7 reasons you should be tempted by Toulouse

James March

James March

Set on the serpentine Garonne River and characterised by its clay brick and peach roof architecture, Toulouse's distinct appearance has given it the nickname of France's 'Pink City'. But that colourful characteristic isn't the only reason to explore this historic city in the country's southwest.

The warm hues of the 'Pink City', Toulouse, France
The warm hues of the 'Pink City', Toulouse, France © Ian Dagnall - Alamy Stock Photo

Toulouse* is the heart of France's aviation industry, home to some magnificent wines and a city obsessed with rugby as demonstrated during the 2023 Rugby World Cup. However, its allure goes far beyond the playing field. Here's how to best enjoy France's fourth-largest city.

Getting to Toulouse: find great value flights* and city breaks to Toulouse* with British Airways.

Stroll the Garonne

The Garonne flows for 329 miles from the central Spanish Pyrenees to the Gironde estuary at the port city of Bordeaux, and its banks host joyful summer evenings with some of Toulouse's most cinematic views rising to the west.

Starting from the sublime 17th-century Pont Neuf bridge, the banks taper north towards the Pont Saint-Pierre with locals basking in the warmth, drinking, chatting and dangling their legs over the edge.

Across the western banks, bright fairy lights from the pop-up guinguette restaurants form a flickering web beneath the imposing Dôme de la Grave, while the swirling illuminations on the Ferris wheel next to it lend the scene a psychedelic quality.

Do as the locals do and grab a beer or a bottle of wine from the nearby SPAR and soak it all in.

Take a wine tour

Speaking of wine, the southwest makes some wonderful reds and rosés, with the Fronton variety perhaps the most famous. With its first vines planted by the Romans, Fronton is an old wine production area and its vineyards cover nine square miles around 20 miles north of Toulouse.

Sample historic grape varieties at award-winning Le 5 Wine Bar
Sample historic grape varieties at award-winning Le 5 Wine Bar © Le 5 Wine Bar

The Taste of Toulouse Cheese and Wine Tour is a great introduction to Fronton and a few other local styles like Cahors, Madiran and Gaillac. This leisurely wander through Toulouse's narrow streets also includes a stop at the multi-award-winning Le 5 Wine Bar, twice voted the 'best wine bar in the world'.

Heady accolades aside, it pours over 500 wines by the glass from Toulouse and beyond and is simply a great place to intensify your taste buds.

Learn about the city's air & space history

When sitting on the eastern banks of the Garonne, you'll notice the constant stream of aircraft passing behind the Dôme de la Grave on final approach to Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (and if you're lucky, you'll spot a chunky Beluga).

Aviation giant Airbus is based right here and their Aeroscopia museum is home to some fascinating historic aircraft, including a 1980s' A300 (the company's first commercial jet), the pioneering pre-WWI Blériot XI and two iconic Concordes.

But this ambitious city is also interested in the world above the stratosphere, so head out to Cité de l'espace where its excellent exhibitions on space exploration are perfect for families.

Some of the highlights include full-size lunar modules, a prototype of the Mir space station and an actual chunk of moon rock donated by NASA (it's small but entrancing).

See world-class art for free

The Place du Capitole is a grand square serving as the vast trailhead for most Toulouse visitors' wanderings, but its ostentatious neoclassical Capitole building hides the fabulously ornate (and free to enter) Salle des Illustres.

Make a beeline for the Salle Henri-Martin, a long room filled with large impressionist paintings of evocative local scenes in 19th-century Toulouse.

The grand Place du Capitole, Toulouse, France
The grand Place du Capitole, Toulouse, France © Anibal Trejo - Adobe Stock Image

Built in the 14th century, the Musée des Augustins is a former Augustinian monastery that eventually became one of the oldest museums in France* (opening in 1795).

Its echoing stairwells, high-vaulted chambers and cloistered garden are all charming and free to visit, while the work hanging in its rooms features European painters from the XVII to the XIX centuries, including some big names like Manet, Murillo and Delacroix.

Taste-test the markets

Part of France's gastronomic appeal is its delicious variety of regional cuisine, and Toulouse is no different.

While the brutalist Victor Hugo Market looks a little bleak from the outside, inside it's a glorious cacophony of aromas, sights and sounds.

Be inspired to try something new at Victor Hugo Market
Be inspired to try something new at Victor Hugo Market © Hemis - Alamy Stock Photo

Its approximately 80 stalls overflow with pungent Pavé cheeses, freshly caught fish and stacked rows of local duck products, including goose burgers, duck kebabs and, of course, all manner of fois gras.

Also packed with beautifully prepared food, Les Carmes is another fine covered market that also happens to be surrounded by some excellent wine bars for post-shopping refreshments. Grab an outdoor table at the excellent Maison Sarment and watch the city go by.

Watch a rugby game

Most major airports across Europe will have a club shop for their local football team, but not in Toulouse. At Blagnac Airport, travellers pass by the red and black colours of Stade Toulousain, the city's rugby union team which also happens to be the most successful club in domestic French and European rugby.

The southwest is France's rugby heartland and locals' love for the hard-hitting sport is palpable. If you're in Toulouse outside of its blistering hot summers (not ideal rugby temperatures), then head down to the Stade Ernest-Wallon and watch Les Rouge et Noir in action.

Admire distinctive architecture

Look up. Yes, it's a bit of a travel cliché for those exploring a new city but in Toulouse's case, plenty is waiting to be seen up there.

It's also a chance to dive into the story behind the city's memorable nickname, and a good place to start is the Couvent des Jacobins.

The cloisters at Couvent des Jacobins
The cloisters at Couvent des Jacobins © Prochasson Frederic - Dreamstime.com

One of Toulouse's oldest buildings, it's made entirely of clay bricks (where the pink comes from) and is designed in the Southern French Gothic style. Entry is free and crane your neck up to see the spectacular palm tree-shaped vaulted ceiling inside.

More pink(ish) delights can be found at Basilica of Saint-Sernin, where its pointed-hat bell tower can be seen for miles and looks especially photogenic when framed within the snaking medieval Rue du Taur.

And be sure to look out for the double street signs, written in both French and the local seldom-used language Occitan (often mistakenly thought of as Catalan at first glance).

Climate in Toulouse

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Maximum daytime temperature °C
Hours of sunshine (daily)
Days with some rainfall

The above guide shows the climate in Toulouse. Find out more about conditions across the country in our complete guide to the climate in France.

Ready to discover Toulouse? Browse the latest online offers on flights and holidays from British Airways.

British Airways: Latest offers on flights & holidays worldwide

More about Toulouse

Toulouse by month

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec

James March

James March

Posted on Wednesday 18th October 2023 in: City Culture Europe

Back to top

Explore holidays in the sun for less

More holidays

Airport parking

More parking

Airport lounges

More lounges

Related posts

Back to Travel inspiration Top ^