Destinations,  Europe,  France,  Travel Diary

A week exploring Toulouse, France

I spent a few weeks wandering through Southern France towards Barcelona on my Europe 2022 adventures, including a week in Toulouse, the Pink City. This was high on my list of places I wanted to visit, so I decided to stay longer.

Journal date: October 17-24, 2022

Where I stayed

I booked a studio apartment through AirBNB. Because I stayed a week, I got a small discount which meant I only spent $393.62 USD total or about $56/night. Toulouse is one of the more expensive cities in South France, as it’s a major tourist destination. My little apartment was worth the cost, though, as it had a good kitchenette and a comfortable bed, and was located down a small side street right off the downtown area.

Sightseeing

Toulouse is a relatively small city and you can do most sightseeing on foot, though they do have a metro/public transit system available. I focused my efforts on free things to do, of course, and wandering around looking at interesting buildings.

The Place du Capitole is a neoclassical palace-turned-government building, with free tours of the rooms. There’s enormous frescoes and art inside, quite pretty and worth visiting. The large square outside often has events going on; when I visited, there was a farmer’s market thing and some wine festival something-or-other.

Some places I didn’t get to but have on my someday-soon list:

Tomb of St. Thomas Aquinas — I saw the outside of this but I think the inside was closed when I visited. Nearby is the Couvent des Jacobins, which looks interesting as well.

Les graffitis de la rue Gramat is a graffiti street that I somehow never managed to get to despite street art being a big interest of mine. Whoops!

Jardin Royal is a free public park from the 1750s with exotic trees.

The Basilica of Saint-Sernin, along with the former hospital Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques, are UNESCO World Heritage Sites because of their significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route. The hospital has a free museum on site that looks good, too: Musée de l’Histoire de la Médecine.

Walking Tour

I booked a tour through AirBNB Experiences; it was a group walking tour with a local, Florie, who did tours in English and French. It was a super small group with a max of 4 people, and my tour was just me and a couple from California.

We met at a shopping street and then went to the Esquirol neighborhood, Alsace-Lorraine street, Place du Capitole, then down to the banks of the Garonne before finishing up at Notre-Dame de la Dalbade to see the Black Madonna. Along the way Florie pointed out interesting buildings and public art, and gave us short histories of the area from medieval times to just after World War II.

Notre-Dame de la Dalbade Photos

Some of the buildings we saw were closed for renovation at the time, but normally you can go inside to see them. For instance, we saw the Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques from across the river and Florie explained its history, but it wasn’t opened to sightseers at the time.

It was an excellent tour and I highly recommend Florie as a tour guide. She doesn’t seem to be doing tours on AirBNB any longer, but if you find her on another tour website then definitely book with her.

Shopping

One of my sweaters was starting to fall apart, so I went to Uniqlo (for the very first time!) to get a merino wool sweater. Merino wool is great for travel, as it doesn’t smell as fast as other materials and you can handwash it and it dries fairly quickly. I have a wool sensitivity so I prefer 100% merino wool with a very smooth/tight blend. Uniqlo has a few different kinds of merino wool sweaters available but I only found one that didn’t immediately make me want to itch, so I bought that one.

I also stopped by a popular thrift store called Kilostock. They have AMAZING things in there, including wool sweaters and funky vintage American brands, but I actually ended up buying an Eddie Bauer packable backpack for €10. I LOVE that backpack and I still use it now!

Is it worth visiting Toulouse?

Definitely! Toulouse is a funky city with great architecture and fun public art, and I loved learning about its history. It’s the fourth largest city in France after Paris, Marseille and Lyon, but the main center of it feels small in a way that’s pretty charming.

That said, you definitely don’t need to stay a week. If you’re on a time crunch, you can get away with maybe 1 day of sightseeing the actual city and seeing the major sights.

More European adventures!

Anastasia is a former librarian turned digital nomad. She's been traveling the world full time for two years and has visited 18 countries so far! Just Gone Wandering is a travel resource for solo female travelers on a backpacker's budget-- or slightly more-- and highlights amazing places to visit as well as providing tips and tricks for traveling smart and frugal. Read more...

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