The Haute-Garonne department is the most populated region of the Occitanie region and is home to both the bustling metropolis of Toulouse and a stunning rural backdrop of undulating hills and valleys. It is a department of varied landscapes from lush plains to the soaring peaks of the Pyrénées 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 (after Paris, Marseille and Lyon). 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.
All over the Haute Garonne are numerous historic and interesting towns, some influenced by the architecture of Toulouse with red brick buildings and Romanesque churches and others by the mountain lifestyle of the south of the region. Each town has its own charm whether it is the ancient architecture of the lovely hilltop bastides, with their stunning views or the small, sleepy market towns, surrounded by rolling hills. You can browse the colourful weekly markets, explore the beautiful countryside and enjoy the fabulous food of the region in one of the many excellent restaurants. In the summer, most towns hold summer festivals complete with music, dancing, feasting, theatre and arts. Whether you are looking for bijou boutiques or bric-a-brac, lively culture or peace and quiet, you will find it in the lovely towns of the Haute Garonne.