Nicknamed 'La Ville Rose' (the Pink City) on account of the terracotta bricks used in many of its buildings, Toulouse is France's fourth-largest urban area. The site of a human settlement since at least as far back as the eighth century BC, Toulouse has embraced the technological age in recent years, becoming the capital of the European aeronautics industry and boasting the continent's largest space centre, as well as a vibrant university population.
At the same time it remains steeped in history and can claim to be one of France's most enchanting destinations, having often been voted the most desirable place in the country to live. Highlights include the medieval old town, the elegant Capitole building and the Canal du Midi, which links the Garonne river to the Mediterranean Sea. Cassoulet enjoys pride of place among the local culinary specialities.
Long before the Romans arrived in 107 BC, Toulouse was a strategic trading post between Spain, Italy and the rest of Gaul. The Volcae Tectosages tribe, who occupied the region, at first allied themselves to the Romans but then attempted an unsuccessful revolt. Under Augustus the town became an important administrative and military centre in the province of Narbonne. The Gallo-Romans were the architects of many constructions, including aqueducts, which have not survived to the present day.
Toulouse has many architectural delights. The most famous building is the Capitole which houses the city hall, the lavishly decorated Salle des Illustres, an opera house and a symphonic orchestra. In front lies the renowned Place du Capitole, a must on every visitor's to-do list.
The spine of the city centre is still the Roman cardo, the north-south axis, which displays many of Toulouse's attractive features along its pedestrianised length. It was along this route that the bishop martyr Saturnin was dragged by a bull in 250, from the Basilica of Saint-Sernin to the Capitole, for having refused to honour the Emperor.
• Pierre-Georges Latécoère, businessman (1883–1943): founder of the airmail company Aéropostale in Toulouse in 1918. The company soon expanded to operate in several countries
• Claude Nougaro, musician, poet and singer (1929–2004): jazz musician Nougaro composed the legendary song Ô Toulouse in homage to the city he loved so dearly
• Dominique Baudis, politician (1947–2014): succeeding his father as Toulouse mayor, Baudis facilitated the development of the city from 1983 to 2001
• Ticky Holgado, actor (1944–2004): well-known for his distinctive accent, he won César film awards for best supporting actor in 1992 and 1996
• Frédéric Michalak, rugby union player (1982–): an international who came to prominence at Stade Toulousain, Michalak continues to pile up the honours at RC Toulon
THINGS TO SEE
• Quai de la Daurade: look down the Garonne river from the Quai de la Daurade for a wonderful view of the many bridges constructed over the centuries. The Pont des Catalans, Pont Saint-Pierre and Pont-Neuf bridges, the Hôtel Dieu Saint Jacques and the Château d’Eau water tower all contribute to a magnificent panorama of the beautiful 'Ville Rose'.
• Carmes market: the narrow streets that thread through some architectural gems between Place Esquirol and the Carmes market afford a wide selection of venues for lunch and dinner. Many establishments specialise in Gascon cuisine (cassoulet and duck in all its forms).
• Toulouse-Lasbordes aerodrome: Toulouse is a centre for new technology and science enterprises. A park dedicated to space exploration is located opposite the Toulouse-Lasbordes aerodrome. A visit here will entertain and educate young and old alike. You can walk on the moon just like a real astronaut, lead a space mission and visit a replica of the Mir space station.
• Natural history museum: the Jardin des Plantes botanic gardens, Jardin Royal and Grand-Rond are the city-centre green spaces that act as the lungs of Toulouse. Situated between these three parks is the excellent natural history museum.
• Rue Alsace-Lorraine: Rue Alsace-Lorraine and the adjacent streets seem to have been purpose-built as the city's main shopping area, accommodating major outlets and the most chic of boutiques. It's the perfect place to find a few mementos of Toulouse.
The crossroads of the south-west of France, Toulouse is a very accessible city by all means of transport. Toulouse has an international airport (Blagnac) and is connected to Paris by a high-speed TGV rail line, with a journey time of 5 hours and 30 minutes. For a long time Toulouse was not well served by roads but now the city is at the heart of a motorway network linking south-west France.
Distances to other UEFA EURO 2016 venues
Bordeaux – 245km
Marseille – 405km
Lyon – 540km
Saint-Etienne – 540km
Nice – 570km
Paris – 680km
Saint-Denis – 695km
Lens – 880km
Lille – 895km
Distances between city centres, by motorway where possible
Source: mappy – viamichelin
Distance of Stade de Toulouse to...
City centre: 3.5km
The Métro and tram are excellent options for getting around the city centre and surrounding districts. Alternatively, cruise through Toulouse on a bike hired from Vélô Toulouse at minimal cost. Toulouse has three Métro lines (A, B and C), a tram line (T1) and a comprehensive bus network. Tickets cost €1.60 for an hour's journey (with up to three connections). Options are available: passes for one, two or three days (€5.50 to €10.50) as well as ten-trip tickets (€13.40 from 1 September).
Toulouse Football Club, often known simply as TFC, were founded in 1937. Olivier Sadran has been the president since 2001. The first team, coached by Alain Casanova, are competing in Ligue 1 for the 11th consecutive season.
Toulouse won their only major trophy in 1957 with a 6-3 victory over Angers SCO in the French Cup final. A merger with Paris's Red Star 93 in 1967 deprived Toulouse of a top-level outfit for three seasons. The club reformed in 1970 as US Toulouse before regaining their TFC identity in 1979 and finally returning to professional status after years of financial hardship.
It was only in the 1980s that TFC again became a competitive force after a long period of uncertainty. Under the direction of Daniel Jeandupeux and Jacques Santini, they qualified for the UEFA Cup in 1986 and knocked out Diego Maradona's SSC Napoli. That feat remains their greatest European exploit. Drawn against FC Spartak Moskva in the following round, Toulouse produced an excellent 3-1 home victory before succumbing 5-1 in the Soviet Union.
In 2000, Toulouse were relegated to the third tier as punishment. They quickly returned to Ligue 1 after long-term investment by ambitious young president Sadran and good work by coach Erick Mombaerts, who restored the club to the elite in just two seasons. Élie Baup came in as manager and secured third place in Ligue 1 in 2007. TFC duly entered the UEFA Champions League third qualifying round but were soundly beaten by Liverpool FC.
Since then the team have hovered in mid-table while enhancing their reputation as a side that develops young players who go on to become French internationals. Toulouse's commitment to the fundamental values of football have made them the leading club in the Midi-Pyrenees region.
• Vincent Candela (1973–): a wing-back in the 1998 FIFA World Cup-winning squad, Candela made his name with TFC before flourishing at EA Guingamp and AS Roma
• Fabien Barthez (1971–): France's goalkeeper at the 1998 World Cup, Barthez started out with Toulouse and later played for Olympique de Marseille, AS Monaco FC, Manchester United FC and FC Nantes
• André-Pierre Gignac (1985–): Ligue 1's top scorer in 2009 with 24 goals, this striker from Martigues came to prominence at Toulouse and has won several international caps
• Moussa Sissoko (1989–): after signing for TFC while still very young, Sissoko came up through the ranks before joining Newcastle United FC in 2012. He represented France at the 2014 World Cup
• Étienne Capoue (1988–): another product of the TFC youth system, Capoue established himself in Toulouse's violet jersey before a move to Tottenham Hotspur FC
Did you know?
The highest-scoring final in the history of the French Cup came in 1957 when Toulouse beat Angers SCO 6-3.
A host venue for the semi-finals of the Top 14 in 2012, Toulouse is home to the most successful rugby union club in France: Stade Toulousain (19 league titles and four Heineken Cups). The city also has very good handball, volleyball, rugby league and women's basketball teams. Swimming too is a popular sport: members of the Dauphins du TOEC swim club frequently represent France at international competitions and the Olympic Games.
Office of the mayor of Toulouse: http://www.toulouse.fr/accueil
Toulouse's official Twitter feed: https://twitter.com/toulouse
Details of cultural activities: http://cultures.toulouse.fr/
Information on the greater metropolitan area: http://www.toulouse-metropole.fr/
Tourist information office: http://www.toulouse-visit.com/
Tourist and conference information: http://www.sotoulouse.com/