When choosing a city destination in France, it can sometimes be hard to see beyond the dazzling lights and bustling boulevards of gay Paris. The city of lovers, or so they say; although now perhaps just a tad oversaturated in the tourism department. For an alternative city experience, I cast aside convention and headed to the subdued southern city of Toulouse – close to the Spanish border – to see what this quaint town has to offer in terms of weather, style and food, of course.
Known as La Ville Rose (the pink city) due to its multitude of terracotta-brick buildings, but arguably more orangey-salmon, depending on the light. Toulouse feels like a city yet to be discovered by the tourist market – authenticity and charm are alive here; bijou cobbled streets, quirky courtyards and petit coffee shops. If Paris is the city of lovers, then Toulouse is perhaps the city of veritable charm; where locals wander past antiquated salmon buildings against a skyline of wonky rooftops.
Where to stay?
First things first; a chic boutique hotel is 100% necessary on any French adventure. I stayed at the
What to do?
Things that Toulouse is known for: pinky-orange buildings, cassoulet (a meat and bean stew dish), pleasant weather, folksy charm and being the head of the European airspace industry. Funny combination, right? But personally that kind of pseudo-geeky stuff pushes all my buttons, so that was not a problem. To be fair, you have to seek out the airspace stuff, and if you wanted to, you could ignore it entirely. For those who are interested – you can find a number of
Toulouse has many cute city parks which can be enjoyed almost year-round due to their alluring warmer climate. As Toulouse is so walkable one of the best things to do is simply wander around, stopping for a sugar treat, peeling off into the nearest cute city square where you can watch the day’s happenings from the comfort of a rustic bench. Or perhaps talk a stroll along one of the cities canals which offer pleasant serenity under leafy cover and an opportunity to walk off all those pastries.
Where to eat?
I was a tad concerned about the food as I’m not necessarily a lover of French cuisine, but the food wound up being probably the best part of the trip with every meal better than the last! Although, I should probably also add that I don’t think much I ate was specifically French, but this was refreshing as it showcased Toulouse’s modern food scene which ventues outside the French classics. We ate “menu of the day” at the trendy
For a simply elegant lunch pop into the central
What to wear?
As Toulouse is blessed with a slightly warmer climate due to its southern location, the spring is temperate and the summers hot. And the winters? Still much warmer than a lot of Europe at around 10 degrees Celsius. Comfy flat shoes are a must as there’s much walking to be done, and some streets are delightfully cobbled, which is incredibly charming, but not on high heels. For spring and autumn, a light jacket would likely suffice. A rain jacket could potentially come in handy as the weather was a little changeable, but nothing a small umbrella couldn’t save you from. The dress code felt a lot more relaxed in Toulouse, so no need to bring formal wear, as smart-casual seems to be the thing here.
How to get around?
Walk! Walk everywhere. Or failing that use your Toulouse Pass for free transit on any of the public transport networks in the city which includes metro, trams and buses. The airport is very close by, so you can be in the city within in 30 minutes of landing; perfect for those impromptu city breaks!
Tips for Toulouse
– For a great view, take the lift to the top carpark floor of the Victor Hugo market building.
– Try a delish French “taco” (creamy, gooey, stuffed with various meats and not really anything like an actual taco.)
– Fly direct from London in just two hours (Easyjet from Gatwick airport / Ryan Air from Stansted airport.)
– Pack ‘grammable garms, as you’re gonna want some pics against all those rustic terracotta walls.
– Bring your camera! Toulouse has so many unique nooks and crannies waiting to be explored.
** Please note: I was hosted on this trip by the Toulouse Tourist Office, however, all thoughts are my own.**