The Pink City, the University City, history, modernity... these are the words used to define the multiple facets of Toulouse. The Gascon city and its cobblestones even inspired French singer Claude Nougaro to compose his ode to this city whose emblem is the Capitole Square. The nickname of the 'pink city' comes from the monument of eight pink marble columns in front of Capitole Square where the current headquarters of the City Hall and the Capitole National Theatre are. It is the perfect venue for lovers to stroll, chat and have a drink on the terrace. In contrast to this, you will also find the Latin district of Toulouse which has a lively student atmosphere, with lots of bars and small restaurants. Just like its neighbouring country of Spain, whose language is very present in this city, this festive district is filled with life until late at night. In terms of monuments in the Latin district, you will find the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, the Roman-style building which is the largest in the West, remaining an essential stage in the pilgrimage to Compostela.
Besides a small tour of Old Toulouse, you should visit the Saint Cyprien district. Once you have crossed the Garonne River, you will meet a small village with lots of lanes, a square and a market, all open to visitors. One of the most beautiful buildings in this district is a former slaughterhouse dating back to the 19th century, which was turned into a museum of contemporary art. These slaughterhouses, bringing together many works of art, provide a comprehensive vision of the artistic movements that followed the Second World War.
Lovers of the outdoors have to go to the Prairie des Filtres. This park, the most popular in Toulouse, is a real paradise for walking, relaxing or practising sport. Moreover, as a cultural city, Toulouse has even opened up to the sky with the Space City, a place of discovery where you can see full-scale replicas of spacecrafts.
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Whatever your diet, a walk after a meal is almost mandatory: tasty and full of calories, Toulouse cuisine is not exactly light! Take the opportunity to discover the city's various green spaces, take a walk along the quays of Garonne or visit one of the parks in the surrounding areas that offer plenty of activities, such as Sesquieres Leisure Park, Pech David, Ile du Ramier, La Ramée, and Les Argoulets.
Fans of golf will rejoice! The closest grounds are Téoula (15 minutes from the centre, this is a well-maintained and pleasant 18-hole course), La Ramée (18- and 9-hole courses at the heart of the reserve of the same name), and Seilh (a true paradise for golfers, with two 18-hole greens and numerous facilities laid out on an exceptional estate, including a hotel, a restaurant, several swimming pools, and more).
That's not all though! About an hour's drive away you will find even more courses: Estolosa in Drémil Lafage, St. Gabriel in Montrabé, Toulouse in old Toulouse, and Palmola in Buzet sur Tarn.
One thing is for sure, this Gascon city with cobblestone streets will inspire you on your walks, just as they inspired French singer Claude Nougaro to compose his ode to this city. Standing on Place du Capitole, the emblem of the city, is a monument with 8 pink marble columns on its façade that is the current home of city hall and the National Theatre of Capitole. To the inhabitants of Toulouse, it is a meeting place to go for a stroll, have a chat, or enjoy a drink on a terrace.Like nearby Spain, whose language has a strong presence here, this festive district is full of life until the early morning.
It holds the largest Roman building in the Western world, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, which continues to be a significant stopping point on the pilgrimage to Compostelle.
This short visit of the old town will inevitably end with the discovery of the Saint-Cyprien district. You just have to cross the Garonne river to find yourself in a small village with its covered markets, its square, and its little streets.
One of the most beautiful constructions in this neighbourhood is the ensemble of old slaughterhouses dating from the 19th century and transformed into a contemporary art museum. Bringing together a number of modern pieces, it provides a global vision of the artistic trends that followed one another after the Second World War.
There is a certain uniqueness to how the city is run.
Among the most recent initiatives of the local government, a lot has been said on the matter of pavements and how to recuperate the energy from the steps of those walking on them to light up the street lights (a world first).
In 2004, a lighting plan was designed to light up the monuments better at night, all while being environmentally conscious.
We don't recommend you become a vegetarian or quit drinking the day before your departure for Toulouse: it would be an incredible shame not to be able to taste the traditional dishes, most of which are meat-based and flavoured with a good wine!
As for the more practical aspects, it is difficult to tell you what not to do: we simply recommend that you be careful in the neighbourhoods of Bagatelle, Mirail, and Empalot. Always enquire about the area in which you plan to spend your evening before you go out at night, as this will help you avoid unpleasant surprises.
Discover Toulouse through its food. Pick a good restaurant in the centre and try some aubergine caviar (a sort of aubergine-based sauce mixed with oil and garlic, it is absolutely delicious) and duck breast to discover the typical flavours of this south-western region. If you are on a diet, it really will be hard to find something suitable, but if you are a vegetarian, keep looking, as you should be able to find a large selection of meat-free dishes.
A bag of violet-flavoured sweets.
The essence of violet, the emblem of the city, is captured in these mild-flavoured sweets, which make for a pretty present in their rice paper packaging. A whole range of products can be produced using this plant: liquor, honey, incense, perfume, etc.
In terms of gastronomy, there is no lack of ideas for presents: cassoulet (a meat and bean stew), foie gras, Toulouse sausage, or how about a bottle of Gaillac or Cahors?
You really will be spoilt for choice.