Our tips for a day trip to Toulouse
We love Toulouse ! It’s a really wonderful city, full of history and surprising discoveries. Toulouse is also called ” La ville rose”, i.e. the pink city, because of the color of its bricks, which turn pink at nightfall. Below you’ll find all the information you need to plan your day trip to Toulouse. Evening walks along the Garonne are an absolute must but even during the day, Toulouse has a lot to offer:
Things you really must see
You can’t really claim to have visited Toulouse if you haven’t seen:
- the place du Capitole, which is the square that holds the city hall. The Toulouse Capitol is a stunning building. On the first floor, you’ll find the Salle des Illustres, which is covered in impressionnist paintings. This is the room local Toulousains get married in. The square in front of the Capitole has the Cathar cross on it, along with signs of the zodiac. The game is to find your own sign first, but you can also decide to have your morning coffee in one of the surrounding bars and restaurants. On the other side of the building, you’ll find the Donjon, which hosts the local tourist office. People there are always happy to hand you a city map or give more information about guided tours.
- the Saint Sernin basilica is just one street away from the Capitole, so it would be a shame to miss out. Saint Sernin is the patron saint of Toulouse and the building that bears his name is a beautiful example of roman art. It even holds a crypt with ancient relics.
- to get a great view of Toulouse rooftops, go to the Galéries Lafayette (4-8 rue Lapeyrouse) and head to the top floor. Once you’re on the roof, you get a great 360° view of the pink city’s rooftops. If the construction workers are done by then, you may even enjoy a drink or lunch while doing so.
- the Saint Etienne Cathedral is my personal favorite. This very imposing building was built in several stages but nobody seemed to be able to agree on how to finish it properly. The result leaves one wondering. The altar is absolutely splendid but located at such a distance from churchgoers that it’s hard for them to get a view of what’s going on. Don’t miss this one if you’re into historical oddities.
- the Assézat Hotel is actually not a hotel but it gives you a beautiful example of the architectural gems that are hidden behind those huge carriage doors in Toulouse. It’s located close to place Esquirol and dates back from the Renaissance period. The Assezat Hotel also hosts the Bemberg foundation, a museum of mainly impressionist paintings.
Shopping in Toulouse
If shopping isn’t really your thing, just move on to the next chapter, which is likely to suit you better. However, if shopping is on your to-do list, you’ll be happy to spend some time in:
- the rue Alsace Lorraine, which is Toulouse’s main shopping street. It holds all the brands you generally find in big French cities. The street is car free to make your shopping trip more pleasurable. It can get quite busy there, so you may want to skip Saturdays if you want to avoid the crowds.
- the little streets that run around place Saint Georges and lead to place St Etienne. Here you’ll find more exclusive boutiques but the price tag is also a little heavier.
- the streets around place des Carmes contain quite a number of unusual shops with surprising finds.
- If you’re looking to bring some local things back home, don’t forget to add pastel-based products and violets to your shopping list:
- pastel is what made Toulouse rich during the middle ages. At the time, it was one of the rare plants able to dye cloth blue. Demand was very high until indigo was discovered in Asia. After that, the Toulouse pastel economy basically collapsed but pastel has recently made a come-back. All around the city center, you’ll find pastel shops with pastel-dyed clothing or beauty products based on pastel extracts.
- the Toulouse violet is a violet variety that was brought back to life in the 1990s. It’s used in perfume, jam, liquor… You’ll also find sugar-coated violets which can add a fancy touch to your apéro later on.
Where to eat and have a drink
- Even though the place Saint Georges is the former executioners’ square, it’s a very nice place to sit down for a coffee, a drink or to have lunch. The Wallace is a local institution, with great food and drinks.
- Don’t let the ugly car parc of the place des Carmes turn you off. This square has a lovely bustling atmosphere, with little tapas bars and unusual restaurants for all tastes and budgets. Our current favorites are Le Bar du Matin and Le Bar du Quartier Latin.
- The place Saint Pierre is a favorite student hangout. Last year, the city of Toulouse welcomed over 100,000 students, so they’re basically everywhere. Take a digestive evening walk along the Garonne river while heading over to the place Saint Pierre. The Chez Tonton bar is another local institution: they serve pastis by the meter if you’re up for it and don’t have to drive (just saying).
These quick tips should easily fill your day trip to Toulouse. It goes without saying that many other local spots are well worth a visit, too, so don’t hesitate to contact us for more information on things to do around our vacation home.