Head for Toulouse, the pink city. There is a host of activities to discover related to art, history and aeronautics.
Collaboration agreement between Toulouse and Montreal
Why tell you about the attractions of Toulouse? Because this city certainly has what it takes to charm. What’s more, a cooperation agreement has just been signed for the next three years between Jean-Luc Moudenc, Mayor of Toulouse and President of Toulouse Métropole, and Valérie Plante, Mayor of Montréal.
The cities of Toulouse and Montreal share common challenges with top-tier industries such as aeronautics and artificial intelligence, but also in the fields of health, tourism and cultural and creative industries.
Thanks to these links, which we are strengthening, we will promote exchanges and synergies between our ecosystems, in the service of our future developments and the urban challenges we must meet.Jean-Luc Moudenc, Maire de Toulouse, Président de Toulouse Métropole
Between sea and mountains
So here it is, the pink city, the beautiful Toulouse. Located in the southwest of France, it is close to both the Pyrenees and the Mediterranean. The best of both worlds.
It is said to be pink because of the colour of many buildings. These bricks vary between shades of pink and orange and give the streets a pastel tone. Inspiring picture, isn’t it?
Canals and parks
Toulouse is criss-crossed by canals which allow bucolic boat trips: Canal du Midi, the Brienne canal and the Garonne river side canal. The river rises in the Pyrenees mountains and flows through the city before emptying into the Atlantic Ocean.
More than 160 parks and gardens, as well as the banks of the river and its alleys shaded by plane trees invite us to picnic and relax. Like in a Renoir painting.
A second view point is also recommended. It lets you marvel over the historic center with its bell towers, towers, monuments and roofs of Toulouse. You’ll be able to tell us, with a drink in hand, comfortably installed on the terrace of the rooftop Ma Biche.
And don’t forget to bring your American Express Cobalt™ Card with you when you travel to earn 5 points per dollar for all your spending at restaurants, bars and grocery stores in France!
Toulouse and its thousand-year-old heritage
The city has over 2,000 years of art and history. It has been awarded the “Ville d’Art et d’histoire” (City of Art and History) designation, a nice recognition of its rich heritage and its conservation efforts.
Hundreds of guided tours help us discover the witnesses of these two millennia. On foot, on a scooter or electric bike, on a segway-gyropod, on a hop-on hop-off bus, by boat, by canoe, through treasure hunts with riddles or with a Toulouse “greeter”, the tourist offer is very generous.
Located on the square of the same name, it represents both the heart and the emblematic building of the Pink City. This is also where you can find the town hall and a theatre.
You enter through the Henri-IV courtyard to access its superb reception rooms, which are free to visit. A must.
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin, whose octagonal bell tower stands out, is one of the largest Romanesque buildings in the West and a major stop on the pilgrimage route to Compostela. As such, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The crypt is free to enter to see its important collection of relics (which places it just behind St. Peter’s in Rome). You can admire the great organs signed by Aristide Cavaillé-Coll and classified as a historical monument (Toulouse still has 3 of these organs almost intact). Linger on the mosaic dedicated to St-Saturnin which inspired the logo and colours of the famous rugby team Stade Toulousain (ST!).
Then adjacent to the basilica, an invitation to take a leap in time at the Musée St-Raymond, Toulouse’s museum of archaeology, which has been given the title of “Musée Joyeux”, or “Happy Museum” (how cute!). It has, in addition to a beautiful crypt, an exceptional collection of Roman sculptures, the second biggest in France after the Louvre. Art, history and culture lovers, you’ll be pleased!
Convent of the Jacobins
The Convent of the Jacobins is a gothic building built in the 13th and 14th centuries by the Dominican order.
It is astonishing because of its arch, which reminds of palm branches. The church also has beautiful stained glass windows and houses the relics of St. Thomas Aquinas. Concerts and exhibitions are also held in the cloister and refectory of the convent.
Its guided tours
Toulouse also has many museums to complete the cultural visit of the city: classical art, medieval or contemporary works. For example, the Musée des Augustins (the Fine Arts Museum) is housed in a former Augustinian monastery with Gothic architecture (currently closed for renovation – partial reopening this fall). The Romanesque capitals, the gargoyles, the medicinal plants in the vegetable garden will seduce you.
The Musée Les Abattoirs (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) is housed in a former slaughterhouse. A precious photographic gallery is located in the water tower (one of the oldest in France).
However, if you prefer off-the-beaten-track tours, there is also a range of options. I have found one that I think is quite charming and which is called“Petit tour dans les cour” (Short tour in the courtyards), because the historic center is made up of hundreds of consumers mansions.
A more or less hidden courtyard, an unexpected courtyard, a courtyard that is no longer, cloistered courtyards, a water course, a courtyard full stop. By now, you probably understand that you are following a route in the city on the theme of the court!
Toulouse: roots and wings
The Space City
Although Toulouse has a long history that has enabled it to put down roots, it has also been able to spread its wings towards the future by becoming the European Capital of Space.
The Cité de l’espace (Space City) megaplex is located 7 kilometres southwest of downtown (easily accessible by bus). It is unique in terms of disseminating space and astronomical culture to the general public. Just imagine:
- immersive and interactive exhibitions including rare Moon and Mars stones, life-size spaceships, and robot arenas (new in 2021);
- sky observations through a telescope at the Astronomer’s Dome to admire the celestial beauties;
- science gardens;
- thematic meetings in the form of summer nights in July and August, cultural events around the Night of the Stars, Researchers’ Night, the Alpha Mission or even Martian robots…);
- two planetariums;
- an IMAX theatre.
For a few months now, the “Cité des petits” inside the megaplex has been open to children aged 4-8 years. It captures their interest with adapted animations and activities on themes of great interest to this age group: rockets and astronauts.
The Giant's Trail
Then, located in the Aerospace Valley, 15 minutes south of the city centre, La piste des Géants (The Giants’ Trail) offers a retrospective of Toulouse’s aeronautical history from where the pioneers of civil aviation took off.
They include the pilot, poet and well-known writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who wrote The Little Prince, among other works. The man tragically died at the age of 44 in flight off Marseille.
Located along the old Aéropostale flight path, this space features eight countries (Spain, Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Chile) once crossed by the Aéropostale line.
These gardens, which cover two hectares, offer children’s games, rest areas, discovery panels and plant species from the eight countries they cross.
A visit to the Aeroscopia Museum
Finally, about twenty minutes north-west of the city centre, the Aeroscopia Museum has everything to satisfy the simply curious to the inveterate avgeek with an enriched offer for families.
- There are five “discovery islands” such as the “aeronautical professions” (who wants to learn how to assemble an aircraft?) or the one on the projection towards the future.
- A set of aircraft models, some at man’s height.
- A collection of photographs and a historical fresco
- Flight simulators. Really?
- Nearly thirty aircraft with legendary planes. Who doesn’t want to climb aboard legendary planes like the Concorde and more recently the A380?
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Finally, the summer will live to the rhythm of festivals, from Rio Logo with its special “Africa Season” program from June 13 to 20, with presentations by Les Instantanés that will liven up the parks and gardens in July and August in the evening, with dance, music and theatre in intimate sessions.
A new one this year to discover: L’Essentiel Festival which will take place from the 8th to the 10th of July at the MEETT, Toulouse’s exhibition centre, with a musical programme.
Good plans for the summer
The Tourism Pass, which can be valid from 24 to 72 hours and is available at discounted prices, is ideal for taking advantage of the city’s tourist offer this summer (1st of July to 19th of September 2021).
The city can be discovered mainly on foot. The pass also includes public transport (metro, tram, bus) which efficiently serves the major points of the city.
Take advantage of it during your visit!
It’s so fun to be preparing for a trip. Toulouse, the pastel-coloured city, rich in history, is ready to be discovered thanks to a hundred or so guided tours of all kinds. Toulouse, criss-crossed by canals lined with plane trees and embellished with parks that inspire relaxation, is truly inviting.
Anchored in both the present and the future with its expertise in aeronautics, its complete touristic offer invites us to come and discover this city. And, I haven’t mentioned it yet, but you know, there’s the Toulouse sausage in cassoulet or BBQ and the Fénétra cake made of almonds, lemons and apricots. On my way!
For more information, visit the Toulouse Tourist Office website.