Very few European cities remained unspoiled by the advantages and disadvantages of the Industrial Revolution, and Toulouse is one such an example. If during the 18th and the 19th century the absence of industry was seen as a real problem in the area, in time it has turned out to be a blessing for modern Toulouse, since this is a place of untouched and well preserved natural beauty highly appreciated by tourists all over the world. This is a city that has truly found a place in the 21st century.
This city founded by the Romans as a large metropolis in times of old is little by little claiming its rightful place in this part of France, and it is definitely forward looking especially since the main branch of the economy here is bio-technology. Toulouse will surely speak for itself, with its incredible sights that charm tourists regardless of age and expectations. Tourists looking for the spirit of the past will be thoroughly satisfied, just as those in search of the modern.
The Toulouse Capitole Building
Start your tour at the Toulouse Capitol, the seat of the local government, housed in a building that dates back to 1190. When visiting the building you’ll see various historic layers: the foundation was put in the 12th century, the interior is an outstanding representation of the 16th century, whereas the facade dates from the middle of the 18th century. The eight columns of the edifice represent the original eight capitols.
Nowadays it houses not only the city hall, but also a symphony orchestra that you will find amazing if you’re a classical music fan. Another very popular tourist sight is the Bazacle, built on the banks of the river Garonne that crosses the city. This is the very first bridge built in Toulouse in the 12th century and it has been in use ever since. Then, some mills and a dam were added next to the bridge, being considered the most powerful in the country. Both the ancient and the modern turbines are visible today.
A great engineering achievement of the 17th century is the South Canal or Canal du Midi, that connects the Garonne River with the Mediterranean. The most surprising part about it, is that it includes the first underground passage ever built for a canal, together with a huge artificial reservoir necessary for the feeding of the water way. The canal is navigable up to a point, so go ahead enjoy a pleasant boat cruise along the green banks of the Garonne.
Now let’s have a look at the other cultural sights in Toulouse. There is Saint Sernin Basilica, representative for the French Romanesque style and among one of the oldest in France. Built between the 11th and the 12th century, the basilica was erected on the 4th century religious settlement that contained the body of Saint Saturnin or Sernin. It houses many relics in the radiating chapels around it, and it’s definitely one of Toulouse’s landmarks and part of the very famous pilgrimage route El Camino of Santiago.
Sculptures from the Middle Ages and lots of paintings on display in an old Gothic covenant, this is the Musee des Augustins de Toulouse. Many of the collection pieces come from important church treasures that were seized during the French Revolution. A visit to this museum may seem like a lesson of the history of art, since there are exhibits from all the genres and the ages on display, particularly when it comes to sculptures.
For the modern art lovers, there is a theme park that you’ll find both entertaining and curious. La Cite de L’espace or the City of Space is orientated towards the cosmic conquest and makes it possible to visit full size rockets, models of the Mir Space Stations and a gorgeous planetarium. Some of the exhibits are interactive, for instance the control rooms of some rockets allow you to prepare for flight and even place a satellite in orbit. Not just your everyday tourist attraction then.