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Canal du Midi

The canal du Midi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the many parks and gardens offer plenty of natural areas that are ideal for relaxing, walking or playing sports.

One canal, three canals

Toulouse boasts a strategic geographical location in the South West of France, halfway between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. While the Garonne links Toulouse directly to Bordeaux, facilitating trade by waterway, between Toulouse and Sète, there was only the long, tortuous road across the Lauragais plain.

There had therefore long been a real need to connect Toulouse to the Mediterranean but it was not until the 17th century that this dream became a reality thanks to a certain Pierre-Paul Riquet. His passion for his project to dig a canal linking both seas convinced the king of France, Louis XIV, to allow him to proceed with the venture. Faced with this colossal engineering challenge, Riquet’s solution was to supply the double slope canal from a water divide point (the Seuil de Naurouze) and a huge reservoir (the Bassin de Saint-Ferréol).
In 1681, after 15 years, the gigantic-scale construction was completed and the Canal du Midi was inaugurated, linking the town of Sète to Toulouse. In 1996 the Canal du Midi was included on the UNESCO list of world heritage sites.

One canal, three canals

In the 18th century, a second canal was built, the Canal de Brienne, to allow boats to avoid having to navigate the Chaussée du Bazacle ford. Built between 1770 and 1776 by Cardinal Loménie de Brienne, it connected the Canal du Midi to the Garonne via the Port de l’Embouchure. At the point of convergence, the remarkable marble bas-relief of the Ponts-Jumeaux evokes Toulouse between the lands of Occitania and the Garonne plain.

The 19th century saw construction continue apace. The irregular flow of the Garonne and the difficulty of reaching the Atlantic resulted in the construction of the Canal de Garonne, Toulouse’s third canal. It soon faced competition from the railway and is now used mainly by pleasure craft.

In the 18th century

Today, the Canal du Midi is one of Toulouse’s inhabitants’ preferred places for making the most of the outdoors. The towpath running alongside the canal offers a perfect setting to be enjoyed on foot, roller skates or bike in the shade of the plane trees. A boat cruise is another relaxing way to appreciate its calm, green waters.

Canal du Midi