Nicknamed La Ville Rose (The Pink City), Toulouse is one of France’s most beautiful cities. The nickname comes from the city’s unique use of red bricks in its older buildings. A hub of activity, Toulouse leads the way in the aerospace industry and is one of the major centres for higher education in Europe. It also plays host to numerous music festivals throughout the year. WORDS: Ashleigh Davies

A city of industry
One of the few cities that bypassed the modernisation that took place during the industrial revolution, Toulouse, with its rich industrial history, has always managed to do things its own way, dating back to the golden age of commerce in the 15th century. At this time, wode (pastel) was its primary export, and was sent worldwide until the emergence of indigo killed off the market. Following the two world wars in which aeronautical manufacturers were based here, Toulouse found itself a new worldwide market – one which helped produced the Concorde.

Artist’s paradise
Go anywhere in Toulouse – be it the banks of the Garonne River or through Capitole Square – and you’ll see art. Every year, the Garonne is alive with a new work by a respected artist. The paintings on show in the Arcades Street Gallery, Capitole Square, are representative of the city itself and its inhabitants – from birth all the way through to aeronautics and space. Another point of interest is Fresco by Jean-Paul Chambas at the Theatre du Capitole, which highlights the history of art through the use of opera, painting, sculpture and architecture, to name just a few. It’s a striking piece and well worth the effort of seeking out.

Location, location, location
Situated just north of the Pyrénées, Toulouse is perfectly located for travellers and visitors looking to explore the countryside and check out the ski slopes. The Gascony countryside is beautiful, full of quaint bastides (fortified villages), fine wines and foie gras. An ideal way to recover from the hustle of the big city.

The Fountains of Toulouse
Ranging from the 16th century up until the early 20th century, the nine fountains of Toulouse are an interesting collection of statues, obelisks and gargolyes. The Saint Etienne Fountain, the oldest in the city, has the distinctive honour of having had some of its decorations recast – the originals apparently upset the locals’ feelings.

City of Space
Featuring the first Planetarium in the South of France, City of Space offers an insight into the world of space and all its wonders. On show is an Ariane 5 propulsion rocket, which stands a whopping 55m-high and truly captures what it takes to get into space. City of Space also shows how much space exploration has benefited our everyday lives without us ever realising it. Individual tickets cost from between €17-€20, depending on the time of year you visit.

The Saint-Sernin Basilica
This is considered by many to be the most important and beautifully restored Romanesque church in the world. It is the largest in the West and was a major stopping off point for pilgrims on the road to Santiago de Compostela.

Bonus points for: Being unique
Loses marks for: Too much to see in too little time

• Additional information supplied by Lonely Planet ( The fourth edition of Lonely Planet France is out now.