Sunset by River Garonne

Things to Do in Toulouse: Four Locals Tell Us Their Favorite Places

Planning a trip to Toulouse? There’s no better way to learn about your upcoming destination than by talking to locals and learning about the sights and attractions that might get neglected in the usual travel literature. With this in mind, we met up with some of our friends in Toulouse to find out where they like to go and where they take their guests from out of town when they come to visit.

Join us as we discuss some exciting things to see and irresistible places to eat around Toulouse. And if trying delicious new foods is one of the things you enjoy best about travel, be sure to check out our range of Walking Food Tours.

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity and flow.

Walk along Toulouse

Walks Along Toulouse’s Garonne River…

Our first interviewee was Marine Esch. As a Press Relations Officer for the Toulouse Metropole’s Attractivity Agency, the city’s official tourist office, Marine knows all about Toulouse’s unique charms. She gave us her time to discuss her favorite pastimes, must-see sights, and hidden gems.

What is your favorite thing to do in Toulouse?
For me, I love to wander along the Garonne River. This is the best thing about the city. The walk changes every season: it’s lively in the summertime with nautical activities on the water, it’s really quiet in the springtime, and it’s wild in the autumn and winter.

If a friend were visiting Toulouse, what are the things you would tell them they absolutely can’t miss?
I always like to take them to the Convent of the Jacobins (Couvent des Jacobins), because I really like the architecture of the place, and I feel there’s a special vibe coming from this huge church with its cloisters.

And also, just for its uniqueness, Cité de l’espace, Toulouse’s space theme park. Or, perhaps, Aeroscopia, to see their collection of planes – it’s not every day you can see big planes and historical planes in front of your eyes.

What Toulouse attraction do you think doesn’t get enough attention? What are the hidden gems?
I don’t know if it’s really a thing, but I always like to talk about the charm of Toulouse; the atmosphere you get as you walk from one square to another. The vibe you get from the medieval streets of the Old Town is something unique.

Charcutier Loic Garcia of Maison Garcia

Exploring Toulouse’s Food Culture and Nightlife

We were pleased to get the chance to interview third-generation Toulouse charcutier Loïc Garcia of Maison Garcia to talk about some of his top picks for food, drinks, music, and more.

What are your favorite things to do in Toulouse?
The first thing to do for me is to have lunch at the Victor Hugo Market (Marché Victor Hugo)*. You can have lunch in a small restaurant and browse the market, picking up fresh oysters, foie gras, and maybe a glass of wine. It’s perfect on a nice day.

Do you have a favorite restaurant at the Victor Hugo Market?
Here? Le Magret. Every morning their chef comes to the market to buy stuff for the day’s lunch menu. And, I recommend L’Imperiale too, they make a beautiful cassoulet.

Then, at night, I love to go to the music venue Le Bikini. A lot of famous bands come to Toulouse just to play at Le Bikini. There’s always a party going on there – good for when you don’t have to work the next day!

If a friend were visiting Toulouse, what are the things you would tell them they absolutely can’t miss?
I recommend taking yourself for a walking tour around historic sites in the center. Begin at the Basilica of Saint Sernin, before going through Place Saint Pierre down to the Garonne River. Follow the river until you reach the Pont Neuf, then turn left into the Carmes neighborhood. Here, you must stop to see the Cathedral of Saint Etienne.

After the cathedral, for drinks: visit the rooftop bar of Ma Biche sur Le Toit (the best rooftop view in Toulouse) on top of the Galeries Lafayette in the afternoon or evening, or head back to the Victor Hugo Market for a glass of wine in the morning or mid-day.

An overlooked favorite for late-night drinks is the absinthe bar DAda – here, they’ll teach you all about the classic French spirit.

If you’re taking a trip out of Toulouse, the medieval town of Albi is only an hour away, and it’s an amazing place.

What are some good restaurants for visitors – or locals – to try some of Maison Garcia’s products?
Le Genty Magre, I love their chef and his food. It is run by a husband and wife team, he is in the kitchen, and she takes care of the front of the house.

I also highly recommend Les P’tits Fayots, where chef Aziz Mokhtari serves up a selection of quintessentially French sweet and savory dishes. You can get a mix of both savory and sweet small plates when you order.

And a final recommendation…a picnic in Prairie des Filtres park (with fresh food from the Victor Hugo market, of course).

*If Loïc’s answers have left you eager to explore the markets of Toulouse, please consider joining Taste of Toulouse for one of our Victor Hugo Market Tours.

Bar du Matin

Cute, Hole-in-the-wall Places to Grab a Drink…

Our third interviewee was Simone Deslarzes, a Public Policy Researcher for the City of Toulouse. Simone told us all about her favorite ways to unwind in Toulouse.

What is your favorite thing to do in Toulouse?
Catching up with friends on a Friday evening and starting the weekend. You get out of work on a Friday and there’s a palpable energy in the air as the night begins – everyone has been waiting for the weekend and a chance to unwind.

I throw on some make-up and head over to somewhere like the Place de la Trinité or around the Marché des Carmes to find a cute, hole-in-the-wall bar to catch up with friends.

If a friend were visiting Toulouse, what are the things you would tell them they absolutely can’t miss?
France, particularly the South of France, is famed for both its covered and outdoor markets, and there’s nowhere to get a better feel for this market culture than in Toulouse. So, I would take guests to the Sunday market at Saint Aubin and then on to the Victor Hugo Market. It’s a ritual here in Toulouse.

I also would say a close second option is heading to the grand Salle des Illustres in the Capitole building. It’s free and offers beautiful views of the Place du Capitole.

Since you work in the Mayor’s Office of Diversity, what are some places to visit or things to do that highlight the diversity you see in Toulouse?
I think the diversity alive and well in Toulouse is best represented by the Marché Saint-Aubin. You can see entrepreneurship on display at the market; the variety of stalls and people who work them represent diversity, and you get to literally enjoy the fruits of that diversity as you shop for prepared foods from around the world.

Sunset by River Garonne

Sunset by the Banks of the River Garonne

Our final interview was with Annette Hardouin. Annette, along with her husband Yves, is the owner of AHPY Créations Bleu de Pastel and a local artisan who works with the famous pastel dye from Toulouse.

What is your favorite thing to do in Toulouse?
When I’m looking for inspiration, I love to spend time walking along the banks of the Garonne River. It’s so beautiful. At sunset and sunrise, you can see why Toulouse has the name “La Ville Rose” (the light makes all the brick buildings glow pink). Sometimes I will just sit by the river, or take a coffee nearby to enjoy a quiet moment.

What are your favorite restaurants in Toulouse?
Restaurant le Place Mage, we go there very often for fresh, seasonal cuisine at any time of year.

Le Cénacle, a 1-star Michelin star restaurant in the Hotel La Cour des Consuls. We’ll go to Le Cénacle about twice a year for very special occasions. The food, the decoration, and the service are all incredible, and it’s always an amazing experience.

If a friend were visiting Toulouse, what would you tell them they absolutely can’t miss?
I would tell them to be sure to see some of the grand monuments like the Place du Capitole, but I think the really important thing is to spend some time with someone who knows the city. That way, they can recommend things to do that fit your interests.

For example, if you enjoy the opera, you must go to the Opera National du Capitole. If you are a music lover, the Halle aux Grains (where the Orchestre Nationale du Capitole plays) is renowned for its acoustics. A local will be able to tell you all of the best places to go and all of the small, hidden gems, and they will show you all of the things there are to love about Toulouse.

This brings an end to our interview with some Toulouse locals. We hope their recommendations give you plenty of inspiration for coming to Toulouse. If you have any questions about this blog or our Food Walking Tours of Toulouse, please get in touch. If you want to continue reading about foodie experiences in Toulouse, we recommend reading about the 5 Best Food Markets in Toulouse.

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