As befitting a city full of students, Toulouse is home to a wide range of bars. From a cool cocktail lounge and a rooftop retreat to a low-key haunt and the perfect place for pastis, here Culture Trip brings you some of the best of Toulouse’s bars.
Home to one of the country’s largest universities, Toulouse combines a lively student scene with the serene vibe of the south of France. One man who knows all about that is Léopold Bach, owner of farm-to-fork restaurant, Campagne, and Buvette, a bar specialising in local drinks. Born and bred in Toulouse, Léopold also studied in the city, so he knows the bar scene better than anyone – here are a few of his favourites.
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Dating from the 19th century, Café de la Concorde is one of the oldest and most beautiful bars in the city. Renowned for its archetypal French decor, the enchanting façade has classified status – but the well-worn furniture, vintage posters and wonderful wooden bar found inside are just as much a part of the experience. “The Concorde is something of an institution in Toulouse,” says Léopold. “So, this is definitely a place I would bring any visiting friends.” In addition, there is also a lovely terrace, where you can relax with a drink as you watch the world go by.
Something of a lesser-known gem, Bar l’Échanson is a real favourite among locals – and for good reason. “It’s not the most beautiful or the most famous, but, like a typical Toulouse bar, it’s one of the best,” explains Léopold. “It’s got a great atmosphere, fast and friendly service, and it’s good value. Plus, there’s a nice terrace, too.” Apparently, an échanson was the name once given to the unfortunate individual tasked with tasting the king’s drinks in order to check for poison. There are no such worries here – just a warm welcome, affordable prices and an attractive setting on a sunny square.
Located on the top of iconic department store Galeries Lafayette, this swanky rooftop bar offers panoramic views over the Pink City. It’s not cheap, but well worth paying a few extra euros for the beautiful backdrop. “This is the one for a special occasion,” says Léopold. “It really does have the best view of any bar in the city.” Open throughout the day for breakfast, lunch and coffee or tea, in the evening you can taste their gourmet dishes over a good bottle or discover their signature cocktails. Also, look out for the special DJ nights they regularly host.
Voted Best Wine Bar in the World three years running (2017/18/19), what makes this place so special is that they offer an exceptional selection of some 4,000 different wines – and 500 of them are available by the glass. “From the finest grand crus and rare vintages to local favourites, this is definitely the one for the wine-lovers,” says Léopold. Then there’s the atmospheric setting, with its vaulted brick walls, and the additional bonus of a delicious tapas menu. Last but not least, they also host special wine-tasting events with their expert sommelier.
One of the oldest pastis bars in the country, Chez Tonton is an absolute must-visit in the city. Opened in the 1950s, they later became renowned for serving this anise-flavoured apéritif by the metre – 17 glasses – and remain so today. Also located on one of the city’s most beautiful squares, the bar overlooks the Garonne River. “This is the perfect place to sit with a pastis and watch the sun set over the water,” says Léopold. “It can get a little crazy later on, with people dancing on the tables, but there really is no other bar like it.”
Taking its influence very much from the south, this Spanish-style party bar is a staple of old Toulouse, offering sangria, cocktails and some terrific tapas dishes. There’s a vibrant atmosphere here, and after a few drinks it inevitably leads to singing, dancing and general revelry. “This is another real institution in the city,” says Léopold. “It’s impossible not to have a good time here.” Ideal for groups, birthdays or dinner with friends, it’s crowded, convivial and a little crazy, but always good fun.
For the live music fans, Connexion Live is another must on the list. Part bar, part venue, it is located in an old industrial building and offers a varied programme of events – they feature independent and alternative artists, from rock to electro and folk, as well as DJs and themed evenings. “This is the perfect place to listen to live music in the city centre,” says Léopold. “They always have good artists with something for all tastes.” There is also an outdoor terrace, perfect for summer, and sporting events are broadcast on a big screen.
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