Toulon Tourist Attractions
Top Tourist Attractions in Toulon
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.
Toulon's Old Town was damaged during the Second World War. However, the rebuilt houses, new Town Hall, a 16th century bridge, and the bibliothèque are well worth viewing while strolling around.
Musée de la Marine
In Toulon, to the north of the Préfecture Maritime stands the Musée de la Marine (Naval Museum), which houses a collection of old models of ships, etchings and drawings and an exhibition about the development of artillery.
Address: Place Monsenergue, Quai de Norfolk, F-83000 Toulon, France
Opening hours: Apr 1 to Sep 30: 10am-6:30pm; Closed: Tue
Oct 1 to Mar 31: 10am-12pm, 2pm-6pm
Oct 1 to Mar 31: 10am-12pm, 2pm-6pm
Always closed on: New Year's Day (Jan 1), 1945 Victory Day (May 8), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Bastille Day - France (Jul 14), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Remembrance Day / 1918 Armistice Day (Nov 11), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Pentecost Monday (Whit Monday) - Christian, Ascension Thursday - Christian
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €5.00, Students €3.50, Child 18 & under FREE
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
St Mary Major
Southwest of the Place Puget in the center of the Toulon Old Town stands the early Gothic cathedral of Ste- Marie-Majeure (11th/12th C.; rebuilt in the 17th C.) with an 18th C. belfry. Nearby is the colorful Marché (market; vegetables, flowers) and (on the Cours Lafayette) the Musée du Vieux Toulon with local history collections and sacred art.
Probably the finest street in Toulon is the Corniche Mistral, which leads along the Grande Rade de Vignettes of Mourillon past the Jardin d'Acclimatation (botanical garden) to the charming residential district of Cap Brun (103m/338ft; fort, view). Below the coast road runs the Sentier des Douaniers ("Customs Officers' Path"), a winding footpath along the coast, which leads across the Batterie Basse du Cap Brun to the romantic bays of Méjean and Magaud.
At the west end of the Quai Stalingrad along the Darse Neuve (New Harbor) in Toulon begin the workshops, docks and stores of the Arsenal Maritime behind the fine Porte de l'Arsenal (1738).
In Toulon, beyond the Rond-Point Bonaparte lies Mourillon, the quarter in the southeast. From the Tour Royale, an impressive fortified building of the time of Louis XII at the southern end of the roadstead, there is an exceptional panoramic view. The contents of the "Musée Naval Tour Royale", which was once housed here, have now been transferred to Paris. To the northeast stands Fort St Louis (1707), which guards a small harbor.
Festivals and events in Toulon include a Spring Festival in March, a Cartoon Festival and Veteran Car Rally in May, a Festival of the Sea in June and Santon Fair in July and November.The Toulon festival is an eight-week event that runs from late May to mid-July. Since its inception in 1951, the festival has brought together famous performers for concerts of choral and chamber music, as well as for piano and vocal recitals. There are a dozen events planned each year in venues including the Toulon Opera House and local churches.
Around Toulon are a castle and scenic villages.
Cuers, situated 22km/14mi to the north of Toulon in the country, is a well-known cork-processing center. On the south-eastern edge of the Barre de Cuers (696m/2,284ft) there are extensive areas of flower cultivation.The center of Cuers is picturesque with its fine parish church (great organ of 1669), the medieval gateway and pretty little streets. Above the village stand the ruins of a former castle from which there are good views.
Ollioules, on the southern slope of the gorge of the same name (8km/5mi to the west), is well-known for its flower-growing (auctions). There is a ruined castle in the village.
Not far north of Cuers village one reaches the Gorges d'Ollioules, which has been cut by the River Reppe with strange rock formations. Above the gorge on a sheer volcanic rock lies the village of Evenos, a "village perché" with the remains of a castle, the keep of which, like the old houses, is built of blocks of basalt.
La Seyne-sur-Mer, 4km/2mi to the west of Toulon on the other side of the bay, is an industrial town with several parts; it has important shipyards, mussel-beds and works for the processing of olive-wood. Of interest are the 17th C. Church of Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Voyage, the former Fort Balaguier, also 17th C., and the Musée de la Seyne (local history). To the east lies the pleasant yacht and fishing harbor with a movable bridge.
Tamaris, which gets its name from the tamarisks which grow here, is a popular resort with a yachting harbor which is reached by following a beautiful coastal road around the promontory of Fort Balaguier. To the west above the resort stands Fort Napoléon, and behind it along the Rade du Lazaret is the district of Les Sablettes which lies on a sandy spit between Cap Sicié and Cap Cépet. From here there is a particularly fine view of the roadsteads of Toulon and the sea.
The quiet old vine- and fruit-growing village of Signes lies 30km/19mi to the north of Toulon in a hollow on the edge of the headwaters of the Gapeau. It is reached either via Ollioules (west, N8, D402 and D2) or via Solliès-Pont (east, N97, D554 and D2). Here in the Place St-Jean stands a beautiful chapel which was restored in the 17th C.; inside can be seen pictures, votive tablets and penitents' garments. The square is embellished by an 18th C. fountain. In the Church of St-Pierre, which has also restored (16th C. belfry), the beautiful wooden altar of the 14th and 17th C. is worthy of note.
On the western route to Signes near Toulon, at the junction of the D402 with the N8, is the motor-racing track of Paul-Ricard, which until 1990 was the venue of the Grand Prix de France (Formula One). Since 1991 the race has been held at Magny-Cours, near Nevers in Burgundy.
Map of Toulon Attractions