Toulouse is the capital city of the department of Haute-Garonne, and of the region Midi-Pyrénées, in southwestern France. It lies on the banks of the River Garonne, 150 kilometres (93 miles) from the Mediterranean Sea, 230 km (143 mi) from the Atlantic Ocean, and 580 km (360 mi) from Paris. With 1,250,251 inhabitants at the January 2011 census the Toulouse metropolitan area is the fourth-largest in France, after Paris (12.3 million), Lyon (2.2 million), and Marseille (1.7 million).
Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, the Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, the Airbus Group (former EADS), ATR and the Aerospace Valley, considered as a global cluster.
The city also hosts the European headquarters of Intel and CNES’s Toulouse Space Centre (CST), the largest space centre in Europe. Thales Alenia Space, and Astrium Satellites, Airbus Group’s satellite system subsidiary, also have a significant presence in Toulouse. Its world renowned university is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229) and, with more than 119,000 students, is the third-largest university campus of France after Paris and Lyon.
Toulouse was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom in the 5th century and the capital of the province of Languedoc in the late Middle Ages and early modern period (provinces were abolished during the French Revolution), making it the unofficial capital of the cultural region of Occitania (Southern France). It is now the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées region, the largest region in metropolitan France.
A city with unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks, which earned it the nickname la Ville Rose (“the Pink City”), Toulouse counts two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Canal Du Midi (designated in 1996 and shared with other cities), and the Basilica of St. Sernin, designated in 1998 because of its significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.