Life moves heartily in the pink city of Toulouse in southwestern France. A friendly and lovely atmosphere is radiated to the tourists. Architectures of the indescribable adorn this place. An invulnerable natural landscape surrounds Toulouse, characteristic of the region in the Midi-Pyrénées. Golden reflections of light give the city its charm. An intense and well-developed cultural life enriches this enchanting place. Nature lovers as well as those interested in art and culture are well catered for here.
Toulouse is located on the river Garonne. Here live about 440,000 inhabitants, which those locals call Toulousains. Toulouse is the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées and is one of the four largest cities in France. The city is connected to the Atlantic and the Mediterranean by the Canal du Midi and the Garonne side canal, an ideal vacation spot for rest, relaxation and impressions. By the way, the Canal du Midi, like many other historical sights of the city of Toulouse, belongs to the World Heritage Site and not for nothing.
Tip 1: Basilica of Saint-Sernin
One of the most beautiful works of Romanesque architecture is the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, located in the center of Toulouse. The large building is one of the landmarks of the “Ville rose” and is an important stop for pilgrims on the Way of St. James to Santiago de Compostela. The imposing building was constructed from the red bricks that gave the city its name, the “pink city”. In addition to the octagonal bell tower, visible from afar, the five-nave nave is of particular beauty. Over 260 sculptures can be seen in the interior of the basilica. The marble reliefs in the choir aisle, depicting four angels and two of the apostles, date from the 11th century.
Even older is the main altar, designed in white marble by Bernardus Gelduinus before 1096. Measuring approximately 2.20 by 1.30 meters, it is one of the great attractions. Not to be forgotten during a visit to Saint-Sernin is the visit to the crypt with its rich treasure of relics. The basilica offers a wonderful sight in the evening, when it is illuminated by numerous lights that make the building appear golden.
The Basilica of Saint-Sernin was built between 1077 and 1119 as a pilgrim church. It was built over the tomb of the Bishop of Toulouse, Saint Saturnius, who was martyred in 250. In 1096 the altar consecration took place. Over the centuries, some changes were made to the basilica. The largest phase of restoration was carried out from 1845 by the French architect and art historian Viollet-le-Duc, who incorporated a Greco-Roman style. It was not until 1929 that the west facade was completed in its present form. The basilica has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1998.
Tip 2: Jacobin Convention
In 1215, St. Dominic had founded monastic communities in Fanjeaux in response to the proliferation of Cathar doctrine. The first Dominican monastery was established in Toulouse in 1216; a year later Dominicans settled in Paris in a chapel dedicated to St. James, which earned them the name “Jacobins”.
The construction of the church and the monastery – the first University of Toulouse – started in 1230 and continued in the 13th and 14th centuries. During the First Empire, the building complex was converted into barracks and thus severely disfigured. At that time the church was used as a stable. The church, the cloister and the preserved conventual buildings, including the large sacristy, have been restored to their original state.
The brick church is a masterpiece of the Southern French Gothic style, the development of which is perfectly reflected in it. In the “mother church” of the Dominican order, completed around 1340, Thomas Aquinas was buried in 1369. On the outside, the most striking feature is the large relief arches arranged between buttresses, above which round windows have been broken into the wall. The octagonal tower with its mitre-shaped ornamental gables is also striking. It served as a model for numerous other bell towers in the area. The tower was finished in 1298 and was equipped with the only bell of the Dominican University.
The magnificent two-nave nave was enlarged and raised several times over time. It testifies to the great importance of the Order, its wealth and its two clearly defined missions: Worship and Preaching.
Tip 3: Pont Neuf
The Pont Neuf is the oldest surviving bridge over the Garonne in Toulouse. It connects Place Esquirol and Rue de Metz with Rue de la République.
The Pont Neuf leads across the Garonne, which flows between high embankment walls, from the old city on its right bank in a westerly direction to the former suburb of Saint-Cyprien. The bridge, about 220 meters long, has seven unequal arches, with the largest arch off center closer to the right bank. It is followed by two smaller arches on the right and four smaller arches on the left, as seen in the direction of the river. The largest of the arches, made of light lime and reddish brown bricks, has a clear width of about 30m, the smallest of about 18m. The basket arches are supported by massive but barely protruding piers, tapering to the front and back and crowned by smaller pier projections. Large culverts were built into the spandrels between the arches to reduce water pressure during floods. Supposedly, these dégueuloirs (gargoyles), also edged with limestone, were originally intended to represent lion’s mouths, but were executed in a simpler form for cost reasons.
Although the bridge was completed and opened to traffic in 1632, it was nevertheless opened in person 27 years later on October 19, 1659 by the young Louis XIV.
The Pont Neuf has survived all the floods of the Garonne since then, including the catastrophic flood of June 1875 that reached the crest of the arches.
The bridge is frequently illuminated at night, often in different colors.
Tip 4: Place du Capitol
Surrounded by large buildings, the Place du Capitol is located in the center of Toulouse. The square, which has been at the center of city life since ancient times, is still considered a popular meeting place among locals. Various events are held regularly and regional festivities are also celebrated here. The east of this Toulouse landmark is lined by the 128-meter majestic facade of the Capitol. Particularly beautiful to look at here is the alternating use of red brick and light-colored natural stone.
Since the 12th century, the city has been administered from this Capitol to this day. But besides the City Hall, the building also houses the National Theater. Visitors can admire here the eight columns of pink marble on the facade, its courtyard Henri IV and the magnificent paintings in the Salle des Illustres (Hall of the History of the City). Also worth seeing is the Tolosan Cross, cast in bronze in the center of the large square in front of the Capitol. At the ends of the net-like bronze bands, the twelve signs of the zodiac can also be seen in circles. For those who need a little break from sightseeing, cozy cafés or brasseries invite you to linger. Even the locals like to stop here and use the moment to read the newspaper or just relax.
Tip 5: Cité de l’espace
The Cité de l’espace (Space City) is a theme park in Toulouse, the European capital of aeronautics and space.
The Cité de l’espace, a space-themed park unique in Europe, and one of Toulouse’s most attractive attractions, opened in 1997. A mixture of theme park and Adventure Park, it offers discovery, fun and excitement for the whole family. From the solar system to our satellites to the latest space station, everything worth knowing about modern technology is presented in a wide variety of areas – and can often be tried out, too!
Even from a distance, you can see the lifelike replica of the Ariane V, which is 55 proud meters high, just like the real rocket. The Ariane towers above the park, which is generously laid out on 3.5 hectares and has 2000m 2 of exhibition space inside and outside to invite visitors.
In the main exhibition building, visitors can discover the evolution of the conquest of space and follow the progress of research. Interactive systems vividly illustrate how satellites are built and launched, how weather forecasting works, how telecommunications makes life easier and how the pioneers of all these fields made their inventions. Ariane V and a model of MIR modules show in detail the daily life of cosmonauts.
An IMAX cinema with a film made by the astronauts of the ISS, a planetarium, and a world hemisphere in which you can travel back in time thanks to a three-dimensional video projection and follow the evolution of the Earth from the Big Bang to the present are among the main attractions.