City Breaks

A city guide to Toulouse

From the world's first photography museum to a stunning cathedral, get ready to explore this magnificent city at your leisure.

Packed with things to see and do, Toulouse is one of our favourite holiday destinations in the south of France and full of surprises. Pretty pink houses earned this city the nickname ‘La Ville Rose’ and there’s so much to see you’ll want to spend plenty of time here.

Where is Toulouse?

Toulouse is in the south of France in the Occitanie region and is the capital of the department of Haute-Garonne. It is the fourth-largest city in France, sitting on the banks of the River Garonne.

Driving to Toulouse from Calais

The drive to Toulouse is around 9 hours, so we recommend a stop in Orléans if you have the time. From Eurotunnel Le Shuttle it's 415km (about 4 hours driving time) to Orléans, following the A1, and changing to the A10 once you pass the outskirts of Paris. From Orléans it's around 4 hours and 54 minutes driving time to Toulouse, heading south on the A7.

Man in blue t shirt sitting in a green park next to a river with a large arched stone bridge with a city in the distance behind trees

The history of Toulouse

Located in the largest French department of the Midi-Pyrénées region, Toulouse is an ancient city with origins in around the 8th century BC. You’ll see remains of many historic periods, from Roman to Visigoth all the way to today’s pink facades. If you have the chance to book a guided tour, they are well worth your time.

Things to do in Toulouse

This is a city filled with culture, particularly for lovers of the arts. Plan some visits to these attractions to get the most from your stay.

Visit Muséum de Toulouse

Located in the Busca Monplaisir district of the city, known for its beautiful Art Nouveau residences, Museum de Toulouse houses a collection of more than 2.5 million items, and has some 3,000 square metres of exhibition space, with a focus on the relationship between man and nature.

Cité de l’Espace theme park

Whether you're travelling with children or enjoy all things space, this is a must-see. Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry and La Cité de l'Espace is where simulations, model satellites, and an IMAX cinema answer all the questions you may have about space exploration and technology. Wander through an impressive array of interactive exhibits and features, but be sure to book your ticket in advance, especially for any events.

red Japanese-style bridge over tranquil water surrounded by trees and grassy lawn

Take a stroll in Jardin Japonais

Created to reflect the 14th and 16th century gardens in Kyoto Japan, this peaceful space is a real treat for your senses after a busy day in the city. Nestled in the heart of the Compans-Caffarelli park, the Pierre Baudis Japanese garden is free to enter and holds a dry garden, turtle island, a tea pavilion, and a planted garden composed of a dry waterfall.

Walk or cycle the tow path beside the Canal du Midi

Just one of France’s beautiful canals, Canal du Midi is known as ‘the canal of two seas’ as it connects the Atlantic to the Mediterranean Sea. Along its banks are lush vineyards and historical sites including Roman fortress Carcassonne and Chateau Comal, built in the 12th century.

Take a trip on the Garonne

The Garonne river flows via Toulouse towards Bordeaux, where it meets the Gironde estuary, ending in the Atlantic Ocean at the Bay of Biscay. You can book a boat ride from a few companies with plenty of significant buildings on either bank of the river such as the Notre-Dame de la Daurade or the Chapelle Saint-Joseph de la Grave which are as beautiful as they are imposing.

Gothic stone building with a tall tower looming up into the blue sky

Tourist attractions & sightseeing

You’re spoilt for choice in Toulouse for attractions, but here are some our favourites to get your adventure started.

Basilique Saint-Sernin

Built between the 11th and 14th centuries in honour of Saint Sernin, the first bishop of the city, be sure to visit the crypts which hold the enamel reliquary of the True Cross in the form of a sarcophagus.

Place du Capitole

This is Toulouse's magnificent main square in the heart of the city. The impressive façade of the Capitole (city hall) sits along one side while the Théâtre du Capitole, one of France's most prestigious opera venues, is on another. To the south is the city's Vieux Quartier (Old Quarter), its lanes filled with cafes, shops, and restaurants.

long boats on a canal covered with an archway of trees in autumnal colours with a cyclist riding into the distance

Fondation Bemberg

This museum brings together masterpieces from the Renaissance and Impressionist eras housed in the most beautiful mansion house of the city, the Hotel d'Assézat. Admission is free unless you would like a guided tour.

Musée Saint-Raymond

This is both a museum and an archaeological site with an entrance through a small garden, just opposite the Basilica of Saint Sernin. You’ll find objects found in Toulouse and surrounding areas, numerous sculptures, and a basement which is an entire archaeological site featuring part of the Saint Sernin graveyard, a lime kiln, sarcophagi, and a gallery of epigraphs.

Church of the Jacobins

This Gothic stone building in the city centre is elaborately decorated inside with trompe l’oeil and soaring pillars. It houses the remains of St. Thomas Aquinas, philosopher, doctor, and priest. A little tip, behind him, to the left, there is a column on a square base which appears to be crushing a small figure, you can only see the hands and feet. So far no one can explain what this means!

Musée des Augustins

This fine arts museum holds a collection of sculptures and paintings from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. The paintings are from throughout France, but the sculptures represent the Occitanie region and feature artists from Toulouse itself.

Large room covered in paintings from floor to ceiling with golden frames and wood panelling

Toulouse Cathedral

This unusual Gothic building appears a little lopsided as it is made from two incomplete churches, it’s even known as the ‘unfinished cathedral’. The main entrance features elaborate Gothic stonework, while the rest is simpler. Stop and enjoy light filtering through the stained-glass windows as it is some of the oldest in Toulouse from the late 13th century. You’ll also see beautiful tapestries from the 16th to 18th centuries.

Musée Georges Labit

Housed inside a Moorish style villa, here you’ll find Asian art that spans three millenia. Highlights include the large exhibit of Egyptian antiquities including a burial chamber with a mummy and a sarcophagus and the gardens filled with Asian and Mediterranean plants.

Chapelle des Carmélites

One of the most charming examples of 17th century Gothic architecture, the Chapelle des Carmélites was founded by King Louis XIII and his wife Anne of Austria. Every inch of the place is covered in exquisite paintings and Baroque embellishments, even the ceilings.

Start your Toulouse adventure with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle

It’s worth mentioning that Toulouse hosts many wonderful events throughout the year too, two of which we touch upon in other guides. The two week Toulouse à Table festival celebrates all things food in September and a wonderful Christmas market appears each December.

Get started with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle which can take you from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes. From there, Toulouse awaits.

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