Capital of the Midi-Pyrénées in southwest France, the city of Toulouse is one of the most remarkable locations in the country, with plenty to keep the visitor interested.

Although the settlement’s history reaches back to the 8th century BC, Toulouse’s history largely revolves around its Roman past. Allied with the Italian city in the late 2nd century BC and later incorporated into the Empire as Tolosa, the site quickly developed due to trade between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic and, after the settlement was moved slightly to the north, became one of the major Roman cities economically and culturally. In the aftermath of Rome’s collapse, Tolosa was placed under siege by various tribes before falling first to the Visigoths in the 5th century and then the Franks a century later. Despite re-establishing its independence in the 9th century, Toulouse languished as a pariah city until the 17th century, when it finally accepted the King of France. However, missing out on the Industrial Revolution stunted any economic growth.

Ironically, Toulouse today is a centre of the aerospace and biotech industries as well as one of the fastest growing cities in the continent. Nevertheless, the strong regional feeling remains a feature, reflected in the use of the Occitan cross as the city symbol (the dialect can be heard everywhere in Toulouse). This acute awareness of its past and modern trimmings makes it one of the more irregular but thoroughly enjoyable locations in France.


Known as the ‘Ville Rose’ due to its pink brick buildings, you’re sure to find something beautiful wherever you go in Toulouse. However, visitors should start out at the Capitole central square in the place du Capitole, the seat of the Toulouse municipal government since the 12th century and home to the Hôtel du Ville (Town Hall) and the Théâtre du Capitole.

Some of the finest buildings in Toulouse are religious in character. The best example of this is the Saint-Sernin Basilica, built in Romanesque style between 1050 and 1200 and notable both for its beautiful façade and former importance as a pilgrimage site. Elsewhere, the Cathédrale Saint-Etienne de Toulouse is one of the oldest buildings in the city, dating back to the 9th century.

Classified a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Canal du Midi is a must-see area in Toulouse. Constructed during the 17th century, the Canal connects the Garonne River to the Mediterranean and, although used more practically in the past, is now the perfect place for a tranquil boat ride.

If you’d prefer peace and quiet on land, Toulouse is home to plenty of parks and gardens such as the Grand-Rond, the Jardin Royal and the Jardin des plantes.

The city is home to a number of museums and galleries, the most important being the Musée des Augustins in the rue de Metz. Set in a 19th century building, the Musée houses many remnants of Toulouse’s Roman past, as well as an art gallery with works by Monet, Delacroix and Toulouse-Lautrec among many others. Supplementing the Augustins is ‘Les Abattoirs’ Museum of Contemporary Art, which specialises in 20th century art and contains pieces by Picasso.

Toulouse plays host to festivals and events every year, such as the Flamenco Festival in March, the Rio Loco Festival in June and the Toulouse Les Orges series of classical concerts running during September and October.

Sport is an essential part of Toulouse’s culture, particularly rugby union. The local team, Stade Toulousain, are one of Europe’s major clubs and compete in the Heineken Cup and French League at the Stade Ernest-Wallon. Toulouse’s football team, Toulouse FC, play in Ligue 1 at the Stadium de Toulouse.


The main commercial street in Toulouse is the Rue St-Rome, packed with great places to shop. If that’s not enough, try the Rue Croix-Baragnon for high-street fashion in particular.

A food and drink market is held regularly in the place Victor Hugo and the place St-Sernin is home to a flea market on Sundays.

Nightlife and Eating Out

Toulouse is strong on food and drink, with local specialities like saucisses de Toulouse (specially prepared sausage), cassoulet Toulousain (a type of pork and bean stew) and the famous foie gras (duck/goose liver). For gourmet establishments, try the rue de la Colombette. Alternatively, La Bascule on the avenue Maurice-Hauriou and Les Jardins de L’Opéra in the place du Capitole are highly recommended.

You can find international alternatives like Vietnamese down the rue du Taur.

The place Arnaud-Bernard is packed with cafes and bars but the main meeting point and area for a drink is the place du Capitole. There are even English-style pubs such as The Frog & Rosbif in the rue de L’Industrie. Toulouse enjoys a lively nightlife with clubs like Hey Joe in the place Héraclès, L’Ambassade in the boulevard de la Gare and L’Ubu in the rue St-Rome.

Tourist Information


Toulouse is served by Toulouse Blagnac International Airport, northwest of the city itself.

International and domestic connecting flights are regularly available to multiple destinations worldwide.

easyJet (Bristol, London-Gatwick), Flybe (Bristol, Birmingham) and Thomas Cook Airlines (Manchester, London-Gatwick) are among the airlines that use Toulouse Blagnac to and from British destinations.

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