Toulouse, La Ville Rose, with its softly glowing pinkish architecture, hipster-filled Universities and ancient monasteries may lose to its northern competitor Paris, or, to its southern opponent Riviera, in tourist popularity – but maybe this is for the best, as when you do visit Toulouse, you get the feeling that you are being let in on a secret.
Here are a dozen things why you should visit Toulouse!
(for the first six un-missable things on the list, click here)
7) La Fiancée Coffee
54 Rue Peyrolières
France is, of course, famous for its cafés, but what I was craving for was some good old flat whites, and one of the best ones in town were provided by La Fiancée. La Fiancée is located in the old town, near one of the most visited attractions in Toulouse, The Jacobite Monastery, and just around the corner from the main square. La Fiancée is also a perfect spot to rest your feet while vintage shopping! The vibe is relaxed and the place is said to be especially popular for brunch. Which I sadly missed. But there has to be something left for the next visit too, right?
8) Couvent des Jacobins
This 13th century Dominican monastery is beautiful sample of Southern Gothic architecture. Rising in the Old Town of Toulouse, the building’s reddish brick work is emblematic for the city’s architecture. Outside, the monastery seems a bit off-putting and austere but stepping inside you find it, in fact, very inviting and alluring. In the church a calm atmosphere prevails, and here also lies the earthly remains of one of history’s greatest philosophers, St Aquinas. Stepping into the cloister, from 1307, you are transported into the Middle Ages and you can almost hear the ancient monks shuffling past. Visiting the church is free, but there is an entrance fee of 4€ to visit the cloister and the beautifully painted cloister Saint Antonin.
9) River Garonne
Apart from the Old Town area, another defining feature in Toulouse is the River Garonne. It is quite impressive, slowly gliding wide river, which starts its journey from the Pyrenees. To me, it seemed that the river’s colour changed from one hour to another. On the eastern bank of the river, you’ll find the old town, shopping streets and many traditional museums. The east side seemed to be a bit more residential with some cosy looking cafés and restaurants too. During the day, people jog along the river bank, and when the sun starts to set, the banks offer a perfect spot for little gatherings between friends and lovers.
10) Les Abattoirs
76 Allées Charles de Fitte
And since you are by the river, just cross it to the west side, and head to Toulouse’s main modern and contemporary art museum, Les Abattoirs. As the name hints, the premises have worked as slaughterhouses but in 2000, the red brick buildings were turned into an impressive art gallery. Unfortunately, when I visited, most of the museum was closed as the exhibition was changing, but I got a good glimpse upstairs where dozens of art students were drawing and a small group toured the rooms with a knowledgeable tour guide. Very lively museum, very worth the visit.
11) Marché Victor Hugo
Place Victor Hugo
What’s a better place to feed your soul and body than a market hall? Marche Victor Hugo is the oldest one in Toulouse, dating from 1896. Downstairs, there is a vast array of typical food produce of the area, and upstairs, you can sit down and eat the typical dishes of the area in the market hall’s restaurants. Marché Victor Hugo is located in a posh area of the old town, and surrounded with classy chocolate and cheese spots, too. Just in case you didn’t find enough from the market hall.
12) Le Café Cerise
4 Quai de la Daurade
As any traveller, sometimes you just need to sit down, consult the map, and drink coffee. In Toulouse, Café Cerise proved to be my best local find to a calm cup of coffee (excellent flat whites!) and touristy planning. The coffee shop is situated on the banks of River Garonne, just around the corner from many old town museums, restaurants, vintage shops and, well, any place that occurs in this list. They have seating on two levels indoors and also outside places. Cerise has a good selection of pastries and brunch is served between 11 and 15 o’clock. Enjoy!