The city’s old town (Vielle Ville) is the starting point for most of Toulouse’s tourism, and the main sights can be fairly easily covered on foot. The imposing town hall and theatre at Place du Capitole is a highlight, and also home to the tourist office, from where you can find maps and advice on walking tours and routes throughout the city.
A short walk north of Toulouse’s main square you’ll find the imposing 11th century Basilique Saint-Sernin, a vast Romanesque church on the site of a former 4th century abbey. Partially restored by famous French architect Viollet-le-Duc, it’s now one of two UNESCO World Heritage listed sites in the city - the other is the Canal du Midi, which effectively joins the Atlantic ocean to the Mediterranean sea.
Head southwest from there towards the Garonne and you’ll find Le Couvent des Jacobins, a quiet and restful place away from the hustle and bustle of the old town. Its series of imposing Gothic arches and 13th century cloisters are home to relics of Thomas Aquinas, and monuments to early architecture.
A stroll along the Garonne to Quai de la Daurade is a pleasant way to spend an hour or two - from here you can look down the Garonne for a wonderful view of the many bridges - the Pont des Catalans, Pont Saint-Pierre and Pont-Neuf, the Hôtel Dieu Saint Jacques and the Château d’Eau water tower are all in view.
And before you start to count the bridges and work out how Pont Neuf could possibly be the ninth of anything, it’s derived from the French word for ‘new’ rather than ‘nine’. There are also a number of boat tours up the Garonne which will offer similarly up-close views of the bridges and architecture of the city.
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.
The Musée des Augustins is an impressive gallery, home to a Rubens, some Rodins and several prints by Toulouse's most famous son, Toulouse-Lautrec
The Cité de l’Espace is something of a scientific theme park and museum located outside the city - aimed mostly at children rather than adults, you’ll find replicas of spacecraft and other interactive exhibits championing the city’s space and aviation industries. You can catch a bus from the Jolimont metro station. For the plane-spotters and aviation enthusiasts among you, Airbus also offer a tour of their facilities, but these have to be booked well in advance (particularly for English-speaking tours). More details at www.manatour.fr.