Like many other French cities, Toulouse offers good food, plenty of cultural activities, and excellent weather. If you’re considering Toulouse as your retirement destination, you probably want to know more about the city’s lifestyle.
In this guide we’ll go over the important areas concerning life in Toulouse, such as the best areas for retirement in the city, the cost of living, and how best to enjoy your new life in France.
Is Toulouse a good place to live?
Toulouse is definitely one of the best places to live in France if you want a unique fusion of traditional French culture and modern metropolitan facilities. Its economic growth is the best in France, and it offers plenty of opportunities for high culture that you won’t find in more regional areas.
Toulouse is located in southwest France in the region of Occitanie. Other than the standard offerings you’ll find in any French city, one of its main draws is location.
The city is around an hour’s drive from the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, which means you have plenty of access to coastal cities and activities. It’s also fairly close to the Pyrenees Mountains, meaning you’re not far from some excellent hiking locations.
Within the city itself, you’ll find some interesting buildings and cultural heritage. Among the most notable buildings are the Saint-Sernin Basilica, the largest Romanesque church in Europe, and the 13th-century Toulouse cathedral. Whether you’re religious or not, these buildings are quite breathtaking.
There’s also the Musée des Augustins, a fine art museum with a good selection of medieval and Renaissance work, and the Theatre du Capitol opera house. The opera house hosts a regular rotation of cultural shows, including ballet, opera, and symphony orchestras.
The city’s economy is fairly stable, as it’s the home of European aeronautics. Within the city, you’ll find the headquarters of Airbus, along with its main factory, and the headquarters of Intel. While this isn’t directly applicable to retirees, it’s a fair indicator of Toulouse being a thriving and fairly modern city.
It’s also home to a number of local delicacies that’ll be enough to tempt any connoisseur of French cuisine. The most notable dishes include cassoulet Toulousian, a local version of the national sausage casserole, and garbure, a cabbage and poultry soup (that’s much nicer than it sounds).
In short, living in Toulouse is a good choice for those who want a French lifestyle but find the countryside too rural and living in bigger cities like Paris or Lyon too busy. It’s a good combination of tradition and modernity that’s suitable for the active and cultural retiree.
Living in Toulouse as an expat
There are many benefits to living in Toulouse as an expat. Importantly, it has its own airport, so international connections are easy. It’s fairly compact, so is walkable, but also has good public transport infrastructure. Then, of course, there are the cultural activities.
Toulouse has a population of around 460,000 and is a compact city compared to other major French hubs. You can definitely get away with not owning a car if you live centrally, as most things are within easy walking distance.
But if you don't fancy walking, take advantage of the excellent public transport. The bus system is extensive and covers all neighbourhoods. But there’s also the Metro and the tramway, which makes it incredibly easy to hop between locations.
If you’re feeling particularly active, you can use the VeloToulouse, a public bike scheme.
There are also trains running from the city to the Mediterranean that take just over an hour. Blagnac airport offers flights to Paris, which also only take an hour.
When it comes to expat communities living in Toulouse, it won’t take you long to integrate. The aeronautics industry is a big draw for working professionals, many of whom stay in the city after retirement.
Aside from the working opportunities, Toulouse clearly offers plenty that expats enjoy. It was recently voted the fourth best city for expats in France, one place ahead of Paris!
You’ll find plenty of websites dedicated to expat communities, along with local meetups. Similarly, attending local French language classes can be a good way to meet other expats new to the city.
There are also expat groups on Facebook, or the Toulouse Area English Speaking Forum.
Is Toulouse dangerous?
By international standards, Toulouse isn’t a dangerous city. While its crime rates are higher than more regional areas, they’re lower than large cities such as Paris or London.
The crime rate in Toulouse ranges from low to moderate. Its only high-rated crime is breaking and entering. It has a statistically lower crime rate than London.
Crime areas such as violent crime and theft are rated low, and safety walking alone either during the day or at night is moderate to high. It rates higher than London in all these areas.
There’s no reason to consider Toulouse a dangerous city if you’re happy to live almost anywhere in the UK. It benefits from a robust police system, including the Gendarmerie, which is a branch of the armed forces.
The pros and cons of living in Toulouse
Although Toulouse might sound like the perfect city, it’s worth acknowledging its drawbacks too. Only then can you make a truly informed decision about whether this is the right retirement destination for you.
Here is a breakdown of the main pros and cons of living in Toulouse.
Pros of living in Toulouse
1. It enjoys an almost Mediterranean climate
Toulouse has good weather all year round. In summer you can expect mid-to-high 20s, and in the winter it’ll rarely drop below freezing. The only thing stopping it from being considered a Mediterranean climate is the amount of rain, which really isn’t that high.
2. Good economic growth
While the economy isn’t often a direct concern for retirees, it’s useful to know Toulouse enjoys steady economic growth. This means investment in the community, which leads to better public services.
3. It has a well-connected airport
Blagnac is the city’s local airport, and it’s got great connections. Along with regular flights to the UK, you have good connections across the rest of Europe. This means that not only will it be convenient to visit family, but it’ll be easy to go on holiday too.
4. Toulouse is a good choice for active people
The city is a good size for walking around, and you can make a good day out of visiting museums and galleries. Throw in the easy connections to the Mediterranean and local mountains, and you’ve got a prime location for those who like to be outdoors.
5. It’s simply a beautiful city
It’s always a big advantage of a city when even its most basic buildings are beautiful to look at. Toulouse is known as the Pink City because so many of its buildings are terracotta brick.
Cons of living in Toulouse
1. It has a big student population
This isn’t necessarily a con, but Toulouse does have a big student population. By extension, there’s a bigger nightlife scene than you might find in other cities. Many won’t have a problem with this but bear it in mind if you think it’ll impact your retirement.
2. French administration
This isn’t unique to Toulouse, but the French administration is something in itself. It takes a long time to get things done, whether it’s arranging for home repairs or renewing a licence. Once you accept this it won’t be much of an issue.
Is Toulouse expensive?
Toulouse isn’t a particularly cheap city, but you can have a better standard of living than the UK for slightly less money. It’s more expensive to live in Toulouse than the surrounding rural areas, but you can still get by in the city on a fairly tight budget.
Generally speaking, the cost of living is lower in France than it is in the UK. While this doesn’t hold true for all areas (such as food), the savings you’ll make on things like utilities make up for this.
Living in Toulouse will give you around 5% more purchasing power than living in London. While food is around 20% more expensive in the French city, this is a standard thing.
The trick is to buy local and seasonal, something expats aren’t as familiar with. But in France, this is the standard model. Doing as much of your grocery shopping as possible at open-air farmer’s markets will help to save money. If nothing else, you can barter with the stallholders if you feel confident enough!
Restaurant prices in Toulouse are about 20% cheaper than in London, and you can guarantee the food will be of better quality too.
When it comes to property, the comparison is pretty unsurprising. Renting an apartment in central Toulouse costs around €617 (£562) compared to London’s £1,697 (€1,862). To buy a property in the city centre, expect to pay around €4,600 (£4,191) compared to London’s £11,572 (€12,700).
- Renting A Property In France – all you need to know about rental procedures and rules in France before signing a French rental contract;
- A Complete Guide To Buying A Property In France – understand how property purchasing is done in France to avoid costly mistakes in the process.
Of course, if these prices still seem a bit steep, you can save plenty of money by living in a local town. Obviously, you’ll need a car, but you’ll benefit from a quieter lifestyle while still having the city within easy driving distance.
The best areas to live in and around Toulouse
Toulouse offers a good variety of neighbourhoods to cover all tastes and lifestyles. But if you’d like the benefits of the city without the business, consider living in a local town.
Here is a list of the best neighbourhoods in Toulouse, along with some of the best picks for local towns.
The best neighbourhoods in Toulouse
Saint Etienne is one of the more upmarket neighbourhoods in Toulouse and is located in the heart of the city. It’s where all the aristocrats built their houses, and the level of luxury is reflected in the property prices. Saint Etienne is by far the most expensive area, but its level of luxury more than justifies the price tag.
Les Carmes is still steeped in its medieval heritage, which can be seen in the buildings and streets. It’s quite lively at night and is home to a number of trendy restaurants and cafes.
Saint Cyprien has recently undergone something of a revival to become one of the better-known areas of Toulouse. It’s located near the city centre and has a nice mix of houses and apartments. Expect to pay a premium to live in this neighbourhood.
Minimes is seen as a family-friendly neighbourhood and is very quiet considering its fairly central location. You can reach the city centre in 10 minutes by bus, but the neighbourhood enjoys a number of green spaces. This will be suitable for those wanting a city life but with less bustle than some other areas.
The best towns near Toulouse
Carbonne is a commune roughly 40 minutes south of Toulouse. It has a population of around 5,000 and is mainly an agricultural economy. The benefit of this is that it’s got plenty of wide-open spaces and is much quieter than the city.
L’Isle-Jourdain is roughly 35km west of Toulouse, and the drive will take just over 30 minutes. It has a population of around 7,000 and is everything you’d expect a sleepy French commune to be. It’s great for walkers because it has plenty of open space, and also enjoys its own weekly farmer’s market.
Pamiers is a commune south of Toulouse; the drive will take about an hour. It’s built on the River Ariege and has its origins in the 5th century. While it’s further away from Toulouse, it’s still a fairly easy drive.
Muret is one of the largest communes in the Toulouse area. It’ll take you only 30 minutes to drive to the city, so gives you the best of both worlds. Muret is technically an outer suburb of Toulouse, meaning it enjoys good connections with the city. Property prices will be higher here than in other communes, but still lower than Toulouse itself.
Final thoughts on living in Toulouse
Toulouse has plenty to offer those looking for a more modern French lifestyle. It’s not too busy but is an updated city with good connections – both national and international. This makes it a good hub for those wanting to jet around Europe.
As always, it’s worth touring the area if you can to see whether Toulouse will make the right retirement destination for you. If you’re a fan of high culture and a metropolitan lifestyle, there’s no reason it won’t.
You might find useful:
- Living In France – The Expats' Guide – everything you need to know to plan your move and settle down in France;
- The Best Places to Live in France – a detailed overview of France’s most popular locations for expats;
- The Expat Guide to UK Pensions Abroad – detailed information about your state, workplace and private pensions when you retire abroad: your options, tax implications and opportunities if you transfer your pension pot abroad or leave it in the UK.