Toulouse is the capital of the French department of Haute-Garonne and of the region of Occitanie. The city sits on the Garonne river and is on the site of an ancient Roman settlement, it is the fourth-largest city in France. Toulouse is called the “La Ville Rose” (Pink City) due to its unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks. It is renown as a city of rugby and violets.
Toulouse counts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Canal du Midi (designated in 1996 and shared with other cities), and the Basilica of St. Sernin, the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe, designated in 1998 because of its significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
The University of Toulouse is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229).
Toulouse has become a center of aviation and spaceflight in the past 20 years and is the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, the Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, ATR and the Aerospace Valley.
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.
- 1. At the heart of the South-West A stone’s throw from the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, Toulouse is the capital of the new Occitanie region. The ‘Ville Rose’ is ideally located and accessible for an escapade or a discovery circuit (combining Barcelona, Montpellier, Carcassonne or Albi, for example).
- 2. Big on colour This is a city of colour, with its brick façades blending pinks and oranges, its emblematic flower, the violet, the blue of the pastel, the red & black of the Capitouls that has been adopted now by the Stade Toulousain rugby team…
- 3. A warm city Toulouse is as welcoming as its climate: a rendezvous with conviviality and art de vivre awaits you at this destination, one which is so popular with students that make up a quarter of its population. Here, the answer is always « with pleasure » !
- 4. A rich heritage Boasting 2,000 years of history, the Ville Rose is home to numerous treasures, major monuments or little known gems that can be discovered in the narrow streets and small squares, religious buildings and a wealth of mansion houses… This well-preserved city on a human scale features, among others, three sites that appear on the UNESCO heritage list, such as the famous Canal du Midi (ideal for river tourism or cycling) or the basilica of Saint Sernin and the Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques hospital that are major stopping-points for pilgrims along the Ways of St James.
- 5. Festive and cultural throughout the year Proud of its artistic and musical traditions, blessed with a well-established Latin temperament, Toulouse is a lively and effervescent city, synonymous with the « fiesta » no matter the season, with more than 1,000 events on average every year and summer evenings that are particularly animated!
- 6. The pleasures of the table Regional products and wines take pride of place: “bons vivants“ will appreciate the famous Cassoulet that includes the veritable Toulouse sausage and the aromatic wines of the South-West (including Fronton wines and Négrette, the grape variety that is local to the immediate vicinity of Toulouse), a multitude of renovated markets and their night time events, the terrace cafés that are perfect for the dolce vita, the appetising tea rooms or even the 11 Michelin star restaurants (including the renowned Michel Sarran).
- 7. Nature and walks The city’s 160 parks and gardens provide an invitation to relax and enjoy a stroll, just like the River Garonne and the Canal du Midi are perfect for cruises, nautical activities and cycling trips.
- 8. Air and Space, the scientific adventure With collections of legendary aircraft at the Aeroscopia Museum and astonishing experiences at the Cité de l’Espace, visits to the A380 or A350 assembly lines and stargazing, simulators and immersive shows with cutting edge technology, Toulouse is a stopping point that lovers of technology and space exploration should not miss! The possibilities for awakening scientific curiosity and having fun keep coming with Le Muséum (natural history) and the Quai des Savoirs.
- 9. A sporting city Toulouse is also sporty: showcase on rugby with Stade Toulousain (the local team has been crowned French and European champion on many occasions), football with TFC, handball with Fenix or even volleyball with the Spacers, as well as nautical activities at the Ski Club de la Péniche or the Sesquières teleskiing club (boasting a major wake park)…not forgetting the 7 golf courses and, since March 2017, the opening of the first beach park in France. Fourteen new fitness trails from 1.8km to 42km long also allow you to enjoy sport and physical activities free of charge, in a natural setting and punctuated with freely accessible facilities.
- 10. A unique offer The ‘Ville Rose’ provides a wide range of tourist activities: museums that take you back through the ages, industrial and heritage sites that have been converted into unusual tourist destinations, essential and more quirky guided visits…all can be explored without delay thanks to the Toulouse Tourism pass (numerous free offers and discounts, free public transport including the airport shuttle)
Capital of the Occitanie region, in the heart of the South-West of France between the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean, Toulouse is nicknamed the “Ville Rose because of the colour of the traditional local construction material: brick.
Whilst historians can retrace the first usage of bricks to Roman times, it was only in the XV Century, following the great fire of Toulouse, that its use became prevalent in the reconstruction of the buildings.
The Renaissance marked this architectural renewal that gave the Ville Rose its current colour scheme. Strolling through its narrow streets you will notice some impressive buildings from this period dotted here and there: the mansion houses.
The Mansion Houses
Between the XV and XVI Centuries, Toulouse grew rich from the pastel trade. Prior to the importation of indigo, this plant that is also known as isatis tinctoria was the only one capable of dyeing textiles blue, the colour of royalty and nobility since the Middle Ages.
A Golden Triangle developed thanks to the quality of the harvest in the Lauragais area, between Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne. At the centre of a veritable international trading hub, the wealthy merchants of Toulouse began the construction of sumptuous mansion houses throughout the city, as did the Capitouls (city councillors) and the Noble Parliamentarians in the same period
As a symbol of their social status and wealth, they built chapter towers, known as towers of pride. You can admire them by lifting your gaze during a stroll through the heart of the Carmes and Saint-Etienne quarters. The Hôtel d’Assézat, Hôtel de Bernuy, Hôtel de Pierre or Hôtel d’Ulmo offer just a few remarkable examples of this. If they are not open to the public, it may be necessary to be accompanied by a guide in order to open the monumental doors that shield them from curious eyes. The tourist office provides a number of guided visits that allow you to enter the courtyards of these houses: “Saint-Rome and its mansion houses“ and “A little tour around the courtyards“…
Toulouse is a city with a thousand faces that is not so keen to reveal all its secrets. Many know it for its brick buildings that change colour according to the sunlight, alternating between pink, orange and red, but fewer people are aware of its classical heritage from the Renaissance and its remarkable monuments.
Before discovering the UNESCO heritage, any visit to Toulouse ought to begin with a tour of the central square where the emblematic Capitole reigns supreme. Behind its façade of 8 marble columns, it is home to the town hall and the Théâtre du Capitole. With its majestic tableaux, its gold gilding and countless sculptures, the interior resembles a mini-Versailles right here in Toulouse and allows visitors to discover the history of the city in the Salle des Illustres free of charge.
The basilica of Saint-Sernin, erected in honour of Saint Saturnin (or Sernin), the first Bishop of Toulouse, is one of the largest preserved Romanesque buildings in Europe. Its construction stretched from the XI to the XIV century and provides a remarkable example of Romanesque architecture: the elegant apse studded with side chapels rises up to the octagonal bell tower. Rich in relics, since the Middle Ages it has been a major stopping point for pilgrims heading to Santiago de Compostela along the Via Tolosana, also known as the Voie d’Arles.
The Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques hospital, situated on the left bank of the River Garonne in the Saint-Cyprien quarter, has had several uses. Originally built as a hospice for the poor, it quickly became a hostel for pilgrims along the Ways of St James before being transformed into a hospital, in use until the mid-XX Century. Traces of its past are still visible today: the buildings are arranged in a U-shape around a garden that is adorned with a gigantic shell, a statue of St James sits on the entrance porch that gives access to the historic rooms: the Pilgrim’s Room and the Columns’ Room, set around the chapel.
Another monument listed as World Heritage by UNESCO: the Canal Royal du Languedoc, nowadays known by the name Canal du Midi. Its construction by Pierre-Paul Riquet, a former tax inspector, was commissioned by Royal Decree in 1666. This 240km navigation route is studded with 63 locks and required 12,000 workers to build, representing one of the most colossal construction projects in Europe. Flanked by plane trees, it links Toulouse with the Mediterranean Sea and led to a veritable transformation of the city during the XVII Century from an economic and urban standpoint. Nowadays, walkers love to wander along its towpaths and watch the landscape change with the passing seasons.
A student city that is also home to numerous research laboratories, the Toulouse metropolitan area aims to showcase its specificity and develop the number of sites focusing on promoting scientific culture to the local population and visiting tourists.
Natural History Museum Next to the city’s great gardens, a new scientific quarter is developing in Toulouse, all along its wooded streets. In the same space, lovers of living science can come and appreciate the Natural History Museum of Toulouse, opened in 1796, the second largest after the National Museum of Paris. Its collection of more than 2 million pieces has been perfectly showcased thanks to ten years of modernisation works that were completed in 2008 and the impressive skeleton wall that currently adorns one of its façades, providing a truly unmissable feature.
Quai des savoirs Carrying on their journey from the Mueum, next to the Federal University of Toulouse, visitors can discover the Quai des Savoirs. This space is dedicated to sharing knowledge and scientific culture, combining architecture, heritage and modernity. Throughout the year visitors are invited to discover science differently here.
Cité de l’espace In Toulouse, if you want to reach for the stars you simply have to take a trip to the Jolimont Observatory or explore the 5 hectares of the Cité de l’Espace, a site that is unique in Europe devoted to the conquest of space and astronomy. Here, young and old alike will find life-sized replicas of the Ariane rocket, the Soyouz spacecraft or the Mir Space Station and try their hand at living and training like an astronaut. A state-of-the-art planetarium, an IMAX cinema and numerous other activities round off the offer.
Aeroscopia Do you love heights? Without leaving the stratosphere, Toulouse can also offer you the chance to take to the air at the Aeroscopia Museum. Opened in 2015, with an architecture that resembles an aircraft’s fuselage, this 7,000m² building dedicated to the history of aviation is home to an exceptional collection. Scale models, a large historic mural and more than twenty legendary airplanes: Concorde, Super Guppy, A400M…
Airbus Assembly Line Opposite the Aéroscopia Museum, visitors have the opportunity to step across the threshold at the Airbus factories and visit the assembly line of the A380, the largest civil aircraft in the world and the newest addition to the Airbus family: the A350. The bravest visitors can even earn their wings and become real pilots thanks to a number of different flight simulators across the Ville Rose..
A lively and bustling city, Toulouse has its proximity to Spain to thank for its love of a party. From the end of the day to aperitif time, the terraces start to fill up in an ambiance of conviviality. The banks of the Garonne come to life and give the city a party feel.
Within the Ville Rose, every district boasts its own identity and offers a range of surprises and discoveries for nights out.
The unmissable districts The epicentre of Toulouse, from the Allées Jean-Jaurès to place Saint-Pierre passing the famous place du Capitole, is the favourite playground of Toulouse locals and passing visitors. Sports bars, pubs, wine bars, concert halls; everyone can find their perfect spot.
A bit further out, the Saint-Aubin quarter, is ideally situated between the Canal du Midi and the Grands Boulevards and is less well-known by tourists. It is still a hotspot for locals, notably the rue de la Colombette, a veritable little Montmartre of Toulouse with its own unique personality. Just like the famous area of Paris, this road boasts the particularity of being a “free commune“ since the Liberation. Every weekend, passers-by can browse the stalls of its artisanal market alongside the imposing Saint-Aubin Church. During October, the district celebrates its traders and their spirit with a great fair. In the evening, the micro-breweries of Toulouse open their doors to you.
In the old town, the historic Carmes quarter is one of the most reputed thanks to its architecture as well as for its lively ambiance. Around the covered market, the bars and restaurants stretch along the colourful narrow streets. Here, the cuisines of the world and tapas from the South-West sit alongside pubs and cocktail bars.
Towards the Grand Rond, the Saint Etienne quarter, stretches all around Toulouse Cathedral, charming visitors with the tranquility of its narrow streets and intimate ambiance. Here, the antique dealers sit alongside mansion houses and passers-by can visit some of the most beautiful squares in the city. Lovers of shopping will delight in the boutiques of the Bouquières quarter and the more curious will gleefully throw open the doors to the cosy little restaurants of the district.
By crossing one of the bridges that spans the River Garonne, you will arrive at the Saint-Cyprien quarter. Neglected for a long time by inhabitants of the right bank, this district was once a refuge for the needy, for pilgrims along the Way of St James and for Spanish exiles. Nowadays, food lovers can treat themselves in the many restaurants that reflect the multicultural nature of the quarter and
take advantage of the festivals that bring the riverbanks to life in summer (Rio Loco, Toulouse Plages and its big wheel, Tangopostale).
Of course, there are other districts that are well worth a detour, among them the Chalets quarter with its rue de la Concorde that is home to the oldest café in Toulouse, the Busca, and its intimate spots or even the unmissable Daurade, a hotspot for artists that provides some magnificent viewpoints from which you can enjoy the sunset across the banks of the Garonne.
Much sought-after for its art de vivre, Toulouse invites you to sniff out the wonderful aromas emanating from the market stalls that spring up in a little square or the corner of a boulevard.
Gourmets can pay a visit to the fine delicatessens or local food artisans in order to fill their shopping baskets or their pockets with delicious souvenirs to take home in their suitcases.
The Ville Rose also incites visitors to sit down at table and take the time to enjoy life…You will be spoilt for choice thanks to the hundreds of tea rooms, restaurants, cafés and bistros, without forgetting its 11 Michelin stars!
Gastronomic destination Local gastronomy in Toulouse is a mix that reflects its status as capital of Occitanie, between the Atlantic Ocean, the mountains of the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean Sea.
The culinary tradition here is the fruit of a coming together of ancestral savoirfaire and high-quality regional products, many of which can boast AOC status (truffles, Roquefort, Armagnac, duck in all its forms – gizzards, smoked breast, confit…).
Neighbouring Spain gladly shares its own love for ham and tapas with Toulouse and these are now rooted in local culinary habits. Whether you want to settle down at the table of one of the 11 Michelin star chefs listed in the famous red guide in the Toulouse area (including the media darling Michel Sarran) or you are looking for small intimate addresses where you rub shoulders with fellow diners to enjoy the unique cuisine, ambiance, setting or view, you can’t help falling in love with Toulouse.
With more than 1,700 eateries in the city, it is an authentic destination that is loved for its dolce vita and its tradition of sharing and conviviality. Whilst every square and quarter, whatever their size, draws your attention with its specialities and character, the sunshine reinforces this feeling of belonging, whether you are a Toulouse native or a visitor, encouraging you to sit alongside one another on the terraces of the cafés or at pop-up Guinguette bistros that spring up at the water’s edge in summer.
Among the many traditions that bring so much colour and charm to the Ville Rose, it is worth singling out the Violet of Toulouse that has given the city its nickname of « City of Violets » and is used to enhance a number of classic and less typical flavours: crystallised flower petals, bonbons, liqueurs, teas/infusions, chocolates, mustard… which should be enjoyed without prejudice and without moderation.
Another essential dish, whatever the season, is the famous cassoulet toulousain. In order to clear up any arguments with our neighbouring cities concerning its origins, let us be clear that there are 3 varieties based on Tarbes beans: the Cassoulet de Castelnaudary “the Father“, the Cassoulet de Carcassonne “the Son“ and the Cassoulet de Toulouse “the Holy Spirit“!
The one from the Ville Rose is undoubtedly the most gourmet, but all of them coincide on one key point: they are cooked in a Cassole (the dish that gives it its name) for a long time, over a low heat, and it is important to break the crust that forms on the cassoulet seven times in order to guarantee the excellence of the dish.
In Toulouse, the humourists of Les Chevaliers du Fiel have been organising a contest since 2016 that is officially entitled the “World Championship of the Cassoulet de Toulouse“. Foodies might like to know that in 2017 the restaurant Emile took home the title (www.restaurant-emile. com). Whilst you can find a Cassoulet on any restaurant menu, some like Genty Magre or Le Colombier remain firm favourites.
Nobody would be able to concoct a good Cassoulet Toulousain without the aromas and flavours of the véritable Toulouse sausage, inextricably linked to the Ville Rose since the 18th Century. The red label that it was awarded in 1992 is designed to give consumers a guarantee of its superior quality, having been made to a very specific recipe. It can be enjoyed grilled or confit. Presented in a spiral, it is sold by weight: so we always refer to THE sausage.
Not so well-known, the wines of Toulouse promise to take your taste buds to new horizons, which are sometimes exotic! Toulouse is actually the only major city in France that cultivates its own vineyards.
Something of a secret, the Domaine de Candie is the agricultural estate that has belonged to the city of Toulouse since 1976. It includes a château from the Middle Ages (listed as a historic monument since 2001) and stretches across more than 200 hectares of farmed land (wheat, barley, soya…). Since 2017 the estate has been producing a range of organic grape juices and wines from the regional grape varieties: Sauvignon, Merlot, Négrette…Vinification and bottling of the Comté Tolosan wines is carried out at the château’s own winery.
Just a few kilometres from Toulouse, between the Tarn and the Garonne, the wines of Fronton (www.vins-de-fronton. com) invite you to discover their local grape variety known as La Négrette, which makes them so original: the name stems from its black colour and it has characteristic aromas of dark fruits, violet, red fruits, liquorice and peppery notes.
In the heart of this wine region that has been AOC listed since 1975, the Château de Capdeville houses the Maison des Vins de Fronton: the ideal place in which to get advice for a personalised wine route. Here you can buy and sample wines from some 40 passionate wine producers that open their doors to you, admire art exhibitions or picnic in the park. In January 2018, the vineyards of the South-West, including Fronton, were officially awarded the title Best Wine Region of 2017 by Wine Enthusiast magazine
DID YOU KNOW ?
The perfect showcase for the wines of the South-West, Toulouse is brimming with wine cellars and wine bars, including the N°5 Wine Bar that is officially the Best Wine Bar in the World 2017 and is absolutely worth exploring. For lovers of cocktails, we would recommend a Kir with violet liqueur, a glass of Quinquina at the famous Père Louis or even the region’s local aperitif, known as “Le Pousse Rapière“ (based on Armagnac liqueur and flavoured with bitter orange).
In Toulouse you will notice the many different sweet treats that have been created by pastry chefs or chocolatiers, inspired by the icons of Toulouse. – The Brique du Capitole (flaky caramel slice with a hazelnut heart), the Pavé du Capitole (chocolates created by Maison Pillon and listed as “Specialities of France“ because of their quality), the bonbons in the shape of Tarbes beans that recall those used in a Cassoulet (white chocolate with caramelised cashew nuts)…without forgetting the indomitable Lajaunie cashew (with a liquorice base and flavoured with English mint, invented in 1880 by a pharmacist). The oldest sweet speciality, however, dates back to the Roman era and is known as Fénétra, a pastry made with almonds, apricot and confit lemons. Typical of the cuisine of Occitanie, this gateau is traditionally wrapped in a red ribbon and can be sampled in its purest form at a number of Toulouse boutiques or reinvented by Michelin star chef Yannick Delpech at his concept patisserie Sandyan
A place where multiple regional flavours meet, the Ville Rose is brimming with tempting and appealing markets. Everyone appreciates the markets, their welcoming and convivial atmospheres, bursting with colour and aromas. But who knows their history?
In Toulouse, since the start of the XIX Century, they have evolved alongside the town itself. From construction to demolition, from renovations to improvements, they recount 200 years of urban history that passers-by, locals and tourists can enjoy by strolling around them from Tuesday to Sunday.
Among the 35 food markets and fairs, open-air or under cover, that take place weekly, some in particular hold a special place in the hearts of the people of Toulouse.
Among the many outdoor markets, we should mention the popular Cristal market situated on the Grands Boulevards, the more intimate Esparcette market that has been devoted to organic produce for more than 30 years and is held at the foot of the Donjon du Capitole (Tuesday and Saturday morning/
www.marchebiotoulouse.org), or even the very prestigious Sunday market of Saint-Aubin around the beautiful church with its bourgeois-bohemian spirit that brings together a number of producers, artisan designers, musicians, flower sellers and live poultry!
All around the markets, some veritable institutions will arouse your curiosity: delicatessen and coffee roasters Café Bacquier who infuse the neighbourhood with rich aromas, cheesemonger and maturer Xavier whose owner François Bourgon was awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France title and presents his own creation: the Pavé Toulousain can be taken home as a souvenir to sample at home.
Travelling with children? Nothing could be more pleasant! Toulouse is tailor-made to seduce families thanks to its wide range of tourist offers. Whether it is finding the perfect accommodation (barge, guest house, hotel with facilities for children and games available), playing at being an adventurer as you explore the skies, navigate along the River Garonne or Canal de Midi, explore inventions in the Science quarter, uncover historical gems or heritage, welcome to Toulouse!
Heritage, monuments and museums In Toulouse, all of the city’s major attractions offer a host of quirky details that allow youngsters to explore heritage in a fun way alongside their parents:
– Le Capitole : find your star sign on the Occitan Cross, marvel at the reception rooms, admire the paintings at the Galerue, make the most of the playground in Le Donjon and take a photo next to the statue of Claude Nougaro.
-The Jacobins Convent : be astounded by the surprising Palm Tree, have fun and laugh with the medieval Rigol’héros (a new cultural game available on tablet), share in the workshops of Petit Meschin or play at being a builder in the Middle Ages.
-The Hôtel d’Assézat : family visits and storytelling (from 4 years) combining make-believe with art and architecture.
–Le Muséum de Toulouse : the 2nd largest in France! Stroll through the botanical gardens and exotic greenhouses, discover the fun and innovative museum displays of the 2 million objects that make up the collection (fauna, flora, prehistory, ritualistic or societal objects…) displayed over 6,000m2, take part in numerous workshops with instructors, observe nature and visit the annexe dedicated to Vegetable Gardens of the World and the pond in the Parc de la Maourine…
–Le Quai des savoirs : discover this space of meetings and exhibitions based on the sciences, with an activity zone and games aimed at children under 7 years of age, the Quai des Petits.
-The espace EDF Bazacle : wander around an old hydroelectric plant, enjoy the interactive exhibitions, the fish ladder and the large terrace overlooking the River Garonne
-Don’t forget the other museums that offer entertainment aimed at families and housed in buildings that are well worth a look: the Musée Saint-Raymond (museum of antiques listed as a “Musée Joyeux!“ that shakes up the concept of a museum and offers a humorous way to explore Roman myths), Les Abattoirs (modern and contemporary art), Les Augustins (fine-arts), the Musée Georges-Labit (Asian and ancient Egyptian arts), the Musée Paul-Dupuy (precious art), MATOU (posters)
In Toulouse, remarkable heritage transforms into sites that have been converted in order to give rise to new and original venues.
– The old abattoirs of the city, built in the XIX Century in the Saint-Cyprien quarter, now house a museum of modern art and the region’s contemporary art fund: Les Abattoirs (www.lesabattoirs.org).
– The Hôtel d’Assézat, constructed in 1555 by a rich textile industrialist that made his fortune in the pastel trade, is the most remarkable mansion house in Toulouse. It was entirely renovated to house the thousand or so works of the Bemberg Foundation, belonging to an Argentinian merchant. Wandering through the rooms in a Renaissance and XVIII Century style, follow an artistic trail touching on Western art from the late Middle Ages to the XX Century (www.fondation-bemberg.fr).
– The Halle aux Grains was built in 1861 to manage the trade in cereal crops transported along the Canal du Midi that flows behind the building. It was transformed into a sports pavilion in 1952, before becoming the headquarters of the
Capitole National Orchestra in 1974 (www.onct.toulouse.fr/ halle-auxgrains).
– Le Bazacle on the banks of the Garonne housed the city’s mills in the XII Century. In the XIV Century its owners, pioneers of capitalism, established the world’s first ever joint-stock company here. In 1888, the Grand Moulin du Bazacle was converted into a hydro-electric plant by the Société Toulousaine d’Electricité who illuminated the city of Toulouse. EDF took over the property in 1946. This major hybrid site of the EDF Foundation offers free exhibitions, whilst in the basement the turbines of the hydroelectric plant are still in use.
– Le Château d’eau is the city’s water tower on the banks of the Garonne and was transformed into a municipal gallery dedicated to the photography of Jean Dieuzaide (www.galeriechateaudeau.org).
– Le théâtre Garonne, a European-level stage that was built in the mid-XIX Century, was established within the former pumping station for the waters of the River Garonne that is typical of the industrial architecture of Toulouse of the XIX Century.
Southern city featuring Spanish accents and Italian facades,Toulouse cultivates fiercly its own Occitan identity. “Pays de cocagne“ thanks to the pastel flower, it’s blue gold in the Renaissance, Toulouse will invite you to tango to a tune by Carlos Gardel, the native singer of the city. And so it will proffer a bouquet of violets, a Bel Canto air, a song by Claude Nougaro, the best of its culinary know-how –the famous cassoulet– and, of course, a rugby ball.
The Occitan cross, also known as the Toulouse Cross or Languedoc Cross, is a Greek cross made up of 12 branches representing the 12 months of the year, the 12 hours of the day or the 12 signs of the zodiac. Today it is the emblem of the city and of the Midi-Pyrénées region. A huge Occitan Cross made by Raymond Moretti extends across the Place du Capitole, illustrating the people of Toulouse’s attachment to their Occitan roots (www.toulouse-tourisme.com/lecapitole)
Brick and terracotta decor Since its introduction as a building material by the Romans, the brick gives Toulouse its pretty nickname of pink city. During its cooking, it is tinged with colored reflections, ranging from pink to orange, from red to purple depending on the daylight, combining in a shades that offers Toulouse a seductive and warm atmosphere.
In 1831, the Virebent brothers (sons of the chief architect of the city of Toulouse) filed a patent that revolutionized the manufacture of bricks, making it easy to create cornices, ledges and beautiful caryatids to adorn the facades, sometimes in « trompe-l’oeil » giving the illusion of the stone.
Jean-Baptiste Giscard, former foreman of the Virebent manufacture, created his own establishment in 1855 and, to show his sculptor’s know-how and has decorated his own house. Nowadays all these elements delight walkers and art lovers in the center of Toulouse and around the Château de Launaguet.
Toulouse Capital of Occitania
At the crossroads between the Languedoc and Gascony, Toulouse is at the heart of Occitania. In the Middle Ages, Southern France (the “Midi”), which stretches from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean and from the Pyrenees to the Alps, shared a common identity and culture and even the same language. Long forsaken, the “langue d’Oc” dialect, reappeared in the 1950s with the recognition of regional differences. In the city center of Toulouse, street signs and announcements in the metro are all bilingual and thus constantly recall the historical legacy.
The little flower that has been cultivated in Toulouse since 1854 is a cousin of the fragrant Parma violet, but one which only flowers in winter.
This variety, which does not produce any seeds but rather reproduces by means of runners ( like strawberry plants), has become a speciality of market gardeners in the north of Toulouse, who established a “cooperative of violet and onion producers” in 1908. They in turn supplied around 600 producers that sent up to 600,000 bouquets per year by train throughout the whole of Europe before experiencing a downturn…
Nowadays, we can only find around ten producers. Under threat from years of propagation through cuttings, new hybrid plants have been readied in-vitro by the Chamber of Agriculture, with the help of the city of Toulouse. 130 international types of violet are preserved in beautiful municipal greenhouses and are exhibited every year at the start of February in the Place du Capitole during the Fête de la Violette.
The Berdoues company has been making a perfume from violets since 1936 in Cugnaux, the Benoît Serres company produces 15,000 bottles of violet liqueur for two generations in Villefranchede-Lauragais and the crystallised flowers, sold in sweet shops since the XIX Century (produced in Toulouse most notably by Candiflor), are still popular today, to be enjoyed on the Maison de la Violette barge, for example (boutique/exhibition venue/tea room), which is moored on the Canal du Midi
Pastel, blue gold of the “Pays de cocagne“
Used for dyeing and as a medicinal plant since Antiquity the pastel Isatis tinctoria was cultivated to pre-industrial levels during the Renaissance in the Lauragais, between Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne.
Its blue pigment, obtained from pounding the dried leaves of this small yellow flower in mills, was exported throughout the whole of Europe and used as a dye for textiles. Having earned a fortune, the pastel merchants had sumptuous private mansions built in Toulouse. The dried balls of pastel, known as “coques” in the Lauragais language, would form the basis of the legendary “Pays de Cocagne”.
This flourishing commerce was ended by competition from indigo, or “Chinese pastel”, that was cultivated in India. Pastel production slowly started to re-emerge in the region and its curative properties began to attract the interest of the cosmetics industry (remember: the Graine de Pastel brand has won several awards) and of artisan craftsmen (dyeing, prêt- à-porter, decorations).
A stone’s throw from the centre of Toulouse, the Cité de l’Espace is the gateway to the Universe. Explore space in an original manner thanks to 2,500 m2 of interactive exhibitions. Train like an astronaut with a moon walk simulator and rotational seat, and then discover the life size space rockets in the gardens. With the IMAX® 3D cinema on a giant screen and and the next generation interactive planetarium in place since 2017, you will become special guests on a journey to the edge of the cosmos.
The “Cité de l’Espace” celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2017 and has since July a planetarium of the latest generation. In addition, negotiations are currently underway to purchase the spacecraft Soyuz. This brought Astronaut Thomas Pesquet back to Earth after his Proxima mission.
Built in the style of a plane’s fuselage, this 7,000 m2 edifice dedicated to the history of aviation houses an exceptio- nal collection: iconic aircraft, scale models,
a large historic fresco… Step aboard some legendary aircraft: Concorde, an Airbus A300B with a glass floor or even the Super Guppy. Interactive themed spaces also await you: build an airplane, discover what happens behind the scenes on a flight, delve into aeronautical archaeology and try the brand new A380 flight simulator. There are visits for everyone, independent, guided or video-guided, covering the techniques, sociological themes and history
The aeronautical destiny of Toulouse was set as early as 1890, when Clément Ader, originally from the nearby town of Muret, invented « Eole », the very first motor vehicle with propeller in the form of a bat; known nowadays as an airplane. It was during the First World War in 1917 that this story really took off, when Latécoère, the very first airplane manufacturers in France, began to look for premises for a factory far from the front line so that it could deliver Salmson military aircraft to meet the orders of the State.
Toulouse, situated in the heart of the South-West of France and far from the fighting, was selected as their base of operations. 800 military aircraft were supplied from here by Latécoère up until the Armistice. Following the War, the company moved into commercial aviation with the establishment of Lignes Aériennes Latécoère (LAL) in the Montaudran quarter.
Toulouse became the main base for international airlines serving France, West Africa and South America; the starting point for France’s longest air route. Latécoère Airlines, which was succeeded in 1927 by Aéropostale, began by transporting mail, followed later by freight and finally, from 1920 onwards, the very first passengers. This company and the history of the city will forever be inextricably linked with the names of famous pilots and their legendary exploits; Mermoz, Guillaumet, Saint Exupéry.
Situated in Toulouse, on the historic Montaudran site from which the earliest pioneers of civil aviation took off, Toulouse Aerospace is a new genre of district that spans 56 hectares: a place in which to live and work, but also one of culture and, thanks to Innovation Campus, a hub of industry and research that sits at the cutting edge of innovation and focuses on the aeronautics, space and on-board systems sectors
La Halle La Machine
A great 6,000m² contemporary hall whose roof is built in the form of aircraft wings and is designed by architect Patrick Arotcharen, this vast space will be devoted to street arts that blend invention and technology. La Halle will house around 150 mechanical machines, a project by artist François Delarozière who is
already well-known for his impressive works in Nantes. In Toulouse, a giant Minotaur will head out to meet visitors and passers-by on the former runway
that stretches for 2km. More than 250,000 visitors are expected
La Piste des Géants aviation museum
This space dedicated to the memory of the pioneers of the Latécoère and Aéropostale airlines, as well as the Montaudran quarter – the cradle of aeronautics in Toulouse – will host a permanent exhibition covering more than 1,000m². It will offer an immersion into the adventure of these pioneers and a chance to discover the history of the site itself.
The Airline Gardens
Situated along the former Aéropostale runway, the 3-hectare gardens present the ambiance of all 3 continents crossed by these aviators. It is a way to relive the adventures of the pioneers of aeronautics, featuring 8 different landscapes and varying environments that range from Toulouse to Valparaiso in Chile. These gardens also include children’s playgrounds, rest areas and interactive terminals that inform visitors and explore the various countries, creating an enjoyable experience to be shared with all the family.
The basilica of Saint-Sernin
Listed as a Unesco World Heritage site as a major stop on the way of St. James, the basilica was built from the 11th to the 14th century. It is one of the largest
Romanesque churches in Europe. It is characterized by a portly architecture and a rich sculpted decor. The relic’s treasure of this main pilgrimage church is shown along the saint bodies’ ambulatory trail and the two level crypt.
The former Hotel-Dieu gave shelter in the 12th century to paupers, orphans and St. James pilgrims. Within its walls, two museums are dedicated to history and medical instruments.
On the Way of St. James
In the 9th century, a star revealed the site of the remains of St. James the Apostle. Since then, millions of pilgrims have walked to Compostela.
In Toulouse, vibrant city of science, festivals are held throughout the year. Cosmopolitan and Latin American, its cultural life gives free rein to creativity and
emerging new trends in arts, music and gastronomy.
Fête de la violette
Every year in February, during the flowering season of this highly-perfumed little flower, the Festival de la Violette is organised by Les Amis de la Violette.
The violet is the emblematic flower of Toulouse, and has been cultivated by the market gardeners in the north of the city since the 19th century. Nowadays,
“La Violette de Toulouse” is a registered trademark, to be found on a wide variety of products (sweets, perfume, liqueur, etc.) and offers an excellent reason
to celebrate as well as to explore Toulouse – the City of Violets!
Siestes Électroniques (festival of electro music)
Siestes Électroniques is a festival in Toulouse devoted to emerging cultures, a niche event with great heart that, since its creation in the Ville Rose, has been taken to Paris and other major cities across Europe. The concept? Musical discoveries in a relaxed ambiance, stretching out across the lawns of the Compans
Caffarelli public gardens.
July – August – Toulouse d’été
The Toulouse Summer Festival turned into the unavoidable Toulouse summer musical meeting place. Combining heritage and creation, it displays a music wandering through the most typical places of interest of the city, but also through its most unusual sites, where some confirmed and ready to become famous artists are sharing the show. From classical to jazz music, with worldwide music in between, rock music or songs, over fifty special events are shown to invent or re-invent the various music.
Tramway links to the city centre
T2 line: Airport – Palais-de-justice. Connections with the metro at Arènes and Palais-de-justice stations.
Frequency: every 15 minutes. Journey time: 30 minutes.
Bus links to the city centre
Tisséo Airport Shuttle
Journey time: 20 Minutes
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