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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

Population:
438000 (2006)
Latitude:
43.606132
Longitude:
1.443354

Featured Hotels

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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.

Pullman Toulouse Centre

Bright, light and modern, the Pullman Toulouse Centre is a business hotel that throws in a bit of style for weekend travellers. With funky scarlet chairs, white walls and elegant vases, it's a breath of fresh air. Don't confuse it with the Pullman Toulouse Blagnac, which is out by the airport.

Hôtel des Arts

Not to be confused with the substantially more upmarket Hôtel des Beaux Arts, this one may not have the glitz and glamour but it still has a great location. Just off Place St Georges, one of the most romantic parts of Toulouse, it's also within walking distance of the river.

Hôtel des Beaux Arts

For a room with an unforgettable view of Toulouse's Pont Neuf illuminated at night, try the Hôtel des Beaux Arts. The building itself has an 18th-century façade and a busy yet brilliant brasserie downstairs. Rooms somehow combine modern animal print cushions with a romantic charm from days gone by.

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.