Places you should visit while in Toulouse (apart from Toulouse)
Mireille Harper is a student at The University of Birmingham, currently studying a French, Spanish and Italian on an Erasmus year at Université de Toulouse – Jean Jaurès (Toulouse 2) in Toulouse, France. In this post, she and her fellow third year abroaders tell you all the places you should visit while you’re on your year abroad in Toulouse - apart from Toulouse!
I decided to embark upon a day trip to Barcelona to meet one of my University of Birmingham friends to celebrate her 21st birthday. Barcelona’s climate is fantastic – even in November, meaning it’s a great destination for winter sun. Home to the Park (one of the major works of Gaudí), La Sagrada Familia (possibly Gaudí’s most famous work which will soon be finished), The Gothic Quarter and the Montjuic Castle amongst many other sights, you’ll be spoilt for choice. Megabus and Ouibus coaches take between 5-7 hours from Toulouse, with prices starting at £10 and under. Hostels start from under £10 too, so you can do a long weekend trip on a tight budget.
One of my fellow Birmingham student friend’s parents live about an hour and half drive from Toulouse, and we had the fortune of being invited round for a weekend of eating, sunbathing by the pool and best of all, catching up on a ton of British TV (if you move into student halls, prepare to have to scour the dodgiest sites to get your fix – nearly every website is blocked). What really topped the list of that weekend was a visit to Rocamadour, which was around 20 minutes away from their house. Rocamadour isn’t too hard to get to from Toulouse, however, I’d suggest a BlaBlaCar. If you go around on the last Saturday and Sunday of September, you’ll have a feast on the eyes with the Montgolfiade (an annual hot air balloon festival) which is an hour long, and usually starts around sunset! It’s such a great experience, and Rocamadour itself is a beautiful village (it is built in to the edge of a cliff)! If you’re a foodie, make sure to visit the annual Rocamadour Cheese Festival in May!
During the first week of University, the Toulouse Erasmus society organised a trip to Lac de Saint-Ferréol, in Revel. There’s a lovely lake, with access to pedalos. If you fancy a weekend trip while it’s sunny, this is a perfect destination. You can try BlaBlaCar, rent a car or cycle there, or you can take the train to Castelnaudary from Toulouse, and book a taxi/cycle from there. There is a hostel/guest house directly opposite the lake, and a restaurant next door. Also, Saint Julia, a beautiful hilltop village is only around 10 minutes from Revel, if you fancy a nice walk/excursion!
As suggested by University of Birmingham French and Spanish student, Alex Reay, who is currently studying at Université de Toulouse Jean-Jaurès for a semester:
A train to Albi cost about €10 but you could definitely get it cheaper if you booked in advance! Then we got a BlaBlaCar back which cost €5! The train was about an hour and a car was about 45 mins. It's definitely just the kind of place you'd go for the day as it’s not very big but there are around 4 walks you can do. We did one of them down the river bank and it was so beautiful. There's lots of cute little tea shops and restaurants to go to, so I would definitely recommend visiting whilst you’re on your year abroad! It’s also home to one of the biggest cathedrals in France which was breathtakingly beautiful!
As suggested by Matt Harrison, A Former Toulouse Paul Sabatier student and University of Birmingham graduate who currently works and resides in Toulouse:
One place that it is absolutely essential that you visit while in the Toulouse area is Carcassonne. In fact, there are two cities to visit. The medieval city, up on a hill, surrounded by ramparts and towers and gates, with its castle and cathedral, ruined and rebuilt, is a fascinating glimpse of the past. Afterwards, the "modern" 13th century city or "bastide", in a grid format with museums and churches and gardens and charming squares, is perfect for lunch and dinner and a bit of exploring. Toulouse and Carcassonne share much of southwest France's history: the crusades against heretics, the Langue d'Oc, the cassoulet... Only an hour or so by train from Toulouse, with cheap tickets available early in the morning and late at night, Carcassonne is perfect for a day out. And with plenty of lovely hotels and hostels and guest houses, you could even make a weekend of it.
As suggested by Queens University Belfast French and Law student, Aimee Donaldson, who is currently studying at Université Toulouse Capitole:
During my year abroad in Toulouse, I went and visited Bordeaux and I couldn't recommend it more! The train tickets were only €30 return and the train was only 2 hours long (compared to the €80 ticket and 8 hour train to Paris). I found it to be a much more 'elegant' city than Toulouse with an older crowd, a great shopping scene and some beautiful art museums! I went the last week in November so just in time for the Christmas lights and Christmas market! It was absolutely beautiful, I'd definitely recommend going that time of year. It's filled with pretty restaurants and cafes but more importantly, lots of nice wine bars, after all, that is what it's famous for! So if you're on your year abroad and looking for a city to visit, I'd definitely recommend putting Bordeaux on your list.
As suggested by University of Liverpool French and German student, Vicky Napier, who is currently studying at Université de Toulouse Jean-Jaurès for a semester:
Munich is a fabulous place to visit from Toulouse not only because the flights were super cheap and short but because there are an abundance of things to do. Firstly Lufthansa (the airline) provided us with free goodies; sandwiches, coffee AND WINE. A brilliant start. Winter is a great time to visit Munich thanks to the beautiful Christmas markets and not solely Christmas-themed. There are medieval markets, hippy markets and food markets. A lot of bratwurst opportunities! Munich is a gorgeous city with lots of beautiful buildings and it seeps with rich Bavarian german culture (including the beer halls). We went on a bike tour and travelled around the whole city, seeing everything in a quarter of the time. I would definitely recommend. If you love burgers, they have a chain called Hans im Glück. The food and cocktails were absolutely divine and very accommodating (vegetarian, vegan and gluten free). Lastly, the thing which stood out to be the most was the kindness of the German people. They made me feel at home and didn't hesitate to offer a helping hand.