Up close and personal with Toulouse de Capitole

Up close and personal with Toulouse de Capitole

by Carrie Farrell
Stripes Europe

When I travel, I typically have a massive itinerary. No matter how many items I check off of my list, is there is always one area or sight that leaves a lasting impression–one I would experience again if I ever got the chance to revisit. In Toulouse, de Capitole and the surrounding neighborhood is that place.

Bursting with life, de Capitole square is everyone’s starting point in Toulouse. Numerous cafes, restaurants, hotels, bars and outward streets surround this hot spot that the locals refer to as Old Town. If you’re ready to soak up some French culture, it’s worth a closer look.

de Capitole

Dating back to 1190, de Capitole building houses the town hall, regional theatre, prestigious opera house and state rooms with magnificent paintings that trace Toulouse’s history. The Capitole square is a feel-good place where there is always something going on. Explore the arcade on the western side, with restaurants tucked under brick archways. On the ceiling of the arcade walk are unique illustrations depicting the city’s history. Venture behind this emblematic building to the Donjon (Archive Tower), the oldest building in Toulouse.

Where to shop

Branching out from the Capitole in every direction are narrow streets lined with traditional boutiques, internationally renowned shops and a handful of department stores. Some notable shopping streets are the Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine and Rue Saint-Rome—both are lined with popular and one-of-a-kind storefronts. Don’t forget to weave in and out of the side streets between these two main shopping avenues. You can find some great souvenirs nearby. Don’t miss Chocolaterie de Puyricard on Rue du Fourbastard and Petit Souk on Rue Baronie.

Where to eat

There is every kind of food imaginable here. From street food to local bistros to restaurants, the options for filling your appetite are endless. Eat your way through the streets with fresh orange juice, waffles, crepes and more. Within the Capitole arcades, dine in the city’s oldest restaurant, Le Bibent, a luxurious French brasserie from 1882. While there, try the Toulouse sausage (flavored with garlic, wine and smoked bacon). For something less touristy, check out Place Saint-Georges. Frequented by the locals, this square is surrounded by numerous cafes and restaurants. Start your day with breakfast á la Français at Café Au Jardin des Thés. Finish the evening at Restaurant Emile with cassoulet au confit de canard, a local dish not to be missed.

Where to chillout

Looking for a nice place to wind down? The Fat Cat is a hip little bar right off the Capitole square. They make a mean Manhattan! Around the corner, stop by the Jazz and Blues-worthy Satch Club on Rue Lafayette for the famous Cry Baby Collins (Tanqueray, raspberry puree, lemon juice, dried candied ginger and soda water). Head toward the riverfront to Place Saint Pierre. There, check out two hotspots that are popular with local students–Le Saint des Seins and La Couleur de la Culotte (the color of the underwear).

No matter what you do

If you like the idea of Paris, but perhaps in a smaller package, Toulouse can hold its head up high in the ranks of breathtaking and vibrant cities to visit. It’s so easy to lose track of time enjoying the relaxed vibe and quintessentially French aesthetic found in this city center.


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