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France’s 4th largest city and home to half a million people, Toulouse is the heart of a metropolitan area of over a million people. Toulouse is also the capital of the Occitanie region, the largest in metropolitan France.
The city has Roman roots and in the 5th century Toulouse was capital of the Visigoth Kingdom. The Middle Ages saw Toulouse blighted by plague, religious conflict and wars. The 18th century saw the city begin to be modernised. During World War II, the city played an important role in the French resistance movement.
Toulouse is known as the aerospace hub of Europe with Airbus having their headquarters here. It is also an important city of education with over 100,000 students studying here. Nowadays, tourists are drawn here for its gastronomy, terracotta architecture, great shopping opportunities and friendly gay scene.
For information about gay rights in France, please see our Gay Paris City Guide page.
Toulouse is known as the Ville Rose (Pink City) due to its faded terracotta architecture and it has become an ironic metaphor for the city’s vibrant gay scene. Here you can find a good selection of Gay Bars, Saunas and a Dance Club that cater to the LGBT community.
Like most of France, Toulouse is a very accepting city and this is helped by its large and youthful student population. June’s annual gay Pride march is the biggest street party in the city.
Toulouse-Blagnac Airport (TLS) is located around 7km north west of the city centre. It is France’s 6th busiest airport and its connection to Paris Orly is Europe’s busiest route. It is well served to destinations in Europe, North Africa, North America and France’s Overseas Departments by budget and flag carriers.
An airport shuttle bus service takes around 20 minutes to get into the city centre. It leaves every 20 minutes between 5:30am to 00:15am. A single journey costs €8 and tickets can be bought on the bus or at the airport. Line 30 is cheap and allows you to transfer at Andromede-Lycee metro station but services are infrequent.
You can also take tram T2 to Arènes and transfer to the red metro line. This a single costs €1.60 and is valid for an hour. Tickets can be bought in the ticket office or at a machine. The journey takes around 20 minutes to Arènes, but there are fewer trams at the weekend. T2 runs from 5.57am to 11.57pm (20 past midnight on weekends).
Taxis can be found at the arrivals area between gates B3 and C1. You can pre-order a taxi to obtain a cheaper rate. Journeys should cost around €20 to €25 with journey times around 20 minutes.
To save costs some people choose to fly into Beziers and Carcassonne and transfer from there. Although the flights (many with RyanAir) may be cheap, the transfer costs may make up the cost of the flight and this adds extra time to your journey.
Gare de Toulouse-Matabiau is located in the city centre and is connected to the public transport network. It has direct connections to most parts of France. It also offers direct international connections to Barcelona and Madrid.
Toulouse is quite a large city but the historical city centre is compact. You can take in most sites in the city centre easily by foot and this is the best way to get a feel for the city.
By public transport
Tisseo is the operator for Toulouse’s integrated network of metro trains, trams and busses. A single journey costs €1.60 for an hours travel and day passes are available for €5.50. You must remember to validate your ticket. A free shuttle bus circles the historic centre everyday but Sunday.
Most bus lines run until at least 8pm while night bus services run from 10pm until midnight. The metro runs from 5am until midnight during the week but runs until 3am on Fridays and Saturdays. Trams run from 4.50am to around 20 past midnight with slightly later finishes on Friday and Saturday.
Capitole is the only licenced taxi company in Toulouse and has a poor reputation amongst locals. There are a few taxi ranks but your best bet is pre-ordering your taxi before hand. That being said, it is not uncommon for there to be waits of more than an hour when all other modes of transport have stopped running.
It’s best to stay within the city centre. For some of great hotel deals in Toulouse, visit our Gay Toulouse Hotels page.
Airbus – you can actually take guided tours of the Airbus facillities but you must book well in advance. The tour takes a hour and includes a tour of the A380 production line. Photography is strictly forbidden and you must bring photographic ID.
Basilica of Saint-Sernin – the largest romanesque church still standing in Europe and an important site on the historical pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. The church was refurbished faithfully in 1860.
Capitole – Toulouse’s town hall and allegedly the place where St Saturnius was martyred. The neoclassical facade was dates from 1750 but a lot of the building work here is from a later date. Here also lies Toulouse’s opera house, which is capable of seating 1156.
Pont-Neuf – one of the iconic images of Toulouse. Like its namesake in Paris, the “Neuf” in its name is traditional French for new and nothing to do with the number 9 (despite it dating to the 16th century).
Les Abattoirs – opened in 2000, Les Abattoirs is a contemporary and modern art museum hosted in a converted slaughterhouse. The original building dates from 1823.
Canal du Midi – a UNESCO world heritage site, this 241km long canal was historically an important means of travelling around the south of France. Nowadays, you can take peaceful boat rides from Toulouse with longer riverboat holidays also on offer.
Due to Toulouse’s location it does not get too hot in summer or too cold in winter. Spring and summer are the best times to visit as the weather is pleasant and the city comes to life, without being swarmed. Winters are cool affairs with temperatures staying around 8 and 12 degrees.
A variety of festivals and events take place in Toulouse throughout the year. In February the city celebrates the flowering of the violet and in December the Place de la Capitole welcomes Christmas Markets. From May through to August there are a variety of events to keep you entertained, including pride in June.
France is a Euro area country. Cash dispensers are widely available. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Hotels, banks and some local businesses also operate foreign exchange desks.
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