Toulouse was probably one of my favorite cities. There weren’t as many tourists in September and it’s a small enough town that getting around on foot was really easy. I stayed somewhat near the city center, so as soon as I walked out the front door, I was on a cobblestone street with tons of shops and restaurants. I also used the city’s bike share program and loved it immensely! Except that one time when I dropped the heavy bike onto my leg and had a wicked bruise. What I loved most about Toulouse were the colorful buildings – It was just like stepping inside a little fairytale village!
I started off exploring Toulouse on foot, walking up along up Rue Saint-Rome, the charming street just right outside my Airbnb with shops and restaurants, to Place du Capitole. There was a market of some sort going on which blocked the views of the buildings from the plaza. I was unable to get a good picture because of the tents. I did walk to the Basilisque Saint Sernin de Toulouse though!
I made my way back south and then west along Rue de Metz towards Pont Neuf (translates to “bridge nine”) and found….city bikes! I downloaded a handy app called “Velouse” (so clever! “bike” in French is “velo” so velo + Toulouse = Velouse). It acts the same way as the Bordeaux app so it just tells me my location and all the docking stations. Again, I was able to register at a dock station with my credit card for a 24 hour pass. I went across the city’s Pont Neuf to the other side and away from the city center. I just wanted to find out if it would be more suburban. I came across a park with views of Pont Neuf. The skies were pretty cloudy that day so by golden hour, there wasn’t much color.
Since Toulouse is a university town, there were a ton of people who looked like they’d be around my age or younger. The demographic was definitely younger than that of Bordeaux’s. People seemed to be going out after sunset in packs and lounging around in the parks. When it was nearing nightfall, I biked over back to the city center side of town to grab something for dinner. I ended up trying this shop that specializes in charcuterie and cheese boards. I ordered a single board that came with an assortment of delicious cheeses, curated meat, and bits of fruit. As with any meal, I also got some bread, which was great to dip into the honey! I’m semi-vegetarian, but allowed myself to try different cuisine while traveling.
After dinner, I biked up towards Place Saint-Pierre. Here, there’s a great view of another bridge and the Passerelle de la Viguerie, one of Toulouse’s iconic buildings. I actually have no idea what the building itself is – I tried to google its history but failed.
I docked my bike in a station in Place Saint-Pierre, and opted to walk back to my Airbnb to call it a night. At this time (even around 10pm) there were tons of university students out and about just socializing, eating, and drinking. As a lonely female traveler who speaks barely intermediate French, I didn’t want to stay out too late!
Day 1 wasn’t a full day in Toulouse since I’d just arrived in the city coming from Bordeaux. Day 2 was though! And it started off in a panic. I went to a bike station nearest to my Airbnb to punch in my access code, only to find out that a bike was still in use. I realized that I had never properly docked my bike from last night! It had been almost 12 hours since I rented out the bike, so I was just imagining the costs accumulating. With my 24 hour pass, I get 30 minutes free per ride, but after those 30 minutes, it gets incrementally more expensive. I took a picture of the customer service number and dashed back to my Airbnb to see if my host (who had conveniently left for a weekend trip) had a house phone. My cell plan charges $1.50 / minute or something like that for international calls. Luckily, I found a phone and was able to get a hold of someone and explain the situation to her. She was very understanding and dropped any fees I might have accumulated. Such great service! I commend Toulouse’s bike share program for being so awesome about everything.
So now I was back on the road on a newly rented bike, and went straight to a place in the heart of Toulouse called Couvent des Jacobins. I had looked up other travelers’ itineraries on Pinterest and this place came up as a must-visit. The church portion of the covent is free to visit, but you need to pay a small fee to enter the courtyard. I walked in expecting to pay 4 euros, but with my old UCLA BruinCard, I got in FOR FREE!! Always a wonderful feeling to know that my old student ID works in foreign countries. There was even a man practicing classical music on a grand piano in one of the chamber halls. I sat there listening to him for about 15 minutes, grateful that I could appreciate this kind of music because of my mom (who is a piano teacher and basically forced me to learn as a kid).
The courtyard itself was small, but charming and peaceful.
After the covent, I decided to stop by the city center’s Galeries Lafayette. I read a tip somewhere to head up to the top floor and rather than sit and eat at an expensive department store restaurant, and to simply let the hostess know that you’re here for the views. And it did not disappoint! The rooftop wasn’t by any means the tallest building there – I was only on the 6th floor. But it still provided spectacular views of the city.
For a mid-afternoon snack, I made my way to Les Crêpes de Benoît and had a nutella banana crepe with a side of strawberry sorbet.
To get to the crepe shop, I passed by a pretty church – Cathédrale Saint-Étienne.
I know these cloudy skies look bleak but I absolutely loved the weather. The temperature was an amazing 72 degrees Fahrenheit and no sun. I had enough sun in Bordeaux where I got a couple shades darker and was left dehydrated at the end of each day. Weather definitely contributed to my love for Toulouse.
For dinner, I looked to Yelp for help and decided on a French restaurant near my Airbnb: La Gouaille. This is where I learned that most restaurants close in the afternoon and don’t reopen for dinner until 7:30pm or later because I had to wait 15 minutes to be seated. The menu changes with the season, so I can’t remember exactly the name of the dish I ordered, but I had a great salad with lots of cheese (not pictured), a main plate of baked cheese with pork and roast potatoes, and of course more bread. Everything was delicious so I’d definitely recommend going there if you’re in Toulouse!
By the end of dinner, it was already getting late and I had an early train to Marseille. I headed back to my Airbnb for a good night’s rest after a long day of exploring Toulouse. I may not have documented everything I did, but I biked around a lot and visited stores and markets such as the Victor Hugo Market! Overall, 10/10 would recommend that you make Toulouse one of your stops next time you’re in France. 🙂
Thanks for reading!