For a long time in the agenda, it’s finally the time to land in Toulouse, although for now, it would only be for few moments. Just to collect the rental car and directly drive towards Andorra, the final destination for today and returning back later at night in Toulouse, giving us a whole day for visiting this beautiful city. The fourth largest metropolitan area in France, Quite a big city itself but perfect for a one day visit as the historical city centre is not too big. The very compact medieval core is mostly pedestrian and majority of the sights are located within short reach from each others.
The city has become the most important centre of the European aerospace industry where many of the global headquarters are based, including those of Galileo, EADS and of course, Airbus, which is the main assembly point of airplanes. All nations involved at any point in the construction of any part will finally meet at Toulouse’s Airbus factory where they are assembled and make ready for delivery.
There are many historical buildings, and opposed as to what you can see in Bordeaux for example where most of the buildings date from the 18th century after the urbanism plan and look so similar one to another; in here this is the opposite. Buildings from all eras blend together where colours are an important fact. French cities tend to be monochromatic, with pastels are the main colour. Here in Toulouse you won’t be disappointed not bored; this is not the typical copy and paste of the “same” building.
UNESCO World Heritage has 2 listed places here. One is the Basilique Saint Sernin, famous for being a key stop over along the Way of Saint James through France and the other is also shared by other municipalities and cities, the Canal du Midi, considered at the time it was built in the 17th century one of the greatest engineering works it connects the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. It passes through Toulouse on the east side, not far from the historical city centre.
One day visit is enough to explore every corner of the city. No need to spend time using public transportation to move around as everything is centrally located, walking distance to each other. The “farthest” place you might go is the train station where either you could have a nice walk through the main shopping streets of the city or taking a quick metro ride.
With regards to food, duck is one of the specialties while Cassoulet (stew made with white beans, vegetables, meats, and pork skin) is the most famous regional dish. A very recommended place we happen to find is Restaurant Les Americains on corner of Boulevard Lazare Carnot with Allee President Roosevelt, occupying the ground floor of the new FNAC on an old restored building. Prices were great for the quality and amount of food you get! You can enjoy a huge portion of mussels with fries where you have five sauces to select from for 12.50 Euros. Up to date, one of the cheapest from all the cities in France I’ve visited.
For more information about Toulouse check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. France’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Toulouse
- Basilique Saint Sernin An UNESCO World Heritage Site, this church dating from the 11th Century is an important stop over along the Way of Saint James. Located to the north of Place du Capitole following Rue du Taur.
- Cathedral of Saint-Étienne From the 13th century on the picturesque Place Saint-Étienne.
- Capitole Square The most elegant square in the city with fine elegant buildings at the sides.
-Capitole de Toulouse The beautiful building acts as the City Hall, Opera House and Donjon du Capitole and was built in 1750, together with most of the historical city centre refurbishment.
-Bell Tower Donjon Right in the front of the Capitole but on the back side square.
-Rue du Taur One of the principal pedestrian and shopping streets in the historic city centre. It connects the Basilique Saint Sernin with the Capitole Square and along the way you will find the beautiful Eglise du Taur with its distinctive façade.
- Les Augustins Used to be a monastery church, now an art museum. In Rue de Metz, one of the principal streets in the city and near Esquirol metro station.
- Hôtel d’Assézat One of the most elegant mansions in the city just off Rue de Metz and near the Pont-Neuf and Esquirol metro station.
- Notre-Dame de la Dalbade Church Built between the 15th–16th centuries is just south of Hôtel d’Assézat, south of Metro Esquirol or west of Metro Carmes.
- Garonne River Banks Built mostly in the 18th century is filled with beautiful buildings, palaces and mansions from the same epoch.
-Pont Neuf The oldest bridge across the Garonne river built in 1544, during almost 100 years it was the only one. The views towards the old city are a must do.
-Pont Saint Pierre This is the metallic beautiful bridge from where you will get the best views towards the city and Pont-Neuf.
-Boat Tours Departing from La Daurade Gardens, located west of the Capitole. It costs 8 Euros for a 70 minute cruise.
- Les Jacobins Monastery One of the most important churches in the city, it holds Thomas Aquinas’ relics.
- Grand Rond Is the confluence of two of the major avenues in the city, forming a large park at the centre of the roundabout, extended to the avenues and the Jardin des Plantes to the south. Located to the south east of the city.
- Canal du Midi An UNESCO World Heritage Site. It crosses the city north to south on the east. You will see it at some points during your sightseeing, like when visiting the train station or the Grand Rond which is not far from here. Not as nice as you might find it across its full length.
- Matabiau Train Station On the north east side of the city, east of the Canal du Midi. Built in 1905.
- Airbus facilities Tours are available in French and English lasting for about 1 hour. Strictly forbidden to take pictures and closed on Sundays. You must book well in advance and remember to bring a photo identification with you. The nearest tram stop is Andromede Lycee, then a short walk from there.
Blagnac airport is 11 km west of the city centre. Shuttle buses goes the main bus and train station passing by Jean Jaures and Jeanne D’Arc metro stations for 5 Euros per way, departing every 20 minutes and taking 20 minutes for the journey. This ticket is valid for 90 minutes after validating therefore you can continue your journey to the final destination by city buses, trams or the metro. Should you wish to go to Patte D’Oie metro station then you could benefit by taking bus number 66.
Within the city you will find a good network of trams and buses, and two metro lines. The cost for a single journey is 1.6 Euros. A free shuttle bus circles the historical centre every day except Sundays, once you see one you can flag it down as there are no designated stops for it. In any case, it will be rare that you need to use any public transport while in the city centre, everything is walking distance while many streets are pedestrianized.
As our plan for this weekend was meant to be quite busy and in a rush because of the plan of getting to Andorra on the day we landed, we decided to stay in a rather cheap and simple hotel. With almost no time to enjoy a hotel stay nor breakfast, we selected the Hotel F1 Toulouse, on Rue J. Babinet. (Please note that as of August 2017 this hotel is not existing any longer, however there are another F1 Hotels in Toulouse city).
Perfect for a night and specially if you have a car, although it’s not far from the city centre and you could easily use public transportation to/from city centre. But beware that the toilets and showers are shared, this is something we did not count with, hence for a night it might pass but not for more. We are totally against having accommodation with shared facilities; in fact, this has been the first time ever this happens to us. We just did not read through the description properly and it’s our own fault. On the other hand, that was a nice sleep and rest for sure. Clean, comfortable and very quiet, that’s all we really needed for a night.
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