Guide to the Haute-Garonne

The Haute-Garonne department is one of the eight departments of the Midi-Pyrenees region in the south west of France and is home to both the bustling metropolis of Toulouse and a rural backdrop of undulating hills and valleys. It is a department of varied landscapes from lush plains to the soaring peaks of the Pyrenees and of history and great architecture including some of the towns classed amongst the most beautiful in France. Particularly sought after are the pretty market towns of Aurignac, Aspet, Salies du Salat, Arbas, Saint Gaudens, Montesquieu-Volvestre as well as the villages around the spectacular and historical town of St Bertrand de Comminges and the lovely spa town of Luchon with its attached ski resort.

The capital of the Haute Garonne and the Midi-Pyrénées region is Toulouse, one of the fastest growing cities in Europe and the fourth largest city in France. Toulouse has been a major success story since World War II, heralding major innovations in aerospace and other advanced technologies. A young and vibrant city, with a strong economy, Toulouse is an important centre for education with a world famous university and more students than any other provincial city in France. It also has a strong Latin vibe thanks to its close proximity to Spain which inspires its architecture and its temperament. Also known as ‘la ville rose’ or ‘the pink city’ due to the predominant colour of the bricks, Toulouse is a major cultural centre, packed with museums, galleries and interesting architecture. This is a city that is a pleasure to visit; its transport system is exemplary, with a clean and efficient metro line and plenty of underground parking while much of the old centre has been given over to pedestrians and a popular bike hire system implemented.

The green valleys and mountains to the south of Toulouse are a huge attraction for those hoping to enjoy the great outdoors. In summer the Haute Garonne is an accessible paradise for walkers, cyclists and climbers who come to enjoy the beautiful and unspoiled landscape. The walking and cycle route are also marked with hoof prints as the many stables in the region take guided horse rides up into the mountains for spectacular rides. In winter, the Pyrenees are blanketed in snow, and the walkers, bikers and climbers are replaced by skiers and walkers with raquettes (snow shoes) or families with sledges.

Please also see our Ariège guide.