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10 Free Things to Do in Toulouse

Travel Insider Guides
by Matador Creators Sep 2, 2012
1. Wander the stalls of a farmers market.

From my experience, the four best markets in Toulouse are (in no particular order) those in Arnaud Bernard, St Aubin, St Cyprien, and Les Carmes. Many of Toulouse’s markets take place every day, but you might want to check the schedule. If you’re looking for free or cheap vegetables, go to the market down Boulevard de Strasbourg. The merchants often leave their unsold veggies / fruits behind when they pack up, and some are pretty much as good as new.

2. Visit Toulouse Cathedral.

Located between Francois Verdier and Les Carmes, the St. Etienne Cathedral consists of two different architectural styles (Roman and Gothic) because construction started in the 13th century and wasn’t finished until the 17th. Through the years parts of it were continually demolished and rebuilt, which is even more noticeable in the interior, where one section looks pretty abandoned, while the west portal has an amazing retable and high altar, with a pretty cool organ too.

3. Chill at the Prairie des Filtres.

“La Prairie,” as the Toulousains call it, is the place to laze near the Garonne on sunny afternoons. Spending time in the park will allow you to meet most of Toulouse’s fauna — from young couples with their toddlers, to bohemians playing music, hippies slacklining, students playing soccer. Take salsa lessons on Sundays when the weather permits.

4. Jog / cycle the Canal du Midi.

The canal, which runs for 150 miles through Southern France, was built in the 17th century to allow ships to avoid sailing around the Iberian Peninsula, where they often encountered hostile Spanish ships or pirates. Nowadays, it’s lined with plane trees and inhabited by houseboats.

5. Visit the Museum de Toulouse.

This natural history museum was the first in Europe to open a gallery on prehistoric times, and its collection is surprisingly large. Entry is free every first Sunday of the month.

6. See the night sky from Jolimont Observatory.

Open to the public every Friday night around 21:00, the observatory is located at the top of Jolimont Hill — brace yourself for the steep walk / cycle.

7. Check out the Palmier des Jacobins.

The Palm Tree is in fact a 28m tall giant pillar located inside the Church of the Jacobins. This architectural feature already looked freakishly tall, but the addition of a mirror below gives it the illusion of being suspended in space, and makes you feel like you’re about to plummet from the top of the vault.

8. Feed the birds at the Jardin des Plantes.

This park is connected to the Museum de Toulouse and has many free-roaming animals, including turtles, roosters, chickens, ducks, and swans. If you’re lucky, one of the two peacocks might pay you a visit…or scare the hell out of you while you’re lying in the grass.

9. Get lost around Les Carmes.

The prettiest neighbourhood in the city. As a local, I think Les Carmes and Le Quartier des Antiquaires are what Toulouse is all about. I love wandering through streets so narrow I can hardly see the sky and admiring the Renaissance-era Toulousian houses with their bright red bricks. Although it’s a pretty posh area with lots of expensive jewelry shops and restaurants, there are many art galleries and antique dealers around that are worth a visit.

10. Tour Place du Capitole.

This one is kind of a given, which is why I’m putting it last. Le Capitole is the city hall and is pretty much to Toulouse what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris. Most of the cafes and restaurants surrounding it are expensive, but there are cheaper places in the adjacent streets. You can also visit the Salle des Illustres inside the Capitole, which has a collection of 19th-century paintings.

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