Visiting Toulouse - What to See and Do
(Toulouse Blagnac Airport TLS, France)
The mid-Pyrenees city of Toulouse
is one of the most vibrant metropolises in France's south-west. Built by the Roman's as an outpost between 200 and 400 BC, the city has come a very long way since those days. Nevertheless, plenty of Roman influences can still be found, including the dominant red-brick structures flaunted throughout town. Toulouse is teeming with fabulous sights old and new.
The city's most renowned attractions relate to the space and aviation industry, with the Toulouse Space Centre being Europe's largest and most important complex for aeronautics and aviation. Astrium Satellites and Airbus also open their doors to the public, so guided tours can be arranged. These plus many other aeronautical organisations founded here have led to the city being nicknamed 'the Aviation Capital of Europe'.
Nevertheless, the city itself is also a beautiful French jewel. It strives to become the greenest city in Europe
, offering several hundred kilometres of bikeways and walking tracks. Tourism begins at the historic town centre. Museums, churches, ancient edifices and a heritage listed canal steal much of the sightseeing spotlight.
Ten things you must do in Toulouse
- The Capitole is similar to a large magnet, in that everything in the city seems to be drawn to it, including tourists. Strolling through the grand square of the Capitole is a must, as plenty of sites rest on its fringes, including the illustrious Town Hall and the sparkling Toulouse Opera House. Tours of the Capitole Building interior show intricate furnishings and spectacular works of art.
- Astrologists, astronomers and those just looking to enjoy an interesting afternoon out of downtown Toulouse will adore the City of Space (Cite de l'Espace). Over four million people have already experienced the remarkable attractions of this landmark since its opening in the summer of 1997. These include two large planetariums, full-scale model rockets, module exhibitions and a replica of the Mir Space Station. This place is simply out of this world!
- Airbus is one of the world's largest aircraft manufacturers. Visitors can see how all the parts of a plane are put together at the factory. This has become a leading site in Toulouse over recent decades. Therefore, arranging a guided visit is essential. Popular 60-minute tours are available at the administration site of the Airbus headquarters.
- The Augustins Museum preserves a phenomenal array of fine art from as early as the 15th century. French-influenced sculptures and paintings dominate the collections of the Augustins. However, the masterpieces on display are not just hanging from the walls. The building that engulfs the museum is a former 12th-century convent, augmenting the beauty of this site.
- Visitors are often surprised (in a good way) when they stumble across the Georges Labit Museum. It is the only museum in the city that provides delicate exhibitions of ancient Egyptian artefacts and unrivalled Asian art. The well-landscaped and extremely established Mediterranean garden will also inspire visitors.
- Built as early as the 10th century, the Saint Sermin Basilica cannot be missed. From the five-story bell tower to the mystical crypts below, the basilica is full of unique and intriguing surprises. Underneath the basilica lie the tombs of St. Honoratus and St. Saturnin. Fortunately, tourists don't have to be of the Christian faith to explore the fascinating interior.
- Saint Etienne Cathedral is one of the strangest-looking religious structures in France, but is still worthy of visiting. Irregular in its intricacies, the cathedral is a blend of two churches that have seemingly been 'plastered' together by a large, rounded pillar. Nevertheless, it is a national monument of France, and boasts stained-glassed windows from some five or six different centuries.
- Toulouse sits on the Garrone River, but the historic Canal du Midi meanders right through the heart of the city. It was first erected in the 1600s as a safe shortcut between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Today, it is not uncommon to see locals using the canal for recreation. Of note, this attraction was listed for UNESCO World Heritage status in 1996.
- Tourists can take themselves back to ancient Roman times when visiting the Roman Amphitheatre of Toulouse. Dating back to the 1st century, this significant landmark of local history even portrays evidence of gladiator events up until the 4th century. Historical enthusiasts will adore this well-preserved amphitheatre.
- Lovers of photography are in luck, as Toulouse boasts a European-renowned photography museum called the Gallery of the Chateau d'Eau. Established within a 200-year-old water tower, the gallery displays a collection of arguably the most beautiful photographic masterpieces in Europe. The interior is spaciously lit, adding an aura of elegance to the already eye-catching artwork.