Toulouse is a city in the Haute-Garonne department in southwest France. It lies on the banks of the River Garonne, halfway between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. With 1.2 million inhabitants in 2008, the Toulouse metropolitan area is the fourth largest in France, after Paris, Lyon and Marseille.
As the home of Airbus, EADS Astrium and Galileo—the EU’s €5 billion global navigation satellite system—it is the centre of the European aerospace industry. Known as ‘Aerospace Valley’, the Toulouse area hosts around 500 companies employing 120,000 people.
The city has many centres of research in advanced technologies (nanotechnology and biotechnology) and is a leading city in medical research with a highly regarded Oncopôle being built on 220 acres. The knowledge-based economy is supported by having France’s third-largest university population at 120,000, courtesy of three main campuses, plus a network of specialist technology and business schools.
Known as the Ville rose (pink city) for the colour of its stone buildings, Toulouse is also a major cultural and tourist destination. Local people are passionate about their local gastronomy—with its wines, sausages and famous cassoulet—and their rugby tradition. Along with the museums and galleries, the city lies on the Canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Built in the 17th century, its 360km of navigable waterways is considered one of the greatest engineering achievements of the modern age. Transport in the area is provided by an extensive bus, metro and tram system, along with high-speed rail links and Toulouse’s Blagnac airport.
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