Toulouse – Welcome to the pink city!
Whether you are into history, shopping, science and technology, sports or all of the above, the pink city (La ville rose) has wonderful surprises waiting for you and there is always something fun or different to do.
Toulouse has a strong cultural heritage: it is a city permeated with the Occitan culture. It has Christian and Catharism influences, was the ancient capital of the Visigoth kingdom and had her golden age during the Renaissance with pastel (a blue plant-based dye). Now, modern Toulouse has become a cradle for world leading aeronautics! All these remarkably different periods have influenced the city heritage and made it truly unique.
Come to the heart of the city and have a little walk on the Capitole square (Place du Capitole) where you will see the city hall and a small, traditional market almost every day. If you look down on the ground, you will notice an Occitane cross and all 12 signs of the zodiac: try to find yours! Near to this square, you can visit The Dominican “couvent des Jacobins” (Jacobins’ convent) which has some beautiful stained-glass windows and a lovely garden. It was created to fight against Catharism and since 1369, there you can also see the relics of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Piano recitals are held in the Church of the Jacobins every year, during the Piano aux Jacobins international festival.
During your time in Toulouse, a visit to the basilica of Saint Sernin, the largest Romanesque church in Europe (and a Unesco world heritage site) is a must! Just three minutes’ walk from the Basilica, you can also find the “Chapelle des carmélites”. This is a small and beautiful chapel with a lot of wonderful paintings – even on the ceiling – because of this it’s considered as the small ‘Sistine Chapel of Toulouse’!
For your lunch break, why not try one of Toulouse’s typical dishes? A little foie gras as a starter, followed by a succulent Cassoulet with some Toulouse sausages as a main. For dessert, you should sample the delicious fénétra, a cake made of almonds, apricots and lemon. This is best served with typical violet tea, the emblematic flower of Toulouse.
During the afternoon, you can stroll on the “quai de la daurade” and you will have a stunning view of the Garonne River, the old “hotel dieu” and the “Pont neuf” bridge (literally new bridge, an ironic name since it’s the oldest standing bridge in Toulouse). From this quay, you can also take a cruise along the Garonne River or on the canal du midi.
Rugby lovers will feel at home in Toulouse. The city’s rugby team, Stade Toulousain, is historically the best rugby team in France and arguably in the whole of Europe! They have been French champions 19 times and champions of Europe 4 times (both being records). A trip to the home stadium to watch a match is a great day out for anyone who appreciates this full contact team sport.
If you are more of a lover of shopping than full contact sports, then you will not be disappointed. Very close to the town centre you can find many beautiful, independent vintage shops. It’s also possible to do some luxury shopping very close to our French school, in “rue des arts”. If you like luxury items but are not so keen on the luxury price, then a visit to Nailloux Outlet Village, 20 minutes from Toulouse, should be on your to-do list!
Fans of all things space related should visit the “Cité de l’espace” (Space City theme park): here you can try out a moon walk on the impressive space simulator, watch a film on the huge IMAX® screen, or even climb on board an exact replica of the Mir space station and in the Soyuz spacecraft! There are so many impressive things to do, you can spend hours here. A visit to this space and science adventure park is also a great way to improve your French! Closer to earth, but still on the subject of flight, Toulouse is home to the vast Airbus factory, which also gives guided tours.
Toulouse town centre is always lively! A large part of this is due to Toulouse being the second University city of France. Moreover, there are a lot of festivals all year round. In February there is the Violet festival, from March to April the Contemporary dance festival and the Printemps du Rire (comedy festival in spring) all take place. Watching French comedy sketches whilst on your language course is surely a great way to help you learn French!
During the summer, there are often many small street-theatre performances but for real atmosphere and culture don’t miss the ‘Toulouse d’été’ (main summer music festival)! From mid-July to the beginning of August each year, you can attend free concerts of all different types of music throughout the city! Throughout July, when the sun goes down, locals love going to the open-air cinema near the capitol: Where they can watch movies from all over the world. Of course, there are also a lot of French movies on show, ideal when practising French! Finally, if you plan to visit Toulouse during winter, then the famous, traditional Christmas market is a must!
There is always something to do in Toulouse and for everyone! If you are due to visit then I am sure you will absolutely love it whilst appreciating the way of life, culture and even the charming southern French accent of the “toulousains”.