In a nutshell: Regarded as France's rugby capital, the “Pink City” has much to offer.
Don't miss: Place du Capitole, Marché Victor Hugo, Cité de l'Espace
In some senses, Toulouse is among the best known of the cities that will help to stage the 2023 World Cup. It sells itself, not without reasonable cause, as France's rugby capital. And it will be familiar to those who take an interest in club rugby, not least thanks to the exploits of its main side, Stade Toulousain – the perennial contenders who were French champions in 2019 and have been crowned European champions three times this century.
But in other senses – including its profile as a travel destination – Toulouse is a bit more of an unknown quantity. True, it is France's fourth biggest city, but there is an argument that, tucked away in the far south-west of the country, it is a little under-appreciated by tourists. Unlike some of its Gallic counterparts, it does not lie on the coast, and the Pyrénées which rear up immediately to the south of it can seem to hide it in their shadow.
But those who do venture to what is a pleasingly mid-sized city of 1.4 million people find a place that deserves greater inspection. For one thing, it is easy on the eye. Toulouse operates under the nickname La Ville Rose (The Pink City) – thanks to the widespread use of terracotta bricks that has long given its buildings a rosy tint. This picture is further boosted by the presence of the Garonne – which passes through on its way to the Atlantic.
This photogenic state of affairs even extends to the 33,000-capacity Stadium de Toulouse – which hosts Stade Toulousain's European fixtures and will stage several World Cup matches in 2023. It sits at the middle of the Iles du Ramier – a cluster of interconnected islands which lie between two channels of the Garonne. The area is a 21st century ugly-duckling story that has seen a former industrial zone changed into one of predominantly green spaces – with parks, paths, cycling trails, and bars overlooking the river. It all adds up to a pleasant walk to the stadium from the heart of the city; a stroll of about two miles.
There is no mistaking the precise heart of Toulouse. The Place du Capitole is the city's main square and its significant gathering point – an elegant space filled, along one side, by the grand neo-classical facade of the Hotel de Ville (Town Hall). The streets which radiate off it – Rue Leon Gambetta, Rue Saint-Rome, Rue Romiguieres, Rue Lafayette, Rue Saint-Pantaléon – are abuzz with restaurants, bars and shops. You can eat, drink and spend in whichever direction you choose. And if you are looking to do all three at once, the Marché Victor Hugo – a huge covered market – is awash with local gourmet produce.
As well as rugby, Toulouse is known for its role in the European aerospace industry. Airbus has its headquarters to the north-west of the city (in Blagnac) and offers tours of its facilities – while the Cité de l'Espace, to the east, has model rockets and a planetarium.
Content supplied by the Telegraph’s travel expert Chris Leadbetter