How to plan a long weekend in Toulouse with kids this summer

Last updated 30th May 2024

Nicknamed La Ville Rose, Toulouse is a mix of grandeur and eccentricity. Here’s why Seonaid McGill thinks it’s also one of the best city breaks in France this summer.


Entertaining evolution, Muséum de Toulouse

Muséum de Toulouse even has a entertaining take on evolution

There might be a bit of sniffiness about Toulouse not being the ‘south-proper’, but summer says it’s properly southern. A hot afternoon in need of some cool shade is the best excuse I can think of to visit the excellent Muséum de Toulouse.

Designed like a cabinet of curiosities, it’s worth dropping by for even an hour, just to see the wall of skeletons. A lot less macabre than it sounds, it’s really a very creative look at evolution and I’ve yet to meet a child who didn’t think the bony horseman and his equally skeletal steed were more funny than sinister.


Place St. Étienne, Toulouse

Shop the quaint and the curious in Quartier Saint Georges

Walk around Toulouse with kids, the city centre is filled with impossibly grand buildings, but it’s really quite compact, mostly pedestrianised and there’s always something to see: look out for the classic, two-storey carousel. And don’t avoid the shops.

Although all the usual suspects are here, as well as a glamorous and slightly snooty Galeries Lafayette, side step them for historic Quartier Saint Georges, and tucked into more of those graceful, red brick buildings, you’ll find the type of specialist shops that France nurtures like small, precious children. Need a knife to pare a fig? There’s a shop for those. And in the spirit of égalité, antique dealers rub shoulders with treasure-trove hardware shops, where you may think all looks like chaos, yet ask and you shall be given. Don’t ask me how.


Patisserie, Flower’s Café, Place Roger Salengro, Toulouse

The best café in Toulouse for late afternoon refuelling

Round about 4pm, Toulouse stops for gouter, and you should too.

Locals might argue in favour of churros and chocolate to fend off the late afternoon slump. However, as far as we’re concerned the only place to re-fuel is Flower’s Café on Place Roger Salangro.

Don’t be put off by the queue, it goes down quickly and sit outside, always: several little streets converge on the Place and it’s showtime, all the time.

If you aren’t a season purist, Flower’s hot-chocolate, made with pure chocolate, is a local legend. Also, pray their strawberry cheesecake hasn’t run out. One slice is easily big enough for two, or more, and enough to convince kids skipping the churros wasn’t a bad plan at all.


The Minotaur, Les Halles de la Machine, Toulouse © Gwen Bevilan

Meet the Minotaur at Les Halles de la Machine

Riding a Minotaur probably isn’t what you thought you’d do in Toulouse. Wrong. La Halle de la Machine in Montaudran lets you do just that on its enormous steam-punk creations.

Vast elephants and spiders keep company with the tiniest palm-size machines. Time it right, and you can even see the creators at work.

Since you’re in the area, nearby Cité de l’Espace is another type of fantasy aimed at anyone who dreams of walking on the moon. Visit at the weekend for La Cité des Petits where kids can build rockets, man shuttles and romp around in spacesuits.


Guingette Pecheurs de Sable © Toulouse Tourisme

Get into the Guingette tradition on the banks of the Garonne

You can’t miss the River Garonne in Toulouse and the way to enjoy it in summer is at one of the Guingette which pop up along its banks when the weather warms up.

Les Pêcheurs de Sable at la Daurade is a good one with younger kids. Although, older ones might prefer more beanbags and nonchalant Toulousain teens with their lunch. Either way, you haven’t done summer in Toulouse unless you’ve done a riverside Guingette on Quai de la Daurade.

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Canal du Midi, Toulouse

Sail away for a summer afternoon on the Canal du Midi

Of course, the Garonne isn’t the only waterway in Toulouse, the Canal du Midi is at home here too.

Sailing the whole thing is a holiday in itself, so take a cruise instead, and you get to cool down on a hot summer afternoon, and see the Grand Bayard lock in action – it’s one of the canal’s biggest.

There are two sailings each day during summer and they depart from Port Saint Sauveur, an easy walk from the city centre.

Although, if you don’t want to sail, you could always tip a nod to the great French cycling tradition and pedal along the canal towpaths instead, you couldn’t be in a better place to hire bikes.


Bello & Angeli, Les Carmes, Toulouse

Quite probably the best ice cream ever (or up there at least)

Dip into colourful Les Carmes just east of the river for an eyeful of truly iconic Toulouse façades, and Bello & Angeli. If this isn’t the best ice cream you’ve ever tasted, we suggest you buy another cone and take it more slowly.

Sit on the tiny terrace so kids can have a coupe glacée and then load up on artisanal chocolate to take home.


Prairie des Filtres, Garonne, Toulouse

Déjeuner sur l ’herbe the way it’s done all summer in Toulouse

Piscine Alfred Nakache is another summer great. Not only is it one of the largest outdoor pools in the world, it sits on an island in the Garonne.

If you prefer your fun drier, just 15 minutes walk from the Capitole brings you to Prairie des Filtres. A lovely green space, stretched out along the riverbanks which turns into a family playground in July and August.

There’s a little sandy beach, kids can go kayaking or join sports classes or you can just have a picnic, it’s what the locals do.


Mama Shelter roof terrace, Toulouse

Live like a local for a little within sight of the stunning Capitole

Mama Shelter Toulouse is a playful kind of stay. Think animal masks in the bedroom and even its own cinema. Real kids love it as much as grownup- kids on Instagram, and it’s only a short walk from the city centre. Breakfast is outstanding and Sunday brunch even better.

Eyeing up the historic architecture as you wander around? Good news is, Toulouse has taken Airbnb to its heart, so you can even live looking out over the spectacular Capitole, at least for a little.

How to plan a city break in Toulouse

How to get there

Direct UK flights to Toulouse, from 1 hour, 45 minutes

Where to stay

Mama Shelter, family rooms (2 adults, 2 children) B&B, from £173 per night.

Book Mama Shelter Toulouse

Airbnb Toulouse city centre family apartments from £92 per night.

Browse Airbnb apartments Toulouse

Read more

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