Moving to Toulouse
Affordability 4 out of 5
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Climate 5 out of 5
Environment quality 4 out of 5
The fourth-largest city in France, Toulouse has been standing on the banks of the Garonne River since Neolithic times. It is an increasingly popular destination for people moving within France and for foreign students or expats moving to France to study or work.
For people moving to France from another country, Toulouse may be something of an unknown destination. The city is located at a strategic crossroads between the Atlantic Ocean on the west coast of France, the Mediterranean to the south, and on the road leading from France to Spain.
The climate in Toulouse is temperate and quite pleasant, with above average sunshine levels when compared with other parts of France. On average, summer temperatures reach a warm 22°C that make up for the chilly winds of the winter months.
Although it is neatly placed at around two and a half hours by car from the cities of Bordeaux and Montpellier, Toulouse is most often compared to the Spanish city of Barcelona, 330 kilometres to the south on the other side of the Pyrenées mountain range, because of its lively nightlife and the historic links between the peoples of the Occitan and Catalan regions.
Although the transport network is very good, the city still doesn’t have a high speed TGV rail connection with the French capital. This means that it is a 5 hour train ride to Paris, while other cities like Bordeaux, Marseille, and Lyon are linked by train to Paris in 2-3 hours. This off-the-beaten-path side to Toulouse only adds to its charm as a destination for expats.
The job market
Toulouse has a strong image as an important science and technology hub. The world headquarters of Airbus are located in the nearby suburb of Blagnac and the economic landscape is dominated by the aeronautical and space industries.
Tourism also plays an important role in the local economy. Its academic importance makes it attractive to students and researchers and there is an important cancer research centre. Toulouse is also home to the National Weather Forecast Centre and the National Centre for Meteorological Research.
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The southeast of the city has a business district known as “La Plaine”, where a number of international companies have offices, including Orange, Fiducial, Capgemini, Intel, or Continental. The city is also headquarters to the bank Courtois.
The city has seen extraordinary population growth since the 1990s and the latest figures put the population of the city at just over 450,000. This number increases to more than 1,270,000 when the suburbs are included.
Unemployment is above the national average at 15% and has increased somewhat in recent years. The population of the city is young, with over 30% of inhabitants aged between 15 and 29 years old.
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The recent increase in the popularity of Toulouse as a place to live, along with its status as a student destination, means that you cannot call the prices here very cheap. However, if you are moving from a big city like London, New York, or Paris, you will probably be pleasantly surprised by the cost of renting a house or apartment.
In general, life in the 4th city in France is around 30% cheaper than life in Paris. There is a good public transport system in place, with a network of metro lines, trams, buses and trains to choose from. There is also a bike rental scheme for getting around town.
Dining and entertainment
There is no shortage of entertainment, nightlife and restaurants and you can eat out on cuisine from anywhere in the world. However, the locals are sure to encourage you to enjoy the hearty (and meaty) regional dishes like cassoulet or sausage.
In Toulouse, as in most cities in France, people who live in the city centre usually live in apartments (80% of people inside the city limits live in apartments), while there is a preference for houses among those who choose to live in the suburbs. However, with the increase in the population in recent years, more and more apartment blocks are also being built in the suburbs.
The ratio of home-owners to tenants is approximately 60 – 40. Buying a one-bedroom apartment in Toulouse currently costs between €2,500 and €3,000 per square metre, with prices rising sharply for new apartment buildings which cost between €4,300 and €5,000 per square metre. Prices for houses and apartments vary widely between old and new buildings, their condition and energy performance and especially how close they are to the city centre.
As part of a national trend in France, house prices have dropped a little over the past few years, but only slightly (2 – 3%).
Toulouse, the capital of the Midi-Pyrenées region, is often romantically called La ville rose, or the pink city, because of the distinctive colour of the terracotta brick used to build many of its monument and buildings.
- Family-Friendly: Minimes – Just north of the Canal du Midi, this area is a mixture of apartments and houses. It is a quiet area, but is just 10 minutes from the heart of the city by bus. Côte Pavée – A residential area to the south-east of the city, made up of modern apartment buildings in a calm atmosphere near the Canal du Midi.
- Upmarket: Saint Etienne – Located in the centre of the city, southeast of Place Esquirol, this is where the aristocrats of Toulouse built their own houses. It remains the most expensive area in the city to this day with many luxury and antique stores.
- Up-and-coming: Saint Cyprien: Previously little known despite its closeness to the city centre, Saint Cyprien attracts everyone these days. It is a melting pot of cultures and styles and its current popularity is pushing property prices upwards, nearing those of the city centre.
- Hip & Trendy: Les Carmes – The area around place des Carmes is a stone’s throw from the city centre. Its medieval style streets are an important part of its charm, and it is a lively and popular spot by day and by day.
Schools and education
There is an excellent primary and secondary education system in place in Toulouse, with 104 public preschools and 22 private ones, and 93 public primary schools and 22 private primary schools.
School attendance is only obligatory from the age of six, but most children start preschool at the age of three. The school day is quite long, especially for preschoolers, with five hours of lessons per day, but young children usually have a nap after lunch to keep them going.
When it comes to secondary schools, the city boasts 24 public collèges (middle schools) and 12 public lycées or high schools. Some parents choose to send their children to private schools as they feel that their progress will be better monitored. Private schools are not usually very costly, but their lack of public funding can make them resource poor when compared to state subsidised establishments.
Toulouse is a top destination for higher education, with more than 90,000 students studying there each year. The historic University of Toulouse was first founded in 1229 and today stands on three separate sites.
There are also, as you might expect from the city’s aeronautical and space industry links several schools of engineering, along with the specialist schools of learning:
- the ISAE (studies in aeronautical and space engineering)
- the ENSICA (national school of aeronautical engineering)
- the ENAC (national school of civil aviation).
Among some of the other grandes écoles are the ENM, the National School of Meteorology, the ENSAT, one of the five national schools in agricultural studies and the national institute of applied sciences. For those interested in less scientific subjects, classes are also on offer at the Toulouse Business School and a school of journalism, the EJT.
Ranking against the world
Toulouse can hold its own against the world in many rankings. It was recently named the best place to be a student in France, noted for the quality of its universities and schools of higher education.
The city also stands out culturally, with the Saint-Sernin basilica, the historic 19th century Canal du Midi, which links Toulouse to the Mediterranean, and its historic city centre. Toulouse is also known for its fantastic food, and its rugby team is currently second in the French rugby league.
A day in life
Picture a typical day off in Toulouse. Why not treat yourself to a croissant or pain au chocolat from your favourite bakery (every neighbourhood has several to choose from) and enjoy it while strolling along the banks of the River Garonne or the Canal du Midi.
Enjoy a coffee and watch the world go by on monumental Place du Capitole (it’s not just for the tourists) before you take yet another look at the awe-inspiring basilica of Saint-Sernin.
For a little culture in your day, why not take in some of the exhibits at the Muséum de Toulouse, a vast cultural site with the Natural History Museum, temporary exhibitions, two restaurants and a delightful botanical garden before meeting friends for drinks or dinner in and around swinging Saint-Cyprien.