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There are several museums offering a wonderful variety of things to see. Interested in archaeology? The Musee Saint-Raymond – Musee des Antiques de Toulouse is one of the largest archaeological sites in France. Or see beautiful works of art in an equally beautiful setting when you visit the Musee des Augustins. The museum is located in the Augustinians’ convent and the grounds and buildings are truly amazing. If you want to stay outdoors take a bateau-mouche boat tour. Leaving from the Quai de la Daurade it takes you under the most beautiful bridges in the city, and offers views of Toulouse’s major landmarks. For families with children check out the Cite de l’Espace (Space City) activities park – you will literally get lost in space!
Being the fifth largest city in France you will find many of the large chain department stores such as Galeries Lafayette and Monoprix for regional and French goods. More interesting though is wandering around the two covered farmers markets downtown: marché Victor Hugo and marché des Carmes (open mornings only, Tuesday – Sunday) or some of the neighbourhood markets such as Boulevard de Strasbourg (ever day except Monday) or Place du Capitole (Saturdays). You’ll find local and regional food specialities such as walnut liquor and croquant biscuits and other products as well as local people to watch!
Ooh la! Keep your diet at home because you are in for some real treats! You cannot leave Toulouse without partaking of the local cassoulet. Cassoulet is a slow-cooked bean stew with meat (typically pork sausages, pork, goose, duck and mutton) and white haricot beans. It is often canned so you can buy some to take home too. In terms of restaurants there are options for every budget level. From the luxurious Michel Sarran (21, boulevard Armand, Duportal) and elegant brasserie La Capoul (13, Place Wilson) to mid-range options such as Georges (4, rue des Blanchers) and Restaurant Le 19 (19, descente de la Halle aux Poissons), near the Pont Neuf in the Old Town. If you are a little more budget conscious visit L’Adresse (4, rue Baronie [rue des tourneurs]) or Le Comptoir du Taur (62, rue du Taur) which are excellent values for the money.
The most famous place to get a drink – by the meter(!) – in Toulouse is Chez Tonton. Have the local pastis, don’t miss it! For a more relaxed atmosphere day or night visit Grand Café Albert (15 Place du Capitole) where you can listen to local bands and enjoy coffee or beer – your choice. For riverside dancing and drinking visit the Bar Basque (7, place St Pierre) until dawn!
Enjoy an opulent experience in the Grand Hotel de l’Opera located right on the Place du Capitole (1, Place du Capitole). Just as comfortable but a less expensive is the lovely Hotel Pullman Toulouse Centre (84, allées Jean Jaurès) has a fun aesthetic and young crowd. For the budget conscious there are plenty of good options as well including the Hotel Heliot (3 Rue Heliot) which has comfortable rooms and a friendly, service-oriented staff and Hotel all seasons Toulouse Cite Espace (arc d activité de la Plaine 21 avenue Marcel Dassault) that includes some excellent amenities in their already very good rate.
Wander along the Riverside Walk from Pont Neuf to Pont St Pierre. You’ll have views of the Old Town, which sits on the right bank of the Garonne River. On the left bank you’ll find a park with more waterfront relaxation. Or enjoy a walk along the Canal du Midi. (Many paths have been made into bicycle trails as well). Nothing beats a stroll on these lovely tree-lined paths; you can even stop for a picnic with the goodies you purchased at the market!
Beyond walking and biking along the Canal du Midi, one of the best ways to get out of the city is to take a boat trip on the canal itself. A trip along the waterway can last a few hours to several days. Another way to enjoy the canal and the Garonne is to pick-up a cheap car rental and drive along the route stopping at the many lovely villages for the day to enjoy lunch, a picnic or an afternoon nap under the trees.
You can listen to live music daily at places like Bar Basque (listed above in Drinks), Classico Café (37, rue des Filatiers) or La Couleur de la Culotte (14, Place Saint-Pierre). But there are several music festivals throughout the year that you may want to plan your trip around such as Le Petite Invite (November), the Jardins Synthétiques (November), the Hip Hop Ways Festival (March-April), the Electronic Siestas Festival (June-July) or the Tangopostale Festival (July).
There are a lot of pick-pocketers, so be aware of your surroundings. Some areas of downtown or near the train or bus station aren’t that great at night, particularly the hotels in the Matabiau area. The area looks fine during the day but at night there were many prostitutes in the area and it might be best avoided.