Toulouse is one of France’s many beautiful cities, famous for its cuisine and architecture. Despite being smaller than a lot of other cities in France, there are plenty of things to do in Toulouse, from sightseeing to shopping – and everything in between.
To get you started, here’s a list of 25 things to do in Toulouse.
1. Visit the Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse
When visiting a new city, sightseeing is top of the list of things to do. And, when it comes to sightseeing in Toulouse, you should definitely head to the Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse first. This iconic spire characterises the landscape of Toulouse with its terracotta color scheme and uniquely Toulousain design. Consecrated in 1180, this basilica is now the largest remaining Romanesque structure in Europe, and potentially the world.
2. Explore the Musée des Augustins
Another great thing to do in Toulouse is to visit some of its many museums. One of the finest museums in Toulouse is the Musée des Augustins, which is home to a collection of fantastic artworks and sculpture dating back to the Middle Ages. Not only is this a wonderful place to visit for art lovers, but the exhibits are housed in a Gothic former convent, making the Musée des Augustins an especially important place for history buffs too.
3. Stroll around Place du Capitole
Place du Capitole is perhaps the most famous landmark in Toulouse, so you absolutely have to take a stroll around it. Home to the Town Hall of Toulouse, the Place du Capitole is also lined with cafés, terraced bars and restaurants, and so makes for a wonderful place to stop for a coffee or a bite to eat, as you watch the pulsating heart of the city. It is also the setting of a market place and the Christmas markets in December, where you can find bargains and a selection of festive French delicacies.
4. Cross Pont-Neuf
Crossing the Pont Neuf is a quintessential Toulousain thing to do, and takes you across the Garonne river from the city center to another part of this historic city. Pont Neuf, meaning ‘New Bridge’, was actually completed in 1632, and offers beautiful views of the city of Toulouse. Despite the majority of landmarks being on one side of the bridge, if you venture across Pont Neuf, you may discover new hidden corners of the city, as well as some traditional bars and restaurants away from the crowds of the city center.
5. Spend the day shopping
Toulouse is a cosmopolitan city with shops to die for. As well as staples such as the Galeries Lafayette offering the classic French department store shopping experience, and other international brands such as Primark, H&M and Mango, Toulouse also has its fair share of independent boutiques. You can visit Rue Saint Rome for all your major shopping needs, but my favorite marque Toulousaine can be found on Rue Pargaminères: Zest, selling unique, edgy streetwear and accessories.
6. Dine on traditional Toulousain cuisine
Although it is true of the entire country, Toulouse in particular is part of a rich culinary tradition. One of the most famous and, in my opinion, most delicious French dishes originate from Toulouse: cassoulet. A stew of beans, lardons, confit duck and traditional Toulouse sausage, braised with fragrant herbs, this dish is the perfect winter warmer, and you won’t find a better one than in Toulouse. No matter which side of the Garonne you find yourself on, you’re guaranteed to find a restaurant serving Toulouse sausage and/or cassoulet on its menu, so make sure you try it while you’re there. Red wine optional, but encouraged.
7. Peruse the Toulouse markets
Toulouse is a wonderful city if visiting markets is your favorite thing to do. Here, you can find every kind of market from clothes, to food, to produce. The Sunday Saint-Sernin market is incredibly popular with the locals, and is the perfect market to peruse clothes, antiques, and souvenirs, all with the imposing Basilique de Saint-Sernin as your backdrop. Alternatively, head to the market in Place du Capitole on a Wednesday for a huge choice of clothing, locally knick-knacks, as well as food. Whatever you’re looking for, you can find a Toulousain market for it!
8. Treat yourself at one of Toulouse’s Michelin star restaurants
Toulouse is home to six Michelin star restaurants, with about 20 more that have been commended by the Michelin guide, so foodies will be spoiled for choice for exquisite dining options in Toulouse. All of the Michelin star cuisine in Toulouse is described as creative and modern, so you can be sure to find an exciting menu waiting for you behind the doors of these revered establishments. If you want to taste the most refined cuisine using seasonal produce, head to Py-r in Toulouse’s old town, otherwise venture slightly out of the city center for a superbly elegant meal, full of personality, at Michel Sarran.
9. Wander through the Pierre Baudis Japanese Garden
If you’re in search of some tranquility in Toulouse, there is no place finer than the Pierre Baudis Japanese Garden. Although it is slightly outside of the city center, Toulouse’s metro system makes it easily accessible, and is well worth the visit. Here, you can learn more about its raison d’être and its creator, or simply stroll through its manicured grounds before finding a spot to picnic, read, or embrace the zen of your surroundings.
10. Try the Toulouse Parkrun
Toulouse is home to one of only seven official Parkruns in France, and so completing this fun challenge is a perfect thing to do for athletes who find themselves there. Parkrun is a free, official, organized run that take place every Saturday at La Ramée park in Tournefeuille, just outside of Toulouse. Despite the popularity of Parkrun elsewhere in the world, there are only seven official Parkruns in France, so this one in the Toulouse region is perfect for enthusiastic runners who want to keep up their fitness in a new environment.
11. Take a trip to Montauban
If you fancy taking a day trip out of the city of Toulouse, Montauban is your best bet. This Medieval town is only an hour north of Toulouse, and offers the same in terms of beauty and history, but at a much more relaxed pace. Here in Montauban, you can do and see everything, from beautiful churches, market squares, art galleries and war memorials, to vineyard visits, walking tours of the old town, and local delicacies to die for. Try the boulets de Montauban (hazelnuts covered in chocolate) and dine on delicious, albeit controversial, foie gras in its local restaurants: Montauban is in the heart of foie gras country.
12. Wonder at art at Hôtel d’Assezat
The Hôtel d’Assezat is a gorgeous 16th century French Renaissance building, that today is home to the Bemberg Foundation – one of Toulouse’s most notable art galleries. Admission is free, meaning you can soak up beauty both in its hallowed halls lined with important artworks and in its sumptuous courtyard, without spending a single centime. The Hôtel d’Assezat truly is one of the most culturally important places in Toulouse, so a visit here is highly encouraged.
13. Discover the history of Notre-Dame de la Daurade
The history behind this basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary is especially interesting, as it stands on the site of a former Pagan temple from the 5th century, making it potentially the world’s oldest shrine dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Not only is this a fantastic place to visit when in Toulouse for Catholics and people interested in the Christian faith, but it makes for an interesting visit for people who want to learn more about the breadth and depth of the history of Toulouse in general, as well as marvel at the beautiful and spiritual iconography within.
14. Pass an evening in Place Saint Georges
Place Saint Georges is only a small square in the Toulouse city center, but is a fabulous place to pass a leisurely evening with friends, old or new. Brimming with cafés, bars, terraces, and restaurants, and adorned with fairy lights, this is my favorite place to spend a Toulousain evening. Whether you want to dine on traditional French cuisine or delicious Italian fare, drinking local wine, imported beers, or elegant cocktails, there is something for everyone in this square. Simply choose your favorite venue, pick a seat in the heart of the conversation, and soak up the sociable energy of the square all night long.
15. Party in the heart of Toulouse
Being one of France’s major cities, and home to a huge amount of students and young people, there is no shortage of venues for partygoers to flock to after a day of sightseeing. Whether you want to spend an evening in a classy yet lively bar, such as the jazzy, prohibition themed Fat Cat bar near Place du Capitole, or boogie to massive DJ funk and techno from midnight to morning at the likes of Zoom Club, Toulouse has a party scene with broad appeal. Simply pick the vibes you’re searching for, and head out for a night on the town.
16. Visit Muséum de Toulouse
Despite its misleading name, the Muséum de Toulouse isn’t actually a museum about the history of Toulouse, but is France’s largest museum of natural history outside of Paris. Founded as an institution in 1796, today the museum is home to over 2.5 million items of interest and intrigue to students of the world. With artefacts and exhibits detailing everything from our solar system, to the biodiversity of our planet, this museum is a fantastic place for tourists from all walks of life to grow their knowledge of our world.
17. Admire the Jardin des Plantes
The Jardin des Plantes is a breathtaking botanical garden and park just south of the city center. If you want to escape into some greenery while you’re in Toulouse, then paying these colorful grounds is a great thing to do. Take a stroll through its many gorgeous plants, or simply find a particularly beautiful spot to rest and catch up with your travelling partners in Toulouse’s famously balmy and bright atmosphere.
18. Visit Cité de l’Espace
The Cité de l’Espace can be found on the outskirts of Toulouse, and is well worth the pilgrimage for those fascinated by outer space and human space travel. At Cité de l’Espace, you can marvel at full-scale models of real spacecraft, engage with a mock control room on a spacecraft, and explore the magic of the universe in their planetarium theater.
19. Take a trip on the river
Whenever I’m on a city break by a river, the first thing I want to do is take a boat trip, and Toulouse is a fantastic city for a trip down the river. Sailing down the Garonne is a great way to experience the beauty of la ville rose to its fullest. I’d say the best time to take a boat along the river is evening time, so you can really see the city bathed in gorgeous sunset.
20. Watch a show at the Théâtre du Capitole
If you consider yourself a thespian, you must go to the Théâtre du Capitole in the Place du Capitole to take in a show. Not only is the building itself an impressive attraction in the famous town square, but it is also home to a number of exciting productions, including operas, ballets, and classical concerts.
21. Explore Les Abattoirs
Les Abattoirs is a museum of modern and contemporary art set in a former slaughterhouse, making it one of the most unique attractions in Toulouse. Pay this art gallery a visit if you prefer modern art to classic, and want to spend the day exploring exciting culture and strolling through spooky surroundings.
22. Walk along the Canal du Midi
The Canal du Midi stretches from Toulouse all the way to the Mediterranean sea in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, and was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996. The beauty of the canal and the wildlife that lines the waterway makes it a fantastic place to visit when in Toulouse when you want to take a leisurely stroll and see one of Toulouse’s most important landmarks.
23. Venture into Gaillac wine country
When you want a break from the city life of Toulouse, take a trip into the Gaillac countryside to experience real French vineyards in the Gaillac region. No trip to France is complete without visiting vineyards and sampling local wines, and no French city is ever too far away from a regional winemaker that will welcome you in with open arms.
24. Watch a rugby match
Toulouse is home to one of France’s most famous rugby union clubs, so if you’re a sports fan paying a visit to Stade Toulousain is a fantastic thing to do whilst staying in the city. The Toulouse rugby team is one of the most successful rugby union clubs in Europe and make for the perfect entertainment for any traveller visiting the city.
25. Sip on Armagnac
Armagnac is a liqueur produced in the Armagnac region, near to where Toulouse is situated. If wine isn’t so much your thing, but you still want to immerse yourself in the spirited tradition of French alcohol, perhaps you will enjoy venturing into the region to explore the distilleries in person, or simply ordering a small Armagnac to sip on at a Toulousain bar.
Toulouse is a great spot for a city break in France, with a range of landmarks and activities to cater for all tastes and all ages. Grab a fork, grab your running shoes, grab a map, and get exploring! If there are other things to do in Toulouse that you’d like to add to the list, share it in the comment box below.