Zoe Taylor is studying BSc Business Management and French at the University of Surrey and is currently based in Toulouse, France, where she is working as a Global Sourcing Intern at Airbus Group. She's used her insider knowledge to put together a guide to touring Toulouse in a single day! To hear more about her French life, have a look at her blog or follow her on Twitter.
The nice thing about having friends and family visiting is that you make much more of an effort to see the cultural attractions of your town that you just never quite manage to get out of bed for on a Saturday. When my gal pal came to visit me a couple of weeks ago, she gave me the perfect opportunity to get off my bum and see the tourist attractions that I hadn't covered in 10 months of living here.
With my gal pal's train arriving on Friday evening and leaving on Sunday morning, we had just over 1 DAY to fit in the best Toulouse-y hot-spots and for me to give her a real sense of what it means to be toulousain. I must say that we were on fire with our culture crawl, and, given how successful we were, here I am with a definitive guide to seeing Toulouse in just 1 day!
10.00 - Jardin Japonais
Pop to a bakery to grab some croissants for breakfast and take them down to the park at Compans Caffarelli. Here you’ll find the Jardin Japonais, a really beautifully designed garden filled with blossoms and bonsai trees and all things Japanese. Sit on the grass in front of the fountain and eat your bakery treats - we actually bought a couple of baguettes along with our patisseries to fill us up for the rest of the day.
11.30 - Basilique Saint Sernin
Walk back towards Jeanne d’Arc and you’ll find yourself at the Basilique Saint Sernin, one of Toulouse's best known churches which is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. Take a look around its Romanesque architecture, and then head down Rue du Taur for cobbled streets and gift shops where you can buy your postcards and violet souvenirs. There is also another church on this street called Église Notre-Dame du Taur which is also open to look around!
12.15 – Place du Capitole
The absolute HUB of Toulouse has to be Place du Capitole, home to the Capitole building which acts as the city hall, as well as housing the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse opera company. This is the perfect time to get the standard tourist snaps of Toulouse, and even to have a glass of wine at one of Capitole's bars looking out onto the square. Don’t forget that the Capitole building is open to look around inside, and so definitely take half an hour to pop in and admire the paintings and decor inside.
13.00 – Views of Toulouse at Galeries Lafayette
This multi-storey French department store is surprisingly the best place to get a good view over la ville rose, so-called because of the red brick buildings that make up the city. Take the elevator right to the top to take in the panorama, and if you’re hungry you can stop at the sushi bar there which overlooks the city. A nice view and a bit of nigiri, what could be better ‘eh???
13.30 – Musée des Augustins
Continue your travels to the end of Rue Alsace-Lorraine where you will find Musée des Augustins. Free for students and about €4 for adults, this convent-turned-museum is a great way to get to learn a bit more out the Occitan culture and history, as well as to get away from the hustle and bustle of the main shopping streets. With different exhibitions here all the time, it’s worth a couple of visits if you plan to stay in Toulouse for a significant amount of time!
15.00 – Cathédrale Saint-Etienne
Head left a bit further along Rue de Metz to arrive at Cathédrale Saint-Etienne, the second of Toulouse's largest churches. This cathedral is in more of a gothic style than its friend Basilique Saint Sernin, and again is open to visitors all year round.
15.45 – Tea and Cake
Definitely time for an energy boost! Toulouse has lots and lots of tea rooms serving the most dee-lish-uss cakes and desserts and an abundance of different teas. Wouldn’t it be a shame not to take the opportunity to watch Toulouse life go by over a tarte chocolat? My favourites are Flowers Café, O Thé Divin and L’Autre Salon de Thé. Chill for a moment to look through your snaps so far and have a good old girly catch up.
17.00 onwards – Wandering and Garonne
After tea and cake, take some time to look around the windy pink streets of Toulouse and the many boutiques it has to offer before freshening up for the evening. We actually went to see a rugby match at Stade Toulousain, a sport very close to the toulousain heart and well worth watching if there if a match on during your visit! Make sure you take a stroll along Place de la Daurade with its restaurants and bars overlooking the Garonne; we actually tried one called Entrepotes and had a really lovely French-style tapas dinner, complete with sangria and desert for about €25 (make sure to book in advance as this little restaurant gets quite busy).
Finally, to make an authentic end to your day in Toulouse, grab a bottle of wine and take down to the steps of Place Saint-Pierre; there is really no better way to spend the summer evening than to enjoy the music from other groups of friends and to chat whilst watching the sun go down over the Garonne. Parfait…
If you too are a cultural Duracell bunny you will be super super impressed at how much you can fit into one day in Toulouse! If you’re ready to feel tired and satisfied at your end of your day trip, I challenge you to follow our itinerary and let me know what you think (or comment below)!