explore Toulouse, France
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Explore Toulouse, France

Explore Toulouse a city in southwestern France, near the Pyrenees, in the Midi-Pyrenees region, half way between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon and is renowned as a city of rugby and violets.

Toulouse has become a center of aviation and spaceflight in the past 20 years. More than 35,000 of the inner city’s 400,000 citizens work in the civil aviation or space industries; Airbus Group (formerly EADS) is the largest employer in the region. The city has remained relatively unchanged despite the economic boom.

The city, on the Garonne River, is on the site of an ancient Roman settlement; even today many of the smaller streets follow their Roman counterparts and many of the red brick buildings are of a pseudo-Roman style. These buildings are also what give Toulouse its nickname La ville rose (The pink city).

In the middle ages, Toulouse was one of the richest cities in France due to the sale of blue coloring (pastel) extracted from woad plants. This monopoly was only broken when the Portuguese began to import Indigo to Europe. Over 50 hotels, mansions, remain witness to the past wealth.

Toulouse has a small center, and you can reach most interesting places in the downtown area comfortably on foot.

  • Basilique Saint Sernin- a church from the 11th Century, partly restored by the famous french architect Viollet-le-Duc.
  • Hôtel d’Assézat- one of the most appealing of the many old mansions of the city. It houses the art collection of the Bemberg Foundation.
  • Capitole- the imposing and palatial town hall and theater, its beautiful facade facing onto the grand Place du Capitole
  • Pont-Neuf- despite its name(like the Parisian bridge of the same name, its title is most probably derived from the French for ‘New’, not ‘Nine’.), the only old bridge across the Garonne river; built between 1544 and 1626
  • Le Couvent des Jacobins, place des jacobins. The convent and the church were built in the 13th century to fight against local “cathare” heresy along the crusade led by French nobles that took place at the same time. The church part is very interesting as its beautiful and typical paintings have been preserved, and contains Thomas Aquinas’ relics. You will see an unusual and very high “palm tree” shaped column sustaining the roof, proof of the old European mastery of building techniques. Near the small cabin on the left of the church, you can find an hidden wooden door that will lead you to the cloister of the convent. Made of red bricks and marble, it is a great haven of tranquility and beauty, with the nice advantage of being cool during summer. This is the perfect place to go if you want to read a book, or just relax away from the city center’s activity.
  • City parkat the Grand Rond, a bit south-east to the center of the city
  • Les AugustinsUsed to be a monastery church, and is today an art museum. There is an interesting collection of art and an attractive cloister where there are also a dozen or so deckchairs if sightseeing has become too exhausting.
  • Les AbattoirsModern Arts museum, and there is also a nice garden with a nice view on the Garonne
  • Georges Labit MuseumAsian arts and Egyptian antiquities museum in an exotic and Mediterranean garden built in 1893.
  • Canal du Midi. The Canal du Midi or Canal des Deux Mers is a 240 km long canal in the south of France, le Midi. The canal connects the Garonne River to the Étang de Thau on the Mediterranean. The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can walk or cycle along its banks but in the city there are also major roads on both sides. Things become quieter south of Port St-Sauveur (where many of the canal boats moor).

What to do in Toulouse, France.

  • Peniche Baladine Boat Tours, (Boats depart from Daurade, near the Capitole). Take a boat trip down the Garonne River and/or through the canals leading to the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean. 70 minute cruise.
  • Walkthrough the city and along the Canal du Midi or along the Garonne river from St Pierre bridge and Pont-neuf during the evening. Since no bombs fell on the city center during the war, the architectural heritage is astonishing large and well preserved, so walking around can be a very good experience of a typical European town for foreign tourists.
  • Partyat St Pierre Place: very popular among Toulouse’s students
  • See a Rugby Match. If you are fortunate enough to be in Toulouse on match day, follow the crowds and the excitement to the stadium and soak up the atmosphere.
  • Oc’tobus, is offering you an innovative concept, mixing tasting, activities, guiding, transport and entries on major site.

The Toulouse Alternative Arts Scene

Websites are in French

  • Toulouse is one of the most alternative French cities – maybe due to its huge student population and its historical past, with half a million Spanish republican/communist/anarchist civilians, soldiers and fighters who escaped Spain through the Pyrenees during the ‘Retirada’ in 1939 following the Spanish Civil War. So even though the city is trying to get rid of them, it still offers a large number of squats, some of them hosting artistic movements. MixArt Myrysis one of the oldest and most active squat of artists within the city.
  • La Dynamois a club located in a former sex club and a great place to see live bands and other performances – ça bouge! Located in the city.
  • Les Motivéesis an association that is very active on the political and social scene in Toulouse, and that organizes or takes part in many free events, strikes, concerts, etc. throughout the year. They founded a political party a few years ago that is pretty active locally and holds a few positions with the City Hall Council. Check also the Tactikollectif  their fellow co-working association on events like festivals, etc. that has its origin in the Northern quarters of Toulouse, which are the ones with social housing and lower quality of life.
  • La Grainerieis more particularly dedicated to circus and was first created and settled on derelict brown land; it hosts various collectives of artists every year.
  • L’Usineis another residence for artists and collectives, located in the close suburb (Tournefeuille, 12kms from the City centre of Toulouse]
  • le Collectif d’Urgence Acteurs Culturels – Emergency Collective for Cultural Actorsdefends the local associative and alternative cultural world, whereas the Toulouse Réseau Unitaire Citoyen – Civil Unitarian Network of Toulouse  aims at stirring local, social and political debates.

You must also see

  • Albi, – Largest city in the department of Tarn with its Cathedral listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Carcassonne – The city is famous for the Cité de Carcassonne, a medieval fortress restored by the theorist and architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in 1853 and added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.
  • Ariège, – The Ariege is a haven for outdoor mountain activities, 1.5 hour away in the Pyrenees.
  • Moissac,
  • Puy l’Eveque

Official tourism websites of Toulouse

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