If you’re planning a holiday to the bustling city of Toulouse, you need to make sure you include some of its stunning cathedrals and churches in your itinerary. Whether you’re religious or not, they’re fascinating places to visit thanks to their combination of amazing architecture, history and art.
Today, I’m going to give you a few ideas for where you should go, but I’m not going to run through the practical side of your trip so much. That said, one thing I would say is that, perched in the south of France, Toulouse is a great city to drive to and around, so it’s well worth considering hiring a car for the duration of your break – especially as doing so will give you loads of freedom to explore the coast. It’s probably easiest to hire a car from Toulouse airport, assuming you’re flying to your destination, so you can have your own set of wheels from the outset. But before I get any further sidetracked by the practical side of things, let’s turn our attention back to places you shouldn’t miss.
The red-brick Basilique St-Sernin is one of the best-preserved Romanesque buildings in France, so it really is a must-see. Once upon a time, the building was a key stop on the pilgrimage route Chemin de St-Jacques or the Way of Saint James, and in recent decades has undergone significant restoration work.
What that means for us visitors today is that we can enjoy a well-restored bell tower and paintings, as well as see a historical altar that dates all the way back to the 11th century.
Ensemble Conventual des Jacobins
This vast church may look quite plain from the outside, but inside, it’s a whole other story. Decorated with vast stained glass windows and grand 22 m high columns, the interior is a light, airy space that’s a real joy to explore. Taking close to 200 years to construct, the building dates back to the 13th century.
Plus, there’s lots else to see here in addition to grand architecture. For instance, if you head into the refectory, you’ll have the chance to peruse temporary art exhibitions. In the chapel, meanwhile, you can see fantastic mural paintings that date back to the 14th century – and these are all the more impressive when you bear in mind that they’re unique in the city.
Cathedrale de St-Etienne
If you want to see a more unusual ecclesiastical building, head to the Cathedrale de St-Etienne. Since the construction of this cathedral was spread out over roughly 500 years, it features a bit of a mishmash of architectural styles. What I think makes it a particularly interesting place to visit, though, is just how many different things you can see here. For instance, there are some gorgeous stained glass windows, as well as a selection of paintings and tapestries, while its rose window is particularly famous.
Eglise Notre Dame du Taur
The final church on my list has a somewhat grisly story behind it, it being said to have been built on the spot where Saturnin (the future Saint-Sernin) was martyred after having been dragged through the streets by a bull. Dating back to the 14th century, the church commemorates Saint-Sernin, who is actually the city’s patron saint. Be sure to check out the facade, which was restored relatively recently.
Toulouse photos: Audrey, Anselmo, Magnetic Lobster.