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Cities of France - Toulouse

With it's mild climate, great food and a determination to enjoy life, Toulouse is a dynamic, animated city that draws in tourists like a magnet.

Located in the southwest, Toulouse is the fourth-largest city in France, after Paris, Lyon and Marseille.

Sitting pretty on the banks of the Garonne River, archaeological evidence dates human settlement in Toulouse to the 8th century BC. Toulouse was moved to its present spot by the Romans in 120 BC and many of the smaller streets still follow these ancient paths.

Toulouse is known as "la ville rose" (the pink city) because many of the buildings are made of red brick, a traditional local material, giving the town a warm glow.

In the middle ages, Toulouse was one of the richest cities in France. Today it is still a big, bustling metropolis, however, the historical centre of Toulouse is relatively small, so the best way to discover the city is on foot. Toulouse prides itself on being exceptionally "green" with free electric shuttle buses, and over 200km of bike track in and around the city. Getting around Toulouse isn't just cheap; it's also low-impact on the environment.

If you visit, you might like to explore:

  • Canal du Midi. This 240 km long canal is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as it is the oldest canal in Europe still in use.
  • Basilique Saint Sernin. A partly restored 11th Century church.
  • Hôtel d'Assézat. One of the most appealing of the many old mansions in the city.
  • Capitole. The imposing and palatial town hall and theatre with a beautiful facade facing onto the grand Place du Capitole.
  • Pont-Neuf. The only old bridge across the Garonne river; built between 1544 and 1626.
  • Les Jacobins. Monastery church which contains Thomas Aquinas' relics.
  • City park at the Grand Rond. Head south-east from the city centre.
  • Les Augustins. This old monastery church is now an art museum.
  • Les Abattoirs. Modern arts museum with a lovely view of the Garonne River from their gardens.

For more than 20 years, Toulouse has been recognised as the centre of the European aviation and space flight industry. Toulouse hosts the Airbus headquarters and the assembly-lines of many Airbus planes. Other important industries include electronics, information technology and biotechnology. The city also hosts l'Oncopole de Toulouse, the largest cancer research centre in Europe.

All this talk of industry is no doubt making you hungry .. and Toulouse has plenty to satisfy you in that regard. Duck is a regional specialty, so you'll often find duck on the dinner menu at local restaurants. Another local tradition is Cassoulet, a stew made with white beans, various kinds of meat, and pork skin. Also look out for Saucisses de Toulouse, a type of sausage and Garbure, a cabbage soup with poultry.

Toulouse is a heady combination of old world history and cutting edge industry, ancient charm and modern day vibrancy .. definitely worth a visit on your next trip to France.