Planning a Toulouse itinerary is one of the highlights when mapping out a trip to Southern France. Toulouse is the fourth-largest city in France and is easily one of the country’s most unique destinations.
Located in the Occitanie region, which is close to the Spanish border, Toulouse is famous for the terracotta bricks that much of its architecture features (it is referred to as the Pink City because of this), the Canal du Midi, which connects the city to the Mediterranean Sea, its numerous, well-preserved medieval cathedrals, and the hearty, traditional cuisine that is typical of the area.
Whether you’re planning on spending 1, 2, or 3 days in Toulouse, read on! This Toulouse itinerary is perfect for covering the city’s classic must-sees, as well as touching on some of the area’s local delights and includes a day trip to the iconic medieval citadel of Carcassonne, which is roughly an hour away by train.
How Many Days in Toulouse?
If you’re planning a trip to the south of France, you might be wondering how many days to spend in Toulouse to really get the most out of your time there. The city may be fairly compact, but there’s an incredible amount to do and see.
It’s home to some of France’s most iconic landmarks and is the perfect place to sample some of the lesser-known gems of French cuisine, like cassoulet and saucisse de toulouse.
So, while 1 day in Toulouse is sufficient to cover the city’s main tourist sites, you should ideally try to spend at least 2 days in Toulouse to really get a feel for the place. Seeing Toulouse in 2 days will also give you more time to immerse yourself in the unique Occitan culture and architecture that the city emblemises.
If you’ll be spending 3 days in Toulouse, then you might like to make a day trip to the nearby, picturesque village of Carcassonne on your third day. Carcassonne is home to the Cité de Carcassonne, which is one of the best-preserved medieval citadels in all of Europe.
Getting To & Around Toulouse
The city of Toulouse and the surrounding area are served by Toulouse-Blagnac Airport, which offers a range of flight connections to the UK and the rest of Europe, as well as within France.
Domestic and international bus and train connections are to the city are both available, too, with regular departures to Toulouse-Matabiau Station from many cities including Paris, Marseille, Montpellier and Lyon. It’s also possible to reach cities like Nice or even Barcelona, however, there aren’t any direct trains available. You can view train schedules here.
It’s worth noting that, in some cases, budget flights to Toulouse from Paris and Barcelona can be significantly cheaper than travelling to the city by train.
The Toulouse city centre is fairly compact and walkable, and the city is known for having some of the most comprehensive public transit networks in the country. Renting a car in Toulouse is generally not necessary unless you’re planning on using it to explore the surrounding countryside as well.
If you enjoy cycling, then you may want to consider hiring a bike for part of your stay in Toulouse. The city is home to over 280 self-service bicycle rental stations, with plenty in the city centre, that are operated by VélôToulouse.
Though it’s not really necessary for navigating central Toulouse, cycling makes for a great alternative to using public transit when exploring further afield.
2 to 3 Days in Toulouse Itinerary
This itinerary covers most of Toulouse’s main attractions, as well as some lesser-known local gems. It also includes a day trip to nearby Carcassonne, one of France’s most renowned historical sites.
Day 1 – Toulouse City Centre Highlights
The first of your 3 days in Toulouse is the perfect opportunity to find your feet and get yourself acquainted with some of the city centre’s highlights.
These sites are all within walking distance of one another, making this a convenient way to take in some of Toulouse’s most iconic landmarks at your own pace. You can also organise a walking tour or a food tour if you want to learn more about the area from a guide.
Toulouse Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Étienne)
With origins extending back as far as the 3rd century, the remarkable Toulouse Cathedral owes its distinctive appearance to its various sections having been built over the course of hundreds of years.
The cathedral is also home to some gorgeous gardens, which double as a great place for a picnic, and stepping inside to view the incredible artwork and stained glass windows that decorate its interior is also highly recommended.
Interestingly, many of the original stained glass windows in Toulouse Cathedral were shattered during the French Revolution at the end of the 18th century (destroying religious iconography was commonplace during a two-year period of the revolution known as the ‘Reign of Terror’) – the stained glass you’ll see in the cathedral today were mostly installed during the 19th and 20th centuries.
Capitole de Toulouse & Place du Capitole
The second stop on this part of the Toulouse itinerary is the city’s grand Capitole, a majestic, neoclassical city hall which also functions as its administrative centre.
Resting at one end of an elegant, impressive square known as the Place du Capitole, tours of the Capitole’s historic rooms are available from the morning until early evening on most days.
The Place du Capitole showcases some real highlights of different architectural styles that have dominated in Toulouse throughout its lengthy history, with the grand Théâtre du Capitole and terracotta bricks of the Arcades du Capitole being just two examples of this.
Additionally, the centre of the square features a golden croix occitane or Occitan cross, the symbol of the Occitanie region of which Toulouse is the capital, as well as the Occitan language, which is indigenous to the area.
Heaven on earth for dairy lovers, Xavier is probably Toulouse’s most famous cheese shop, and it’s not hard to see why. The boutique features an enormous selection of soft and hard local cheeses, and the service is fantastic, as well. This is a great place to pick up a souvenir, too.
Couvent des Jacobins
Construction on Toulouse’s massive Couvent des Jacobins began in the early 13th century, and the building is a fantastic example of French gothic architecture. Not only is the church and convent home to some incredible relics, including the remains of Thomas Aquinas, but the interior features some very striking features, including a huge, vaulted ceiling and the famous ‘palm tree’ pillar.
It’s also worth exploring the Couvent’s gardens and cloister, both of which are especially lovely in the warmer weather.
Jardin Japonais Pierre Baudais
Planned and constructed in 1981 by then-mayor Pierre Baudais, Toulouse’s Jardin Japonais is one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan.
Home to a teahouse, karesanui Zen rock garden, a large koi pond, miniature Mount Fuji, and dragon sculpture, the Jardin Japonais is a fantastic place for some peace and quiet during your first day in Toulouse.
Canal du Midi
Right behind the Jardin Japonais is a stretch of the Canal du Midi, a 240km long canal that connects Toulouse’s Garonne river to the Mediterranean Sea.
Considered one of the most impressive feats of engineering of the 17th century, the Canal du Midi joins the Canal du Garonne and was initially built to allow wheat to be traded more easily along the French interior and internationally.
Nowadays, the Canal du Midi makes for a lovely place for a stroll. Lined by trees and benches, you can enjoy some fresh air and a picnic by the water before heading back to your accommodation or, alternatively, out for dinner.
Day 2 – La Cité de l’Espace, Les Abattoirs, Garonne River & Saint-Sernin Basilica
The second of your 2 days in Toulouse (or if you’re planning to visit Toulouse in 3 days) will be spent taking in some of the city’s cultural highlights in the Cité de l’Espace and Les Abattoirs, as well as strolling along the mighty river Garonne.
La Cité de l’Espace
One lesser-known fact about Toulouse is that it’s actually one of the European aerospace industry’s major hubs. Not only are a number of key aerospace manufacturers headquartered in and around the city (such as Airbus), but it’s also home to the Toulouse Space Center, which is the biggest space centre in all of Europe.
It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that Toulouse also has a fantastic museum dedicated to all things spaceflight; the Cité de l’Espace. The Cité boasts a planetarium, displays, and even features a number of impressive replicas, including a reproduction of the Ariane 5 rocket launcher, which stands at a whopping 55 metres tall!
The Cité de l’Espace is a bit of a trek from the city centre, being more or less on the outskirts of Toulouse. If you’re travelling from the area around the Capitole, then it should take between 30-40 minutes to reach the Cité de l’Espace via public transport. It’s also worth noting that the Cité can be very crowded in the summertime.
Don’t let the name put you off; Les Abattoirs is a fantastic gallery for contemporary and modern art located in the remains of an old slaughterhouse.
With a fascinating permanent exhibition and varied temporary exhibitions, visiting the museum makes for a laidback, thought-provoking experience. Les Abattoirs is also located on the banks of the Garonne River and offers a charming view of Toulouse from its exterior.
The museum’s café is also a great place to stop for lunch, serving delicious meals and desserts at reasonable prices.
The Garonne River and Pont Neuf
The Garonne River splits Toulouse in two and makes for one of the best ways to see the city. Originating in the central Pyrenées, the river flows all the way to Bordeaux. You can walk along its banks or even take a cruise along the river, if you prefer.
Either way, make sure to cross the river over the Pont Neuf. Constructed during the 16th and 17th centuries, the Pont Neuf is a beautiful stone bridge and the banks on either side turn into a popular picnic spot in the summer.
Near the Pont Neuf, you can also opt to visit the Georges Bemberg Foundation, an art gallery with a number of lovely works.
The Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse
Another of Toulouse’s most iconic landmarks is the Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse – considered to be the largest Romanesque building in Europe. Especially noteworthy are the basilica’s bell tower and facade, as is its crypt, if you’re feeling brave.
Admission to the basilica is free and heading inside is definitely worthwhile for a glimpse at its mighty vaulted ceiling, organ, and altar.
Cassoulet at Chez Emile
No visit to Toulouse is complete without sampling cassoulet (if you’re a meat eater, anyway), a hearty, slow-cooked stew typical of the Occitanie region.
A great place in the city to try cassoulet is Chez Emile, a charming restaurant serving homestyle southern French cuisine and local wine, located just off the Place du Capitole. Note that bookings are recommended, especially on weekends!
Day 3 – Day Trip to Carcassonne
If you’re planning on spending 3 days or a long weekend in Toulouse, then a day trip to the gorgeous citadel of Carcassonne makes for a fantastic use of your third day.
Perched on top of a hill overlooking the lush Languedoc countryside, Carcassonne is home to one of the best-preserved medieval castles in France, and the charming village itself is worth a visit, too.
There is a regular train service from Toulouse to Carcassonne or you can organise a guided tour from Toulouse.
Cité de Carcassonne and Château Comtal
The citadel of Carcassonne is, naturally, the main attraction here. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the area that the citadel now stands on has been occupied since the 3rd century CE.
The citadel as it appears today was constructed in the 14th century and has since undergone multiple restorations, with the most recent having been in 1997.
Château Comtal is the castle within the citadel and is an incredibly atmospheric structure. It’s home to a small museum, cannons, and is truly something to behold. Entry to the citadel is free, whereas visitors need to pay a fee to enter the castle itself.
Basilique des Saints Nazaire et Celse
The gorgeous roman gothic basilica of Saints Nazarius and Celsus is a national monument in France, as well as being a fantastically well-preserved example of French gothic architecture.
Especially noteworthy is the stained glass window from the basilica’s choir, which is dated all the way back to 1280, making it one of the oldest stained glass windows in all of France.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Carcassonne
Some visitors may want to spend a full day inside the citadel; however, the following activities are recommended for those who want to explore the village of Carcassonne, too.
While not huge, Carcassonne’s fine arts museum contains paintings by artists from across Europe and makes for a lovely interlude on this daytrip.
Saint Michel de Carcassonne
Saint Michel de Carcassonne is Carcassonne’s main cathedral and is another great example of French gothic architecture. It’s also within walking distance of Carcassonne railway station, so the cathedral is a pretty ideal final destination for your day trip.
Where to Stay in Toulouse
Hôtel Héliot – This 3-star hotel is an excellent choice for mid-range travellers to Toulouse. They have a central location for exploring the city, a number of lovely and comfortable rooms to choose from and breakfast is available in the mornings. Click here to check availability
Boutique Hotel SOCLO – For those looking for a sophisticated stay in Toulouse, you’re sure to love this boutique hotel. Centrally located close to all the city has to offer, they have a range of plush rooms on offer and plenty of amenities to ensure your stay is a great one. Click here to check availability
Appartements Design Hypercentre – These apartments are perfect for those who would like their own private flat while visiting Toulouse. They have a range of apartments available along with an excellent, central location perfect for exploring the best of this French city. Click here to check availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Toulouse hotels!
There are so many things to do in Toulouse and it’s a fantastic city to visit at any time of year. No matter if you’re interested in history, art, culture, food, or beautiful pastel-coloured architecture, Toulouse has something to offer!
Are you planning a trip to Toulouse? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!