La vie en rose | Toulouse

Toulouse is constructed from pink bricks that glow in this sunny corner of south-west France

24 August 2016, 8:38am
The city is surrounded on all sides by water
The city is surrounded on all sides by water
Why go? 

Known as “la ville rose” life is rosy in Toulouse. The city is constructed from pink bricks that glow in this sunny corner of south-west France. Surrounded on all sides by water, the city’s cobbled streets weave their way down to the River Garonne where locals sun themselves in summer. Despite being France’s fourth largest city, Toulouse has the feeling of an overgrown village with sausages sizzling on street corners and the best cassoulet and foie gras served in every café. 

What to do? 

For a cultural fix visit Basilique Saint-Sernin, the largest surviving Romanesque church in the world. Built in the 11th and 12th centuries, it was an essential stopping point on the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route. A typically Romanesque church the bell tower had two levels added when a neighbouring church built a tower taller than the one at Basilique Saint Sernin. The extra two levels, built in a different era, were built in Gothic style. Inside lies the tomb of St Saturnin (Sernin), whose act of martyrdom was to be tied to a bull and dragged through the streets. 

The grandeur of Saint Sernin is amplified by the simplicity of the Jacobin Convent. The Dominicans built the church in the 13th and 14th century to show that a place of worship need not be extravagant, and used a simple double-nave structure. The brick building is built in Southern France Gothic style with red bricks and stained glass windows. The palm tree – the most famous ribbed vaults in the church are reflected in a mirror at the foot of the column, making visitors feel like they are looking into an empty swimming pool. 

The Place du Capitole is the heart of the city. Its square is dominated by the city hall, displaying in its grand chambers paintings by Toulouse-born artist Henri Martin. The square is often the site of exhibitions and youngster gathering for demonstrations. Surrounded by trendy cafes, this is a great spot to sit and grab a coffee and watch the world go by. Explore the boulevards that snake out from the square and wander towards the river. 

Hire a bike and cycle through the city’s cycle points and along the Garonne banks lined with food, art and craft stalls at the weekend.

The Pont Neuf links the two banks of the river. The oldest bridge in Toulouse, built in the 16th century, has remained erect through some of Toulouse’s worst floods due to large overflow holes that remove pressure from the bridge when the Garonne is swollen. 

Getting there

Air France and Air Malta operate regular services between Malta and Toulouse. Flights departing from Malta on 24 August and returning on 31 August on Air France were priced at €632.15 including tax, while flight on the same dates on Air Malta were priced at €406.31.