Toulouse gets its nickname – La Ville Rose – from the pink tinge of the bricks used to construct many of its most prominent buildings. Most of these date back to the city’s golden age during the 16th century, when the local economy thrived thanks to the booming pastel trade. However, Toulouse’s history in fact goes back way further than this, with a settlement having existed on the site since Roman times.
For all of these reasons, the so-called Pink City is a fantastic place for history lovers and architecture enthusiasts, although France’s fourth largest city offers much more besides old buildings. As the operational base for Airbus, Toulouse is also at the forefront of modern technology, being a major hub of the aerospace industry. On top of this, it’s a wonderful travel destination for foodies and wine lovers, thanks to the fact that the surrounding landscape of the Haute-Garonne and Midi-Pyrenees departments are home to some of the richest soils in France. Getting out of the city itself and discovering some of the rural attractions around Toulouse is therefore always a great idea for those who want to see a little more of the region, and hiring a car at Toulouse airport is a brilliant way to do this. Companies like Auto Europe offer top deals on vehicles, so getting yourself a pair of wheels could be much simpler and cheaper than you may think.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the things to do in Toulouse.
Stroll around La Ville Rose
Toulouse is without a doubt one of the most charming cities in France, so taking a walk around the city centre and marvelling at the beautiful pink buildings is a must while you’re here. There’s so much history and art to discover, and many of the streets still follow the roads originally laid down by the Romans.
The best place to start is the Capitole, which is the city hall and is the perfect example of Toulousain architecture – featuring that famous pink tinge. The building itself is set around the Henry IV courtyard, which contains a statue of the famous king and is home to a market. Within the Capitole itself are a number of paintings and sculptures dating back to the 19th century, which tell the story of the city’s history.
Elsewhere, the Saint-Sernin Basilica is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major stop on the famous Way of Saint James pilgrimage. Having been constructed between the 11th and 14th centuries, this enormous Romanesque church is one of the most significant of all Toulouse’s landmarks, and is a must-visit for all tourists in the city.
Visit a museum or two
As you may have realised by now, Toulouse has an incredibly rich history, so it is somewhat inevitable that the city is home to a huge number of excellent museums providing more information about its past. Among the most famous is the Musee des Agustins, which sits inside the Agustins convent and contains a number of pieces of art that give an insight into life in the area through the ages. Visitors can feast their eyes on sculptures created during the Roman times, as well as masterpieces from the Gothic era and several 19th-century creations, all of which help to shed light on the artistic tradition that has been present in Toulouse for thousands of years.
If you’re looking for something a little more cutting-edge, meanwhile, the Cite de l’Espace is where you’ll find a host of interactive exhibits relating to the aerospace industry and space exploration. Featuring a real life space station and a huge number of rockets and other aircraft – many of which you can actually climb inside – this is one of the most thrilling museums in the galaxy.