Are you visiting South West France soon and looking for the most useful Toulouse travel tips? We are here to help!
Toulouse is one of the most beautiful cities in France and while it’s a pretty popular place to visit for the French themselves, a lot of international tourists completely overlook it. This is a mistake you are not going to do!
Toulouse was my home for years and it’s fair to say that I am completely in love with it!
This city is full of history and culture. There is something for everyone to enjoy.
It’s also a paradise for foodies (so is the rest of South West France to be fair!)
If you’re planning a trip to Toulouse, make sure you read this list of travel tips first! I am going to tell you everything you need to know before your visit.
From where to stay, to what to eat and how to get around!
So, are you ready to discover the best travel tips for visiting Toulouse? Let’s get started!
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Stay in the city centre of Toulouse
One of the best things about Toulouse is that its city centre is quite small and compact. This makes it really easy to get around on foot.
The city centre is also where you’ll find most of the attractions, restaurants and cafes.
For this reason, you definitely should stay in the centre. While accommodation may be a tiny bit more expensive than in the surrounding areas, it’s totally worth it!
Firstly, it’s not that much more expensive.
Secondly, you will truly get to enjoy the city and it will be much more practical at night.
Since Toulouse is such a lively city and has so many restaurants and bars, you will want to enjoy some nice meals in the evening and being able to go back to your accommodation on foot is a huge advantage.
While public transport is quite good in Toulouse, it’s just not worth you going too far. The difference in price won’t make up for the cost of the metro and the time wasted in transportation.
Here are the areas I recommend:
- Capitole. This is as central as it gets so you can’t beat it but it’s also the most expensive part.
- Esquirol. Perfect for restaurants and bars.
- Carmes. Beautiful neighbourhoods with loads of shops.
- St Pierre. Ideal for nightlife.
- Jean Jaures, Jeanne d’Arc and Compans Caffarelli are also excellent options in terms of location and are usually a bit cheaper.
If you are looking for hotel recommendations, here they are:
- Grand Hotel de l’Opera in Capitole. Incredibly well located with amazing views over the Capitole Square.
- Mercure Toulouse Centre Wilson in Jean Jaures. Great location and convenient if you want access to nightclubs or the station
- Hôtel Le Père Léon in Esquirol. It’s close to the restaurants and bars so you’ll never be bored in the evening here.
Get a Toulouse City Card
If you’re going to be spending a few days in Toulouse, I suggest getting a Toulouse City Card.
Prices start at 18 euros for 24 hours and it includes free entrance to most of the museums and monuments in Toulouse as well as discounts on various activities, restaurants and bars.
It also includes unlimited use of public transport so it’s definitely worth it!
Finally, with this card, you can book one of the walking tours organised by the visitor centre of Toulouse for free! This alone makes the card worth it!
If you’re not planning to visit any paying attractions in Toulouse then of course, you can skip it but if you have even one on your list, you’ll get your money back with this card.
While you can take it for 72 hours, I recommend to take the 24 or 48 hours and gather all the attractions with an entrance fee plus your walking tour during that time.
Here are some of the best places to visit with the card:
- Couvent des Jacobins
- Natural History Museum
- Abattoirs Museum
- Augustins Museum
You will also get discounts on the bus tours, cité de l’Espace and cruises.
You can purchase the Toulouse City Card online and pick it up at the Tourism Office just behind Capitole when you arrive.
At this point, don’t hesitate to ask the staff for advice. They are adorable and super useful. They can also help you book your walking tour.
Book a walking tour
So, I know I just said to book the Toulouse Tourism Card and that a walking tour was included.
If that’s the option you are going for, perfect.
However, if you do not want to do any of the paying attractions such as the Jacobin Convent or the museums, it will work out a bit cheaper to book a walking tour on its own.
Toulouse is a city where we walk so walking tours make all the sense in the world.
In the space of 2 to 3 hours you will have discovered most of the city!
Also, the guides are passionate! They are locals who know the city like the back of their hand so they won’t only show you the famous landmarks, they will also show you some hidden gems and give you insider tips.
It’s such a good way to spend your time in the city and it’s excellent value for money.
Learn a few phrases in French to help you get around
Obviously, I am not expecting you to learn French just so you can visit Toulouse however, knowing a few sentences and the basic words will always come in handy!
In touristy places, people at the front desk will probably speak English but everywhere else, it’s not a guarantee.
As you may know, the French aren’t too good at speaking English and they are extremely shy about it.
Here are a few sentences you should know:
- Bonjour! (Hello!)
- S’il vous plait. (Please.)
- Merci. (Thank you.)
- Au Revoir. (Goodbye.)
- Oui. (Yes.)
- Non. (No.)
- L’addition s’il vous plait. (The bill please.)
- Je ne comprends pas. (I don’t understand.)
- Parlez-vous anglais? (Do you speak English?)
LOCAL TIP: So, I know the French have the reputation to be rude but let me break this stereotype.
The French aren’t rude, especially not in Toulouse. As a matter of fact, the Toulousains are known for being extremely friendly and helpful.
The thing is though, the etiquette is very important in France and that starts with the language.
They will not like if you expect them to speak English in their own country. While some of them can, they will appreciate you asking them to speak another language and not trying to impose yours in what is their home.
They also love politeness and in France that starts by saying ‘Bonjour’.
It’s incredibly important to say to say hello. If you don’t, you’re off to a very rocky start.
There is a whole ‘Bonjour process’ in France with la bise and everything around it but I’ll spare you the details since you don’t need to do all of that.
Here is how to start your interaction in order to make sure you will get the warmest welcome: ‘Bonjour. Désolé, je ne parle pas Français. Savez-vous parler Anglais ?’.
This means “Hello. Sorry, I don’t speak French. Do you speak English?”.
While this may look like a very simple thing to say, I promise it will change everything.
Also, don’t forget the please and merci. It’s super important too!
Sample some of the local cuisine
South West France is famous in the entire world for its food. That’s where the foie gras comes from as well as the duck confit.
For this reason, it would be a shame to leave Toulouse without tasting the local dishes.
You will find all sorts of restaurants in Toulouse so make sure to pick a traditional place like Chez Émile in Saint-Georges, La Maison du Cassoulet or Le Point d’Ogre in Carmes.
I would also highly recommend La P’tite Gouaille in Esquirol. It’s authentic, affordable and located in a typical Toulouse cave with bricks. It’s a locals’ favourite!
If you are looking for a place for lunch, head to the café de la Concorde in the Chalets neighbourhood. Again, it’s super good value for money and loads of locals come here for lunch. They don’t serve food in the evening though.
Now that you know where to eat, let’s talk about what to eat!
The first one would be the Cassoulet. The origins are these dish are debatable since two other places (Carcassonne and Castelnaudary) claims the dish is theirs. Regardless, Toulouse has its own version and it’s worth trying it.
A cassoulet is a hearty dish made with white beans, sausage and pork rib or belly. It will usually cost between 15 and 20 euros but I promise you’ll be super full after that!
Here are another few dishes from Toulouse that are worth trying:
- Toulouse sausage: a type of sausage that is specific to the region
- Confit de canard: duck leg confit, another iconic dish from South West France
- Foie gras: while this doesn’t come from Toulouse itself, it’s still a famous delicacy from the region
- Violets: Toulouse is known for its sweets, liquors and cakes made from this flower
PRO TIP: You can also join the food tour of Victor Hugo market. This is the largest and best market in the city. No matter what, it must be on your itinerary but if you want to taste local dishes and wine, this food tour (ran by a native-English speaker who lives in Toulouse) will be perfect for you.
Rent a bicycle and explore all the narrow streets and alleyways
One of the best ways to explore Toulouse is by bicycle. The city is quite flat so it’s perfect for a leisurely ride.
As a matter of fact, you’ll quickly notice that there are bikes everywhere and that the locals use their bikes for everything.
Best of all, it’s very easy to rent a bike in Toulouse.
You can use the VélôToulouse (nicknamed Velouse by the locals). Basically, it’s a network of public bikes. You will find stations all over the city and it’s very affordable.
Most locals take the annual plan since it’s cheap as chips but you can also rent one for a day.
Go to one of the stations (again they are everywhere so you won’t need to look for them for long) and head to the machine where you can pay for a ticket.
It costs 1.20 euro for one day or 5 euros for 7 days. Yes, you’ve read that right. You see what I mean when I say it’s super cheap!
You will need a card to do that though since the company needs to make sure they can hold a deposit in case you don’t return the bike to the station.
You will be able to cover so much ground with the bike and since it’s flat and the weather is nice, it’s such a pleasant thing to do!
PRO TIP: Since you don’t know the city like the back of your pocket yet, I would recommend booking the e-bike tour of Toulouse first.
Basically, you will be with a local guide who will take you all around the city centre on an electric bike. Not only is it great fun and you get to learn so much about the city but it will also be a great opportunity to get more familiar with the city and you’ll feel more comfortable exploring on your own after.
Stroll around the city centre
This may sound a bit silly at first but yet, that’s probably the best Toulouse tip of them all.
As I previously said, Toulouse has a very small and compact city centre which makes it easy to explore on foot and bike.
Of course, there are some landmarks to check out and I’m sure you’re already looking at the Jacobins Convent but Toulouse is not Paris.
It’s not a city where you go from landmark to landmark trying to tick off bucket list items.
It’s a city where people take their time and enjoy ‘flâner‘.
What on earth is flâner, I hear you say. Well, that’s a French concept that actually doesn’t have a translation in English so the best I can do is to give you an example.
Flâner means taking your time, wandering around, looking at the buildings, popping up in local boutiques, stop for a coffee. Basically it’s exploring without having a specific goal.
It’s walking around, relaxing and just see where that leads you.
Toulouse is a city where the whole concept of flâner will make so much sense because that’s simply the best way to discover it.
Also, since it’s small, you won’t ever go that far and if you do feel like you’re lost at some point, you can be sure to find a metro station nearby that will bring you back to somewhere you know.
Do not rent a car in Toulouse
I simply can not stress this enough: DO NOT GET A CAR!
Toulouse is not the best city to explore with a car. Streets are narrow, most of them are one ways, the traffic on the ring road is insane and also, well, Toulousains are quite hot-headed drivers and have very little patience.
Since the city centre is mainly pedestrian anyway, you won’t even get to enjoy your car in the city.
Finally, parking is a nightmare and can be very expensive. On top of it, most parking spots are limited to 2 hours.
So, now you got it, as long as you are staying in the city, you really shouldn’t rent a car. Not only will it be a hassle but it will cost you a fortune.
You can do so if you are planning on taking some day trips though. Speaking of that, that’s my next point!
Take day trips and explore more of South West France
Toulouse and Bordeaux might be the most famous spots in this region of France but they are far from being the only places worth visiting.
South West France is incredibly beautiful! It’s a land of traditions and authenticity that has been shaped throughout centuries of history!
That’s something you should learn more about.
Toulouse is ideally located in the centre of Occitanie which means that there are many places you can visit in one day from the city including castles, villages, cities and lakes!
Here are some of the one I highly recommend:
- The Pyrenees
READ MORE: 21 Best Day Trips from Toulouse, France
Have a picnic at La Daurade
If ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do” is your motto then this one is for you!
La Daurade are the quays / waterfront located on the side of the River Garonne. You can easily access it from Capitole, Esquirol or Saint-Pierre.
Here you will find restaurants, cafes but also a lot of green spaces.
Most locals go there during the summer with a picnic and some drinks and enjoy a nice evening between friends while watching the stunning sunset.
You usually get to see the sky turning all pink (which is beautiful on top of these pink buildings), the beautiful cupola of La Grave hospital and the reflection on the water.
It’s simply beautiful! (and free!)
Toulouse is a city that has much to offer in the way of history, culture and beauty.
Toulousains are known for their hospitality so you’ll feel right at home no matter how long your trip lasts.
So now that you know the best travel tips and things to know before visiting Toulouse, pack your bags and enjoy the Pink city!
You may also be interested in:
- 13 Prettiest Villages near Toulouse, France
- 21 Best Day Trips from Toulouse, France
- Toulouse 1-Day Itinerary: Exactly How to spend 1 Day in Toulouse, France