Toulon Tourist Attractions
The port of Toulon lies about 70km/43mi southeast of Marseilles near the most southerly point of the French Riviera. The Bay of Toulon forms an outstanding natural harbor; it consists of the inner "Petite Rade" (little harbor roads) and the outer "Grande Rade" (large roads) and is protected by the off-shore promontory of St-Mandrier. Toulon is the most important military port in France with appropriate dock and supply facilities.
The settlement, called Telonion by the Greeks, Telo Martius by the Romans, was of importance in ancient times primarily because of the purple dye which could be obtained from the purple snails which lived in the sea. The conversion to a naval port did not occur until recent times. In 1487 Toulon passed into French hands under King Louis XI and became an important base by virtue of its strategic position (the largest natural harbor in the Mediterranean). The Tour Royale, which controlled the access to the "Petite Rade", was built in 1514. The fortifications, which were installed towards the end of the 16th century and strengthened by Vauban in 1660, withstood in 1707 the combined forces of Prince Eugene, Holland and England. In 1793, during the Revolution, the royalists delivered the town to the English Admiral Hood; it was reconquered by the revolutionary army after a six- week siege, during which the 23- year-old batallion commander Napoleon Bonaparte (later Napoleon I) gained particular distinction and was as a result promoted to brigadier-general. In the 19th century it was from Toulon that the French troops left to go to war: to the Crimea, Italy, Mexico, Indo-China, Madagascar, Africa. Until 1939 the naval fleet constituted the only employer in the town worth naming. In the Second World War Toulon was occupied by German troops in November 1942 and half-destroyed by bombing; the French fleet went down on November 27. When the Allied forces landed in August 1944 Toulon was one of the first towns to be liberated. In 1974 Toulon became (after a lapse of 181 years) a prefecture again and capital of the département of Var.