If you were coming to Toulouse, this is what I would tell you and where I would take you.
(Click the links to read my posts about each place. If you only have a short time in Toulouse, I’ve marked with an * what you can do in 1 day.)
- Capitole – The Place du Capitole is the heart of Toulouse and a good starting place. Don’t miss going inside the Capitol building! (The tourism office is right behind the Capitol and worth going inside for a map of places to see.) *
- Saint Sernin Basilica – Probably Toulouse’s most famous church and definitely one of the oldest. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. *
- Couvent des Jacobins – Home of the Jacobin monks and final resting place of Thomas Aquinas. This is a must-see for its breathtaking ceiling. *
- St Etienne Cathedral – One of the most architecturally interesting churches I’ve ever been in; it’s really 2 seperate churches combined. The church is in one of the nicest areas of Toulouse.
- Allées François Verdier – This typically Toulousan tree-lined boulevard and green space is right behind the Cathedral and leads to 2 gardens. Worth strolling down on a sunny day.
- St Pierre des Chartreux – This is not a famous church, but I included it because it is by far one of my favorites. If you have the time, it is worth seeing!
- La Garonne – La Garonne is the river that flows through Toulouse. The view of Toulouse from the bridges spanning the river, with the church towers reaching through the trees, is timeless. Walking along the river also provides great views of the Pont Neuf (Toulouse’s famous bridge). The best part about walking along the river is that you will be serenaded the whole way – the young people of Toulouse gather along the river to hang out and play guitar. *
- Musée des Agustins – Housed in an old convent which in itself is beautiful, this art museum is the oldest in France behind the Louvre. There are art and sculptures spanning several centuries.
- Musée Saint Raymond – This museum, across the street from St Sernin, chronicles the Roman past of Toulouse and the region. If you are interested in history, this is a great one. Bonus: English adioguides are free.
- Musée de Vieux Toulouse – This museum is dedicated to the history and identity of La Ville Rose. BUT it’s only open May 2 – Nov 3. Unfortunately I planned to go to museums in the winter, so I missed this one.
The area behind and around Capitole to Esquirol is the main shopping thoroughfare in Toulouse. Notable streets:
Rue d’Alsace Lorraine – A wide, long street filled with endless stores. Monoprix and one of the Zara’s are located here. The Galeries Lafayette is not on this street, but is visible from it.
Rue Saint Rome – The stores are cheaper than the others in this area, but they are lower quality. You can still find some good options however, and if you want cheap but good scarves/hats/gloves, head to the C&A on the corner.
Rue de Metz – This street has bigger department stores and also non-clothing stores.
Place St Etienne – The most upscale shopping in Toulouse is here, such as Louis Vuitton, Longchamp, Christian Lacroix, Montblanc and multiple jewelers.
The area around Carmes is a good place for a unique shopping trip. There are many smaller boutiques scattered around in this area.
Toulouse is a university town, and the almost unbelievable number of bars confirms this. Unfortunately I never got to participate in Toulouse nightlife. (Stuck in the suburbs.) However I can tell you that Place St Pierre, at the end of the St Pierre bridge, is lined with popular bars such as Chez Tonton, many of which are rowdy at noon!
Day / Weekend Trips
- St Cirq Lapopie and Rocamadour – St Cirq is a member of the prestigious Most Beautiful Villages of France. Rocamadour is an ancient site of pilgrimage clinging to a cliff. Both are beautiful and the charming countryside only adds to the trip. Visiting both is doable in 1 weekend.
- Carcassonne – A remarkably well preserved, walled Medieval town. Also a UNESCO World Heritage sight. If you want to time travel, come here!
- Albi – A beautiful little town with one of the most stunning cathedrals in all of France.
- Visit my Where I’ve Been page to see more!
Getting there: If you don’t have a French boyfriend willing to drive you around to these places, don’t fret. There are trains to Carcassone and Albi. For St Cirq and Rocamadour, there are plenty of tourism agencies that take tour buses there (although you will be surrounded by gray hair). If that doesn’t sound like your kind of thing, then you can rent a car.
Toulouse has an extensive metro, train, tram, and bus system. There is also Toulouse Velib, the ride and leave bicycle program popular in Paris.
If you will be staying 2 months or more, I recommend getting a Carte Pastel. It’s a personal card that can be purchased at the bigger metro stops that for only €10 a month gives you unlimited rides on the metro, tram and buses. Quite a deal!! It’s €30 for the first month and you have to bring a government approved headshot (don’t worry, these photo booths are everywhere), but it’s really worth it.
For more information: http://www.tisseo.fr/les-tarifs/obtenir-une-carte-pastel
I’m here to tell the world the truth about Toulouse’s weather! It’s cool in late August (pants, jacket and scarf) and very cold in the winter. (I’m just telling you my personal experience. Everyone assures me that this is “unseasonable”. But it’s been “unseasonable” for 4 months now…) It rains frequently in the Fall and can be very windy – the public parks close because of wind. If you’re coming during the late Aug-Dec time frame, leave your shorts at home.
(Tip: Toulouse inhabits this weird, impermeable bubble impenetrable by weather-gauging instruments. I check the weather on the Weather Channel and French Meteo, but both are always off. If you are checking the temperature in Farenheit, subtract around 6 degrees. If there is a 20% chance of rain, it will definitely rain.)
If you are planning on visiting Toulouse or will be living here, please don’t hesitate to ask me any questions! I can also answer questions on Paris and travelling around Southwest France. Leave a comment!