Toulouse is the capital of South-West France, the big city where, at one moment or another, everyone living in the region needs to be, if only to catch a flight or shop in IKEA. Beside of that though, there are certain things you can also do in Toulouse for free:
5 Things to Do in Toulouse for Free1. The Basilica of Saint Sernin – and the resting place of Thomas Aquinas, les Jacobins. They are both just a short stroll from the main square, le Capitole, and well worth an afternoon of examining first the majesty of each lofty structure and then the details. The cloisters in les Jacobins are a little haven of coolness and tranquility on a hot day.
2. The River Garonne. Toulouse turned its back on the mighty Garonne a long time ago, fearing floods and disaster, but that is now all in the past. Today, the city turns to the river welcoming it with wide walkways along the banks, parks and restaurant-barges moored beside them. Go down to the Place Dalbade (4 minutes from Place Capitole) and stroll the banks of the river, admire the ancient Pont Neuf and the long low outline of the Hôtel Dieu, while walking up to where the Canal de Brienne pours into the river.
3. The Mediatheque. Housed in a new building which dominates the tree-lined Allées Jean-Jaurès in central Toulouse, this is a splendid address for a wet day (yes! It sometimes rains in the South of France). It is spacious and bright and houses not just all sorts of books and magazines but a vast array of DvDs and music which can be visualized on site in comfortable – and quiet – surroundings.
4. Le Jardin des Plantes. Just south of the city centre, this municipal park exhibits a fine selection of trees and shrubs in a quiet and verdant setting. There are ponds and ducks and children’s playgrounds and merry-go-rounds and all the things that make little and old like about public parks in France. If you have more time, it’s worth getting out to the bigger and wilder park at Pech David at the southern limit of the city with its stupendous views over the entire range of the Pyrenees.
5. Le Capitole. We have already mentioned Toulouse’s central square and it’s a must-see. You can visit the City Hall (Le Capitole) for free, visiting the formal rooms and halls and admiring the great mirrored longroom where civil marriages are celebrated and the works of local painter Henri Martin hang on the walls. Outside, on the main square, the Toulousains like to gather, be seen, demonstrate and generally take the air. You can observe all this from the comfort of one of the many pavement cafés which surround the square, spend a bit of time people-watching and admiring the changing colours as the pink brick of Toulouse changes slowly from light rose to dark red. You don’t pay for the spectacle, but a cup of coffee will cost you a few eurocents, money well spent after a free day out.