Toulouse city guide: Where to eat, drink, shop and stay in France’s underrated Pink City

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Toulouse could be referred to as la ville rose (the pink metropolis) in honour of its coral-hued buildings, but it surely’s constructed from the wealth of ‘blue gold’: the dye of pastel that attracted retailers to the town within the sixteenth century. As we speak, there’s an equally vibrant ambiance round its opulent structure, because of its reinvention as an aeronautical hub and a busy pupil metropolis – France’s fourth largest, the place 1 / 4 of its 470,000 residents are college students.

Meaning there’s at all times one thing happening, whether or not on the banks of the River Garonne that divides the principle a part of the town from the stylish space of St Cyprien, or within the charming outdated city, with its rickety wood buildings which can be someway nonetheless standing.

What to do

Look behind the town’s doorways

Toulouse’s outdated city was constructed on the fortunes of its pastel retailers – now their giant mansion homes have now been transformed to workplace and flats, however the grandeur and ivy-clad courtyards stay. The unofficial line is that if the streetside doorways to the courtyards are open, you’ll be able to take a fast go searching – this open home expertise reveals a tranquil facet to the town you’d by no means have seen in any other case. Plus it’s an excellent excuse to wander across the fairly outdated city, with its lovingly restored wood buildings.

Soak within the vibe at Place du Capitole

Place du Capitole sq. is Toulouse’s focus. It’s the place you’ll discover bars and eating places spilling over its perimeter, markets on the weekends, tango dancing on Sundays if you happen to’re fortunate, and the pink-tinged Neoclassical façade of the Capitole, Toulouse’s metropolis corridor. Head as much as its first ground to marvel on the ornate Salle des Illustres (Corridor of the Illustrious), filled with nineteenth century artwork.

Area out

Toulouse is a hub for the house and aeronautical industries – it was the place the Concorde and A380 have been invented – so the Cité de l’Espace is a becoming exhibition-slash-theme park. After the interactive exhibitions, try an actual duplicate of the Mir house station, or sit within the astronaut’s seats on the precise Soyuz module for a really feel of its cramped circumstances – and the picture opp. Open 10am-5pm weekdays and 10am-6pm weekends; entry from €16.

Turn out to be a criminal offense fighter

It’s at all times enjoyable to find a metropolis by means of a treasure hunt – and on interactive journey tour Theft on the Capitole, it’s as much as every staff of tremendous sleuths to enterprise throughout the town to recuperate a stolen Cryptex containing the town’s founding papers. The expertise is performed in English. €11-20 per particular person relying on staff measurement.

The place to remain

Lodge Des Beaux Arts is full of modern work, sculptures, and objets d’artwork that make for a vibrant and daring keep. There’s no compromise on location – it’s on the banks of Pont Neuf, with iconic river views from the higher flooring. Doubles from €75, room solely. hoteldesbeauxarts.com

Lodge Heliot is a 12-room, three-star resort that’s filled with attraction. It’s conventional French in type, and what it lacks in aptitude it makes up for in friendliness. It’s centrally situated, however tucked away down a facet avenue for a relaxed keep. The one downside is there’s no elevate, so be ready to haul your baggage upstairs. Doubles from €80.30, B&B. hotel-heliot.com

Within the fashionable space of St Cyprien, Parenthèse Idea Room is for many who wish to splash the money. Its two loft suites are swish because it will get in Toulouse, with decadent options like round beds and personal scorching tubs, plus sweeping views over the pink metropolis. Suites from €259.60, room solely. parenthese-concept-room.com

The place to eat

Conventional fare

Throughout Toulouse, you’ll discover loads of out of doors eating, come rain or shine. In summer season, there’s an ever-changing line up of eating places éphémères (pop-ups) serving ingenious and sometimes high-end dishes. Mosey alongside the banks of the Garonne to search out clusters of them.

Cassoulet – a slow-cooked stew, made with beans and duck leg or Toulouse sausages right here – is the regional dish of Toulouse. You gained’t discover a heartier model than in Restaurant Emile, the place a three-course meal prices about €42 a head, although the cosy La Mare aux Canards provides it a run for its cash. Present in a frankly dodgy-looking alleyway, it’s value braving.

A broader vary of French fare is discovered at Le Père Léon, a basic French brasserie with just a few vegetarian choices proper by Place Esquirol. Save room for a café gourmand: espresso served with bite-sized tasters of their candy choice.

In want of a fast pick-me-up? Make a beeline to Pâtisserie Conté, a busy, constantly-clinking tea room the place delicate French pastries are the star of the present.

Superb eating

Toulouse is residence to 6 Michelin-starred eating places, of which Le Cénacle is the agency favorite. In a luxurious 18th-century eating corridor flanked by an infinite print of Carvaggio’s Supper at Emmaus, it affords each seasonal and signature menus, with pigeon pithivier and foie gras their speciality.

But there are a slew of gourmand eating places effervescent underneath the starred layer. Du Plaisir a la Toque is a hidden gem, and Le Perche Pinte is relaxed expertise with a give attention to sustainable and natural produce – a 3 course dinner right here is someway solely €30. An area favorite is Place Mage, whose refined dishes are matched by a fastidiously curated wine listing.

The place to drink

You’ll be surrounded by nice wines – hardly a shock, since Toulouse is close to the Languedoc wine-growing area and, nicely, in France. Connoisseurs will adore N5 Wine Bar: voted one of the best wine bar on the planet in 2017, it’s a jostling load-a-card joint the place you’ll be able to style small measures of uncommon bottles. For a extra relaxed atmosphere, strive Nabuchodonosor and La Cave Se Rebiffe, or Barrique & Bourrique affords a energetic ambiance and broader vary of drinks. Don’t be stunned to search out tapas on the menu in bars – it’s the place Toulouse’s proximity to Spain comes into play.

For speciality espresso, head to Café Cerise, which roasts its espresso onsite (and serves up brunches and lunches too). For tea, strive L’estaminot in St Cyprien – discover a desk between their stacks of second-hand books and settle again.

The place to buy

The principle purchasing centre is Galeries Lafayette, however Toulouse can also be huge into idea shops: boutiques that promote a handpicked choice homewares, garments, presents, stationery and extra. Simply strive leaving Atypique and not using a buy. Honourable mentions go to Bobine Par Maison B and Retropolis (which additionally sells classic and second-hand items).

Jewelry lovers ought to take a peek at Adepte, the place the home designs complement the vary of subtle equipment on sale. For these with time, Fifi Jolipo sells part jewelry components, with instruments out there to make your individual bespoke trinkets on web site.

For foodstuffs, the stalls of Victor Hugo Market can’t be beat. It’s residence to premium produce, a lot of which is regionally sourced. Or Le Comptoir de Mathilde concentrates on superb meals – assume truffle oils, pâté, biscuits and chocolate. All of the scrumptious stuff.

Architectural spotlight

The distinctive Cathédrale Saint-Étienne started as a thirteenth century Southern Gothic church. Issues obtained fascinating within the sixteenth century when it was prolonged in a Northern Gothic type, leading to a marvellous mish-mash of a monument (it stays unfinished, for further chaos).

Nuts and bolts

What forex do they use?

The euro.

What language do they communicate?

French, though avenue names are within the Occitan language, too.

Ought to I tip?

5-10%.

What’s the time distinction?

An hour forward of the UK.

How ought to I get round?

The central space is walkable (and largely pedestrianised), and the tram and metropolis bikes (VélôToulouse) are nice choices for going additional out.

What’s one of the best view?

The rooftop terrace of Ma Biche sur Le Toit provides a stunning rooftop view of the town, particularly at sundown.

Insider tip?

Lookup on the portico ceilings at Place Capitole. You’ll see drawings of Toulouse’s story, beginning with the martyrdom of Saint Sermin – and ending with a mirror.

Getting there

Attempting to fly much less?

You will get to Toulouse from London by practice in round eight hours. Take the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord (2 hours 15), then the Metro to Montparnasse-Bienvenue, altering for Paris Montparnasse station. From right here there’s a TGV service to Toulouse Matabiau (4 hours 20).

Superb with flying?

Ryanair, BA and easyJet all have direct flights from the UK to Toulouse.

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