Canal du Midi by Bike: Toulouse to Villenouvelle
Toulouse has a plethora of hotels, but you'll be hard-pressed to do better than the H Résidence Concorde, right on the west side of the Canal du Midi. Its stylish rooms, most of which come with a kitchenette, are a great value. Its location is super-convenient, especially if you are renting bikes from the Maison du Vélo — their pickup/drop-off location is right across the Canal. The train station and the gare routiere (bus terminal) are close by, as well.
Another highly-rated option next to the Canal is the H Hotel ibis. It often runs specials online, making it another great-value option.
If you prefer to stay right in the center, at the Place Capitôle, I recommend H Le Grand Balcon, an upscale hotel with great reviews.
Chambres d'hôtes are rare in large cities. CHVilla du Canal opened recently and is already very popular. As it only offers one room, you'll need to book ahead.
The Canal du Midi begins at the Ponts Jumeaux, the "Twin Bridges" — actually, there are three bridges, each across a different canal: the
Canal de Garonne (see our cycling guide) to the north, the short
Canal de Brienne that connects the
Port de l'Embouchure to the river
Garonne to the south, and the Canal du Midi in the middle.
Follow the bike path along
Boulevard de l'Embouchure to the left (north side) of the Canal du Midi. You'll cross
Rue du Béarnais and the first lock, Écluse du Béarnais. Pass under a footbridge and reach another lock, Écluse des Minimes, where you pass under the D 120N. 1 km later, cross the Canal at Rue Matabiau and continue on the right side of the Canal.
One block later, you'll pass the Toulouse-Matabiau train station and the Écluse de Bayard.
If you've arrived in Toulouse by train, turn right after you leave the station to get to the "official" start of the Canal du Midi, and then backtrack on the same path. If you're eager to get going, head left (south) and join the path on the opposite side of the Canal.
You'll pass under several bridges before you reach your first pont-canal, a bridge which takes the bike path along with the Canal across the A 620 motorway. 500m later, cross to the east bank (the left side) of the Canal via a footbridge. You'll pass under
Avenue Colonel Roch, then under a motorway access road. Right after, there are two budget hotels (accessible from the bike path via
Avenue de l'Europe to your left).
Next, you'll cross the entrance to a small port. At the end of the bridge, a spiral ramp takes you back on level ground. You're now on the outskirts of Toulouse, and the landscape takes on a more rural feel. Less than 1 km after the port, you'll cross a quiet street, where a houseboat offering accomodations is moored on the opposite side.
Continue along a park, and pass another leisure port. After 3 km, pass under the D 57, and reach the Écluse de Castanet after 200m.
Here a paved lane leads to Castanet or Labège. Train station in Labège. There is
16 km Castanet-Tolosan
Here, you'll get your first proper look at one of the many locks on the Canal du Midi. These locks (écluses) enable boats to make the gradual climb to the
Seuil de Naurouze, its highest point, and descend again from there to the sea. If you started at the
Ponts Jumeaux, you will have passed three of them already, but they are tucked away under bridges, and you probably were to busy getting on your way to pay much attention to them.
Écluse de Castanet is the real deal, with a full-time éclusier who helps boaters navigate through the lock chamber. These locks are also useful waypoints along the route. Typically, they bear the name of a nearby town, and a sign on the lock-keeper's cottage tells the distance to the next and previous locks.
I've marked locks with > and < on the maps. The markers point in the direction in which the water level ascends (in short, uphill) — this is also the shape of the lock chamber gates. If you're ever unsure if you're going the right way, just check the direction of the lock gates. Until the Seuil de Naurouze, they point towards Béziers and Sète; thereafter, they point towards Toulouse.
From here, you can reach a supermarket, a great opportunity to stock up on supplies for your trip. Cross the bridge and follow the side street, continue straight through the roundabout and find the rear entrance to the large parking lot a few hundred meters later.
There is also a train station in nearby
As you continue, you will cross two small roads: the D 79, which leads to the village of Pechabou towards the right (just before the next lock, the Écluse de Vic), and the D 94, which leads to Pompertouzat across the
Pont de Deyme, an iconic brick bridge.
To get to the campground in Pompertuzat, cross the bridge and turn left, and follow the signs.
After another 3 km, you'll reach the D 95.
7 km Donneville
To enter Donneville, turn right on the D 95 across the Canal, then left on the D 813. While the D 95 is a quiet street, the D 813 does see a fair bit of traffic, so be careful on the short stretch into the village.
There's a hotel along the D 813 on the left-hand side, and the CHPause Canal 500m later. Another chambre d'hotes is just off the
Allée du Languedoc (the first street on the right along the D 813).
Continue along the Canal, and reach the D 31 after 2 km.
Depending on when you left Toulouse (and your pace), you may be arriving here just in time for lunch. There are several options in
Montgiscard, just south of the Canal. To reach the village, turn right on the D 31 (across the Canal) and head up to the D 813.
There, turn right to reach a bakery and an Italian restaurant on your right; or, turn left, and after about 200m, you’ll find a brasserie and a pizzeria on the right-hand side.
On the eastern edge of the village, there's also a chambre d'hôtes with great reviews:
To keep going, cross the D 31 and continue along the Canal path, past the
Écluse de Montgiscard, until you reach another road, the quiet D 24.
4 km Ayguesvives
Ayguesvives isn't a quaint village with cool stuff to see (although it is home to the Château des Bastards), it is a modern commune. It does have a B&B, and two conveniently located grocery stores, Lidl and Intermarché.
For the stores, cross the Canal and follow the D 24 for 500m to a parking lot just before the D 813.
To get to the village itself (2 km away), turn left instead after crossing the Canal. Follow a farm track towards the D 813. Don't go onto the road; use the paved lane beside it to reach a roundabout 100m to the left. Here, take the road that heads uphill (the D 16G, towards your right, signposted
La Pradasse) — this is the
Chemin de Toulouse. After 1 km, you'll find the B&B on the right, and the village center 500m later.
As you continue along the Canal, you'll pass under two road bridges (D 16G and D 813) and encounter two locks, Ayguesvives and Sanglier. Not far thereafter, the bike path passes a motorway service area, which has restrooms and can be accessed via a small gate. 3.5 km later, you'll come to a hamlet clustered around the Écluse de Negra, from where you can reach Villenouvelle.
6 km Villenouvelle
If you started late from Toulouse, or just want to take it easy on your first day,
Villenouvelle is a good place to break for the day. Choose among five B&Bs in this area: Two are in the village itself, 2.5 km from the Canal, and another is in the countryside. There's a newly-opened B&B right at the lock, and another can be found 3 km farther along the bike path. All look great, but I can personally vouch for CHMaison Josephine: welcoming hosts, a friendly dog, large comfy rooms, delicious dinner, a pool. What more could you want? A swing in the backyard? Yup, got that, too!
Quick note about the map: Villenouvelle and its surroundings aren't drawn to scale. A broad swath of countryside separates the Canal and the village, which I've compressed to save you from endless scrolling and zooming. It does, however, make it appear as if a highway and a train line will be running past your bedroom window — no worries, that is not the case!
Still have some energy left? Explore the hilltop village of Montesquieu-Lauragais on the other side of the Canal. Follow the D 11 for 1 km south of the Negra lock. It's a moderate climb of 75 meters.
Although we researched this guide diligently, we make no guarantees as to its accuracy. All information is provided without warranty of any kind, and we assume no liability for any damages resulting from its use. Pricing is illustrative only and does not constitute a binding offer. Traffic, weather, and other unforeseen conditions may make the proposed routes impracticable. Please use caution and common sense, and always follow the rules of the road and local laws.