Famed for its jutting spires, pastel shopfronts and riverside setting, Toulouse ranks among Southern France’s prettiest cities. But beyond its pink façade, there’s much to explore in this diverse and layered locale. 

Better known in France as La Ville Rose (The Pink City), Toulouse is the capital of the southern French region of Occitanie, a tourist hotspot renowned for its temperate weather, expansive sun-drenched plains and rustic regional dining. 

With pastel-coloured shopfronts and charming churches nestled among its winding alleyways, the city’s alluring Vieux Quarter is often the first port of call for tourists visiting Toulouse, but there’s much to explore beyond the Old Town’s pink spires and terracotta brickwork. 

Home to one of France’s largest universities, and boasting a rich aeronautical history dating back to the early 20th century, the city is as diverse as it is pretty. 

Stray into one of its many squares and you’re as likely to find an impressive street dance performance as you are a bustling food market, and by night the city comes alive with everything from lively riverside wine bars to thumping techno clubs.

If you’ve got just 48 hours to make the most of the Pink City, here’s how to do it. 

Toulouse st pierre bridge

See the sights with an aimless wander 

The best way to start your trip is with a leisurely stroll – or bike ride – along the peaceful, tree-lined waters of the Canal du Midi. 

There are plenty of quirky cafés and bars fringing the river, while those tempted to get out on the water can explore options ranging from sunset cruises to barge rentals.

Canal de midi toulouse

Heading towards the Old Town, be sure to swing by the UNESCO-heritage Basilica of Saint Sernin. It’s arguably Toulouse’s most recognisable landmark and is generally considered one of greatest churches in France (and France has a lot of great churches). 

Basilica of St Sernin in Toulouse 2

For an afternoon of people watching, grab an ice cream and perch yourself in the Capitole de Toulouse. The city’s lively town square sits in close proximity to the opera house and city hall and hosts everything from farmers’ markets to art exhibitions.

Capitole de toulouse

Get educated in the city’s museums

What’s a trip to any great European city without a hefty dose of museum-fuelled education? 

In Toulouse, Cité de l’Espace is a favourite. It’s an aeronautical museum on the outskirts of the city that allows guests to lose themselves in the vast and fascinating world of space travel.

For fine art lovers, the compelling Musée des Augustins houses sculptures, paintings and collections spanning centuries, while the Musée Saint Raymond is dedicated to Toulouse’s Roman heritage, from mammoth mosaics to an excavated necropolis in the basement. 

Musée Saint Raymond Toulouse

By night: Where to eat, drink and be merry

Catering to every taste, there’s no shortage of drinking and dining options in Toulouse. 

If you consider yourself a fine-dine connoisseur, double Michelin-starred restaurant Michel Sarran tops the city’s high-end offering, while the likes of Balthazar and La Braisière offer a more rustic take on typical French bistro fare. 

As night descends, grab an aperitif at local-favourite Bar à la Une before heading to artsy bar DAdA for a cocktail via Jardin Japonais. Catch a live music show at the buzzing Chez Ta Mère or piano bar Fat Cat, then finish your night in one of the city’s many clubs. 

Feeling a little more cultured? Book well in advance and catch the ballet at Théâtre du Capitole. You won’t regret it.

Brick houses on narrow street of Toulouse France

Keen to spend more time in the sun-drenched south of France? Learn more about the region and where to visit in Southern France.

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