For couples who found themselves recently isolated with their other halves and missing the romance of their pre-lockdown relationship, the South of France has the perfect remedy, in the name of a city called Toulouse.
Nicknamed ‘the pink city’ for its local brick that dresses the ‘façades’ with warming colours, from soft pinks to the most flamboyant oranges, Toulouse provides a romantic backdrop for couples on a getaway to reignite the spark and enjoy quality time together. With the local accent consistently voted the sexiest accent in France, it gives Paris a run for its money for being the city of love. What better place to plan a visit with restaurants now reopen with extended terraces and shops set to welcome visitors again, in time for France to begin talks to lift border restrictions from June 15th.
Brimming with numerous gourmet, yet affordable restaurants and offering a whole host of cultural attractions, Toulouse offers an endless list of fun, dynamic dates options. Couples in search for some relaxed quality time together will also enjoy strolling hand in hand along the medieval streets in the old neighbourhood towards the romantic views of the river Garonne while watching the sunset and admiring the Pont Neuf, the Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques, the Dome of La Grave. And if you are tired, enjoy a relaxing cycle through the city and along with the Unesco World Heritage site Canal du Midi’s towpaths with VélÔ Toulouse, a self-service bike scheme.
Top sights in Toulouse
Boasting 2,000 years of history, the Ville Rose is home to numerous treasures, major monuments or little-known gems that can be discovered in the narrow streets and small squares, religious buildings and a wealth of mansion houses.
This is the emblematic building of the city: set across from the Place du Capitole since the XVIII century, it houses both the town hall and the Théâtre du Capitole. It can be crossed via the Henri-IV courtyard behind the central gate. The state rooms are lined up on the first floor, including the superb Salle des Illustres, a vast gallery of mirrors whose paintings retrace the history of Toulouse.
The basilica of Saint-Sernin
This basilica of brick and stone from the XI Century is actually one of the largest Roman buildings in the Occident. An ancient stop on the Way of St James, it is a listed UNESCO heritage site. Beneath its octagonal bell tower, you will discover an immense vaulted nave, as well as a crypt that contains numerous relics. Among them are those of Saint Sernin, bishop and martyr from the III century, to whom the basilica owes its name.
The Jacobins Convent
The most remarkable feature that is sure to surprise visitors is the unique vault in the form of a palm tree. The church, with its double nave featuring a painted décor and superb stained-glass windows, is also home to the relics of Saint Thomas Aquinas. As for the cloister of the convent, an island of tranquillity within the city, it regularly hosts concerts and exhibitions. A jewel of southern Gothic art, this ensemble was established in the XIII and XIV centuries by the Dominican order.
The Hôtel d’Assézat
During the Renaissance, the city, grown rich from the pastel trade, witnessed the creation of many sumptuous buildings, including the Hôtel d’Assézat. The sumptuous courtyard of honour serves as the backdrop from two façades marked by antique columns linked by a staircase tower. Nicolas Bachelier, the architect, worked for a great many of Toulouse’s families. The building was bequeathed to the city of Toulouse in 1895 and is home to academies and learned societies, including the Jeux Floraux founded in 1323.
Where To Eat
Regional products and wines take pride of Toulouse: ‘bons vivants‘ will appreciate the famous Cassoulet that includes the veritable Toulouse sausage and the aromatic wines of the South-West, a multitude of renovated markets and their night time events, the vibrant terrace cafés, the appetising tea rooms or even the 11 Michelin star restaurants.
The Taste of Toulouse tour offers guided tours of the impressive Victor Hugo covered market in the heart of the city and teaches English-speaking tourists about the local products on offer. Couples can tuck into baked goods, pastries, charcuterie, cheeses and sweet treats on their way around the guide teaches them about the local food. When in town, don’t forget to try the crystallized violets from Candiflor and violet-fused pastries from Maison Pillon and La Bonbonnière. And when in need of a bit of contemplation enjoy the sunset over the Garonne at the Café des Artistes.
With ingredients sourced by the nearby Saint-Cyprien market, Le Retour du Marché is a fine restaurant to stop at while exploring the centre of the city. Its location just 15 minutes away from the Musée des Augustins makes it a great spot to either start or end a day of visiting one of Toulouse’s many museums. A hidden gem, famed for fresh local produce and earthy market cuisine.
Right in the city centre, it’s a true gourmand little gem, a prestigious place, friendly, gastronomical, cosy for lunch yet refined for dinner, where one can try the exceptional cooking of Toulousian classics. The Genty Maigre’s Chef, Romain Brard opened more than 10 years ago, offering fresh and spontaneously prepared dishes, ever-evolving.
A two Michelin stars restaurant and one of Toulouse’s most popular fine-dining venue, located right next to the city centre. Top chef Michel Sarran creates a comfortable atmosphere to make all patrons feel at home. The indoor garden adds to the beauty of this joint, and the extensive wine list completes the dining experience. The high-quality food combined with personable service keeps new and returning customers all raving about this perennial city favourites.
Opened in 2018 and located in the Des Carmes district, the delicate cuisines are made fresh from local products and are served in a charming setting decorated with wooden furniture and brick walls. Emphasizing on the use of seasonal ingredients, Morgane and Nicolas draw their inspiration not only from French cuisine but also from their voyages. The duo, who gained their experience at a couple of Michelin-starred restaurants in Toulouse, travelled during one year through South Korea and Malaysia, allowing their curiosity to run wild while enriching their culinary skills with a global influence.
Where to stay
Reopening week of 8th June, you will find the hotel tucked behind the facade of an old movie palace on Boulevard Lazare Carnot you’ll find Mama Shelter Toulouse. After a day of walking and exploring, couples can sit back and cosy up with a glass of red while watching a romantic movie in the 46-seat cinema, the CineMama. From 79€/£70 per double room per night.
Located in the heart of Toulouse, walking distance to everything in the city and public transportation to reach La Cité du Espace and Airbus. The location is perfect a luxury city break. Housed in two converted 18th-century townhouses, La Cour des Counsils has 32 rooms wrapping around a central courtyard that is open to guests. The elegant décor of the vast rooms will immediately make you feel at ease, while the spa offers rejuvenating treatments for ultimate relaxation. Make sure to enjoy a meal at Le Cénacle, the hotel restaurant, as the chef’s sensational cuisine will enchant you. From £200 per double room per night.
Located in the historical part of Toulouse, the Hôtel des Beaux-Arts is more than just a hotel: it is a sanctuary dedicated to modern art. Each of the 17 rooms has a signature style, decorated by talented local artists coming from diverse art genres, such as street art, Beaux Art, Pop Art and many more. The cosy atmosphere and the Warhol-esque vibe will make you feel like you’ve just stepped into a top-notch art gallery. From £80 per double room per night.
How to get there
Toulouse-Blagnac International Airport boasts an exceptional location just 8km west of Toulouse. It is very easy to get to the city centre thanks to public transport links and taxis.
The Toulouse-Matabiau SNCF railway station is in the city centre, just 10 minutes’ walk from the Place du Capitole.
*Do you know?
Toulouse is just a short train ride to Albi, the birthplace of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and home to the largest collection of his art at the Musée Toulouse-Lautrec, and the medieval walled city of Carcassonne. Both villages on the UNESCO World Heritage list. For more info check the official website for Tourism in Toulouse.