The Complete Rugby Fan’s Guide to Visiting Toulouse
Toulouse is undoubtedly one of Europe’s top rugby destinations. With five European cup victories to their name, local team Stade Toulousain is the most successful club team in European rugby. Domestically, Toulouse has won a record 21 French Championship titles, something the locals are deeply proud of!
With the Rugby World Cup coming in 2023, at Taste of Toulouse we thought we’d run through some of the essential spots that rugby fans should not miss when in Toulouse. But this sporty aspect of La Ville Rose (the Pink City) isn’t just something to be enjoyed by those already passionate about rugby. There’s an amazing energy that surrounds rugby in Toulouse, particularly when Stade Toulousain is playing. If you have the opportunity to catch a game, or even just to watch a rugby match in one of the city’s busy sports bars, we highly recommend it.
Rugby brings a festive atmosphere to life in the city and has the power to bring people together, making sporting events an excellent opportunity to meet people and get an insight into a central element of Toulouse culture.
Rugby in Toulouse
Toulouse’s links to rugby stretch back a long way. Tracing its origins back to university and college rugby teams, Stade Toulousain was founded in 1907. From its beginnings, the team was proudly linked themselves with Toulouse’s historical symbols: red and black rugby jerseys inspired by traditional costumes worn by the “capitouls” or members of Toulouse’s medieval city council. And the team’s iconic ST logo taken from a monogram for St. Thomas Aquinas, whose body is kept in Toulouse’s famous Jacobins convent.
Success came early for the team with them winning their first national championship within 5 years. But they really established themselves as a force within the sport during the 1920s when they won no less than 5 national titles. Since then, the trophy cabinet has continued to grow, with the team winning an immense amount of silverware at domestic and international levels.
Today they play their home games in the Stade Ernest-Wallon (also called the stade des Sept Deniers), a recently renovated stadium with a capacity of 19, 500.
Below you will find a list of some of the best rugby bars in the city, alongside other rugby locations that fans won’t want to miss.
Tommy’s City Diner: 52 boulevard Lazare Carnot
Owned by former Stade Toulousain hooker, Patrick Soula, Tommy’s City Diner comes with the tagline “Welcome back to the fifties”. Designed in classic American diner-style, this casual eatery offers quality burgers, music, and, unsurprisingly, sports.
Inspired by his many trips to the US, Partick Soula opened his first diner in 1993, at the height of his success on the rugby pitch. He now runs a total of 9 diners across France, and their fun atmosphere and dependable quality have led to them being ranked among the top burger restaurants in France. The City Diner branch is conveniently located in the heart of Toulouse: a perfect spot for rugby fans to enjoy some hearty food in a fun atmosphere.
Visit the Stade Ernest-Wallon (also called “stade des Sept Deniers”)
Of course, the main reason for rugby fans to make a visit to the Stade Ernest-Wallon is to see Stade Toulousain play, though behind-the-scenes tours can also be arranged. Known for its brilliant atmosphere on match days, a trip to see the red and blacks play will give you insight into just how seriously the city takes rugby. If fixtures don’t align with your schedule, the rugby league team Toulouse Olympique XIII – which was just promoted to the top-level Super League in 2022 – also plays their home games in the iconic stadium.
For key fixtures where ticket demand is likely to be high, games are played in the Toulouse Stadium (Stade de Toulouse) which has almost double the capacity. All 2023 Rugby World Cup games played in Toulouse will take place in this larger venue. Toulouse Stadium is the regular home for the city’s Ligue 2 football/soccer team, Toulouse FC.
Le Brasserie du Stade Ernest-Wallon
An excellent restaurant for any rugby fan in Toulouse to bear in mind. Situated in the legendary Stade Ernest-Wallon itself, this mid to high-end eatery offers traditional French dishes with a modern twist. Le Brasserie du Stade Toulousain carries a good selection of wines and beers and the service is top-notch, making it a good option for those looking to arrange a classy but comfortable business lunch.
Oh, and keep your eyes open while dining, it’s not uncommon to bump into current Stade Toulousain and club legends here.
On game days, fans can also soak in the vibrant stadium atmosphere at the 400 square meter Bodega du Stade, which is open before, during, and after matches.
Chez Tonton, 16 place Saint-Pierre
Long popular with sports fans, Chez Tonton is located on the bustling Place Saint-Pierre. Just a stone’s throw from the river Garrone, this picturesque part of town tends to draw large crowds on match days.
The bar is family-run and makes a comfortable and vibrant choice for watching games on the barroom screens, kicking off a day’s revelries, or grabbing a post-dinner digestif. The house special is a meter-long line of pastis shots – it’ll certainly put you in a festive mood, but may be ill-advised if you’ve got big plans for the next day!
The Danu, 9 rue du pont Guilhemery
Originally opened as De Danú by former Stade Toulousain player and Ireland international Trevor Brennan, The Danu is one of the city’s largest sports bars. Re-branded as an English-style pub, it offers classic British food and a wide selection of beers. Boasting 8 screens, with 2 of those being located in outdoor beer gardens, this is an ideal choice for sports fans traveling in a group.
All games being broadcast in the pub are listed on their website allowing you to make your plans for the day before setting out.
Le Rouge et Noir, 3 rue du Pont Saint-Pierre
No, this Toulouse institution located in the Saint Cyprien district of Toulouse was not named in homage to Stendhal’s masterful. Le Rouge et Noir is a bar for true fanatics of the city’s rugby culture.
Run by husband and wife team, Michel and Huguette, since 2001, Huguette has said that for her rugby is like a religion. The two of them have been following the sport for many years and they seem to thrive on the sense of community that comes with following their local club. In fact, Huguette is so invested in rugby that she runs the local supporters club.
This quirky bar is jam-packed with rugby memorabilia and offers one of the best match-day atmospheres you’re likely to find. This is an especially good location for enjoying la troisième mi-temps (the “third half-time”).
If you’re unfamiliar with the tradition of la troisième mi-temps, it’s definitely worth being aware of it before your rugby trip to Toulouse. The third half-time is the party that follows a match. Traditionally, both players and fans would rub shoulders at a bar picked for the afterparty: victorious players and fans boasting of their team’s success, players recounting the trys they scored, the day’s also-rans drowning their sorrows.
The professionalism of the modern game means fewer players are attending la troisième mi-temps, but it’s still a big part of matchday for the fans. The banter between rival fans is normally good-natured, inspired by a mutual love for the game (and perhaps a few large glasses of beer).
Maison Good, 30 Bd Maréchal Leclerc
Opened by famous, current Toulousain player Romain Ntamack and several associates, this trendy restaurant focuses on international cuisine. The menu at the Maison Good is heavily seasonal, with the chefs letting the fresh ingredients inspire their menu.
The diversity of the menu means that anyone you might be traveling with should find something to excite their tastebuds. Maison Good also has an exciting selection of cocktails available. A cool, modern restaurant and bar to rendezvous with friends.
This brings to a close our list of just some of the great bars and restaurants that you should visit in this rugby-mad city. We hope we’ve inspired you to begin planning your visit to this incredibly welcoming and vibrant city! If you have any questions about this blog or our tours, please get in touch.