martin and in the Place de la Daurade is striking.
CANAL DU MIDI
Toulouse is crossed by several water channels: the Canal de Brienne, the Side Canal of the Garonne and the Canal du Midi, declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Canal du Midi connects Toulouse and the Mediterranean Sea and was built under the reign of Louis XIV by Pierre-Paul Riquet and completed in the 19th century with the addition of the Garonne side channel. You can discover the Canal du Midi on foot or by bicycle and you can also explore it by boat.
CITY OF SPACE
The Cité de l'Espace is located a short walk from the center of Toulouse. The gardens of the City of Space are home to life-size replicas of spacecraft and a giant telescope. You can board the Mir Space Station, watch the Ariane 5 rocket or visit interactive exhibits on Earth, the Universe and space flight or even go to the giant screen cinema or the interactive planetarium. An ideal place for space lovers, for both adults and children, to spend free time having fun and learning.
Museums in Toulouse
MUSEUM IN THE CONVENT OF THE GIACOBINI
The Convent of the Jacobins, with its medieval Gothic architecture, houses a church with the relics of St. Thomas Aquinas. Restored in 2015, the convent offers a multimedia path to discover the cloister and a chapel decorated with 14th-century paintings. To admire the palm-shaped vault, the painted decorations and the stained glass windows. The cloister, the former refectory, the chapel of the Virgin and the chapel of Saint-Antonin also host concerts and exhibitions.
DES AUGUSTINS MUSEUM
In the center of Toulouse you can admire works of art, paintings and sculptures dating from the Middle Ages to 1900 and beyond, housed in a former Augustinian convent which houses the Museum of Fine Arts. The Museum des Augustins is one of the oldest in France. Not to be missed: the cloister of the convent, the capital of the martyr of Saint-Jean-Baptiste or Nôtre-Dame-de-Grasse for sculptures, the installation by the contemporary artist Jorge Pardo in the Romanesque Sculpture Room.
Recommended excursions and tours in Toulouse
Toulouse. Photo: Copyright © Sisterscom.com / Depositphotos
Toulouse city private tour
Guided tour, customizable, to discover the historic city of Toulouse. To admire: the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, UNESCO World Heritage site of the Streets of Santiago de Compostela; the Church of the Jacobins, in southern Gothic style; the Hôtel d'Assézat and the Capitole de Toulouse built to a design by Guillaume Cammas Caunes-Minervois. Info: book the tour.
Carcassonne. Photo: Copyright © Sisterscom.com / Depositphotos
Tour to Carcassonne from Toulouse
Tour departing from Toulouse to visit the city of Carcassonne, the Comtal Castle, the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire and other historical sites. Carcassonne is located about an hour from Toulouse, in the Midi-Pyrénées region. The Castle of the Counts of Carcassonne with its ramparts has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Duration of the tour: one day. Info: book the tour.
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