1 - 1. PLACE WILSON
Begin your exploration at this popular hotspot, named after US president Thomas Woodrow Wilson and generally considered to be the entrance to downtown Toulouse. A circular park surrounded by sweeping arcs of attractive old buildings, it is one of the liveliest places in the city, with plenty of shops, restaurants and a cinema – university students frequent the fountains, sit in the shade of the trees or drink coffee at alfresco cafés. Near one entrance to the square is an eye-catching carousel.
2 - 2. PLACE SAINT-GEORGES
Exit Place Wilson and walk south down Rue Saint-Antoine du T, and soon you’ll find yourself in Place Saint-Georges. This charming square has a dark history, as it was the site of public executions in the 1500s. An extensive refurbishment effort during the 1970s transformed it into a major tourist attraction, with many cafés and restaurants setting up shop in the vicinity. Restaurant Emile, located at 13 Place Saint-Georges, is highly recommended. Once a hotel during the 1940s, it is now famous for its modern take on classic French cuisine. Open daily 12-2pm and 7.30-9.45pm; tel +33 05 6121 0556; restaurant-emile.com
3 - 3. CAPITOLE DE TOULOUSE
A ten-minute walk northwest along Rue de la Pomme brings you to Capitole de Toulouse, a vast, picturesque square that is home to the city hall, as well as the Théâtre du Capitole opera house. The theatre building draws the eye with its eight columns of pink marble, the beautiful Henry IV courtyard, and its “Salle des Illustres” interior artwork – inspired by the Farnese Gallery in Rome. The Théâtre du Capitole showcases several performances throughout the year. Entrance to the building is free and guided group tours are also provided. Open daily 8.30am-4.45pm; tel +33 05 6122 3412; theatreducapitole.fr
4 - 4. PONT NEUF BRIDGE
Follow Rue Leon Gambetta southwest until you reach an intersection. Bear left down Rue Peyrolieres to Rue de Metz, and turning right you’ll see Pont Neuf (“New Bridge”) up ahead. This renowned structure, which links Gascogne to Languedoc, is the oldest bridge in Toulouse, having been completed in 1632. A peculiar feature of the bridge is its asymmetrical construction – each of the seven arches being of different length. Stroll out onto the bridge to enjoy some of the best sights of the Garonne River and the city’s many historic buildings.
5 - 5. MUSEUM DE TOULOUSE
Walk south along Quai de Tounis beside the Garonne, then left up Allée Jules Guesde to find the Museum de Toulouse on your right. The second largest natural history museum in France, the Museum de Toulouse is home to more than 2.5 million exhibits. There’s plenty of information about the history of planet Earth and its biodiversity. Other interesting exhibits explore the relationship between man and nature, and the environmental challenges we face today. Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am-6pm; adults €9 (US$10) and children €7 (US$8); tel +33 05 6773 8484; museum.toulouse.fr
6. AIRBUS DISCOVERY TOUR
For aviation enthusiasts, a visit to the Airbus JL Lagardere facility is an absolute must. Jump in a taxi and 30 minutes later you’ll arrive at the massive 50-hectare space that is entirely dedicated to the assembly and preparation of the company’s flagship A380 aircraft. It’s a rare treat to get so close to the many testing stations at the assembly site and learn all about the production process of the superjumbo. Ninety-minute guided tours in French, English and Spanish are available, but advance booking (made two working days before your visit) is required. No cameras/video recorders allowed. Entrance costs €15.50 (US$17.50) for adults and €13 (US$15) for children (under six admitted free); open 8am-7pm; tel +33 05 3439 4200; manatour.fr/en