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Toulouse is a city in southwestern France, near the Pyrenees, in the Midi-Pyrenees region, half way between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon.
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Points of Interest in Toulouse
Toulouse has a small center, and you can reach most interesting places in the downtown area comfortably on foot.
- Basilique Saint Sernin - a church from the 11th Century, partly restored by the famous French architect Viollet-le-Duc.
- Notre-Dame de La Daurade - a basilica dating from the 5th century, overlooking the Garonne river
- Cathédrale Saint Etienne - a Roman Catholic cathedral dating from the 11th century, now the seat of the Archbishop of Toulouse.
- Hôtel d'Assézat - one of the most appealing of the many old mansions of the city
- Capitole - the imposing and palatial building in the center of the city houses both the city hall and city theater, its beautiful façade facing onto the grand Place du Capitole
- Pont-Neuf - despite its name(like the Parisian bridge of the same name, its title is most probably derived from the French for 'New', not 'Nine'.), the only old bridge across the Garonne river; built between 1544 and 1626
- Les Jacobins monastery church, contains Thomas Aquinas' relics.
- Jardin des Plantes, a public park and botanical gardens on the south-east side of the city center. The park includes a Natural History Museum.
- Les Augustins Used to be a monastery church, and is today an art museum
- Les Abattoirs Modern Arts museum, and there is also a nice garden with a nice view on the Garonne
- Georges Labit Museum Asian arts and Egyptian antiquities museum in an exotic and Mediterranean garden built in 1893, 17 rue du Japon
- Canal du Midi. The Canal du Midi or Canal des Deux Mers is a 240 km long canal in the south of France, le Midi. The canal connects the Garonne River to the Étang de Thau on the Mediterranean. The Canal du Midi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Airbus offers tours of their facilities; the tour takes about 60 minutes and includes a guide who will tell you some background about the company; the screening of a promotional / historical video, and a look at the A380 production line. Photography is strictly forbidden, and you need to bring a piece of photo identification. Book ahead. Those who have done the tour before 2006 should note that tours now set off from a new purpose built structure shaped like a cross-section of the A380. The building can be difficult to find so check the website in advance.
Visit the website of Airbus Visit, the unique company authorized by Airbus to provide tours of the A340, A380 and Concorde.
Cité de l'Espace
The "space city" is another of Toulouse's "aviation" attractions. However you must be aware that it is not exactly a museum but a sort of scientific theme park without rides. There are some replicas of spacecraft and other exhibits, many of the latter interactive in some minor way. There's also a small planetarium. The park is suited well to 5-14 year old children, everybody else should probably spare themselves the trip. It's situated fairly far outside the city but there's a bus service starting outside the Jolimont metro station.
- By Public Transport (Bus):
Take bus route no. 37 from the Jolimont metro station going to La Plaine. Ask for the Cité de l'espace bus stop.
- Admission Fees: For Adults : €18.5, for Children: €12.
Toulouse has become a center of aviation and spaceflight in the past 20 years. More than 35,000 of the innercity's 400,000 citizens work in the civil aviation or space industries; Airbus / EADS is the largest employer in the region. The city has remained relatively unchanged despite the economic boom.
Toulouse is also heavily involved in research and education, being home to over 100 000 students (the University of Toulouse  is one of the oldest in the world, founded in 1229).
The city at the Garonne river is on the site of an ancient Roman settlement; even today many of the smaller streets follow their Roman counterparts and many of the red brick buildings are of a pseudo-Roman style. These buildings are also what gives Toulouse its nickname La ville rose (The pink city).
In the Middle Ages, Toulouse was one of the richest cities of France due to the sale of blue coloring (pastel) extracted from woad plants. This monopoly was only broken when the Portuguese began to import Indigo to Europe. Over 50 hotels, mansions, remain witness to the past wealth.
The tourism information office, Toulouse Tourist Office, is in the back side of the Capitolium.
- Take a walk through the city and along the Canal du Midi
- Have a walk along the Garonne river from St Pierre bridge and Pont-neuf during the evening.
- Party at St Pierre Place: very popular among Toulouse's students
- Rent a bike from Tisseo 'Velibe stations' for €1 per day which can be found throughout the city centre. The 'velibe' works like a bike taxi, with the first 30 minutes at no extra charge, but if you go over the 30 minutes you pay extra. You can use the bikes as many times as you like throughout your '1 euro day' fee.
- See a Rugby Match. If you are fortunate enough to be in Toulouse on match day, follow the crowds and the excitement to the stadium and soak up the atmosphere while watching of one of Europe's top Rugby Union teams Stade Toulousain. If you prefer league, then Toulouse's very own Toulouse Olympique plays in both the Co-operative Championship and the Challenge Cup. The matches are very family friendly and the atmosphere is electric!
The Toulouse Alternative Arts Scene
Websites are in French
- Toulouse is one of the most alternative French cities - maybe due to its huge student population and its historical past with half a million Spanish republicans who settled in the region after they lost the Spanish Civil War and escaped through the Pyrenees during the 'Retirada' in 1939. So even though the city is trying to get rid of them, it still offers a large number of squats, some of them hosting artistic movements. MixArt Myrys is one of the oldest and most active squat of artists within the city.
- La Dynamo. Is a club located in a former sex club and a great place to see live bands and other performances - ça bouge! Located in the city centre at 6 rue Amélie (Metro Jean Jaurès).
- Les Motivées is an association that is very active on the political and social scene in Toulouse, and that organises or takes part in many free events, strikes, concerts, etc. throughout the year. They founded a political party a few years ago that is pretty active locally and holds a few positions with the City Hall Council. Check also the Tactikollectif their fellow co-working association on events like festivals, etc. that has its origin in the Northern quarters of Toulouse, which are the ones with social housing and lower quality of life.
- La Grainerie. Is more particularly dedicated to circus and was first created and settled on derelict brown land; it hosts various collectives of artists every year.
- L'Usine. Is another residence for artists and collectives, located in the close suburb (Tournefeuille, 12 km from the City centre of Toulouse]
- le Collectif d'Urgence Acteurs Culturels - Emergency Collective for Cultural Actors defends the local associative and alternative cultural world, whereas the Toulouse Réseau Unitaire Citoyen - Civil Unitarian Network of Toulouse aims at stirring local, social and political debates.
Like all of France, you will not be disappointed with the food Toulouse offers.
Duck is a regional specialty, and thus many restaurants will offer duck for dinner.
Cassoulet is the most famous regional dish, a stew made with white beans, various kinds of meat, and pork skin.
Where to eat
- Délicatessen, 11 Rue Riquet (Metro François-Verdier), ☎ Tel: 05 61 62 49 00. Mon-Fri 4pm–2am, Sat 6pm–3am, Sun 11am–4:30pm, 6pm–2am. Busy tapas bar with friendly atmosphere that offers meals, a good selection of beers on tap and a real happy hour; tapas here are tasty, cheap and generous (choose 5 for €16.50 - March 2012). It's a popular place so it's better to get there a little earlier in the evening.
- restaurants at Victor Hugo market (Marché couvert Victor Hugo), Place Victor Hugo, ☎ Tel: 05 61 22 76 92. Market open Tue-Sat, from dawn to 1pm. Restaurants take orders at least until 2:30pm. During lunch time go to the first floor of the market (that would be second floor for the Americans - in short, the one above the market stalls), you'll find 5 good restaurants at a reasonable price. Market atmosphere, and better be patient to wait for seats as no reservations are possible, but it is worth it if you want to feel a typical local atmosphere.
Opening hours in Toulouse are generally Mon-Sat 9AM-1PM and 3PM-7PM, but there are numerous exceptions.
- As Toulouse is a city of aviation and spaceflight, check Airbus and the Cité de l'Espace for souvenirs
- There's a flea market every Saturday morning in just outside of the Basilique Saint Sernin. While it does not offer anything too special as flea markets go it's a great way to mingle with a local crowd. Another flea market is held every first weekend of the month at the Allées François Verdier, at the Grand Rond.
- The Marché Saint Aubin is a farmer's market surrounding the Saint Aubin basilica every Sunday morning, selling local vegetables and fruits. The atmosphere is very relaxed and there is often live music and dancing.
- Every weekday morning, the Boulevard de Strasbourg hosts the city's most affordable vegetable and fruit market.
- There are excellent second hand clothing shops or "friperies", especially on Rue Gambetta and in the whole district behind the 'Ecole des Beaux Arts', around the 'place de la Bourse' which is the historical textile production quarter of Toulouse
- If you are on a budget, the supermarkets where most students use to go are the brands 'Lidl' and 'Leader Price'. Those are to be found more on the 'edges' of the city (though some are accessible with the underground). In the centre, go for Champion or Géant Casino.
This article is based on Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike 3.0 Licensed text from the article Toulouse on Wikivoyage.