Toulouse ( too-LOOZ,[4] French: [tuluz] (About this sound); Occitan: Tolosa [tuˈluzɔ]; Latin: Tolosa [tɔˈloːsa]) is the prefecture of the French department of Haute-Garonne and of the larger region of Occitanie. The city is on the banks of the River Garonne, 150 kilometres (93 miles) from the Mediterranean Sea, 230 km (143 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean and 680 km (420 mi) from Paris. It is the fourth-largest commune in France, with 479,553 inhabitants within its municipal boundaries (as of January 2017), after Paris, Marseille and Lyon, ahead of Nice; it has a population of 1,360,829 within its wider metropolitan area (also as of January 2017).

Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus (formerly EADS), the SPOT satellite system, ATR and the Aerospace Valley. It also hosts the European headquarters of Intel and the CNES's Toulouse Space Centre (CST), the largest space centre in Europe.[5] Thales Alenia Space, ATR, SAFRAN, Liebherr-Aerospace and Airbus Defence and Space also have a significant presence in Toulouse.

The University of Toulouse is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229) and, with more than 103,000 students, it is the fourth-largest university campus in France, after the universities of Paris, Lyon and Lille.[6]

The air route between Toulouse–Blagnac and the Parisian airports is the busiest in France, transporting 3.2 million passengers in 2019.[7] According to the rankings of L'Express and Challenges, Toulouse is the most dynamic French city.[8][9][10]

Founded by the Romans, the city was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom in the 5th century and the capital of the province of Languedoc in the Late Middle Ages and early modern period (provinces were abolished during the French Revolution), making it the unofficial capital of the cultural region of Occitania (Southern France). It is now the capital of the Occitanie region, the second largest region in Metropolitan France.

Toulouse counts three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Canal du Midi (designated in 1996 and shared with other cities), and the Basilica of St. Sernin, the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe,[11] designated in 1998 along with the former hospital Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques because of their significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route. The city's unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks has earned Toulouse the nickname La Ville Rose ("The Pink City").[citation needed]

Toulouse is in the south of France, north of the department of Haute-Garonne, on the axis of communication between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.

The city is traversed by the Canal de Brienne, the Canal du Midi and the rivers Garonne, Touch and Hers-Mort.

Toulouse has a temperate humid subtropical climate (Cfa in the Köppen climate classification). Too much precipitation during the summer months prevents the city from being classified as a Mediterranean climate zone.

The remains of the Roman wall in Toulouse illustrate the early use of brick and stone in construction.

The Garonne Valley was a central point for trade between the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic since at least the Iron Age. The historical name of the city, Tolosa (Τολῶσσα in Greek, and of its inhabitants, the Tolosates, first recorded in the 2nd century BC), is of unknown meaning or origin, possibly from Aquitanian or Iberian,[16] but it has also been connected to the name of the Gaulish Volcae Tectosages.[17]

Tolosa enters the historical period in the 2nd century BC, when it became a Roman military outpost. After the conquest of Gaul, it was developed as a Roman city in Gallia Narbonensis. Under the reign of Emperor Augustus and thanks to the Pax Romana, the Romans moved the city a few kilometres from the hills where it was an oppidum to the banks of the Garonne, which were more suitable for trade. Around the year 250, Toulouse was marked by the martyrdom of Saturnin, the first bishop of Toulouse. This episode illustrates the difficult beginnings of Christianity in Roman Gaul.

In the 5th century, Tolosa fell to the Visigothic kingdom and became one of its major cities, in the early 6th century even serving as its capital, before it fell to the Franks under Clovis in 507 (Battle of Vouillé). From that time, Toulouse was the capital of Aquitaine within the Frankish realm.[18][citation needed]

In 721, Duke Odo of Aquitaine defeated an invading Umayyad Muslim army at the Battle of Toulouse. Many Arab chroniclers consider that Odo's victory was the real stop to Muslim expansion into Christian Europe, incursions of the following years being simple raids without real will of conquest (including the one that ended with Charles Martel's victory at the Battle of Tours, also called the Battle of Poitiers).[19]

The Frankish conquest of Septimania followed in the 750s, and a quasi-independent County of Toulouse emerged within the Carolingian sub-kingdom of Aquitaine by the late 8th century. The Battle of Toulouse of 844, pitting Charles the Bald against Pepin II of Aquitaine, was key in the Carolingian Civil War.

St Dominic's room at Maison Seilhan is considered the birthplace of the Dominican Order.

In 1096, Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse, left with his army at the call of the Pope to join the First Crusade, of which he was one of the main leaders.

In the 12th century the notables of the city took advantage of a weakening of the county power to obtain for their city a great autonomy, they created a municipal body of consuls (called capitouls in Toulouse) to lead the city.

At the beginning of the thirteenth century the county of Toulouse was taken in another crusade, of which it was the target this time. The reason for this was the development of Catharism in the south of France, which the Pope wanted to eradicate by all possible means. This struggle took on several aspects, going beyond the military crusade, such as the creation of an original and militant Gothic architecture: the Southern French Gothic.

In 1215, the Dominican Order was founded in Toulouse by Saint Dominic in the context of struggle against the Cathar heresy.

In the Treaty of Paris of 1229, Toulouse formally submitted to the crown of France. The county's sole heiress Joan was engaged to Alphonse, Count of Poitiers, a younger brother of Louis IX of France. The marriage became legal in 1241, but it remained childless and so after Joan's death, the county fell to the Crown of France by inheritance.

Also in 1229, University of Toulouse was established after the Parisian model, intended as a means to dissolve the heretic movement.[citation needed]

Various monastic orders, like the congregation of the order of frères prêcheurs, were started. They found home in Les Jacobins.[citation needed] In parallel, a long period of inquisition began inside the Toulouse walls. The fear of repression forced the leading figures to exile or to convert themselves. The inquisition lasted nearly 400 years, making Toulouse its capital.[citation needed]

In 1271, Toulouse was incorporated into the kingdom of France and declared a "royal city".[citation needed] In 1323 the Consistori del Gay Saber was created in Toulouse to preserve the lyric art of the troubadours by organizing a poetry contest; and Toulouse became the centre of Occitan literary culture for the next hundred years. The Consistori del Gay Saber is considered to be the oldest literary society in Europe, at the origin of one of the most sophisticated treatise on grammar and rhetoric of the Middle Ages, and in 1694 it was transformed into the Royal Academy of the Floral Games (Académie des Jeux Floraux), still active today, by king Louis XIV.

The 14th century brought a pogrom against Toulouse's Jewish population by Crusaders in 1320,[20] the Black Death in 1348, then the Hundred Years' War. Despite strong immigration, the population lost 10,000 inhabitants in 70 years. By 1405 Toulouse had only 19,000 people.[21] The city was the key stronghold of the French defence in the south of France during the worst years of the Hundred Years' War, when the English troops from Aquitaine had taken Montauban and only Toulouse remained as an obstacle to their conquest of southern France. This military threat to the city and especially to the surrounding countryside was not conducive to its development.

In spite of this, the 14th century saw a significant increase in the influence of the University of Toulouse, particularly following the move of the papacy from Rome to Avignon. Many law graduates from the University of Toulouse had brilliant careers in the Avignon curia, several became cardinals and three became popes: John XXII, Innocent VI and Urban V. These powerful prelates financed the establishment of colleges in the university towns of southern France, not only Toulouse but also Montpellier and Avignon.[22]

In 1369 Pope Urban V attributed to the Dominican church of the Jacobins of Toulouse the bones of the famous Dominican theologian Saint Thomas Aquinas, perhaps to honor the city that had been the cradle of the Dominican order at the beginning of the previous century.

The political and economic situation improved in the 15th century.[23] In 1443 Charles VII established the second parliament of France after that of Paris. Reinforcing its place as an administrative and judicial center, the city grew richer, participating in the trade of Bordeaux wine with England, as well as cereals and textiles. A major source of income was the production and export of pastel, a blue dye made from woad.[24] The fortune generated by this international trade was at the origin of several of Toulouse's superb Renaissance mansions.

Toulouse suffered several fires, but it was in 1463 that the Great Fire of Toulouse broke out, ravaging the city for fifteen days. After this dramatic event, King Louis XIII exempted the city from taxes for 100 years. The capitouls issued municipal decrees favouring the use of brick in buildings, rather than excessively flammable wood or cob.

In 1562 the French Wars of Religion began and Toulouse became an ultra-Catholic stronghold in a predominantly Protestant region, the era of economic prosperity came to an end. The governor of Languedoc, Henri II de Montmorency, who had rebelled, was executed in 1632 in the Capitole in the presence of King Louis XIII and Cardinal Richelieu.

In 1666 Pierre-Paul Riquet started the construction of the Canal du Midi which links Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea, and is considered one of the greatest construction works of the 17th century. Completed in 1681, the canal stimulated the economy of Toulouse by promoting the export of cereals (wheat and corn) and the import of oil and other goods from the Mediterranean regions.

In the 18th century, Toulouse was a provincial capital that prided itself on its royal academies (the only city in France, along with Paris, to have three royal academies), but seemed far removed from the debates of ideas that agitated the Enlightenment. A famous example illustrates this backwardness of Toulouse mentalities of the time: in 1762 its powerful Parliament sentenced Jean Calas to death. The philosopher Voltaire then accused the Parliament of Toulouse of religious intolerance (Calas was a Protestant), gave the affair a European repercussion and succeeded in having the judgment of the Parliament quashed by the King's Council, which did much damage to the reputation of the Parliament. It was on this occasion that Voltaire published one of his major philosophical works: his famous Treatise on Tolerance.

With the French Revolution of 1789 and the reform or suppression of all royal institutions, Toulouse lost much of its power and influence: until then the capital of the vast province of Languedoc, with a Parliament ruling over an even larger territory, the city then found itself simply at the head of the single small department of Haute-Garonne.

On 10 April 1814, four days after Napoleon's surrender of the French Empire to the nations of the Sixth Coalition (a fact that the two armies involved were not yet aware of), the Battle of Toulouse pitted the Hispanic-British troops of Field Marshal Wellington against the French troops of Napoleonic Marshal Soult, who, although they managed to resist, were forced to withdraw. Toulouse was thus the scene of the last Franco-British battle on French territory.[25]

Unlike most large French cities, there was no real industrial revolution in 19th century Toulouse. The most important industries were the gunpowder factory, to meet military needs, and the tobacco factory. In 1856 the railway arrived in Toulouse and the city was modernised: the ramparts were replaced by large boulevards, and major avenues such as the rue d'Alsace-Lorraine and the rue de Metz opened up the historic centre.

In 1875 a flood of the Garonne devastated more than 1,000 houses and killed 200 people. It also destroyed all the bridges in Toulouse, except the Pont-Neuf.[26]

World War I brought to Toulouse (geographically sheltered from enemy attacks) chemical industries as well as aviation workshops (Latécoère, Dewoitine), which launched the city's aeronautical construction tradition and gave birth after the war to the famous Aéropostale, a pioneering airmail company based in Toulouse and whose epics were popularised by the novels of writers such as Joseph Kessel and Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (himself an Aéropostale pilot).[27]

In the 1920s and 1930s the rise of the Toulouse population was increased by the arrival of Italians and Spaniards fleeing the fascist regimes of their country. Then, in the early 1960s, French repatriates from Algeria swelled the city's population.

In 1963, Toulouse was chosen to become one of the country's eight “balancing Metropolis”, regaining a position among the country's major cities that it had always had, but lost in the 19th century. The French state then encouraged the city's specialisation in aeronautics and space activities, sectors that had experienced strong growth in recent decades, fueling economic and population growth.

On 21 September 2001, an explosion occurred at the AZF fertiliser factory, causing 31 deaths, about 30 seriously wounded and 2,500 light casualties. The blast measured 3.4 on the Richter scale and the explosion was heard 80 km (50 miles) away.

In 2016 a territorial reform made Toulouse the regional prefecture of Occitanie, the second largest region in metropolitan France, giving it a role commensurate with its past as a provincial capital among the most important in France.

The population of the city proper (French: commune) was 479,553 at the January 2017 census, with 1,360,829 inhabitants in the metropolitan area (within the 2010 borders of the metropolitan area), up from 1,187,686 at the January 2007 census (within the same 2010 borders of the metropolitan area).[2][3] Thus, the metropolitan area registered a population growth rate of +1.4% per year between 2007 and 2017, the highest growth rate of any French metropolitan area larger than 500,000 inhabitants, although it is slightly lower than the growth rate registered between the 1999 and 2007 censuses. Toulouse is the fourth largest city in France, after Paris, Marseille and Lyon, and the fourth-largest metropolitan area after Paris, Lyon, and Marseille.

Fueled by booming aerospace and high-tech industries, population growth of +1.49% a year in the metropolitan area in the 1990s (compared with +0.37% for metropolitan France), and a record +1.87% a year in the early 2000s (+0.68% for metropolitan France), which is the highest population growth of any French metropolitan area larger than 500,000 inhabitants, means the Toulouse metropolitan area overtook Lille as the fourth-largest metropolitan area of France at the 2006 census.

A local Jewish group estimates there are about 2,500 Jewish families in Toulouse.[citation needed] A Muslim association has estimated there are some 35,000 Muslims in town.[30]

The Community of Agglomeration of Greater Toulouse (Communauté d'agglomération du Grand Toulouse) was created in 2001 to better coordinate transport, infrastructure and economic policies between the city of Toulouse and its immediate independent suburbs. It succeeds a previous district which had been created in 1992 with fewer powers than the current council. It combines the city of Toulouse and 24 independent communes, covering an area of 380 km2 (147 sq mi), totalling a population of 583,229 inhabitants (as of 1999 census), 67% of whom live in the city of Toulouse proper. As of February 2004 estimate, the total population of the Community of Agglomeration of Greater Toulouse was 651,209 inhabitants, 65.5% of whom live in the city of Toulouse. Due to local political feuds, the Community of Agglomeration only hosts 61% of the population of the metropolitan area, the other independent suburbs having refused to join in. Since 2009, the Community of agglomeration has become an urban community (in French: communauté urbaine). This has become a métropole in 2015, spanning 37 communes.[31]

Coats of arms of Toulouse: Saint-Sernin church and Comtal castle frame a paschal lamb bearing the Toulouse cross

One of the major political figures in Toulouse was Dominique Baudis, the mayor of Toulouse between 1983 and 2001, member of the centrist UDF.[citation needed] First known as a journalist known for his coverage of the war in Lebanon, 36-year-old Dominique Baudis succeeded his father Pierre Baudis in 1983 as mayor of Toulouse. (Pierre Baudis was mayor from 1971 to 1983.)

Baudis tried to strengthen the international role of Toulouse (such as its Airbus operations), as well as revive the cultural heritage of the city. The Occitan cross, flag of Languedoc and symbol of the counts of Toulouse, was chosen as the new flag of the city, instead of the traditional coat of arms of Toulouse (which included the fleur de lis of the French monarchy). Many cultural institutions were created, in order to attract foreign expatriates and emphasise the city's past. For example, monuments dating from the time of the counts of Toulouse were restored, the city's symphonic concert hall (Halle aux Grains) was refurbished, a city theater was built, a Museum of Modern Art was founded, the Bemberg Foundation (European paintings and bronzes from the Renaissance to the 20th century) was established, a huge pop music concert venue (Zénith, the largest in France outside Paris) was built, the space museum and educational park Cité de l'Espace was founded, etc.

To deal with growth, major housing and transportation projects were launched. Line A of the underground was opened in 1993, and line B opened in 2007. The creation of a system of underground car parking structures in Toulouse city centre was sharply criticised by the Green Party.[32]

In 2000, Dominique Baudis was at the zenith of his popularity, with approval rates of 85%.[citation needed] He announced that he would not run for a fourth (6-year) term in 2001. He explained that with 3 terms he was already the longest-serving mayor of Toulouse since the French Revolution; he felt that change would be good for the city, and that the number of terms should be limited. He endorsed Philippe Douste-Blazy, then UDF mayor of Lourdes as his successor. Baudis has since been appointed president of the CSA (Conseil supérieur de l'audiovisuel) in Paris, the French equivalent of the American FCC.

Philippe Douste-Blazy narrowly won in the 2001 elections, which saw the left making its best showing in decades. Douste-Blazy had to deal with a reinvigorated political opposition, as well as with the dramatic explosion of the AZF plant in late 2001.

In March 2004, he entered the national government, and left Toulouse in the hands of his second-in-command Jean-Luc Moudenc, elected mayor by the municipal council. In March 2008, Moudenc was defeated by the Socialist Party's candidate Pierre Cohen.

At the next elections in 2014 Moudenc defeated Cohen in a rematch to re-take the job with more than 52% of the votes.

Classified "City of Art and History", Toulouse has a very rich architectural heritage ranging from large Romanesque and Gothic churches to neo-classical facades such as that of the Capitole, to the prestigious mansions of the Renaissance. This ancient heritage is mainly enclosed within the 220 hectares of the city's inner boulevard (one of the largest protected urban areas in France).

Almost all the buildings of the historical centre were made with the traditional building material of the region: the "foraine" brick that has earned the city the nickname of Ville Rose (Pink city). Medieval heir to the Roman brick, the "foraine" brick is characterised by its large dimensions, its flat appearance and its colour ranging from orange/pink to red.

White stone is also present in smaller quantities. As there were no stone quarries near Toulouse, it was transported from the Pyrenees via the Garonne river and was for a long time rare and therefore expensive, considered in Toulouse as a luxury material. However, it is enough to give Toulouse's architecture one of its characteristics: red/white polychromy.

The Romanesque architecture of Toulouse is largely dominated by the presence of the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, one of the most important churches of its time in Europe, and fortunate enough to keep its Romanesque character virtually intact.

Basilica of Saint-Sernin, part of the Way of Saint James UNESCO World Heritage Site, was also in itself a major place of pilgrimage. It is one of the two largest surviving Romanesque churches in Europe.[note 1] With more than two hundred relics (including six apostles), many of which were donated by Charlemagne to the shrine that preceded the present church, Saint-Sernin is the church with the most relics after Saint Peter of Rome.[33]

Conceived from the outset as a gigantic reliquary, the church was mainly built at the end of the 11th century and at the beginning of the 12th century to welcome the crowds of pilgrims, its double-sided aisles and the ambulatory surrounding the apse make it the archetype of the great pilgrimage church, where pilgrims could make the circuit around the church and were able to stop for meditation and prayer at the apsidal chapels of the transept and the radiating chapels of the choir. The church is also particularly noteworthy for the quality of its Romanesque sculptures, including numerous capitals and the historiated tympanum of the Miègeville gate, one of the first of its kind.[34]

At the beginning of the 13th century, the Catholic clergy of the South of France, seeing a growing number of the faithful turning to the Catharism which advocated a more pious austerity, showed the will to correct the defects of the Catholic Church which indulged in luxury. Under the impulse of the bishop of Toulouse, Foulques, an austere and militant architectural style was born with the reconstruction of the Cathedral of Toulouse: the Southern French Gothic. Conceived according to an ideal of poverty and humility to bring the faithful together in a single, vast nave to facilitate preaching, this architectural style then developed during the 13th century in the grand mendicant convents of the city, before spreading in the 14th century to a large number of churches and cathedrals in the region.[35]

Several churches or convents in Toulouse belong to this architectural trend, but two of them are particularly symbolic and remarkable:

Toulouse has preserved about thirty Gothic stair towers (plus a dozen Renaissance or later towers),[37] the remains of private mansions (called hôtels particuliers) from the Middle Ages and the early 16th century. Often hidden in courtyards, some of these towers are high enough to exceed their function of serving the floors and display the ambition of their owners.

At a time when most of the houses in Toulouse were built in wood or cob, the brick construction of these towers and hôtels also testifies to their quality.

In the 16th century, Toulouse experienced a golden age coinciding with the Renaissance in France. The woad trade (pastel) brought merchants of international stature to the city, and the Parliament of Toulouse made the city the judicial capital of a large part of the south of France. These wealthy elites had private mansions built, remarkable for their architecture inspired by architectural treatises such as those of Serlio, Alberti or Vitruvius, but also by the royal castles of the Loire Valley and the Île-de-France.[38]

Renowned for the quality of their architecture, the private mansions of the Toulouse Renaissance that have survived to the present day were built over more than a century (around 1515–1620) by reputed architects such as Louis Privat, Nicolas Bachelier, Dominique Bachelier or Pierre Souffron. The most famous of these hôtels are those of Assézat, Bernuy, Vieux-Raisin or Clary...[38]

The French Wars of Religion, which started in the second half of the 16th century, brought to the city many religious orders who came to seek asylum in this solid Catholic bastion. They had beautiful baroque churches built in the 17th century: among them, the Order of Carthusians, expelled by the Protestants from the region of Castres, founded the church of Saint-Pierre des Chartreux, the order of the Discalced Carmelites built the church of Saint-Exupère, the blue penitents founded the church of Saint-Jérôme and the order of Carmelite nuns created a convent of which a remarkable painted chapel remains.

After the Renaissance, the decorations in civil architecture became less numerous and ostentatious, due to the importance given to the moderation of the architectural structures and the development of interior decorations. The play of colours (between brick and stone) and reliefs (bossing) were less costly and nevertheless effective solutions for livening up facades. The 17th century is the century that gave Toulouse the largest number of its private mansions, most of them built by members of parliament.[39]

In the 18th century Toulouse made its living from its Parliament and from the wheat and corn trade, which was boosted by the creation of the Canal du Midi at the end of the previous century. Among the major architectural achievements, the most notable were undoubtedly the construction of the quays of the Garonne and the new facade of the Capitole (1750-1760), designed by architect Guillaume Cammas.

In the last third of the 18th century, the ever increasing influence of the Parisian model meant that red brick was no longer popular: the city facades were then covered with white paint to imitate stone. This is why nowadays, even though the white paint has generally been removed, there are walls with deep grooves carved in brick to imitate ashlar architecture.

Toulouse's 19th century architecture can be divided into three periods, which sometimes overlapped. In the first half of the century, at the instigation of architect Jacques-Pascal Virebent, the main planned squares were created: the Place du Capitole and the Place Wilson (called place Villeneuve when it was built), whose uniform architecture was inspired by Rue de Rivoli in Paris.

From 1830 onwards, Auguste Virebent and his brothers (sons of Jacques-Pascal) developed a factory of low-cost moulded decorations which met with great success and adorned Toulouse facades with numerous terracotta ornaments, far from the austere architecture of their father.

Then, in the last third of the 19th century, large Haussmann-style avenues were opened in the town centre, such as the central Alsace-Lorraine street, built in yellow brick to imitate Parisian stone.

The banks of the Garonne river offer an interesting urban panorama of the city. Red brick dykes from the 18th century enclose the river which was subject to destructive floods. The Pont-Neuf took almost a century to build as the project was so ambitious (1545-1632). It was a very modern bridge for its time, removing the housing on the deck and using, possibly for the first time together, techniques such as basket-handle (surbased) arches, openings in the piers and stacked spouts to spread the water, making it the only bridge in Toulouse to withstand the violent floods of the past. Further downstream, the Bazacle is a ford across the Garonne river, in the 12th century the Bazacle Milling Company was the first recorded European joint-stock company. On the left bank of the river, historically a flood-prone bank, stand two former hospitals whose origins date back to the 12th century: the Hôtel-Dieu Saint-Jacques and the Hôpital de La Grave. Isolated on the left bank, victims of the plague and other sick people were thus kept away from the city by the width of the river.

Built at the end of the 17th century, the Canal du Midi bypasses the city centre and has linked Toulouse to the Mediterranean Sea ever since. Its 240 kilometres were inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

The Jardin des Plantes is a large park spanning several blocks, including the museum of Natural History, cafés, activities for children and a botanical garden (early 19th century).

Toulouse also has several theme parks, notably highlighting its aeronautical and space heritage:

The main industries are aeronautics, space, electronics, information technology and biotechnology. Toulouse hosts the Airbus headquarters and assembly-lines of Airbus A320, A330, A350 and A380. (A320 lines also exist in Hamburg, Germany, Tianjin, China, and Mobile, Alabama, USA.) Airbus has its head office in Blagnac, near Toulouse.[40][41] Airbus's France division has its main office in Toulouse.[41] Toulouse also hosts the headquarters of ATR, Sigfox, one of the two headquarters of Liebherr Aerospace and Groupe Latécoère. The Concorde supersonic aircraft was also constructed in Toulouse.

Portal of the college de l'Esquile (1556), a symbol of the university's seniority

Toulouse has the fourth-largest student population in France after Paris, Lyon and Lille with 103,000 students (2012).[42]

The University of Toulouse (Université de Toulouse) was established in 1229 (now split into three separate universities). Like the universities in Oxford and Paris, the University of Toulouse was established at a time when Europeans were starting to translate the writings of Arabs of Andalus and Greek philosophers. These writings challenged European ideology—inspiring scientific discoveries and advances in the arts—as society began seeing itself in a new way. These colleges were supported by the Church, in hopes of reconciling Greek philosophy and Christian theology.[citation needed]

Toulouse is also the home of Toulouse Business School (TBS), Toulouse School of Economics (TSE), the Institut supérieur européen de gestion group (ISEG Group), the (ISEFAC), E-Artsup and several engineering schools:

The most well known high schools in Toulouse are Lycée Pierre-de-Fermat [fr] and Lycée Saint-Sernin.

International schools serving area expatriates are in nearby Colomiers:

Toulouse public transport map that shows metro lines, tram lines and the high-level bus network called Lineo

The main railway station, with regional and national services, is Toulouse-Matabiau.

In addition to an extensive bus system, the Toulouse Metro is a VAL (Véhicule Automatique Léger) metro system made up of driverless (automatic) rubber-tired trains. Line A runs for 12.5 km (7.8 mi) from Balma-Gramont in the north-east to Basso Cambo in the south-west. Line B, which opened in June 2007, serves 20 stations north to south and intersects line A at Jean Jaurès.

Line C has existed since line A was completed. It is not VAL but an urban railway line operated by SNCF. It connects to line A at Arènes. Two other stations located in Toulouse are also served by line C. Lardenne, formerly named "Gare des Capelles", changed its name in September 2003 when line C opened.[43] Le TOEC station opened on 1 September 2003 with the creation of line C, allowing an urban train service in Toulouse and close western suburbs.[43]

The tramway line T1 (operating since December 2010), runs from Beauzelle to Toulouse passing through Blagnac. All urban bus, metro and tram services are operated by Tisséo. Tramway line T2 is a branch of the first line serving notably Toulouse Blagnac airport.

In 2007, a citywide bicycle rental scheme called VélôToulouse was introduced,[44] with bicycles available from automated stations for a daily, weekly, monthly or yearly subscription.

The average amount of time people spend commuting with public transit in Toulouse, for example to and from work, on a weekday is 44 min. 9.1% of public transit riders, ride for more than 2 hours every day. The average amount of time people wait at a stop or station for public transit is 9 min, while 10.4% of riders wait for over 20 minutes on average every day. The average distance people usually ride in a single trip with public transit is 7 km, while 8% travel for over 12 km in a single direction.[45]

Toulouse is the home of Bonhoure Radio Tower, a 61-metre high lattice tower used for FM and TV transmission.[46] In 2001 a large (100 km) optical fiber (symmetric 360Gbit/s) network named Infrastructure Métropolitaine de Télécommunications was deployed around the city and suburbs.[47]

The Halle aux grains, a former grain market now used as a concert hall.

The Théâtre du Capitole is the home of opera and ballet; there has been a theatre on the site since 1736.[48] The Orchestre National du Capitole, long associated with Michel Plasson, plays at the Halle aux Grains.[49]

Le Château d'Eau,[50] an old 19th-century water-tower, was converted as a gallery in 1974 by Jean Dieuzaide, a French photographer from Toulouse and is now one of the oldest public places dedicated to photography in the world. Toulouse's art museums include the Musée des Augustins, the Musée des Abattoirs, the Musée Georges Labit, and the Fondation Bemberg in the Hôtel d'Assézat. The Musée Saint-Raymond is devoted to Antiquity and the Muséum de Toulouse to natural history.

Toulouse is the seat of the Académie des Jeux Floraux, the equivalent of the French Academy for the Occitan-speaking regions of southern France, making Toulouse the unofficial capital of Occitan culture. The traditional Cross of Toulouse (from Provence, under the name of cross of Provence), emblem of the County of Toulouse and commonly widespread around all of Occitania during the Middle Ages is the symbol of the city and of the newly founded Midi-Pyrénées région, as well as a popular Occitan symbol.

The city's gastronomic specialties include the Saucisse de Toulouse, a type of sausage, cassoulet Toulousain, a bean and pork stew, and garbure, a cabbage soup with poultry. Also, foie gras, the liver of an overfed duck or goose, is a delicacy commonly made in the Midi-Pyrénées.[51]

Stade Toulousain of the Top 14 is the most successful rugby union club in all of Europe, having been crowned European champions five times and French champions twenty-one times.[52][53]

Toulouse Olympique represents the city in rugby league. The club has been playing in the British rugby league system since 2016, and is currently playing in the 2nd tier Championship. The club has had historical success in France, being crowned French champions six times.

The city also has a professional football team, Toulouse FC, which plays in Ligue 2, the second division of football in France, and won the 1957 Coupe de France Final. The club plays at the Stadium Municipal, which was a venue during the 1998 FIFA World Cup and 2007 Rugby World Cup, as well as hosting important club rugby games and several Rugby League World Cups. Toulouse was also a host of EuroBasket 1999.

Several notable Toulousains have been scientists, such as Jean Dausset (1916-2009), 1980 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine; 17th-century mathematician Pierre de Fermat (1607-1665), who spent his life in Toulouse, where he wrote Fermat's Last Theorem and was a lawyer in the city's Parlement; Paul Sabatier (1854-1941), 1912 winner of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry; Albert Fert (b. 1938),[54] 2007 winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics who grew up in Toulouse where he attended the Lycée Pierre-de-Fermat [fr] and Jean Tirole (b. 1953), owner of the 2014 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, chairman and founder of the Toulouse School of Economics along with Jean-Jacques Laffont.

Musically, Toulouse is one of the two controversial, disputed birthplaces of Carlos Gardel (1890-1935) (the other being Tacuarembo, Uruguay), probably the most prominent figure in the history of the tango. The city's most renowned songwriter is Claude Nougaro (1929-2004). The composer and organist Georges Guiraud (1868–1928) was born in Toulouse.

Concerning arts, Toulouse is the birthplace of Impressionist painter Henri Martin (1860-1943) as well as sculptors Alexandre Falguière (1831-1900) and Antonin Mercié (1845-1916). Moreover, Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres (1780-1867) and Antoine Bourdelle (1861-1929) were trained at the Toulouse fine arts school. Post Impressionist painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec's (1864-1901) father was Count Alphonse Charles de Toulouse-Lautrec Monfa (1838-1913) and was part of an aristocratic family of Counts of Toulouse, Odet de Foix, Vimcomte de Lautrec and the Viscounts of Montfa. French graffiti artist Cyril Kongo was born in Toulouse in 1969.

Raymond IV, Count of Toulouse (c. 1041 - 1105), one of the leaders of the First Crusade, was born in Toulouse. Aviation pioneer Clément Ader (1841-1925) and psychiatrist Jean-Étienne Dominique Esquirol (1772-1840) were also natives.

Toulouse also has accords of cooperation with the following towns:[56]