The Capitole in Toulouse is open to visitors for free

Capitole Toulouse

One not-to-miss stop when visiting Toulouse is the Place du Capitole, the heart of the local municipal administration. The Capitole building will immediately draw your attention. This is where the communal legislators have met since the 17th century- and still meet. With a length of 135 meters and built in the famous local pink brick, it now houses the Hôtel de Ville, or the Town Hall and the Opera House. To make your visit extra special, you can go inside and let the elaborate decor astonish you.


The current Capitole building dates from 1750, when a new façade arose on the ancient common house. This ‘maison commune’ dates from 1190 and was initially called ‘Capitulum’, which means chapter in English and capítol in Occitan. On this very spot, the city’s magistrates, called ‘capitouls’, exercised their municipal power. Remarkably, the Capitole sits right on the spot where Saint Sernin, or Saint Saturninus, the first bishop of Toulouse, was martyred in about 250 AC. Saint Sernin was very popular in his time, and he soon had his own church. To reach this church, he had to pass the square where Le Capitole is nowadays. The pagan priests didn’t really like Saint Sernin passing by, as, according to them, it silenced their oracles. One day, the pagan priests grabbed him and tied him to a bull’s tail, which dragged him around Toulouse until the rope broke.

Capitole Toulouse

Town Hall

Back to the present day… I read somewhere that you could enter the Capitole for free. So, after a bit of flaunting on the Place du Capitole with the family, I subtly directed them to the entrance of the Town Hall. Crossing the ‘Cour Henri IV’ courtyard, we went to the first floor via the impressive main stairway. The magnificent medieval scenes on the walls and ceiling are the work of Jean-Paul Laurents and his sons. If this was only the stairway, I was curious to see the rest of the rooms! Next was the Paul-Gervais room, with paintings in a romantic theme perfect for this former wedding hall. The Town Council Chamber, dating from 1606, is a part that remains from the old Capitole. Just like the Henri-Martin room from 1605, dedicated to the Toulousain painter and displaying some of his paintings.

Capitole Toulouse

Salle des Illustres

The grand finale had been saved for last, though: the Illustrious Room (Salle des Illustres). Overwhelmed by a combination of marble sculptures and lavishly decorated walls and ceilings, even the kids went silent. We all took our time to absorb the beauty of this impressive room hidden behind the Capitol’s facade. The current gallery replaces the old one, built in 1674 and destroyed in 1887. It combines the former Salle des Illustres with the two banquet halls and the throne room. It now measures 60 meters long by 6 meters wide and 9 meters high. A fun fact is that it’s only a bit smaller than the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles. All of the artwork you see is from the hand of Toulousain artists. The paintings represent several settings, from science, military involvement and art, to a scene from the Albigensian crusade.

Salle des Illustres Toulouse


The Salle des Illustres is named after the statues that personify some of Toulouse’s illustrious men (no women, apparently…). The first sculptures were placed there for the inauguration of the room in 1898. But somehow, the sculptors weren’t in a hurry, as the last one only arrived in 1912. Not all of the glittering you see is gold, though. Only three sculptors used marble for their statues, while the others worked with clay. And only four columns are made of real marble, and the rest are realistic copies. Nowadays, the Illustrious Room is still in use for weddings and official receptions. On these days, the doors of the Capitole remain closed to the public. Besides these days, you can visit the Town Hall daily from 08h00 to 18h00 (winter), 20h00 (spring and autumn) or 21h00 (summer).

Salle des Illustres Toulouse
TO SEE - Culture
Tagged in