Moving to Toulouse
Are you moving to Toulouse? Perched on the banks of the Garonne River, Toulouse has been around since Neolithic times. It is the capital of the Midi-Pyrenees region and is the fourth-largest city in France. Known as the Ville Rose, or the Pink City, after the pink stone used in many buildings, it boasts two UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The city is often compared to Barcelona, 205 miles to the south, because of its pulsating nightlife and the links between the Catalan and Occitan regions. Renowned for its good schools, it has a skilled workforce and is a cultural treasure. It is an increasingly popular destination for foreign students and expats. More and more French people are filtering down from Paris to sample living in a less stressful environment.
Our free, in-depth Moving to Toulouse report includes info on:
• The best areas to live
• The good schools
• The average monthly rental prices
• The excellent public transport system in the city
Putting Toulouse On The Map
Two and a half hours drive from both Montpellier and Bordeaux, Toulouse is located between the west coast of France on the road leading to Spain, with the Mediterranean an hour away to the south. The transport system is excellent, consisting of buses, trams, trains and a metro.
- Metro Lines A and B operate 24-hours a day, and due to the number of young people wanting to party, more frequently at night on Fridays and Saturdays.
- There are 84 scheduled bus services running throughout the city.
- The eco-friendly and free electric buses are quick and have 8 city stops and run between 9 am and 7 pm. Just wave at the driver and he will stop.
- Noctambus or the night service serves the University residences between 1 am and 5 am on Thursday nights.
- There are 24 tram stations between Toulouse and Beauzelle via Blagnac, taking 45 minutes to the airport, and 16 stations from Toulouse to Blagnac, taking 32 minutes to the airport.
- The Airport Shuttle links the airport to Toulouse and departs every 20 minutes, every day.
- Trains lines link Toulouse with the major cities in France, including Paris. There are several TGVs daily from Paris Montparnasse to Toulouse, taking 4 hours 20 minutes via Bordeaux.
- The VélôToulouse bike scheme has 2,400 bicycles with 253 stations. The first half hour is free and is open 24/7, 365 days a year.
- Toulouse Blagnac International Airport is 4 miles northwest of Toulouse. It is the 6th busiest airport in the country, transporting about 8,081,179 passengers per annum. The flight to Paris is generally cheaper than the train and only takes an hour.
Of all the people living in the city, 80% live in apartments. Families who would rather live in a house tend to choose the suburbs, although more apartment blocks are being built outside the city centre due to the population increase. The north side of the river is much more expensive than the south side. One and two-bed apartments are very sought after in the city centre, so a quick decision is necessary to secure a rental here.
Airbus and other aerospace headquarters are the main employers in Blagnac and subsequently, lots of expats choose to live here. It is Toulouse’s 3rd biggest suburb and has good schools from nurseries through to high school. Accommodation varies from up-market apartments to stand-alone family homes. Blagnac is also on the Tour de France Route.
One of the most attractive city suburbs, situated on the right bank of the river, the houses have soft pink exteriors, eaves and decorations. The area has already undergone gentrification. Historically the district was working-class, but now attracts the well-heeled, who want proximity to the workplace and the opportunity of cycling or walking to the office. Nearby is the Place St Cyprien with a new Metro station and is also home to the old market, which is the area’s hub. Many houses in this old district have been converted into apartments. Beyond the old district are 20-storey concrete blocks of apartments, creating a mish-mash amongst more traditional houses. North and south are mostly single-storey village houses and modern lofts, while near the Sacre Coeur churchyard one finds older houses with gardens.
A mix of houses and apartments, this quiet yet central area is a mere 10 minutes from the city by bus. Situated around 2 miles from Gare Matabiau train station, it is only 4½ miles from the airport.
Located southeast of Place Esquirol and in the city centre, this is the most affluent of all Toulouse’s areas and is where the city’s aristocrats built their homes. High-end shops line the streets along with a few standalone houses, but mostly the housing is villas and apartments.
Toulouse Cathedral, or Cathedrale Saint-Etienne, is located in Place Saint-Etienne.
This central district is a stone’s throw from the city centre. Charming cobbled side-streets and gorgeous architecture line the Garonne River, which forms the area’s border. Accommodation is mainly apartments in converted terraced houses, this trendy area has plenty of coffee shops and restaurants overlooking the river, with long riverside walks.
This residential area is south-east of the city near the Canal du Midi. A quiet and peaceful neighbourhood, Côte Pavée’s residences are mostly modern apartments. Built around the park of the Caousou College are townhouses, while up on the hill are the large villas which were constructed in the years between the two wars.
An affluent area in Toulouse city centre, this small neighbourhood is sparsely populated and is made up of apartments.
Best suited for those employed in the aerospace industry, the Sept Deniers neighbourhood is close to the Capitole, the airport, the motorway and the aerospace hub. The Ginestous neighbourhood is close to Sept Deniers, a residential area which includes one of the largest camps of the Travellers community.
Who Lives and Works in Toulouse
With a population of 950,000 and around 1.2 million in the metropolitan area, Toulouse is the fourth biggest city in the country, behind Paris, Lyon and Marseille. It has seen France’s biggest economic growth in the past few years, along with rapid population growth and ranks the second-best place to work after Bordeaux. Toulouse is an important science and technology hug and the economic landscape is dominated by the space and aeronautical industries. The world headquarters of Airbus is situated in nearby Blagnac, while the French space agency is housed locally in Toulouse.
The business district, La Plaine, is located to the southeast of the city and is home to the international offices of Fiducial, Orange, Intel, Capgemini and the bank, Courtois. The National Weather Forecast Centre and the National Centre for Meteorological Research are both here, and the city’s academic importance attracts researchers and, of course, students, who enjoy some of the best employment opportunities in the country. Students enjoy unlimited transport for €10 per month, while those employed in a big company on a work placement get 50% of their transport fees paid for them.
The Best Bits
This small and safe city offers plenty of activities, whether it’s sports, theatre, opera or museums. Residents are spoilt for choice with cultural activities, nearby winter ski resorts, fabulous restaurants and nightlife.
- The Violet Festival is held in February and attracts some of the best florists in the world, showcasing unique and beautiful varieties of flowers. The highlight is the violet competition.
- Two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Basilica of St Sernin, the largest Romanesque building on the continent, and the 19th century Canal du Midi, which links Toulouse to the Mediterranean.
- The Days of Circus, held in spring. A festival for all circus lovers
- E-siesta lasts for several weeks in June and attracts lovers of progressive music genres, international artists and DJs.
- Traditional Christmas wares are found at the December markets.
- Food plays a big part in local life, nip into a local bakery for a croissant or pain du Chocolat, or take the family out for dinner to one of the many restaurants in the city. Toulouse is well-known for its culinary culture.
- Toulouse locals support a great rugby team, Les Rouges et Noirs. Their home ground is Stade Toulousain.
- There are a number of museums, ranging from art to architecture. The Augustinian Museum is particularly interesting, located in a Gothic monastery, displaying rich sculptures and paintings, mostly about five hundred years old.
- The Cite de l’Espace is midway between interactive entertainment and a science museum. A great one for the family.
- There are numerous parks and gardens in the city, including Parc du Ramier and a botanical garden. The Jardin Japonais, or Japanese Garden, is peaceful and tranquil. The red moon bridge, tea pavilion and the stone garden and array of flowers, birds, koi, turtles and frogs make this peaceful oasis a great escape from the city.
- Browse the morning markets on the weekends, including antiques, groceries, vintage items and souvenirs.
- Skiing in the Pyrenees in the winter. Make a weekend of it.
- Toulouse’s opera company is housed in the Théâtre du Capitole de Toulouse.
- Toulouse has been voted as having the best local accent in France.
- The Haunted House of Toulouse is built on the site of a scaffold where Christians were killed by Romans, and heretic monks were burned at the stake, and all are said to haunt the house. More recently, a painter killed one of his models and now her ghost is said to poke her nose through one of the windows.
Bringing the Kids
Benefitting from France’s excellent education system, schooling is divided between primary, secondary and higher education. Students sit the baccalaureate at the age of 18 to qualify for university. Most kids start their school life at the age of three at pre-school.
- There are 104 public pre-schools and 93 primary schools in Toulouse. These state schools are free of fees and are a good choice to integrate young children into the system. Many expat kids start their public-school career speaking no French at all.
- There are 22 private preschools and 22 private primary schools, all charging fees.
- The city boasts 24 public collèges, or middle schools, and 23 public lycées or high schools.
- Private schools are not as costly as would be imagined but, due to lack of funding, they tend to be short of resources.
- There are two Montessori Schools.
- There are five bilingual schools in the city, including the International School of Toulouse.
- The University of Toulouse dates back to 1229 and is a top destination for many students.
- Catering to the city’s space and aeronautical industries, there are several engineering schools along with the ENAC (civil aviation), the ENSICA (aeronautical engineering) and the ISAE (aeronautical and space engineering).
- Toulouse Business School and the EJT, the school of journalism, cater for those with non-technical interests.
- Higher education is inexpensive in France. A French master’s degree takes two years.
- The city was recently named as the best place in France for students, due to the high-quality universities and other higher education facilities.
Relocating to Toulouse
Toulouse has become a very popular city with the French and with expats. This university and cathedral town has two UNESCO World Heritage Sites and an old town packed with magnificent architecture and character. A good variety of housing, from modern, high-end apartments to villas and townhouses offer families and singles an excellent standard of living, and the efficient and convenient public transport system makes car ownership unnecessary. With strengths in education, tourism and the aeronautical and space sector, Toulouse is a wonderful city for expats to live in. However, moving the family to an unfamiliar city, along with starting a new job, may seem slightly unnerving. Using the services of a relocation agent will smooth your way, helping with finding accommodation close to the best schools, lease negotiations and local formalities, and other areas of concern.
Average Monthly Rent in Toulouse
|1 bed, city centre||€590 (£522)|
|1 bed, outside city centre||€489 (£430)|
|3 bed in city centre||€1146 (£1010)|
|3 bed, outside city centre||€837 (£740)|