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Toulouse Travel Guide

About Toulouse

Feisty and full of history, the southwestern metropolis of Toulouse is one of the most enjoyable cities in France.

It draws nothing like the attention enjoyed by Paris, Marseille and Lyon (the only three French cities which are larger), but it's not always obvious why. Known as La Ville Rose, thanks to the pinkish bricks that dominate much of its older architecture, it's a city with medieval heritage, a world-class aerospace industry and an indelibly proud identity.

This regional pride is partly rooted in the rugby team, one of the most successful in Europe, but it's also shaped by the local cuisine and a roaring cultural scene. It has one of the most sizeable universities in the country, which helps imbue the place with a youthful feel, but the city still clings closely to its past, with bilingual street signs (the Occitan language has its roots in the area), cobbled streets and numerous merchants' towers dating back to the era when Toulouse was made rich by woad production.

Some of the buildings and public spaces around the centre are beautiful. The large Place du Capitole has a striking old town hall and theatre complex with eight columns of marble. Close by, the Saint Sernin Basilica is a soaring example of Romanesque architecture and inscribed on UNESCO's World Heritage List. The city's famous pink bricks, incidentally, are said to originate from the mud of the Garonne River, which flows west of the city centre. The Canal du Midi also cuts through the city.

The Space Museum gives a more cutting-edge flavour to the city's visitor attractions, as does the vast Airbus Factory. But this is still somewhere that prides itself on its traditions, and in a manner typical of the southwest, enjoying life is seen as a priority. Meals tend to be long and hearty, so be sure to sample the local cassoulet, preferably complemented by a glass or two of Cahors wine.

Key facts

438000 (2006)
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Featured Hotels


Le Grand Balcon Hôtel

There's a sense of fun in this 1930s hotel just off Place du Capitole. Fittingly, for a city associated with aerospace, the elegant rooms have a playful aviation theme to its stylish décor. They've even named a suite after one of its best-known guests: Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aviator and Little Prince author.

Hôtel de Brienne

Just a few minutes' walk from the tree-lined Canal de Brienne, this smart design hotel manages to mix sleek contemporary décor with a cosy ambience. The funky restaurant and bar lead on to an attractive garden terrace, and there's plenty of intriguing modern art dotted about the common areas.

Hôtel Héliot

Decorated in a style that perhaps your grandmother would choose, Hôtel Héliot is cosy and comfortable. It's close to the main train station and the Jean Jaurès metro, and even though it's not on the doorstep of Place du Capitole, it's perfectly straightforward to walk there from here.

Hôtel Royal Wilson

Clean and simple, Hôtel Royal Wilson is within walking distance of Toulouse's city centre. With wrought-iron balconies, a Moroccan-style interior courtyard and a whitewashed interior, the décor might come as a pleasant surprise given the price tag. There's also a private garage and a secure lockup for bicycles.

Grand Hôtel de l'Opéra

Right in front of the spectacular Théâtre du Capitole, this luxury hotel is where celebrities stay when in Toulouse. Formerly a 17th-century convent, there's nothing austere about the place now. Each room is individually decorated in hues of deep yellow or red, but all offer old-world charm combined with modern amenities.

Crowne Plaza Hotel

It's a few footsteps away from Place du Capitole, but when you step inside the Crowne Plaza Hotel you feel as though you've entered another world. With marble statues, lush greenery and an outdoor terrace with wrought-iron chairs, this feels more like Italy than France.