What are the best things to see and do in Toulouse in one day?
Known as La Ville Rose (The Pink City) for the prevalence of reddish pink “foraine” bricks in its historical architecture, Toulouse is a picturesque gem of a city.
From peaceful strolls along the Garonne river or the Canal du Midi to time spent in the city’s lively food markets and trendy boutiques, Toulouse is a wonderfully walkable city and the perfect destination for curious travelers to explore on foot, making exciting finds along the way.
So, join us at Taste of Toulouse as we suggest some of the best things to see and do during one day in Toulouse.
If our choices inspire you and you’re interested in exploring Toulouse in the company of an expert local tour guide, please browse our selection of Toulouse Gourmet Tours that help you to discover the city’s rich culinary heritage and vibrant food scene.
Basilica of Saint Sernin
An essential stopping point on the iconic pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela, the Basilica of Saint Sernin is a masterpiece of the High Middle Ages. Dedicated by Pope Urban II in 1096, the church was built in the Romanesque style and remains the largest Romanesque building in Europe.
Added to UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in 1998, the building is notable for its extant 11th-century altar, high vaulted ceilings, and extensive collection of holy relics.
History enthusiasts will be delighted to learn that some of the church’s relics may come from a donation that Charlemagne made to an earlier church once located on the site.
If you’re lucky, you might catch a practice session on the world-renowned 19th-century Cavaillé-Coll organ that attracts music students and organists from around the world to play and study organ in Toulouse.
This symbol of the city of Toulouse is certainly worth including on your itinerary. Marvel at the scale of this beautiful building and the extraordinary fact that construction began just six months after the First Crusade.
Our favorite café with a gorgeous view of the Basilica is the Comptoir Saint Sernin. They’re open all day for drinks, with a lunch menu and a selection of tapas and snacks for dinner.
Visit a Covered Market
In a foodie capital like Toulouse, you don’t want to miss out on the chance to explore the city’s covered markets.
You’ll find the Victor Hugo Market, a short walk from the Basilica of Saint Sernin. This historic covered market was established in 1892 and offers premium quality seafood, meats, cheeses, pastries, and much more.
We uncover the sights, sounds, and flavors of “the belly of Toulouse” on our dedicated Victor Hugo Market Toulouse Tour.
The current building – an example of Modern Brutalist architecture that features 4 levels of parking above the market – was built in 1959 and featured the first paid parking in Toulouse.
With over 80 stallholders sharing the rooms of the market, there’s a wealth of choices for food lovers.
In addition to stalls selling produce, you’ll also find restaurants (on the 1st floor above the market) and wine merchants with barrels to stand around, so you always have the freedom to grab food to take away or grab a glass of wine and soak up the atmosphere.
The Carmes market is a little further away, though still within a comfortable walking distance. As with Victor Hugo, this market was initially established in 1892 before being replaced by a modern construction in the 1960s.
Visit the Carmes Market for first-class products from regional sellers. You can eat at one of the market’s surrounding bistros if you fancy relaxing after shopping.
Walks Along the Garonne and Canal du Midi
As we’ve said above, Toulouse is a great city to walk, and following the banks of the Garonne river offers one of the most enjoyable walking routes in town, winding its way past several of Toulouse’s most iconic buildings.
Take in the city’s beautiful 16th-century bridge, the Pont Neuf, and admire the dome of the Hôpital de La Grave, a hospital with a history dating back to the 12th century.
The Canal du Midi (another UNESCO World Heritage Site) offers a similarly picturesque experience.
Considered one of the most significant construction works of the 17th century, the canal connects the Garonne to the Mediterranean and, along with the Canal de Garonne, forms the Canal des Deux Mers — a canal route connecting the Mediterranean to the Atlantic.
Today the Canal du Midi is most valued as a hub for recreation, with boat trips, rowing, and canoeing taking place on its waters and its banks being ideal for hiking, cycling, and running.
When you’re out enjoying the leafy walkways along the Canal du Midi, we recommend visiting La Maison de la Violette, a canal barge and shop selling an array of products made with violets, a flower that’s been an integral part of Toulouse life since the 1850s.
If you’re in Toulouse during the warmer months (May-September), take advantage of one of the many “guinguettes” (open-air pop-up bars and restaurants) that proliferate along the river and the canal during the summer. You can read more about these open-air bars and restaurants in Toulouse on our blog.
Try Some Local Wine
For those passionate about wine, you won’t miss out on tasting plenty of fantastic varieties in Toulouse – this is one of France’s great wine cities. You’ll find an array of superb wine bars when dining out or stopping for an evening tipple.
We’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite wine bars; read our Best Wine Bars in Toulouse blog to learn more. And if you’d like to sample wines in the company of a local guide, expand your wine vocabulary and taste unique grape varieties, join us for our Toulouse Wine Bar Tour.
We also recommend drinking local wines from the Toulouse area, many of which come from family winemakers and aren’t found elsewhere. The leading regional wines are Fronton AOC/AOP and Gaillac AOC/AOP.
Gaillac is one of France’s oldest wine-producing regions, with viticulture developing here in Roman times, perhaps even earlier.
The area is most renowned for full-bodied reds, though sparkling wines have been produced here since before those of Champagne; the two sparkling wines to look out for are Méthode Ancestral and Perlé.
Fronton wines use the Négrette variety of grape, which is almost entirely unique to this part of southwest France.
The Négrette grape gives Fronton wines a distinctive character; powerful violet and licorice aromas first come through on the nose, but they are balanced by a more delicate floral quality, as well as lush red and black fruit.
Whatever your tastes, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Toulouse – it’s simply a must-visit French destination for any wine enthusiast.
Visit the Place du Capitole and the Capitole de Toulouse
The Place du Capitole is the city’s main square and spreads out photogenically before the Capitole Building, Toulouse’s city hall, and central administrative building. The Neoclassical facade you see today dates from 1750, though parts of the site date back to the 12th century.
If you have time, take a tour of the Capitole building’s interior to see the exquisite ceiling frescoes in the Salle des Illustres, a gloriously decorated room often used for weddings, or the Salle Gervais, where the walls are adorned with allegories of love.
Admission to the Capitole Building is free, though the building is occasionally closed to the public for weddings and other special events.
If you want to grab a drink (or a meal) and watch the bustle of the Capitole Square, we recommend Le Bibent, which opened on the Place du Capitole in 1861.
Many prominent Toulousains have enjoyed coffee or a drink on the terrace and its gorgeous Baroque/Beaux Arts interior has been on the city’s list of protected historical monuments since 1975.
The food is also excellent and we often enjoy their half-priced cocktail menu during their daily Happy Hours from 5-7 pm.
Enjoy a Walking Tour of Toulouse
This brings an end to our suggestions for what to see and do with one day in Toulouse. If you have any questions about the sights we’ve discussed or our Food Walking Tours of Toulouse, please get in touch.
Need more inspiration for your trip to Toulouse? Read all about the 5 Best Food Markets in Toulouse.