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Toulouse Through Rose-Colored Glasses

Discover the sights, smells, and sounds of France’s “Pink City.”

Down in the South of France, where the violets bloom and the Garonne river flows, sits Toulouse – France’s fourth-largest city, known for its charm and slower way of life. Nicknamed “La Ville Rose” (or the Pink City), Toulouse earned its rosey moniker from the color of the terracotta bricks used to construct many of its most famous buildings. Here, a look at this often overlooked French destination that’s brimming with over 2000 years of history.

THE SIGHTS

CULTURE CLUB Aldo Pavan CULTURE CLUB Built in 1955 during Toulouse’s booming Renaissance period, the Hôtel d'Assézat is a museum that’s an actual work of art itself. Once a mansion for a wealthy merchant, the spectacular building now houses the Bemberg Foundation, a private museum with a collection of 17th-century paintings and objets d’art. GO GOTHIC Elenathewise GO GOTHIC Described as a “jewel of southern Gothic art,” the Church of the Jacobins is one of Toulouse’s must-see treasures. Known for its breathtaking vaulted ceiling that resembles a palm tree and gorgeous stained-glass windows, this deconsecrated, 13th-century church (which now serves as a museum) is one of the city’s most admired attractions. A view of the cloister of the Church of the Jacobins, where visitors can soak in the pink hues and sunshine. Jean-Pierre Lescourret A view of the cloister of the Church of the Jacobins, where visitors can soak in the pink hues and sunshine.
The church of the Jacobins of Toulouse and its ceiling called Palm of the Jacobins
COUVENT DES JACOBINS A TOULOUSE, HAUTE-GARONNE, FRANCE
Julien Fourniol/Baloulumix Bertrand MACHET/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images HIGHER CALLING Created by MaryAnne Nelson HIGHER CALLING Consecrated in 1096, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin is one of the largest Romanesque buildings in the Occident. Also a UNESCO world heritage site, the church offers visitors a glimpse into Toulouse’s ancient past. ON A BOAT joyt ON A BOAT Like most places, the best way to take in as many sights in Toulouse at once is on the move. Boat rides along the River Garonne offer visitors all the grand views the city has to offer, like the Pont Neuf bridge, the dome of La Grave, and lots of sunbathing Toulousains. A bright and sunny view of Pont Neuf from the banks of the River Garonne. Pakin Songmor A bright and sunny view of Pont Neuf from the banks of the River Garonne.

THE SMELLS

LOCAL DISHES Liu Hao / EyeEm LOCAL DISHES If there’s one thing the French know how to do, it’s eat well, and Toulousains are no different. With specialty dishes like foie gras, smoked duck, and cassoulet on most menus, the cuisine in Toulouse is definitely delicious, although not made with dietary restrictions in mind. SMELL THE VIOLETS Hans-Georg Roth SMELL THE VIOLETS Toulouse’s unofficial nickname “City of Violets” dates back to the 19th century, when Napoleon III is said to have introduced the flower to France. Although it's illegal to pick them — the flower became officially protected in 1985 — visitors can find violet candy, liqueurs, and perfumes in shops all over Toulouse.
Violet candies from Toulouse
FRANCE-FOOD-PASTRY
Nicoloso, Loic REMY GABALDA/AFP/Getty Images CHEESE, PLEASE Bloomberg/Bloomberg via Getty Images CHEESE, PLEASE France’s Ministry of Agriculture has counted more than 3,500 varieties of cheese throughout the country. Visitors won’t have the time (or belly space) to try them all, but there are plenty of established fromageries (cheese shops) around town where one can start checking them off their list.

THE SOUNDS

DRAMA ROOM Andia/UIG via Getty Images DRAMA ROOM The Capitole de Toulouse, which sits in the heart of the Pink City’s majestic square, is home to both the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) and the Théâtre du Capitole (opera house). Inside, grand marble staircases and 17th-century frescoes will leave visitors in awe. CAFE LIFE Walter Bibikow CAFE LIFE Beyond the rich history and breathtaking views, what attracts so many to Toulouse each year is the general atmosphere, which visitors can enjoy simply by sitting outside. With its lively bistros and southern climate, Toulouse is best experienced with a laissez-faire sense of wonder and a glass of wine in hand.
Toulouse
People dining on Capitole Square.
Jean-Marc ZAORSKI/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images Jean-Pierre Lescourret Toulouse’s Pont Neuf bridge, illuminated at night. Rory Goodwin / EyeEm Toulouse’s Pont Neuf bridge, illuminated at night.



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