Toulouse Travel Guide (Occitanie, France) Toulouse might just be France’s most overlooked city. Known as ‘La Ville Rose’ (the Pink City) thanks to the dusky-pink bricks used in many of its buildings, it’s the country’s fourth-biggest metropolis and has one of the largest universities outside Paris. But this vibrant southern city has so much going for it: a crackling cultural scene, a beautiful old quarter packed with hôtels particuliers (private mansions) and a glorious location at the confluence of the Canal du Midi and the River Garonne. Throw in some of the southwest’s finest food markets and restaurants, and it becomes hard to think of any trip to ...
Toulouse Travel Guide (Occitanie, France)
Toulouse might just be France’s most overlooked city. Known as ‘La Ville Rose’ (the Pink City) thanks to the dusky-pink bricks used in many of its buildings, it’s the country’s fourth-biggest metropolis and has one of the largest universities outside Paris.
But this vibrant southern city has so much going for it: a crackling cultural scene, a beautiful old quarter packed with hôtels particuliers (private mansions) and a glorious location at the confluence of the Canal du Midi and the River Garonne. Throw in some of the southwest’s finest food markets and restaurants, and it becomes hard to think of any trip to France that shouldn’t include a few days in Toulouse.
A bit of History
The first testimonies of human occupation date back to the Paleolithic Ages along the Garonne River. It is with the arrival of the Celtic tribe of the Volques-Tectosages, at the end of the 2nd century BP, that human occupation in and around what is today Toulouse will really become more important.
During the Roman times Tolosa, as the town is known, is integrated to the Transalpine region with a new city being built on the right bank of the River Garonne. The City is surrounded by an imposing rempart and to the South a monumental gate is erected the "Porte Narbonnaise" that will become of strategic importance for the succeeding powers: Counts of Toulouse, French Kings and Parliament.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, the city becomes the Capital of the Wisigoths who have conquered an important territory that extends from the Loire Valley to the Rhône and into Spain. They will be replaced by the Francs and under the Caroligian rule, Toulouse is incorporated with to the Kingdom of Aquitaine.
In the 11th century, the Christian faith is predominant and this is the time when a number of Churches and Monastaries are built such as Saint Stephen, La Daurade and of course Saint Sernin that remains one of the largest Romanesque Churches in Europe to this day. During the 12th century, a city council is created and in 1189 the Count of Toulouse, Raymond the Vth, officially recognises the power of this council composed of men nammed Capitouls.
The 12th century is also the time when Toulouse is confronted with the Cathars who challenge the Dogmas and organisation of the Christian Church. The Church tries to fight against the spread of this new religion by predicating but fail and a Crusade is launched against those considered as heretics. In 1229 with the surrender of the Count of Toulouse, the whole region becomes a possession of the Kings of France.
In 1463, a huge fire destroys the 2/3 of Toulouse, especially the heart of the city where most of the shops are located and the houses are built with half-timbered structures. King Louis XI, after having visited the town, will exempt the population of a taxe so that they can rebuild their town. This is when the town adopts its brick building architecture that is still present today and that gives it's nickname to the city: La Ville Rose (the pink city).
In the Renaissance times, Toulouse prospers thanks to the trade of Woad. This tinctorial plant is used to obtain a blue dye that is famous all over Europe. The city becomes one of the most important centers for this trade and with money flowing in, Merchants, Capitouls and Parliamentaries build sumptuous Private Mansions that symbolize their power. Today, it is possible to visit a number of these buildings including Hotel d'Assézat or Hotel de Bernuy.
During the war of Religions between Catholics & Protestants, many towns and cities of the region become Protestant strongholds but Toulouse will remain an ultra-catholic city for more than 2 centuries. The execution of a Protestant, Jean Calas, in 1762 for the would be murder of his son, inspires Voltaire for his Treatise of Tolerance published in 1763 in which he calls for religious tolerance.
In modern time, Toulouse is chosen to be the center of newly born aeronautics and plane building being located far from the front of WWI. The city will become home to the pioneers of aviation under the patronage of Pierre-Henri Latécoère. Famous pilots such as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (the author of the Little Prince) and Jean Mermoz will all come and practice in Toulouse.
Finally, with the increase in commercial flights, famous planes will be built in Toulouse. The most famous are the Caravelle in 1958 followed by the Concorde in 1969. Airbus headquarters will be created here and the company has become one of the most important airplane manufacturers with Boeing. Toulouse is today, the 4th largest city in France.
Our Private Day Trips from Toulouse
The city of Toulouse, France is the perfect departure point for sightseeing excursions to all the main attractions of the region. The small and quiet town of Albi, located just under an hour drive, is one of the most prized destination with it's world renowned Toulouse Lautrec Museum. The small town is also built out of bricks, and is home to one of the most impressive Cathedrals of France. A walking tour in Albi is the perfect way to discover this beautiful small town of France.
Nearby, we will take you to the small village of Cordes sur Ciel that has retained more than 100 gothic houses. The medieval streets are quite steep in Cordes sur Ciel but let our driver guides take you right to the top of the village to admire the stunning view. The village is also a perfect location for a tasty lunch that could include a local specialty, Cassoulet.
Our private day tours from Toulouse also include the fortified city of Carcassonne. Located less than an hour's drive from Toulouse, visit one of the most impressive walled town of France. Upon arrival you will admire the castle and ramparts at the heart of the medieval city; explore the Cathedral and the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire; and visit la porte Narbonnaise, which was the principal entrance to the Cité.
Another perfect tour that starts from Toulouse is to drive to the Marial town and sanctuary of Lourdes. This tour can be booked directly on our website and is one of the most popular of the destination. Visit the sanctuary with your guide and take some time to contemplate the different churches. You can also participate in an English speaking mass or why not go through the bathing ceremony.