Between the mountains and the sea, in the heart of a magnificent bay, the prosperous port of Toulon is mainly characterised by its maritime connections and the strong presence of the French Navy. Both vibrant and laid-back, the birthplace of the famous actor Raimu is also a city with a remarkably wide variety of performance venues, like the Opéra, Château Vallon and the Zénith.
This large city gradually loses its urban character as it moves further away from the coast. Cap Brun, Mourillon, Saint-Mandrier and La Seyne-sur-Mer are lovely places to explore in the heart of the Bay of Toulon.
PLACES TO SEE
The port: The Cronstadt quay, situated alongside the Vieille-Darse dock and separated from the Old Town by the Avenue de la République, has sunny terraces to tempt passers-by. On the harbour front stands the Mairie d’Honneur (Town Hall) with its fabulous facade decorated with atlantes sculpted by Pierre Puget and the statue of “Cuverville”.
The Cours Lafayette market: Not to be missed! A permanent spectacle, the Toulon market has become a genuine institution. There you can find the best companions of Provençal cuisine. Colours, flavours and aromas intermingle with the noises and the buzz of conversation in a glorious concert. Stalls selling fruit and vegetables, local produce and flowers create a marvellous lively atmosphere.
The Old Town: Once called the City of Fountains, Toulon still has an old centre whose squares and narrow streets are busy all year long. There are several tours where you can discover the treasures of this markedly Provençal city.
The Cathedral: this building has very ancient origins. There has been a church on this site since the 5th century. It became a Romanesque cathedral in the 11th century and was extended and redesigned in the 17th century, resulting in an astonishing combination of styles. Its three naves are decorated with paintings, sculptures and bas-relief carvings by artists such as Puget and Mignard.
Mont-Faron: The favourite mountain of the people of Toulon, the immense limestone massif of Mont-Faron overlooks the city from a height of 584 metres. It is one of the most enjoyable excursions in the immediate vicinity of Toulon. A series of stunning panoramic views opens up as you ascend the mountain by cable car, unique on the Mediterranean coast. Its forests of Aleppo pine and oak trees and its well-maintained trails make it a great place for a walk.
Mourillon and Cap Brun: Lined with cafés, restaurants, playgrounds, marinas and gardens, the beaches at Mourillon are a holidaymaker’s dream. The ‘Sentier des Douaniers’ coastal path follows the coast from the Mourillon beaches to Magaud cove via Cap Brun, revealing stunning scenery.
Felix Mayol: The creator of countless tunes including the famous “Viens poupoule”, this genial French composer bequeathed one of the temples of rugby – the Mayol Stadium – to the city of Toulon in 1920.
Described today as an impregnable site, the bay of Toulon has been surrounded by a sea and land defence system since the 16th century.
Twenty-four forts, towers and batteries were built in the bay and on its inner and outer belt. An intrinsic part of Toulon’s heritage, these defence structures offer today’s visitors a fascinating insight into the history of the city and bay. Offering unbeatable sea views, some of them have been converted into museums or, accessible by hiking trails, into walking destinations.
THE ALLIED LANDINGS MEMORIAL
At the summit of Mont-Faron overlooking Toulon, the first memorial was inaugurated in 1964 by General de Gaulle in the Beaumont Tower, a 19th century musketry fort. Work began in 2014 and the new memorial opened in early 2017, giving a more prominent place to the people involved in the Landings, their personal journeys, the fight for the liberation of Provence and the site’s history.
PLACES TO VISIT
The Royal Tower, the Fort Saint-Louis , the Beaumont Tower, the Fort Balaguier at Seyne-sur-Mer and many other places to discover.
Find further information on the Toulon Tourist Office website at: www.toulontourisme.com