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677km (420 miles) SW of Paris; 245km (152 miles) SE of Bordeaux; 94km (59 miles) W of Carcassonne

The old capital of Languedoc, and now the capital of the new Occitanie region, Toulouse (known as La Ville Rose), is France’s fourth-largest city. It’s lively and cosmopolitan and filled with spacious squares and gardens. Most of Toulouse’s fine old mansions date from the Renaissance, when this was one of the richest cities in Europe. Today Toulouse is an artistic and cultural hub and a high-tech center, home to two huge aircraft makers—Airbus and Aerospatiale. Also making the city tick is its large student population: the university is France’s third largest.

A city with a distinguished past, Toulouse is also a city of the future with the National Center for Space Research making its headquarters here since 1968. The first regularly scheduled airline flights from France took off from the local airport in the 1920s. Today Airbus planes are assembled in a gargantuan hangar in the suburb of Colombiers.