Toulouse – The Red City

Toulouse is one of the most stylish cities of Southern France. Situated between the Mediterranean (150 km away) and the Atlantic (250 km), and just 110 km from the ski resorts of the Pyrenees and 730 km from Paris, Toulouse is the chief city of the huge Midi-Pyrenees Region and the fourth largest city in France. With the second largest student population outside of Paris, Toulouse is among the leading great metropolises of Southern Europe. Dubbed the ‘Ville Rose’ because of its pink brick buildings, Toulouse sits astride the Garonne River and the historic Canal du Midi, midway between the Med and the Atlantic. The heart of town is the vast, arcaded Place du Capitole, where the impressive, grandiose Capitole building is the seat of local government.

Regular scheduled domestic and international flights arrive at Blagnac airport, about 20 minutes from the city, or drive from Paris by taking the A10 to Orleans and the A20 to Toulouse. A very quick and comfortable means of arrival is by train (six hours from Paris) as the train station is almost in the heart of the city.

Old Toulouse is effectively quartered by two nineteenth-century streets, the long shopping street, rue d’Alsace-Lorraine/rue du Languedoc, which runs north-south; and rue de Metz, which runs east-west onto the Pont-Neuf and across the Garonne. It’s all very compact and can easily be walked, although the city does have a metro. In addition to the general pleasure of wandering the streets, there are three very good museums and some real architectural treasures in the churches of St-Sernin and Les Jacobins and in the magnificent Renaissance town houses – hotels particuliers – of the merchants who grew rich on the woad-dye trade.

The main shopping streets are rue La Fayette and rue d’Alsace-Lorraine. Luxury goods are to be found in one of the prettiest streets in Old Toulouse, rue Croix-Baragnon, while the boutiques on rue Saint-Rome offer more accessible priced clothes. Place du Capitole is the centre of gravity for the city’s social life. Its smart cafés throng with people at lunchtime and in the early evening when the dying sun flushes the pink facade of the big town hall opposite. This is the scene of a mammoth Wednesday market for food, clothes and junk and of a smaller organic food market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings. From Place du Capitole, a labyrinth of narrow medieval streets radiates out to the town’s several other squares, such as Place Wilson, the more intimate Place St-Georges, the delightful triangular Place de la Trinite and Place St-etienne in front of the cathedral.

For those so inclined, while in Toulouse take a trip to the worlds largest Marian shrine at Lourdes, just one hour away on the A64, or visit the historic fortified city of Carcassonne, two hours away on the A61.

If you are interested in a different but related subject, please check out this page for a review: