As France's fourth-largest metropolis, Toulouse is a popular stop for those traveling north from Spain—particularly for the ones heading west towards Bordeaux—but this historic city deserves more than just a quick stopover. Known locally as "La Ville Rose" due to the iconic coral-toned bricks used in many of its structures, Toulouse is a dreamy, almost ethereal gem of a city that retains an intimate charm despite its size. It's about an hour away from both Atlantic and Mediterranean coasts, offering easy accessibility to the Pyrenees and scenic road trip opportunities from Barcelona, 203 miles (326 kilometers) south. To get from one to the other, you can travel by car, bus, plane, or by high-speed train.
|Bus||6 hours||from $15||Traveling on a budget|
|Train||3 hours||from $23||Quick and convenient public transport|
|Plane||1 hour||from $75||Arriving on a time crunch|
|Car||4 hours||203 miles (326 kilometers)||Exploring the local area|
What Is the Cheapest Way to Get From Barcelona to Toulouse?
The cheapest way to get between these two cities is by bus. Europe is known for its efficient public transportation system, so you can bet that bus travel—although usually deemed a last resort—is fast, cheap, and reliable in these parts. There are several companies (FlixBus, BlaBlaBus, ALSA, Eurolines, etc.) that service Toulouse from Barcelona, so you can find a route almost any time of day. The journey typically takes about six hours and tickets start around $15. The earlier you book, the cheaper it'll be. You can save even more money by booking an overnight bus to replace a night in a hotel or hostel.
What Is the Fastest Way to Get From Barcelona to Toulouse?
The fastest way to get to Toulouse is to fly. According to Skyscanner, Iberia and Vueling both fly between Barcelona's Josep Tarradellas Barcelona–El Prat Airport and the Toulouse-Blagnac Airport regularly, with the flight lasting about an hour. Now, this doesn't account for the time it takes to get to and from the airport on either side, to check bags, or go through security. Once you add it all up, it's actually not much faster than the train and it certainly isn't cheaper. Plane tickets start around $75, but you can wind up paying hundreds during peak season.
How Long Does It Take to Drive?
The drive from Barcelona to Toulouse is 203 miles (326 kilometers), which takes about four hours if you don't factor in stops. In Europe, you have the freedom to travel between countries, so you probably won't even need to flash your passport, but carry travel documents with you just in case.
The most direct route from Barcelona to Toulouse follows AP-7, A9, and A61, but note that AP roads have tolls. ViaMichelin estimates the total toll fees for this route to be $40. There is another toll-free route that tacks on an extra hour and a half to the trip, but it will take you right alongside Andorra (in case you're keen to cross one of Europe's smallest countries off your bucket list).
How Long Is the Train Ride?
The high-speed AVE train is generally the most popular option for traveling between these two cities. It takes just over three hours—much quicker than driving—to get from Barcelona's Sants station to Toulouse-Matabiau. These trains travel at 48 miles (78 kilometers) per hour. Tickets start at $23 and can be booked via Spain's national rail service, Renfe. The Renfe website is notoriously finicky and often doesn't accept foreign bank cards, so if that's the case, you can buy tickets in person at the train station instead.
When Is the Best Time to Travel to Toulouse?
The best time to travel to Toulouse is during spring or fall, when the weather is mild (springtime flowers, too), but the crowds aren't at their worst. Toulouse weather in May is similar to its weather in October: highs of 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 Celsius), lows of 48 degrees Fahrenheit (9 Celsius). During this time, you're more likely to snag deals on transportation and accommodation, too. If you're taking the train, try to avoid rush hour times as the same trains are used by Barcelonians getting from work to home and vice versa. The same goes for driving—you do not want to get held up in Barcelona traffic.
What’s the Most Scenic Route to Toulouse?
If you happen to be road tripping with some time on your hands, consider stopping in northern Catalonia on your way to France. Colorful Girona is one of Catalonia's most happening destinations, and "Game of Thrones" fans may recognize it as the filming location for Braavos and some of the streets of King's Landing. Another popular stop on the way up is Figueres, where one of the region's most legendary artists is immortalized at the Salvador Dalí Museum.
Do I Need a Visa to Travel to Toulouse?
U.S. passport holders may visit the Schengen Area (a collection of European states with mutual borders, including France and Spain) for 90 days without a visa.
Can I Use Public Transportation to Travel From the Airport?
The Toulouse-Blagnac Airport is 6 miles (9 kilometers) from the town center. It takes about 20 minutes to drive it, but the tram is much cheaper than a taxi and doesn't take much longer. Line T2 of Toulouse's tramway network runs from the airport every 7 to 9 minutes on weekdays (10 to 20 minutes on weekends) and takes 21 minutes to get to Arènes, or 32 minutes to get to Palais de Justice. A one-way ticket costs less than $2.
There's also the Airport Shuttle Bus that takes about 30 minutes, costs $9, and stops at Pierre Baudis Conference Centre, Jeanne d’Arc station, Jean Jaurès station, and Matabiau Station, where you can transfer to a train or coach.
What Is There to Do in Toulouse?
Academics are big here—the city is home to one of France's largest and most prestigious universities—but that doesn't mean Toulouse is all work and no play. A lively music scene and plenty of gastronomic gems make it one of southern France's most happening destinations. You can catch live jazz at Fat Cat, a speakeasy-style cocktail bar, or a show at The George and Dragon, an English pub that local students love. During the day, there are plenty of landmarks and museums to visit, including the Basilica of Saint Sernin, the Musée des Augustins, the natural history museum, and more. Don't leave without trying the local specialty: cassoulet, a bean stew with duck or sausage.