Five Things for Art-Lovers to See and Do in Toulouse, France
L’Occitane is well known for the natural beauty that attracted painters and creatives throughout the ages. Inspired by the picturesque natural scenery and the unique colors and shades of its cities, artists and painters came here to create some of their best works. Even today, you can indulge in an incredible art retreat only 30 miles away from the city, where you can explore your own creativity with a master in the field.
The capital city of L’Occitane is Toulouse, known as the pink city, La Ville Rose. Toulouse impresses and delights through its rose-tinted façades, rich cultural history, a plethora of art museums, and green spots for tourists to enjoy. Everyone who has visited the city reports that, apart from the rich history and gorgeous vistas, one of the most amazing things they leave the city with is the amazing feeling of having been there. Its inhabitants are friendlier and more laid back than their fellow countrymen, the Parisians, and the bars and restaurants are great places to take a break from the sightseeing.
So, you’re an art lover and you have some time to spend in Toulouse? Check out our top 5 things to see and do in Toulouse!
1. La Place du Capitole for Neoclassical Art
Le Capitole, the pink heart of Toulouse, is a must-see for anyone visiting the city. It is an emblematic building that hosts Toulouse’s Town Hall and Théâtre du Capitole. The Neoclassical style masterpiece impresses through its massive size, eight majestic marble columns adorning the facade, and intricate sculpted details hidden in the corners. Once inside, you step into a world where the painted walls tell stories about all the most important moments in the history of the city. Admire the interior of the 19th-century Salle des Illustres (Hall of the Illustrious) adorned with post-impressionist paintings by famous painters such as Henri Martin and Paul Gervais.
2. The Basilica of St. Sernin for History and Atmosphere
Follow the footsteps of centuries of pilgrims to the church of St. Sernin, the largest Romanesque church in Europe, a pitstop on the Camino of Santiago to Spain. This impressive basilica holds the world’s largest collection of holy relics outside of the Vatican (bones of over 100 saints), as well as a fragment of the true cross. Once you step into the basilica, the stained glass windows envelop you in an ethereal light that gives this holy place its special charm. The Romanesque architecture of the building will not impress through elaborate paintings, but through its massive quality, sturdy pillars, barrel vaults, thick walls, large towers, round arches, and decorative arcading. Look up, and you will marvel at the famous “Palm Tree of the Jacobins”, a series of oversized columns supporting the ribs of the vaulted ceiling.
3. The Streets for Historic Charm and Street Art
The streets of a city are always the best place to take its pulse, and if you want to get to know Toulouse, you must take some time to walk its neighborhoods.
Get inspired by the subtly shifting colors of the brickwork that makes up most of the buildings in the city. A historical landmark in themselves, the bricks are part of the local heritage of the region of Occitane, all the way from antiquity to the present day. This traditional craftwork charms visitors with its changing colors, from soft pinks to bright oranges and fiery ochres, which shift with the sunlight.
If more unconventional approaches to art are your thing, Toulouse is the perfect city to indulge in cool graffiti frescoes, wild paintings, and street art. Head over to the Arnaud Bernard district, which showcases thirty years’ worth of this popularised art form. Try your hand at street photography, whether you have a professional camera or just your smartphone! Impress your friends and family back home with the amazingly colorful pictures you took in this vibrant neighborhood, one of Toulouse’s most surprising hidden gems.
4. Hôtel d’Assézat for Renaissance Paintings
For lovers of Renaissance art, this Hôtel Particulier (urban palace) is an unmissable landmark of the style. One of the first and best-preserved manifestations of French classicism, the palace now hosts the Bemberg Foundation, the most important art gallery in Toulouse.
Only a short walk from the famous Pont Neuf, Toulouse’s oldest and most beautiful bridge, the Hôtel d’Assézat welcomes visitors through its monumental main gate. Once inside the sumptuous Courtyard of Honor, admire the Classical façades with their powerful columns and delicate detail work around the windows. Then head inside this exceptional venue to behold the Argentine Georges Bemberg’s rich collection of art on display. Journey back in time and discover a panorama of Western art from the end of the Middle Ages to the twentieth century. The collections are displayed in old-fashioned salons, surrounded by period furniture and objets d’art.
5. Canal du Midi for Nature Walks Along the River
As an art-lover, sometimes taking in the natural beauty of a stunning place such as Canal du Midi is the perfect inspiration and respite from the active city. Joining the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, the Canal is considered one of the most monumental construction works of the seventeenth century. TheCanal is now listed as World Heritage by UNESCO, and is the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon. Take a walk alongside the peaceful green waters of the canal, enjoying the sights and smells of irises and mulberry flowers, willow trees and poplars.
Maybe you’ll decide you want to try capturing the gorgeous French countryside views along the Canal. Bring some supplies and stop by the cooling shade of a plane tree and try your hand at sketching or painting the beautiful surroundings in your own plein- air session. If you’re really excited about the idea but feel like you don’t know where to start, find your inspiration alongside an expert who can guide you here.