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Formerly the head office of the old town magistrates, Le Capitole is impressive, with its white marble columns all along the front. Today it houses the Capitole Theatre and the Town Hall. As you go through the Henri-IV courtyard you can admire the work of local 19th-century artists such as Jean-Paul Laurens or Henri Martin, while the Hall of Fame contains busts of Toulouse celebrities. The Square is surrounded by red-brick buildings and the ground is marked with the Toulouse Cross, a symbol of the town's historic past.
This museum in Rue Tripière recreates the history and spirit of the guild. The guild was formed not only to train young people in traditional skills such as cabinet making, stone cutting or carpentry, but also to share and spread knowledge. After apprenticeship, the young members toured France to meet masters in different regions. Only after several years of training could they create a masterpiece.
In the basement of a fourth-century necropolis containing richly sculpted tombs and sarcophagi, this is an exceptional testament to Toulouse's history. In the 11th century some of the walls formed part of the Saint Raymond hospital named after the canon of Saint Sernin, Raymond Gairast, its administrator. In the twelfth century, the building became a university college. Beautifully arranged, this museum's first floor displays the results of the excavation of the mysterious Chiragan villa, found 60km south-west of Toulouse: bas-reliefs, Roman sculptures in marble including a collection of startlingly realistic busts of emperors. On the second floor is an exhibition of everyday objects and jewelry from Roman Toulouse, Tolosa. The museum also organizes temporary exhibitions and lectures.
This monastery turned museum, which dates from the 14th and 15th centuries, exhibits the town's largest selection of medieval sculptures (Romanesques and Gothic) and paintings. The collection contains works from the Italian, Flemish and Dutch schools including pieces by Rubens and Le Perugin and French artists from the 16th-20th centuries. The monastery itself has a chapel with two beautiful cloisters as well as a unique collection of Romanesque capitals. The museum also organizes guided tours and lectures.
Pont Neuf claims to be the oldest and most beautiful bridge in Toulouse. It was built between 1544 and 1632, and Louis XIV himself crossed it in 1659. Flooding of the Garonne destroyed all the previous bridges, but this one has been in place for four centuries, thanks to tunnels above the arches, which allow water to flow away during floods. From the right bank there is an exceptional view of the Hôtel-Dieu and the Prairie des Filtres Park; from the left you can see the Daurade and Tunis quays. The two bridges either side are the Pont-Saint-Michel (upriver), and the Pont-Saint-Pierre (downriver). The latter offers an excellent view of the Pont Neuf.
Compared to the Basilique Saint-Sernin (a model of symmetry), the Saint-Etienne Cathedral is a mishmash of styles. This doesn't matter; it still manages to be the most elegant building in the city. The façade, whose rose windows and entrance don't match the bell tower, is a result of years of construction and renovation work (1209-1613). The choir too is out of alignment with the nave. Its height recalls the Gothic cathedrals of northern France. The inside is a bit cluttered, but there are some good murals in the chapels. In the square outside is the oldest fountain in Toulouse, Le Griffoul (1546).
Until 1870, this building was used to pump 4000 cubic meters (141,259 cubic feet) of water to 60,000 inhabitants of Toulouse. In 1971, following a suggestion by photographer Jean Dieuzaide, it was turned it into a gallery for black and white photography. The excellent quality of its monthly exhibitions, held on the second story of the building, prove what a good idea this was. Children enjoy it too, as they can see the gear wheels through the thick glass partitions that separate the mechanisms from the public. The gallery also gives new artists the chance to display their work.
This park comprises three large gardens, which are connected by footbridges above the traffic: the Jardin des Plantes, Jardin Royal and Grand Rond. Wide paths wind around old trees, fountains, flowerbeds and ponds, and there are swings and pony-rides for the children. The Jardin des Plantes ("botanical gardens") was created in 1886, and was the venue for the Universal Exhibition in 1887. The Natural History Museum is also situated here.
Whether you are a connoisseur of oriental art or merely curious about Asian culture, the Georges-Labit Museum is well worth a visit. Covering more than 3,000 years of history, it displays original works from China, Japan, Nepal, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Tibet. The collection was compiled by the museum's founder, George Labit (1862-1899), who travelled the world looking for vestiges of little-known civilizations. There are regular themed exhibitions, e.g. on the subject of Tibetan art and the Tantric religious movement. There are also ancient Egyptian Coptic fabrics from the 4th to the 7th centuries on display. Inquire about guided tours.
In the first century AD, the Romans built a large rural sanctuary about 4 kilometers (2.5 miles) west of Toulouse. All that remain are the swimming baths (now in the basement of an apartment building), and the amphitheater, once used for gladiators' tournaments. During the 4th Century, a lot of the bricks were removed from the latter, and used in the construction of other buildings. But some features, like the vomitoriums, are well preserved. All in all, it's well worth a visit. The guided tours, organized by the Saint-Raymond museum, include both the amphitheater and the baths; book in advance.
Established in 1997, La Cité de l'Espace brought space within people's reach in Toulouse. An outdoor museum dedicated to the exploration of space, the massive theme park is a dream come true for budding astronauts. Interactive exhibits and a truly unique landscape have drawn millions of visitors since the museum's doors opened, and tourists and locals alike continue to be drawn to this unique establishment. Visitors can zoom past the stars in the museum's 280-person planetarium, get up close and personal with a full-scale model of the Ariane 5 rocket, and even take the controls in a simulated rocket launch. There is also a restaurant and on-site souvenir shop so you can take a little bit of space home with you.
Large and privately owned, African Safari has two different sections. The first is a wildlife park containing African big game; lions, zebras, buffalo, rhinoceros and ostriches. The second part is a more traditional type of zoo with a picnic spot and children's playground. In total, there are around 350 different species of animals. There is a show with performing seals several times a day. A small shop selling souvenirs and snacks is located at the exit.