- The capital city of the Midi-Pyrénées region in France, with about 440,000 residents.
- Serves as the centre of the European aviation and space industries.
- Its university is one of the oldest in Europe and the country’s third largest, after Paris and Lyon.
- Capital of French rugby with favourite team Stade Toulousain having won 4 Heineken Cups.
- Nickname: La Ville Rose (“Pink City”)
- Currency: Euro (EUR).
- Spoken languages: French (though a minority still speaks the original Occitan).
- Best time to visit: from May to October (pleasant, temperate climate).
- Arriving via airport: Aéroport Blagnac (TLS) is linked to the city centre by La navette aéroport for €5. Alternately, a taxi ride will cost €20 to €25.
WHERE TO STAY
Located on the western banks of the Garonne, Saint-Cyprien has plenty to offer – from affordable accommodation to proximity to the main attractions. Les Carmes off Place de l’Esquirol boasts the city’s trendy district, with plenty of shopping and dining options. Rue du Taur borders the Latin Quarter and is the best place to stay on a budget, while still being surrounded by the city’s charming history.
- Tisseo runs the metro, tram and bus transportation around the city. Tickets allow travel across the entire network and cost €1.60 for a single ride and €12.90 for a bundle of 10, while a day pass for unlimited travel is €5.50.
- Taxis need to be booked through 05 34 250 250, or hailed from the ranks found at the main squares such as Place du Capitol or at the Matabiau railway station.
- VélôToulouse provides a rental bicycle service across 250 stations around the city for as little as €1.20 a day or €5 for the week (rental is free for the first 30 minutes).
- Pass Tourisme allows free or discounted access to major attractions around the city and free travel on the Tisséo network. 1-day pass costs €18, €2-day pass for €25 and 3-day pass for €32.
- Drinking age is 18, and last call is 2 AM (some clubs stay open until early morning).
- Place Saint-Pierre is a favourite among students and young professionals for cheap meals and drinks at any of the sports bars.
- The fashionable crowd heads to Île du Ramier for an elegant night listening to jazz and alternative music.
- Boulevard de Gare hosts the best nightclubs for all night dancing to the tune of drum and bass, house and techno. Entrance is often free before midnight.
UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT
- Aircraft manufacturer Airbus offers 60 minute guided tours of the aviation facilities – the only authorized tours of the production of A380, A340 and Concorde planes.
- Cité de l’Espace is a contemporary theme park dedicated to space travel and discovery, featuring replicas of satellites and rockets. The dedicated planetarium offers a variety of shows in 4 languages.
- Place du Capitole is the original site of the historic Town Hall, and now houses the seat of municipal administration and the Théâtre du Capitole for opera and ballet.
- Basilique Saint Sernin is one of the finest Romanesque buildings, dating back to the 11th century (now a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
- Pont Neuf links the quarters of Saint-Cyprien and Esquirol and is particularly spectacular at night, when its arches are illuminated by floodlights.
- Le Château-d’Eau rises on a former water tower converted into a photography gallery.
- Follow the historic Canal du Midi as it meanders through the city on the way to Carcassone.
- Pack a light lunch and settle in any of the city’s beautiful gardens and parks, from Jardin Royal to the Jardin de Plantes, a short walk from the Capitole.
- Stroll down Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine on the way to Cathédrale Saint-Étienne, and window shop at the high end boutiques.
- Rue du Taur is an excellent blend of medieval and modern buildings, from historic churches to little bistros.
- Check out the second hand shops on Rue Gambetta and flea markets on Grand Rond – a perfect chance to mingle with locals as they barter at the stalls.
- The region’s gastronomic specialties are duck, foie gras and cassoulet, a hearty stew of beans, vegetables and pork. To sample them at the best and most affordable restaurants, check out the area around the Capitole.
- Take a boating trip aboard a gite along the river Garonne and admire the terracotta brick buildings that give the city its nickname, “La Ville Rose.”
- Try to catch a local rugby game at Stadium de Toulouse and soak up the excitement.
- Where to find good cheap eats: Marché Victor-Hugo is a covered food market with 6 establishments to choose from. Alternatively, find something along Rue des Gestes.
- Dangerous areas: street delinquency is generally kept under control by the police, but try to avoid the Matabiau railway station area at night.
RECOMMENDED TOULOUSE GUIDE BOOKS
- Gascony, the Pyrenees & Toulouse, 5th Edition
- France: A Traveler’s Guide to the Must-See Cities in France!
- Blue Guide Southwest France
Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days
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