Toulouse or Lille? Which city should you visit?
Toulouse or Lille, which one to visit? – It’s the question bouncing around in the minds of many travellers planning their French adventure. This post will lay out the standout features of each city, from the food scenes to the nightlife, from the tourist attractions to the local secrets. By the end, hopefully, we’ll have helped you decide.
Toulouse, a city perfectly perched between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, offers an intriguing mix of history, innovation, and charm. Its historic centre, known as Vieux Toulouse, boasts a tapestry of coral-hued buildings that have earned it the moniker ‘La Ville Rose’, or ‘The Pink City’. But Toulouse is not just about reminiscing about the past. It’s a dynamic city teeming with academic vigour, courtesy of its vibrant student population, and is a hotbed for aeronautics and space exploration. With an array of museums, a thriving arts scene, and lively local markets, this city caters to a broad spectrum of travellers. Plus, the local cuisine, characterized by hearty Southwestern French specialities, is a gastronomic adventure in itself. If you’re seeking a unique and vibrant destination for your next vacation, Toulouse should unquestionably be on your radar!
Nestled near the border with Belgium, Lille has a unique charm that’s all its own. This vibrant city blends French and Flemish influences, creating an ambience that’s distinct yet welcoming. The old town, Vieux Lille, enchants visitors with its narrow cobbled streets and colourful old houses. But it’s not just about the past here. Lille is also a young city, thanks to its large student population, and this brings a dynamic, energetic feel to the place. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets, diving into the lively arts scene, or just relaxing in a cosy café, Lille has something for everyone. It’s a city that knows how to live well and invites you to share in that.
While we’re comparing Toulouse and Lille in this post, we’ve also looked at how Toulouse stacks up against other cities like Nantes and Strasbourg. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Toulouse and Lille
- 🏦 Architecture: With its pink-hued buildings giving it the moniker “La Ville Rose,” Toulouse is an architect’s dream.
- 🚀 Aerospace: Home to the largest space centre in Europe, Toulouse gives you the chance to explore the stars without leaving the ground.
- 🎓 Education: Being one of France’s biggest university towns, Toulouse is vibrant with an ever-changing student population.
- 🍽 Cuisine: Toulouse’s gastronomic scene is a foodie’s delight, with local dishes such as cassoulet and Toulouse sausage on offer.
- 🌦 Weather: The city can have quite unpredictable weather, with hot summers and chilly winters.
- 🚗 Traffic: As with any big city, Toulouse can suffer from traffic congestion, especially during peak hours.
- 🏖 No Beach: If you’re dreaming of a beach holiday, Toulouse, being inland, may not be the right choice.
- 🏛 Heritage: Lille is a city steeped in history, with a well-preserved old town and historical sites.
- 🖼 Art: Art enthusiasts will be pleased with Lille’s impressive art museums, including the Palais des Beaux-Arts.
- 🍻 Beer: Located in the beer-loving region of Hauts-de-France, Lille offers a wide array of local beers.
- 🚄 Accessibility: With excellent train links, Lille is easy to reach from many major European cities.
- 🌧 Weather: Known for its rainy weather, Lille might not be ideal if you’re looking for sunshine.
- 🏖 No Beach: Just like Toulouse, Lille is not a coastal city, so beach lovers may be disappointed.
- 💼 Less Bustling: Compared to Toulouse’s dynamic atmosphere, Lille can feel a bit more subdued.
Which City Has Better Food? Toulouse or Lille?
Toulouse is an incredible city to visit for good food! The local food here is rich and meaty, but the city’s restaurant scene is incredibly diverse, there’s food from all over the globe here. So don’t worry if you’re not into rich, comfort food.
Its famous Cassoulet, a slow-cooked casserole with meat (usually pork sausages, goose, duck, or mutton), pork skin, and white beans, is a beautiful dish that will leave you obsessed. It’s rich, so maybe give the starter a miss if you don’t have a big appetite. Toulouse sausage is also famous and worth trying!
Lille is a bit different to Toulouse, with it being located very close to the French/Belgian border, it’s got influences from both countries. Like Les Moules-Frites, this is actually Belgium’s national dish, but you’ll find it all over Lille. It’s Mussels cooked in a white wine sauce and served with fries, it’s very simple but seriously good with a nice cold beer!
La Carbonade Flamande is a hearty beef stew that originates in Lille, as with the Cassoulet in Toulouse, maybe miss out on the starter if you don’t have a big appetite. The Belgian influence doesn’t just cover the food, the beer here is seriously good!
So, while Toulouse offers more traditional French dishes, Lille serves a diverse menu with a Flemish twist and some seriously good beers to top it off!
Which City is Better For Couples? Toulouse or Lille?
We visited Toulouse in summer and absolutely loved it, the weather was great, and there are so many bars and restaurants to be enjoyed. Everyone seems to be sitting outside enjoying life. There are also plenty of museums to visit, and you’ve got the Garonne River if you fancy sitting next to the water and relaxing.
Lille is a fantastic city, there’s so much to do and the art scene is phenomenal. You’ve also got some amazing food and beers courtesy of its unique French/Flemish culture. The Christmas markets are also fantastic if you’re planning on visiting in November or December.
It all depends on what you want, and when you go. If you’re planning a romantic winter trip we’d recommend Lille to get into the Christmas spirit. But, if you’re going in Spring or Summer go to Toulouse and enjoy that outdoor lifestyle.
Which City is Better For Families? Toulouse or Lille?
Toulouse has an abundance of things to do for kids. The Cité de l’Espace is it’s most famous museum. This interactive museum is a huge hit with kids and adults of all ages. It even has a section for smaller kids that can’t read yet! There is also the Aeroscopia Museum that allows families to explore legendary aircraft, including Concorde.
If your kids aren’t into aerospace, the Natural History Museum of Toulouse is always a good option. Plus you can always just take them to Jardin des Plantes on a nice day!
Lille also has plenty to offer. The Parc de la Citadelle is a must-visit This park surrounds a 17th-century pentagonal fortress that will fascinate kids. But, it’s what lies in the park that will get the kids excited.
The park includes an amusement park with little roller coasters and rides that kids will love. A zoo with over 400 animals for the kids to see. And, an outdoor activity park that includes climbing in between trees via rope bridges and other fun stuff!
Which City is Better For Partying? Toulouse or Lille?
Toulouse is a great place to party, especially in the summer months. The streets near Place Saint-Pierre are full of energy, especially with the young crowd. Here, you’ll find a good mix of laid-back pubs and lively bars great for sitting outside on a nice evening. And, if you’re anything like me, you’ll appreciate the city’s dedication to live music.
There are plenty of live music venues to visit too, like Amanita Muscaria that’s just over Pont Neuf.
If you’re into beer Lille is the city for you! With its Flemish influences, there’s an incredible beer scene here. Wander around the Wazemmes and Solferino districts, and you’re bound to stumble upon pubs where you can sample regional brews.
You could spend an entire day just pub-hopping here! As the night progresses, the city’s student population comes out in force to visit all the clubs in the city. If that’s your thing, you’ll have a great night here.
Which City is Safer? Toulouse or Lille?
Both of these cities feel safe to visit, I’ve never felt threatened in either city, But as with any city, keep an eye on your belongings and don’t go wandering around alone late at night.
According to the latest data from the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) and police reports. Toulouse, being a larger city, naturally has a higher number of reported incidents, but when adjusted for population, its crime rate per 1,000 inhabitants is slightly higher than that of Lille.
Specifically, Toulouse reported an average of 83 incidents per 1,000 inhabitants, while Lille’s rate was 78. However, it’s essential to note that most reported cases in both cities are petty crimes or non-violent offences. Still, the numbers suggest that Lille might have a marginal edge over Toulouse in terms of safety.
How long to stay in Toulouse
Figuring out how long to stay in Toulouse? That’s a great question and depends on what kind of trip you’re planning. If you’re popping by for a quick visit, I’d say two to three days should suffice. This will give you enough time to visit the main sights, such as the iconic Capitole de Toulouse, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, and the Toulouse Museum of Natural History.
But if you’re anything like me and love to delve a little deeper, immersing yourself in the local culture and lifestyle, you might want to consider staying a little longer – perhaps around five to seven days. This will allow you to explore at a leisurely pace, have time to appreciate the city’s vibrant arts scene, meander through the charming neighbourhoods, and even try out some of the local bistros and cafes. Trust me, the cassoulet is to die for!
Toulouse is also a great base to explore the surrounding region. If you plan on taking day trips to places like Carcassonne or Albi, then a week or even ten days would be a good estimate.
In the end, remember this – travel isn’t a race. It’s about the experiences, the people, the food, the culture, and the memories you make. So, take your time in Toulouse and enjoy what the ‘Pink City’ has to offer!
How long to stay in Lille
“For a short trip, 2-3 days in Lille should give you enough time to see the main sights. You can explore the charming old town, visit a museum or two, and enjoy some local food. This is a good option if you’re on a tight schedule or if you’re visiting Lille as part of a larger trip.
If you have a bit more time, a week in Lille allows you to experience the city more fully. You can take your time exploring the city’s different neighbourhoods, visit more museums, and even take day trips to nearby cities like Bruges or Ghent.
So, whether you’re planning a quick visit or a longer stay, Lille has plenty to offer. But remember, the best trip length for you will depend on your personal interests and how much time you have available.”
Which City is More Budget-Friendly? Toulouse or Lille?
Toulouse boasts affordable local markets like Marché Victor Hugo. Here, you can try the region’s delicacies without hurting your budget. The city’s free walking tours are also a great way to experience the city without breaking the bank. Also, the Garonne River is perfect for a budget-friendly day walking along the banks.
We loved just sitting on the banks in the sun for hours with a few snacks. You could quite easily spend a weekend wandering around in this beautiful city eating and drinking on a budget.
Lille is the dream destination for budget shoppers, the Wazemmes Market is renowned for having plenty of bargains on offer. Plus once a year Lille holds the largest flea market in Europe, Grande Braderie De Lille. Held once a year in September, it’s a must-visit for anyone that loves outdoor markets.
Thousands of stalls fill the city, selling pretty much everything you can think of. There are also beer stalls and live music if you can’t be bothered shopping and just want to chill out! Lille isn’t only about markets though, the pretty streets are lovely to walk around and there are some beautiful parks to visit.
How much is food and drink in Toulouse and Lille?
|€5 – €7
|€5 – €7
|Glass of Wine
|€3 – €10
|€3 – €10
|€1.50 – €3
|€1.50 – €3
|Meal at Midrange Restaurant
|€15 – €30
|€20 – €40
Please note that these prices are approximate and can vary based on factors such as the establishment, location, and other considerations.
How much is it to stay in Toulouse or Lille?
|€150 – €500+
|€150 – €500+
|€70 – €150
|€70 – €150
|€40 – €70
|€40 – €70
|€20 – €40
|€20 – €40
Please note that these prices are approximate and can vary based on factors such as the location, specific hotel or hostel, and the quality of accommodation.
When is the best time to visit Toulouse?
Picking the best time to explore Toulouse is a big part of your planning. Known for its temperate climate, Toulouse can be great to visit throughout the year, each season bringing its own charm and unique experiences.
Spring: Season of Blossoms
Spring (March to May) in Toulouse is a beautiful season, the trees will be blossoming and the temperature won’t be too high. This time is ideal for sightseeing and soaking in Toulouse’s distinct architectural beauty, particularly the Capitole and Saint-Sernin Basilica. Spring is also the start of the outdoor festival season, adding an extra dash of liveliness to your visit.
Summer: Lively and Sunny
Summers (June to August) in Toulouse are warm and vibrant. This is a great time to indulge in outdoor activities, such as a leisurely stroll along the Garonne River or a picnic in the lush Japanese Garden. Summer evenings in Toulouse are particularly charming with open-air concerts and night markets for you to explore.
Autumn: Artistic Colours
Autumn (September to November) brings a beautiful colour palette to Toulouse, with the tree-lined avenues transitioning to shades of gold and red. The weather remains pleasant for outdoor exploration. In addition, the cultural calendar is full, making it a perfect time for art and music lovers to visit the city.
Winter: Serene and Festive
Winter (December to February) in Toulouse is typically cool and sometimes rainy.. With fewer tourists around, you can explore the city’s impressive museums and galleries at your own pace. Don’t miss the Toulouse Christmas Market for a dash of festive spirit and warm, comforting treats.
Weather: Toulouse has a fairly temperate climate, making it suitable for visits year-round. Summers can get a tad warm, but winters are generally mild. For the most pleasant weather, consider visiting during the shoulder seasons of April to June or September to October. These periods provide a good balance of excellent weather and manageable tourist crowds.
When is the best time to visit Lille?
Spring: Revival of the City
In Lille, Spring (March to May) is a time when the city begins to revive after winter. The temperatures are mild, and the city’s parks and gardens are blossoming. This is a great time to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities and want to avoid the summer crowds.
Summer: Festival Season
Summers (June to August) in Lille are warm and lively, perfect for exploring the city’s charming old town and its vibrant markets. The city is bustling with festivals like the Lille Braderie, a huge flea market event and a unique cultural experience.
Autumn: A Painter’s Palette
Autumn (September to November) in Lille brings mild weather and changing colours, turning the city into a vibrant palette. The falling leaves in the city parks create a beautiful spectacle, making it an ideal time for photographers.
Winter: Festive Charm
Winter (December to February) in Lille is fairly chilly, but it’s also when the city turns into a festive wonderland. The Christmas market lights up the city, and while it might be cold, the magical atmosphere more than makes up for it.
Average Monthly Temperatures
|10° / 2°
|6° / 1°
|11° / 3°
|7° / 1°
|14° / 5°
|11° / 3°
|17° / 7°
|14° / 5°
|21° / 11°
|18° / 9°
|25° / 14°
|21° / 11°
|28° / 16°
|23° / 14°
|28° / 16°
|23° / 13°
|25° / 13°
|20° / 11°
|20° / 10°
|15° / 8°
|13° / 5°
|10° / 4°
|10° / 3°
|7° / 2°
Getting around Toulouse:
Toulouse is very easy to get around, with regular buses, trams and a metro system there are plenty of options. The public transport system is clean and well-maintained. You’ll find it easy to get around the city when using it. The Toulouse city pass is well worth getting if you plan on using public transport a lot. If you want a more active holiday, the city is very walkable. You could even hire a bike if you wanted to get around a bit quicker. As with any city, taxis and Uber are readily available.
Getting around Lille:
Getting around Lille is a breeze thanks to its efficient public transport system, which includes buses, trams, and a metro. The Lille Metro is particularly notable as it was the world’s first fully automated light rail network. For shorter distances, walking or cycling is quite feasible as Lille is a compact city with many pedestrianized areas. There’s also a bike-sharing program known as V’Lille. If you plan on exploring the wider region, trains from Lille’s stations offer quick connections to other major cities in France and Belgium.
Lille is easy to get around due to its buses, trams and metro system. City passes are a good way to save money if you plan on making the most of public transport. Lille’s city centre is quite compact so it’s very walkable. You could hire a bike too if you wanted.
Top things to do in Toulouse
Capitole de Toulouse: This stunning city hall and opera house is an iconic sight in Toulouse. Its grand façade and beautiful square are absolute must-sees when in the city.
Cité de l’espace: A unique experience for space enthusiasts, Cité de l’espace offers fascinating insights into the universe and space exploration. You can see life-sized rockets, try astronaut activities, and even observe the skies in the planetarium.
Basilique Saint-Sernin: This UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe. Its stunning architecture and rich history make it a highlight of any visit to Toulouse.
Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine: As a main shopping street in Toulouse, Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine offers a vibrant mix of shops, boutiques, and cafés. It’s a great place to soak up the city’s lively atmosphere.
Banks of the Garonne: Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Garonne River. The riverside is beautifully developed and offers spectacular views of Toulouse’s historic buildings and bridges. Consider a river cruise for a different perspective of the city.
Top things to do in Lille
Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts: As the second-largest general interest museum in France, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the likes of Rubens, Van Dyck, and Delacroix.
Stroll around the Vieux Lille: The old town of Lille, with its cobblestone streets, beautiful old houses, and chic boutiques, is perfect for leisurely walks. Take time to enjoy the area’s charm, and don’t forget to try a Merveilleux, a local pastry.
Explore the LaM: Standing for Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, the LaM holds over 4,000 works including pieces by Picasso, Modigliani, and Miro. Its beautiful park is also a must-see.
Take a walk through the Citadel: Designed by Louis XIV’s engineer Vauban, the Citadel is a star-shaped fortress. The surrounding park, Bois de Boulogne, is a great place for a picnic or a jog.
Visit the Wazemmes Market: This is one of the largest markets in France and a must-visit spot in Lille. From fresh produce to clothing, you’ll find almost everything here. Try to catch it on Sunday when it’s at its liveliest.
How to spend three days in Toulouse
Day 1: Explore the Vibrant City Centre
Kick off your Toulouse adventure in the bustling city centre. Start your day at the Capitole de Toulouse, a magnificent city hall that also houses an opera house. Be sure to take memorable photos of its grand façade. Stroll down Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine for some retail therapy and grab lunch at one of the many inviting cafés. In the afternoon, visit the Basilique Saint-Sernin, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and marvel at its Romanesque architecture. Conclude your day with a delightful dinner in the lively Saint-Georges district, a hotspot for local gastronomy.
Day 2: Immerse Yourself in Science and Space
Begin your second day at the Cité de l’espace, Toulouse’s famous space city. Dive into the world of space exploration and get a closer look at rockets, satellites, and more. Post lunch, head to the Musée des Augustins to admire a rich collection of fine arts from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Later in the afternoon, visit the modern art museum, Les Abattoirs. Round off the day with a relaxing dinner in the Carmes district, renowned for its chic bars and restaurants.
Day 3: Venture Beyond the City
On your last day, consider exploring the surroundings of Toulouse. Take a half-day trip to the medieval city of Carcassonne, where you can explore the old town, fortified city walls, and its fairytale-like castle. Back in Toulouse, spend the rest of your afternoon strolling along the banks of the Garonne River, or relax in the expansive Prairie des Filtres park for a leisurely end to your trip.
How to spend three days in Lille
Day 1: Get Acquainted with Lille and Its Historic Heart
Begin your Lille adventure by meandering through the streets of Vieux Lille, the city’s old quarter. Marvel at the charming Flemish architecture, visit the imposing Lille Cathedral, and indulge in some retail therapy at upscale boutiques. After lunch, head over to the Grand Place, the city’s main square, where you can admire historic buildings like the Vieille Bourse. Cap off your day with a delicious meal at one of the local French or Flemish restaurants in the area.
Day 2: Dive into Lille’s Cultural Treasures and Parks
Start your second day by visiting some of Lille’s renowned museums. Explore the Palais des Beaux-Arts to see masterpieces from Goya, Rubens, and other great artists. Post-lunch, take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic at the Citadel Park, home to the impressive 17th-century Citadel. In the evening, venture back to Vieux Lille for dinner, opting for a cosy bistro for its delightful atmosphere.
Day 3: Embrace the Local Atmosphere and Farewell Meal
On your final day, immerse yourself in the local vibe at Wazemmes Market in the morning. Here you can sample local delicacies and pick up fresh produce. Consider a picnic lunch at the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, one of the city’s lovely green spaces. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle, the birthplace of the former French president. To wrap up your Lille trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Northern French cuisine.
Gareth is an avid city adventurer with a particular passion for finding amazing food! There’s quite literally nothing he doesn’t like. He spends most of his travelling time trying to find great restaurants and cafes to eat at. Alongside trying local street food which he loves! He’s done most of his travelling in Europe so far but would love to visit Japan and Mexico
When not travelling you can find Gareth boxing, running, or in the gym. He’s got a passion for exercise and loves physical challenges.
You can contact him at email@example.com