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Toulouse and Points Close

Toulouse is a 4.5 hour train from Paris but is on list of "most overlooked places in France to visit". Is it worth a visit? I'm thinking of 3 days there with possible day trip to Albi. Also have Carcassonne on list to see, but think this is an overnight rather than day trip from Toulouse since heading to Montpelier after leaving Toulouse. All recommendations on Toulouse, Albi and Carcassonne appreciated.

Posted by
2133 posts

Well heck, I just typed you a nice long reply and then my computer froze and it’s gone.

I stayed 3 nights in Toulouse last fall. It was not my favorite stop on my trip. There’s nothing wrong with Toulouse and, if you do your research and see some stuff you want to get to, then go. But I will caution that it was the least charming city I visited. They do have a space museum that I wanted to see but it was too much on public transit for me during COVID last fall. The other museum I wanted to see - Musee des Augustins - was closed.

I liked Amboise for the chateaux and charming town. I loved Bordeaux as an “overlooked” city due to great pedestrian core, lively evening scene, cool architecture that was noticeably different than Paris but still lovely, and a couple of good museums (Light art in a submarine base and Museum d’Aquitaine.)

I liked Sarlat for the charming village and the proximity to caves, both prehistoric art ones and water/river caves.

I loved Angouleme for its jam-packed variety of architecture. That’s my underrated city for you for sure. I loved it there AND it was close to Oradour sur Glane - the most sobering World War II site I’ve been to in France.

You asked about Albi - I spent the afternoon there. It was a fun surprise - I was overwhelmed with how cool the cathedral is there.

You ask a tough question and it’s hard to answer without knowing more of what you’ve seen in France. Have you already spent a fair amount of time in Paris?

Posted by
3456 posts

" I loved Angouleme for its jam-packed variety of architecture. That’s my underrated city for you for sure. " Then you will likely be entranced with Wes Andeson's recent film , " The French Dispatch " This movie is a paen to The New Yorker magazine ,and Angouleme stands in for the fictional city of " Ennui sur Blase " ( sorry , I can't seem to find a way to put the accent on the e ) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_French_Dispatch and here's a clip - https://youtu.be/TcPk2p0Zaw4

Posted by
9681 posts

Valerie and I traveled on the same tour, different dates, last fall. I also had the same feeling about Toulouse. Just didn't do it for me but I really did like Bordeaux. I also thoroughly enjoyed Albi...wonderful cathedral and wonderful Toulouse-Lautrec museum. YMMV of course and many seem to really enjoy Toulouse.

Posted by
21039 posts

I liked Toulouse a lot. The pink-brick architecture was quite different from what I saw in other French cities, and the streets were lively with students and other locals. Thumbs up for Albi, too.

Posted by
3456 posts

I will be in Toulouse for six days in this coming Autumn . I'm allowing one day for Carcassonne , and two for Albi . In my dotage , I don't rush anymore , and prefer to savor in a slower manner . Albi looks perfect , as I have been a lover of Lautrec since adolescence . Among the reasons for staying in Toulouse - easy , short train trips ( my hotel is a few blocks from Matabaiu ) Since I love architecture , the ubiquitous " pink " brick architecture of the Occitania and its history looks like a good fit for me .

Posted by
11224 posts

I was in Toulouse last fall and liked it. There aren't a lot of sights, but it was wonderful walking around a city not filled with tourist shops. Mostly locals going about their business and it gave me the feel of what French life is like.

One place to visit is the Victor Hugo Market. It is the main fresh food market in Toulouse. The vastness and quality of the products offered makes you understand why the French eat so well compared to us.

Carcassone is worth an overnight. I would suggest you stay in the city walls. During the day, the city is like a medeival Disneyland, but at night, when the junky souvenir shops shut and the tourist return to their modern hotels, cruise ships, or exiting the town to their outlying stays, the city is yours. The streets will be quiet and the few who venture out will be rewarded.

I stayed at the Best Western and before people start yelling about an American hotel, they have no idea what Best Western in Europe is about. The hotel is spread out among three buildings. The rooms offer lots of charm, and the location can't be beat.

Posted by
9681 posts

Albi looks perfect , as I have been a lover of Lautrec since adolescence

Steven, you will be in heaven! That museum is amazing AND the Bishop’s Palace in which it is located is wonderful.

Posted by
3456 posts

Thanks , Pam . If you haven't seen " The French Dispatch " , don't miss it . It does take multiple viewings ( as do all of Wes Anderson's films ) to fully grasp the depth involved , but it's worth it . . I have seen all of his work ( with two exceptions ) and they are all examples of what fine filmmaking can be .

Posted by
8388 posts

Another place to visit from Toulouse is Cordes-sur-Ciel, stunning hilltop town.
In response to Frank II.
I'm taking my young granddaughter to Carcassonne tomorrow on a day trip from Montpellier. However, when I considered taking her overnight, the Best Western was my choice, also. Let's face it. The famous neo-medieval hotel inside the walls is an Accor property.

When the reconstruction of Carcassonne was announced in the 19th C, Parisian businessmen swooped in and bought up property in anticipation of people like us. Heck, even medieval pilgrims complained about the vendors at Mont Saint Michel.

Posted by
259 posts

Hello,

Toulouse is the 4th largest city in France (by number of inhabitants)
It is the capital of the Occitanie region, the South West of France. It is nicknamed the "pink city" because all the old buildings are made of pink bricks.

Franck II mentioned the Victor Hugo market which is one of the most beautiful markets in France
There are quite a few things to see and do in Toulouse cathedrals, museums, old town, etc.

https://www.toulouse-visit.com/

But it's true that there is no iconic place like the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
This is where all the space and aeronautics industries are concentrated. You can visit Airbus factories if you like planes.
https://www.manatour.fr/en/airbus

The museum "Cité de l'espace" (Space city) is not really interesting in my opinion.

Toulouse can be a starting point to visit Albi or Carcassonne

From Toulouse, the two cities are about 1 hour away. If you don't have a car you can travel by train or bus and stay there for one night (2 nights maximum)
From Toulouse there is tour operators who organize day trips.

Albi mainly for its very impressive cathedral and the Toulouse Lautrec museum.
https://www.albi-tourisme.fr/en

Carcassonne for its medieval city.
https://www.tourism-carcassonne.co.uk/

Carcassonne is on the way to Montpellier when you leave Toulouse, you can plan a stop there

The region south of Toulouse is also known for its Cathar castles but this will require having a car and organizing a circuit of several days.

https://www.payscathare.org/en

Posted by
11224 posts

Bets....I know the hotel you are talking about. Its less than a one minute walk from the Best Western. I figured I didn't need a spa--which it is known for--for my stay in Carcassone.

Too bad you can't stay overnight. It's so peaceful. The only thing I saw moving on some of my evening walks was my shadow.

Posted by
8388 posts

We spent ten nights in a rental at the base of the Cité of Carcassonne, so we've experienced it at all hours. It's a unique place.