Halfway between the sun-lit shores of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, and just a stone’s throw from the snow-capped Pyrenees, is the Southern French city of Toulouse.
While most major French cities are proudly hewn from stone, Toulouse is built from bricks, These humble bricks, once considered a sign of poverty, are now a source of pride. Throughout the day their colors change, from red to orange, to pink, earning Toulouse the name “La Ville Rose”, the pink city.
The Church of the Jacobins
Much of Toulouse’s finest brickwork is found in its holy places. Step into the rose-colored light of the Church of the Jacobins and gaze up at the incredible vaulted palm that rises over the final resting place of Thomas Aquinas.
Then, climb the bell tower for views across a sea of terracotta and a maze of medieval lanes below.
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin
Follow the footsteps of centuries of pilgrims to The Basilica of Saint-Sernin, a hallowed stop for those who walk the Camino de Santiago to Spain.
From a fragment of the true cross to the bones of over 100 saints, these vaults house the world’s largest collection of holy relics outside the Vatican.
Wander down Rue Croix Baragnon to one of France’s most beloved churches, Toulouse Cathedral. Although the design changed course many times over the Cathedral’s 500-year construction, this lopsided, mishmash of styles is proof that when we look beyond imperfection, true beauty often awaits.
The Museum Saint Raymond
Toulouse’s many civic buildings and museums breathe life into the city’s brickwork too. The pink heart of Toulouse is its Capitole, whose walls celebrate the city’s great moments… it’s four seasons… and love itself.
Come face to face with the city’s Roman past at the Museum Saint Raymond. Ponder past deeds and deceptions in the Gallery of Emperors; an incredible gathering of marble busts unearthed 40 miles upriver at the Roman Villa of Chiragan.
The Museum of the Augustins
The stone lips whisper hopes, secrets, and curses too, within the medieval vaults, staircases, and cloisters of the Museum of the Augustins. Home to artistic treasures from across the ages, this 14th-century convent is also a refuge for homeless gargoyles, rescued from the wrecking ball of war and time.
Color is a theme that has long infused the story of France’s fourth-largest city. While brickwork earned the pink city its sobriquet, blue is the color that brought the city its incredible wealth.
Toulouse is filled with mansions built by 15th-century dye merchants who made fortunes when the city was the epicenter of the pastel trade. The stateliest of all is Hôtel d’Assézat, which today houses one of the finest Renaissance and Impressionist art collections in Europe.
The Aeroscopia Aeronautical Museum
From fabric dye to the sky above, blue is a color that continues to bring prosperity to Toulouse.
At the Aeroscopia Aeronautical Museum, discover the city’s rich aviation heritage, from its perilous beginnings to the design and manufacture of the world’s most iconic aircraft.
Cite de l’Espace
While at Cite de l’Espace, discover how Toulouse’s aerospace prowess has helped humankind push beyond the clouds and into the final frontier.
Jardin Royal and Jardin des Plantes park
No matter how far from Earth we may roam, Toulouse’s many gardens remind us that there is no place like home.
So take the time to relax amid the groves and floral displays of Jardin Royal and Jardin des Plantes, before losing yourself in the city’s other simple pleasures.
The Victor Hugo Market
Sample local delicacies at the Victor Hugo Market… watch the waters of the Garonne slide by to far off Bordeaux… or just ride a bicycle to nowhere in particular.
Visit Toulouse and you’ll soon understand that it is not just the red oxide within its bricks that gives this city its special glow. It is people who breathe life and magic into her clay.
So pack your sense of wonder and follow the light to Toulouse, …for when you walk these streets, the pink city shines even brighter.