The 2023 Rugby World Cup kicked off last night with a star-studded opening ceremony.
This year the tournament will be held in France and five of the games will be played in the city of Toulouse at the Stadium de Toulouse, where Japan will face Chile tomorrow.
So if you’re heading into the city to enjoy some of the action, here’s how to make the most of the hopping bars and gorgeous architecture – and where to watch the game if you haven’t snagged tickets.
WHY SHOULD I GO?
BORDEAUX is often a priority when planning a wine trip to France, but Toulouse should not be overlooked.
Some even say it is the wine capital of the world with many excellent places to drink this wine.
There are also cobbled streets with plenty of shopping options, museums telling the city’s 2,000-year history, and hiking trails.
The Garonne River flows through the middle of the city and forms the perfect centerpiece of this rugby-mad hub.
Visit the brand new riverside rugby village with huge screens showing all the games, as well as a local market, DJ sets and evening concerts, drone shows, fan quizzes and food and drink areas.
STREETS MADE FOR A WALK?
You can take scenic walks along the Garonne and through the city’s parks, including the idyllic Jardin Japonais.
Canals line many streets with delicious bistros that are ideal places for a charcuterie break.
There is also the Victor Hugo Market where you can spend hours sampling macarons, local cheeses and excellent wines.
Place du Capitole is the heart of the city and most likely the place where you’ll spot other tourists eating, drinking and shopping.
Anything for the bucket list?
Once you’ve absorbed all the rugby (and wine!) you can, then the Aeroscopia Museum in Blagnac is truly fascinating, even if you’re not particularly interested in history.
There you will learn everything about aviation and how Clement Ader from Toulouse invented the first airplane at the end of the 19th century.
Take a tour of the now-defunct Concorde and marvel at the pinnacle of mechanical engineering in the Super Guppy aircraft.
If you want something truly bizarre, then head to the Halle de La Machine – a completely bizarre but breathtaking art exhibition of giant mechanical beasts.
Where should I eat?
A CITY known for its cassoulets, foie gras and confit duck, Toulouse is a leading destination when it comes to gastronomy.
Le Bibent on Place du Capitole is the place to be if you want to feel like you are part of history.
It is known as the restaurant where three students started World War I by plotting the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Oh, and they make an incredible slow-cooked casserole.
Monsieur Georges and Maison Good are two other lovely little eateries offering the best of European cuisine, both with alfresco dining.
I fancy a drink
I’ve mentioned before that Toulouse is often considered the wine capital of the world, not Bordeaux, and the locals really believe that.
It’s easy to see why N°5 Wine Bar here was voted the best wine bar in the world three years in a row, starting in 2017.
There you can try as many of the thousands of bottles as you like, all available at self-service pharmacies.
Small tapas plates, bread, cheese and sausages are also very trendy in this two-story gem.
Or L’Alimentation, which beats N°5 by far with its high stools and brick interior.
Maison Good offers a more clubby atmosphere on Friday and Saturday nights if that’s what you’re looking for.
Where should I stay?
An affordable option just a 15-minute walk from Place du Capitole is the Social Hub.
This offers more of a student dormitory atmosphere, but is modern, clean and in a quiet part of the city.
Do you really want to push the boat out? Choose the 5H La Cour des Consuls Hotel & Spa.
You will not regret it.
GET THERE: Ryanair flies from Stansted, Birmingham and Edinburgh to Toulouse from £14.99 each way.
STAY THERE: Rooms at The Social Hub start from £100 per night based on two rooms (see thesocialhub.co) and rooms at La Cour des Consuls Hotel & Spa cost from £169.51 per night, based on two rooms (see all.accor.com).