The pink city, well known for its clad brick walls, is in fact very charming! You should visit Toulouse and allow yourself to stroll through its meandering streets or along the Garonne and the Canal du Midi. The city offers many advantages and pleasures to both locals and visitors, with its many points of interest, from museums to Renaissance mansions, from its sunny terraces to its green parks and gardens. Don't miss a stroll around the Capitole, a visit to the Hôtel d'Assézat, a chance to enjoy the opera at the Théâtre du Capitole or a delicious cassoulet..
In Toulouse, emblematic monuments
Don't miss the heart of Toulouse and its jewel... the Capitole! This large building with its colourful 18th century stone and brick facade now houses the town hall and the opera... It takes its name from the Capitouls, the town councillors who managed local politics from the 12th to the 18th century. The facade is also inspired by them, as the eight marble columns in the centre of the Capitol, on either side of the clock, represent them. Don't miss the courtyard of the Capitol, in the centre of the building, where, under the statue of Henry IV, the Duke of Montmorency was once executed for rebelling against Louis XIII... Discover also the Salle des Illustres, accessible from the courtyard by a large 17th century staircase, designed by the architects Paul Pujol and Pierre Esquié at the end of the 19th century and decorated by the Toulouse painters Jean-Paul Laurens, Paul Pujol and Paul Gervais, before discovering the magnificent frescoes by Henri Martin. The visit is free! Finally, on your way out, take advantage of the beauty of the Place du Capitole by strolling near the Occitan cross on the pavement, decorated with the twelve signs of the zodiac, or by having a coffee under the arcades and the paintings of Raymond Moretti!
When passing through Toulouse, you should not miss the majestic Saint-Sernin basilica. It was built at the end of the 11th century, when the primitive basilica was too small to accommodate the Christians who came on pilgrimage. This primitive church can still be visited, as it serves as a crypt, housing sacred relics. The completion of the transept and part of the nave was effective in 1180. In fact, everything goes back to the 3rd century, with the first bishop of Toulouse, Saint Saturnin. Having provoked the anger of the pagan natives, for failing to give effective sacrifices, he was tied to a bull. The animal went out, furious, by the northern door of the city and dragged the holy man who died. Two women, called Puelles saints, buried his body at the exact spot where he fell, and a small church was built over his tomb, Notre-Dame-du-Taur. Saint-Sernin remained a "simple" collegiate church until 1878, when it was finally consecrated a basilica. The great organs of the Saint-Sernin basilica are renowned throughout the world, completed in 1889 by the Cavaillé-Coll firm. Inaugurated on April 3, 1889 by Alexandre Guilmant, the instrument has fifty-four stops distributed over three manuals and a pedalboard (exactly 3,458 pipes). Renovated and fully lit, the Saint-Sernin basilica is one of the most impressive monuments in Toulouse.
Two other religious buildings are worth a visit during a trip to Toulouse. First, the Jacobins convent, which is entirely made of brick and is considered a masterpiece of Languedoc Gothic art. Then, don't forget to take a look at the Saint-Etienne church with its amazing architecture from the 13th to the 17th century
Discovering museums and grand hotels
Around the Capitole, you can discover the 16th century private mansions that have also made the reputation of the pink city. The Hôtel d'Assézat, for example, is one of the most representative mansions of Toulouse's golden age and houses the collections of the Georges Bemberg Foundation (Tintoretto, Veronese, Clouet, Cranach, etc.). At the Saint-Raymond museum, which has found refuge in a former 16th century college, you can discover Toulouse in the days of the Roman Empire. In the former Augustins convent, the Augustins museum gathers a collection of paintings and sculptures of religious art. After a look at the Georges-Labit museum, which offers a complete panorama of the art of the Far East, make way for the former abattoirs where a vast centre for modern and contemporary art with museographic, documentary, educational and cultural functions is located. Don't miss a walk in the beautiful two-hectare garden on the banks of the Garonne and have a coffee or discover the Brunch formula on Sundays, at L'Hémicycle...
Finally, in another genre, you should treat yourself to a family outing to the Cité de l'Espace, THE European space adventure park! With its permanent exhibitions, the Cité offers a very scenic visit which gives the possibility to discover space from various points of view: the launch centre (rockets, satellites), the Earth ship (to better understand the Earth), the Weather centre (to discover the mysteries of current meteorology), the solar system platform (to explore the stars), the training hall (to discover the sensations felt in space), the observatory (to go through the universe like an astronomer)
A bucolic cruise along the Canal du Midi
But Toulouse is also and above all a story of water between the Garonne and the Canal du Midi, a Unesco World Heritage Site. If it is nice to stroll along the banks of the Garonne, it is just as pleasant to sail on the Canal du Midi. Designed by the engineer Pierre-Paul Riquet (1609-1680) and motivated by the wheat trade, the Canal du Midi was shaped by the hand of man. It launched the era of the industrial revolution by making it possible to link the Atlantic Ocean via the Garonne to the Mediterranean Sea over its 240 kilometres. Its course begins in Toulouse and ends in Marseillan. From March to November, navigation is completely free (for the rest of the year, you need to check with Voies navigables de France) and it's an unmissable activity if you're in the region!
When is it open? All year round. The weather is often fine and warm from April to October, with spring rains. In winter, the autan wind cools the atmosphere. To sail on the Canal du Midi, from March to November.
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