Toulouse, Benh Lieu Song

A not-to-be-missed stop on your trip to southwest France, Toulouse, the ’Pink City’ of contrasts, boasts an exceptional heritage and offers visitors plenty of pleasant surprises!

1. La Ville en Rose

Toulouse was built almost exclusively using tiles and wide Roman bricks, known as ‘foraine’. This ancient tradition continues today. It is now 10 years since it was restored to its former glory, conferring the warm characteristic colours of the most gentle of pinks and the most flamboyant of oranges, which have earned it the name ‘Ville Rose’ (Pink City).

2. The city never sleeps

As part of the Toulouse Plage event this summer are free family activities on the banks of the Garonne, plus music concerts during Toulouse d’Été. Toulouse is also one of the best places to catch a rugby game – the team has won three European cups. In the evening, lovers can enjoy a romantic walk amidst the coloured lights that illuminate the city’s monuments.

3. Local flavours

Try one of the five Michelin starred restaurants or linger at an outdoor café. Typical dishes include: foie gras, duck, Toulouse sausages, cassoulet and Roquefort cheese with Armagnac brandy, Fronton or Gaillac wines to drink. The Victor Hugo covered market is recognized as one of the most prestigious in France.

4. Major exhibitions

Toulouse is home to more than 50 art galleries and a dozen major museums. On show this summer at Les Abattoirs is the monumental La Dépouille du Minotaure en Costume d’Arlequin – a stage curtain painted by Picasso. Meanwhile, the Natural History Museum recently reopened after 10 years.

5. Space centre

The Cité de l’Espace theme park has a host of astro attractions designed to capture the imagination of adults and children alike. There’s an IMAX® cinema showing films shot in space and a simulator experience to be had in the Planetarium.

6. Flying visit

In 1969 Concorde took off from Toulouse Blagnac airport, followed by the first Airbus in 1972. The story continues today with the giant of the skies, the A380, and will continue with the A350 and the Aeroscopia museum in 2013.

7. Relaxing waterside

Toulouse is like a junction between the Mediterranean sea and the Atlantic ocean, linked through the Canal du Midi, which is listed by UNESCO. Both residents and tourists enjoy cruising, strolling and cycling along the river banks, sitting on a bench with their beloved or picnicking with friends.

8. Architectural heritage

Explore the treasures of the city’s rich patrimony: the Capitole never fails to stir those entering its richly painted ceremonial rooms. Nearby, the pilgrims en route to Santiago de Compostela kneel in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Saint-Sernin basilica.

9. A potted history

Learn about the city’s traditional plants, including the violets brought back by French soldiers from the Napoleonic war. The Maison de la Violette is housed in a barge anchored on the Canal du Midi. The ‘blue gold’ of Toulouse is a plant used to produce a pastel dye – visit Hôtel d’Assézat, one of the pastel merchants mansions built in Renaissance times.

10. Easy access

Positioned as the gateway to the Midi-Pyrénées, Toulouse is an ideal base from which to explore the wider area. It’s also on the border with Languedoc-Roussillon. Fly to Toulouse with EasyJet from Bristol or London-Gatwick, with British Airways from London-Heathrow, with BmiBaby from Manchester, with Jet2.com from Edinburgh, Leeds-Bradford or Belfast and with Aer Lingus (and occasionally, Europe Airpost) from Dublin.

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