Toulouse or Lille – which French city should be next on your travel bucket list? Will it be the charming riverside beauty of Toulouse, known for its pink-toned architecture and lively atmosphere? Or perhaps the quaint, cobblestone streets of Lille, offering a unique blend of French and Flemish culture? In this article, we’ll dive into the pros and cons, average costs, and top attractions of each city, helping you figure out which one aligns best with your travel preferences.
Toulouse is a charming city in southwestern France that is often overlooked by tourists. We’re not too sure why, to be honest! It’s a beautiful city that is bisected by the Garonne River. Filled with amazing restaurants to try, and interesting architecture. It is also located close to a lot of other interesting places.
Located in northern France, Lille has a great mix of French and Flemish cultures. Its unique character gives it real charm. It’s probably a bit underrated in comparison to other cities in France if we’re being honest. Being so close to the Belgian border there’s the opportunity to do a bit of border hopping too. You can actually get the bus to the Belgian city of Mouscron in under 30 minutes! For history buffs, the battlefields of the Somme are just over an hour away too.
Pros and Cons of Toulouse and Lille
- Rich history: Toulouse offers an array of historical sites and museums, such as the Basilique Saint-Sernin and the Musée des Augustins.
- Vibrant food scene: Renowned for its local cuisine, visitors can indulge in delicious dishes like cassoulet and duck confit.
- Cultural attractions: With venues like the Théâtre du Capitole and the Cité de l’espace, Toulouse offers a diverse range of cultural experiences.
- Lively atmosphere: Known as “La Ville Rose” for its pink-hued buildings, Toulouse boasts a bustling city centre with numerous cafes, bars, and shops.
- Accessible location: Toulouse is well-connected to other popular destinations in France and Europe by train and air.
- Parks and green spaces: The city offers a variety of parks, such as the Jardin des Plantes and the Jardin Japonais, for relaxation and recreation.
- University town: Home to multiple universities, Toulouse has a vibrant student scene, contributing to its youthful energy.
- Garonne River: The picturesque river provides a scenic backdrop for walks, picnics, and boat tours.
- Underrated destination: Toulouse is somewhat off the beaten path, making it less crowded than other major tourist destinations in France.
- Fewer tourist attractions: Toulouse has fewer tourist attractions compared to some other major French cities like Paris or Marseille.
- Language barrier: Not all locals in Toulouse are fluent in English, which may create communication challenges.
- Limited shopping options: Toulouse may not offer as many high-end shopping experiences as other larger cities or popular tourist destinations.
- Noise levels: Toulouse’s lively atmosphere can result in noise, particularly in the city centre and during events, which may be an issue for those who prefer quieter environments.
- Transport links: Toulouse doesn’t have the same level of access to major international airports as Lille does with Paris and Brussels so close, along with the channel tunnel.
Best for: History buffs, food enthusiasts, culture lovers, and those who prefer a less crowded, underrated destination.
- Charming architecture: Lille is known for its beautiful Flemish architecture, which lends a unique character to the city.
- Vibrant cultural scene: The city offers numerous museums, galleries, and cultural events, such as the annual Lille3000 festival.
- Excellent shopping: Lille is a popular shopping destination, with a mix of high-end boutiques, vintage shops, and local markets.
- Gastronomic delights: Lille’s food scene features local specialities like carbonnade flamande and a variety of delicious pastries.
- Walkable city centre: Lille’s compact city centre makes it easy to explore its attractions on foot.
- Well connected: Brussels and Paris are only 45 minutes and one hour away by train respectively. Making Lille very well connected to major international airports.
- Warm, welcoming atmosphere: Lille is known for its friendly locals and a welcoming ambience that makes visitors feel at home.
- Rich history: The city’s storied past can be explored through its historic sites, such as the Citadel of Lille and the Palais des Beaux-Arts.
- World War One: The battlefields of the Somme are just over an hour away from Lille, making Lille a great base for exploring the history of this tragic battle.
- Weather: Lille’s climate is often cold and rainy, which may not be ideal for travellers seeking warmer, sunnier destinations.
- Limited tourist attractions: While Lille has several noteworthy sites, it may not offer as many attractions as other larger cities or more famous tourist destinations.
- Smaller size: Lille is a smaller city, which may not provide the same level of excitement and variety as larger urban centres.
- Language barrier: Not all locals in Lille speak English fluently, so it’s helpful to know some basic French phrases to navigate the city.
Best for: Architecture admirers, shopping enthusiasts, food lovers, and travellers seeking a charming, walkable city with a welcoming atmosphere.
How long to stay in Toulouse
Toulouse may not be a big city, but there’s plenty to see and do. You could cover most of the city in a day, but you’d miss out on the best parts. Toulouse is a city best enjoyed at a slow pace. Take your time to explore and discover all that it has to offer.
Toulouse is Frances’s fifth biggest city, so there is a lot to see and do. We feel like most people would happily spend two to three days here and not get bored. If you really wanted an interesting holiday though, you could use Toulouse as a base to explore the region. There are plenty of amazing towns and cities nearby like Albi or Carcassonne, you could even hire a car and drive to Andorra!
There are plenty of museums and galleries like the Muséum de Toulouse, Georges Bemberg’s Foundation — Hotel of Assézat and even a scientific discovery centre that focuses on spaceflight called the Cité de l’Espace.
How long to stay in Lille
Lille is the fourth largest city in France so there’s plenty to do. Three days are probably enough to see everything the city has to offer.
But, if you wanted to extend your break and do some city hopping Brussels, Ghent, Bruges and Dunkirk aren’t far at all! There are also lots of smaller pretty little towns and villages that you could visit.
How much is food and drink in Toulouse?
Toulouse is home to a diverse culinary scene, and you can find everything from traditional French cuisine to international dishes. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Toulouse:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Toulouse will likely cost between €5 and €7.
Glass of wine: As Toulouse is located in the heart of the Occitanie wine region, wine is readily available and is often a better value than beer or cocktails. A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €3 to €10, depending on the quality and rarity of the wine.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Toulouse will likely cost between €1.50 and €3.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Toulouse will likely cost between €15 and €30 per person, depending on the restaurant and the menu.
How much is food and drink in Lille?
Lille is a foodie’s paradise, with plenty of amazing restaurants and cafes to choose from. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Lille:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Lille will likely cost between €5 and €7.
Glass of wine: A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €3 to €10, depending on the quality.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Lille will likely cost between €1.50 and €3.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Lille will likely cost between €20 and €40 per person, depending on the restaurant and the menu.
How much is it to stay in Toulouse?
The cost of accommodation in Toulouse can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Toulouse:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Toulouse can cost anywhere from €150 to €500 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Toulouse will likely cost between €70 and €150 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Toulouse will likely cost between €40 and €70 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Toulouse will likely cost between €20 and €40 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
How much is it to stay in Lille?
The cost of accommodation in Lille can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Lille:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Lille can cost anywhere from €150 to €500 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Lille will likely cost between €70 and €150 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Lille will likely cost between €40 and €70 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Lille will likely cost between €20 and €40 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
When is the best time to visit Toulouse?
Toulouse has mild weather year-round, making it a great destination to visit at any time of the year. Here are some things to consider:
Weather: The weather in Toulouse is relatively mild throughout the year. Summers can get hot. Winters can be wet and mild. We recommend visiting in Spring or Autumn when the weather is mild and there aren’t too many tourists.
Festivals: Toulouse hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year. Like the Festival de Rio Loco (one for music lovers) and the Violet Festival which celebrates the city’s emblematic flower.
Crowds: Like most places, the summer months can get pretty hectic, so avoid July and August if you can. You’ll find a much more relaxed vibe in the off-season.
When is the best time to visit Lille?
Lille’s location means the weather is never too extreme, so it’s definitely a year-round destination. Here are a few things to consider before booking.
Weather: Lille’s climate can be pretty unpredictable, it’s prone to rain all year round. Summers are warm and sunny. Winters can get very cold with temperatures as low as -5°C. If you want to avoid rain and crowds, visiting in April would be a good happy medium.
Festivals: Lille has plenty of festivals to attend throughout the year. But its biggest festival is the Braderie de Lille, a huge festival held every September. For the first week in November, the city turns into the biggest flea market in Europe. If you like shopping for antiques and other random things, this may be for you! Lille’s Christmas Markets are also worth a visit in the lead-up to Christmas.
Crowds: Lille can get busy during the summer and during Braderie de Lille. If you want to avoid the crowds don’t travel in the summer months or the first week in September.
Average Monthly Temperatures
The average monthly temperatures for Toulouse are:
The average monthly temperatures for Lille are:
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’s are readily available.
Getting around Lille:
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
Visit the Basilique Saint-Sernin: One of the most visited landmarks in Toulouse. This was once part of the Abbey of Saint-Sernin, but unfortunately, only the church remains. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history of this amazing building.
Explore the historic city centre: Wander around the city, take in cultural sights, admire the architecture and eat some good food. Is there a better way to experience a city?
See the Canal du Midi: Considering it is 240 kilometres long, you won’t be able to see it all. But, you could go for a nice walk along its relaxing banks or even hire a bike!
Visit the Musée des Augustins: Housed in a former Augustinian convent this museum possesses an impressive collection of European art from the middle ages to the early 20th century.
See the Cité de l’Espace: Toulouse might not be the first place you think of when you think of space. But, this space museum is well worth a visit. The planetarium presents shows throughout the day, there are plenty of exhibits to keep you busy too.
Take a food tour: Food tours are always a great way to experience a city’s cuisine and learn about its history. You’ll often get to visit restaurants most tourists won’t know about. You’ll get to try cassoulet, a hearty bean stew, and other delicious dishes.
Check out the Musée Saint-Raymond: Opened in 1892 this archaeological museum went through various transformations before becoming a museum. It was even a prison at one point! It features exhibits from prehistory to the middle ages, history buffs don’t miss out.
Visit the Jardin des Plantes: Not to be confused with the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. This botanical garden is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax.
See the Capitole de Toulouse: This iconic building located in the heart of the city is home to the offices of the local government. Free to enter, it’s full of artwork and impressive interiors.
Take a day trip to Carcassonne: Located about an hour’s drive away from Toulouse. This medieval fortified city will take your breath away. Even if you’re not interested in history it’s very impressive and well worth a visit.
Top things to do in Lille
Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts: One of the largest art museums in France, there’s an impressive collection from artists like Rubens, Delacroix and Monet. It’s definitely worth going if you’re an art lover.
Stroll through Vieux-Lille: Lille’s old town, Vieux-Lille is filled with colourful buildings and cobbled streets. There are lots of boutique shops, great restaurants and nice cafes if you fancy a coffee whilst people watching.
Explore La Citadelle de Lille: The shape of this 17th-century pentagonal fortress is fascinating. It’s still a working military base so you can’t enter but you can walk around its walls and the surrounding grounds.
Visit the Lille Cathedral: In comparison to most European cathedrals Lille’s feels very different. It was built between 1856 and 1975, so there are parts of it that don’t have the same old-weathered look you expect with cathedrals. It’s still impressive though.
Check out the Wazemmes Market: Open every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday there’s loads of fresh produce like cheese, vegetables and sausages sold. It’s a must-visit for foodies. There are even little food stalls so you can get a pizza or some oysters if you’re hungry!
Take a Chocolate Tour: Lille has a reputation for its chocolate. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, a chocolate tour might be a good idea. The tours take you around some of the city’s best chocolatiers, learning about the history of chocolate along the way.
Explore the Hospice Comtesse Museum: Housed in a 17th-century hospital, this museum is only small but has exhibits of art and artefacts from the 16th to the 20th century. Entry is free on the first Sunday of every month.
Check out the Saint Maurice Church: This 14th-century Gothic church is definitely worth a visit. It’s quite an unusual shape and is seriously impressive from all angles. The stained glass windows are really beautiful too.
Take a Beer Tasting Tour: Beer-tasting tours are a fantastic way to sample some local beers and learn more about the city. The tours last about 3 hours and make a fun afternoon!
Visit Lille Zoo: Home to over 450 animals, this zoo is relatively compact but it’s worth a visit. It’s quite cheap so it’s good if you’re wanting a low-cost activity.
How to spend three days in Toulouse
Morning: Start your day at the Place du Capitole, a stunning square in the heart of Toulouse. Try and get there early so you can enjoy a coffee overlooking the square whilst the city wakes up. Have a wander into the Capotiole building to see the artwork and lavish rooms.
Afternoon: Visit the Musée des Augustins to learn more about the history and art of the region. The museum has a brilliant collection of sculptures and paintings.
Evening: Enjoy a leisurely dinner in the Saint-Cyprien district, once one of Toulouse’s roughest areas. It’s now one of the coolest parts of the city. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you busy for the evening.
Morning: Get the train to Carcassonne, an amazing fortified medieval city about an hour away by train. It almost looks like something out of a Disney film. Walk around the castle and visit the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire. Opt for a guided tour to fully immerse in the city’s history.
Afternoon: Get the train back to Toulouse and spend a relaxing afternoon seeing the Canal du Midi. Either walk along the banks or hire a bank if you want to see more of it.
Evening: Go and find a nice French restaurant and try some of the local cuisines such as a cassoulet or saucisse de Toulouse. Once you’re suitably full go and explore the Carmes neighbourhood. It’s the perfect place to wander around aimlessly stopping off for drinks and exploring the little side streets.
Morning: Start the day with a visit to the Cité de l’Espace, a space museum not too far from the city centre. An interesting place for adults and kids alike.
Afternoon: After lunch let your food settle with a relaxing afternoon in the Jardin des Plantes, one of Toulouse’s most beautiful parks.
Evening: Go and see a performance at the Théâtre du Capitole, one of France’s most prestigious opera houses. Or if opera isn’t your thing, go and see some live music at La Dynamo, a small club that hosts a variety of different live performers.
How to spend three days in Lille
Morning: Begin your trip with a visit to Palais des Beaux-Arts de Lille. Allocate about three hours for this huge art gallery, there are over 72,430 sculptures, paintings and ceramics!
Afternoon: Have a wander around Lille’s beautiful old town. It’s a great place to just get lost and explore all the little shops and cafes. Make sure you try some good local food like Carbonnade Flamande or la tarte au Maroilles.
Evening: Go and see a show at Opéra de Lille. This building is spectacular inside and out. Plus tickets to the shows are very reasonable!
Morning: Get an early start and head to the Citadel of Lille. This impressive fortress looks amazing in the early morning light. It’s lovely to stroll around its grounds too.
Afternoon: Head over to La Piscine, a museum housed in a former art deco swimming pool! It’s a very cool building, I can imagine it would have been really cool to swim here when it was still a pool. There’s a great art collection of paintings, sculptures and textiles.
Evening: Spend your evening at the Rue de Gand. This famous street is filled with bars and restaurants so make sure you take an appetite and make the most of the amazing local foods.
Morning: Start your day with a visit to Wazemmes Market, there is loads of regional produce to try and buy. You could even get lunch at one of the stalls.
Afternoon: Make a choice between visiting Lille Cathedral or Saint Maurice Church. Saint Maurice Church is a little bit further out of the centre but is really beautiful. Lille Cathedral is very centrally located, it’s not quite as pretty as Saint Maurice but its size is very impressive.
Evening: Find a beer tour to go on before dinner then spend the evening sampling local foods.
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 9
Total score: 61
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 9
Total score: 62