Do you have a free weekend and fancy a change of scenery to enjoy the beautiful long summer days? Come and explore Toulouse for a couple of days. The capital of France’s southwestern Occitania region, a city of art and history also makes a great starting point for country excursions... or an adventure in space! Here’s our quick guide.
Drop off your bags at the hotel Campanile Toulouse Ouest – Purpan. 10 minutes from the airport, 6 km from the city centre and easily accessible from the A624, the hotel makes an excellent base for exploring Toulouse and its surroundings.
Why not start out in the heart of old Toulouse? You’ll soon see why they call it the Pink City – lots of buildings have pinkish terracotta bricks, whose warm colours give this city a unique vibe. It’s a heritage shared by many of Toulouse’s most historic monuments, including some of the must-sees:
The Capitole, symbol of Toulouse
This is Toulouse’s most iconic building. For centuries past, the Capitole has been the city’s beating heart. Toulouse’s Town Hall is housed within these distinctive pink stone walls.
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin – Toulouse’s most exalted church
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin is a medieval masterpiece, designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A huge Romanesque edifice with a pink stone exterior and very light-coloured stone inside, this church is especially famous for its high vaulted ceilings.
Occitanian treasures at the Jacobin Convent
The Jacobin Convent displays the same characteristic pink brick colour, but here the architecture is Gothic. It’s a masterpiece of France’s Gothique méridional style, with beautiful cloisters, a double nave church, columns, and a stunning 28-metre-high palm tree vault!
Saint-Etienne Cathedral – The foundations of Toulouse’s history
Built on ancient ruins dating back to the 5th century, Saint-Etienne Cathedral – also known as St Stephen’s – is one of the city’s oldest landmarks. This imposing edifice is an unexpected mixture of Gothic and Romanesque architecture, with a great many stained-glass windows.
Stay in the city centre to discover another facet of Toulouse's cultural wealth – its many museums. From classical or medieval art to contemporary works, there’s something for every taste!
Saint-Raymond Museum shines a light on Toulouse archaeology
A stone's throw from the Basilica of Saint-Sernin lies Toulouse’s Archaeology Museum. Don’t let the name fool you! Although it’s dedicated to understanding long-ago eras, its original exhibitions and scenography are totally attuned to the modern visitor.
The Bemberg Foundation – Chronicling the rise of the Pink City
The Bemberg Foundation provides a panorama of Western Art, through paintings and decorative arts, from the end of the Middle Ages to the turn of the 20th century. It is housed in the Hôtel d'Assézat, one of Toulouse’s most opulent private town houses dating back to the Renaissance era.
Les Abattoirs, Toulouse's leading contemporary art venue
Toulouse’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is housed in the city’s former abattoirs. If you hate to feel crowded when you visit museums, this place is perfect for you! With around 3,000 m2 of floor area, there’s plenty of room to wander around at your leisure.
Wild creatures in the heart of Toulouse at the Museum of Natural History
When you step into the Museum of Natural History’s entrance hall, the first sight to greet your eyes is an enormous flying dinosaur skeleton! It’s a great introduction to a collection of over two million objects, displayed in this museum’s modern, interactive spaces, scientific laboratories and botanical gardens.
The next stop, right nearby, is the Jardin des Plantes. An ancient botanical garden used by medical students, it’s now a public garden harbouring over a hundred plant species. It’s also the green lung of Toulouse’s historic centre!
After some time meandering the Pink City’s maze of narrow streets, raise your sights to immerse yourself in the mysteries of the universe at the Cité de l'Espace, which attracts several hundred thousand visitors every year.
It’s packed with fascinating and fun stuff to do, with activities for all ages: climb inside a life-sized spacecraft, try the moon walk simulator, and experience a simulated flight on board a space shuttle. Get a sense of how Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin must have felt!
Before you take off for the farthest reaches of the cosmos, enjoy more earthly pleasures within close range of the launch pad, with a stay at the Campanile Toulouse Sud Balma – Cité de l’Espace hotel.
Are you yearning for some greenery and some sun? Enjoy all the charm of southwestern France with a stroll, bike ride or boat trip along the beautiful Canal du Midi. A UNESCO World Heritage site famed for its shady plane trees – so typical of the south of France – this 240-km-long waterway was constructed in the second half of the 17th century to link Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea. Take some extra time and stay at the Campanile Toulouse Sud - Labège Innopole hotel, so you can explore a few of the 73 working locks along the canal’s length, especially the ones at Castanet, Vic, and Montgiscard.