14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Toulon
Toulon centers around a picturesque port, sheltered by the steep hillsides of Mont Faron. The Bay of Toulon is a beautiful natural harbor that provides berthing for a variety of watercraft, from small fishing boats to fashionable yachts and cruise ships.
The city of Toulon combines the ambience and attractions of a Mediterranean seaside resort with the feel of a real working town, as it is France's main naval base, as well as a center of fishing and other industries.
Despite the urban ambience, you can still find a taste of the Provence region's douceur de vivre (sweet life). Soak up the sunny South of France lifestyle on leisurely seaside strolls, relaxing at outdoor cafés, and basking on the beach. If you like to wake up early, visit the town's Provençal markets to experience the local culture.
There are so many wonderful things to do and places to visit in Toulon. Make the most of your visit by using our guide to the city's top attractions.
1. Vieille Ville (Old Town)
The Old Town of Toulon was severely damaged during the Second World War, however, it has retained much of its former charm.
You will enjoy wandering the narrow cobblestone streets and relaxing at the peaceful squares embellished with gushing fountains. On warm days, it's pleasant to stop in one of these shady squares and enjoy a refreshment at an outdoor café.
Not to be missed is the Hôtel de Ville, famous for the "Caryatides" sculptures at the building's entrance. These sculpted figures that seem to hold up the balcony were created by Pierre Puget (1620-1694) and have been copied many times all over Provence, but here they remain unsurpassed in their expression.
By continuing to the west, you may stroll along the busy Rue d'Alger that leads into the Rue Hoche and then to the Place Puget with the Fontaine des Trois Dauphins (Fountain of Three Dolphins), which is overgrown and covered with deposits of lime like many fountains in Provence.
Along the waterfront of the Port Saint-Louis is the atmospheric old fishing village, Le Mourillon quarter. This historic area is characterized by its narrow lanes and charming small houses painted in an array of vibrant colors. On Rue Lamalgue are many boutiques and gourmet restaurants.
The Mourillon quarter also has lovely sandy beaches, ideal for families; the beaches feature things to do year-round and restaurants at the water's edge.
A charming way to see some of the sights of the Old Town is on a touristic train ride. Les Petits Trains de Toulon offers sightseeing tours in Le Mourillon. This 45-minute "City Tour" route passes by the military port, the Mourillon beaches, the Fort Saint-Louis, the Opéra de Toulon, and the 16th-century Tour Royale (Royal Tower) with exceptional sea views.
2. Port de Toulon
The Bay of Toulon is considered Europe's most beautiful harbor, but it is also a busy working port. In fact, there are multiple ports where fishing boats and yachts are docked, as well as where ferries and cruise ships depart.
Along the scenic waterfront, palm-fringed sidewalks are lined with boutiques and the terraces of bustling brasseries. Take a leisurely quayside stroll to soak up the scenery.
Toulon is the main hub of the French navy fleet in the Mediterranean. One of the ports at the harbor is the historic Arsenal de Toulon (naval base), which dates back to 1738 during the reign of Henri IV. The naval base includes shipbuilding yards and military port docks.
Besides its military and commercial purposes, the Toulon harbor is the launching point of ferry routes. From the Port of Toulon, you can take boat rides to many of the attractions in the area, including La Seyne-sur-Mer and Les Sablettes beaches.
From May through October, a ferry service is available to the idyllic Porquerolles Island, one of the Îles d'Or (Golden Islands), which are also known as the Îles d'Hyères. The ferry ride takes about 75 minutes. Ferries also depart from the Port of Toulon to the Island of Corsica and Italy's Sardinia.
3. Mont Faron
Presiding over the city of Toulon, the impressive Mont Faron can be reached by foot, car, or the Téléphérique du Faron (cable car). It is possible to walk from Place de la Liberté, in the city's center, for about 40 minutes, traversing the Parc des Lices and including a steep climb up the footpaths to the summit.
The cable car offers the most spectacular transfer to Mont Faron. The ride features breathtaking panoramic vistas of the Bay of Toulon and the landscape of the Le Var region.
To arrive at Mont-Faron by car, drive along the Corniche du Mont Faron, a panoramic road halfway up Mont Faron that offers magnificent sea views. In the early morning and at sunset, the azure Mediterranean waters and verdant coastline look especially stunning. Along this road bordering the district of Sainte-Anne are many lovely villas on the slope of the hillside.
At the 548-meter-high summit of Mont Faron, you will be awed by the sweeping views overlooking the five Mounts of Toulon, the sea, and the coastline.
Other attractions on Mont Faron include the picnic areas, two restaurants, footpaths for walking and hiking, and the Mémorial du Débarquement de Provence (World War II Museum).
Address: Téléphérique (cable car) starting point is at Boulevard Amiral Vence (bus #40 téléphérique stop).
4. Mémorial du Débarquement de Provence
The Mémorial du Débarquement de Provence is found at the summit of Mont Faron in the Tour Beaumont. To arrive here, the steep and winding one-way road (Route du Faron) offers rewarding scenery and passes the Fort du Saint-Antoine along the way. Alternatively, take the Téléphérique du Faron (cable car).
Housed in a martial building, the museum displays a collection of artifacts and documentation, weapons, and articles of equipment related to the landing of the Allied Forces on August 15, 1944.
A telescope on the roof of the fort provides a superb panorama of the city, the port, and the mountains rising all around. On the plateau of Mont Faron's summit is a charming garden with a great variety of flowers.
Address: Summit of Mont Faron, Toulon
5. Opéra de Toulon
On the Place Victor Hugo, the Opéra de Toulon theater was created by the architect Charles Garnier who also designed the Palais Garnier (Opera House) in Paris. This splendid Neoclassical building is one of the largest opera houses in France outside of Paris.
The Opéra de Toulon (also called the Grand Théâtre de Toulon) was constructed in 1862 with the help of many local artists to create the decorations. The lavish red and gold interior exemplifies Napoleon III style and features many paintings, beautiful chandeliers, and bronzed loge seating.
This exquisite theater was designed as the performance venue for the Opéra de Toulon company. With its splendid design details and exceptional acoustics, the Opera House provides an elegant venue for opera, dance, theater, and symphony performances, as well as music festival concerts.
You can admire the interior by attending a performance or special event at the theater. The Foyer Campra (Grand Foyer), which is decorated in a sumptuous Baroque style, is the venue for special events. This exquisite reception hall displays a series of paintings on the themes of music and dance.
Address: Place Victor Hugo (Place du Théâtre), Toulon
6. Musée National de la Marine (Naval Museum)
Housed within the Arsenal de Toulon (historic naval base), the Musée National de la Marine presents the history of Toulon's military port. The Naval Museum displays a collection of charts, etchings, paintings, and drawings, as well as an exhibition about the development of artillery.
The museum also displays a fascinating assortment of antique model ships, from an 18th-century steamboat to the Imperial Canoe of Napoléon I.
One of the museum's prized possessions is Le Louis XV (circa 1720 - 1725), a model of an 18th-century ship created to house the French Royal Navy squadron's command. The richly ornamented model features three decks and more than a hundred cannons.
Address: Place Monsenergue, Quai de Norfolk, Toulon
7. Traditional Provençal Markets
The city of Toulon is well known for its traditional Provençal markets. For a taste of typical daily life in Toulon, the Cours Lafayette Market is one of the best places to visit.
The Cours Lafayette Market is the largest and most well-known of Toulon's markets. Every morning from 7:30am until 12:30pm except Mondays, the Cours Lafayette is filled with colorful stalls of fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Locals shop for fresh ingredients to prepare home-cooked meals. Tourists will appreciate the Provençal tablecloths.
There is also a farmers' market known as "Petit Cours" ("Small Market") which is held at the Rue Paul Lendrin on Tuesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays in the morning until 1pm. This market exclusively features locally sourced products.
Other markets also sell fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, and local cheeses, such as the Mourillon Market (in the area of the old fishermen's village) on the Place Monseigneur Deydier near the port. This market is held every morning except Mondays from 8am until 12:30pm.
8. Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-de-la-Seds
This classified Monument Historique was built in the 11th century by the order of the Count of Provence. The original simple Romanesque church was enhanced in the 17th century by adding a Neoclassical facade with Baroque details. Even with the mix of styles, there is still a sense of harmony in its single-vault Gothic interior.
The bell tower at the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-de-la-Seds dates to the 1740s. The typically Provençal structure features a unique bell and ringing contraption crafted from wrought iron.
When touring the cathedral, be sure to see the Baroque altar, the work of Christophe Veyrier, who was the nephew and a student of Pierre Puget.
Address: 55 Place de la Cathédrale, Toulon
9. Festival de Musique de Toulon
The Festival de Musique de Toulon is a prestigious classical music festival held at different venues in Toulon and nearby. The program of festival concerts runs for most of the year.
The festival offers a range of classical music performances from Beethoven operas to Mozart orchestra concerts and Brahms piano recitals.
Since its inception in 1951, the festival has attracted renowned performers for concerts of choral and chamber music, as well as piano and vocal recitals.
10. Île de Porquerolles
About an hour's ferry ride from the Port of Toulon, the Île de Porquerolles is the largest of the Îles d'Or (Golden Islands) in the serene Mediterranean Sea. This idyllic island offers a relaxing change of pace from the glitzy Côte d'Azur.
Prized for its unspoiled environment, the island has pristine protected coves and tiny beaches. It's the ideal resort destination with pleasant weather and sunshine year-round.
Outdoor recreation, such as snorkeling and hiking, is a big draw. The island has well-groomed trails shaded by pine and eucalyptus trees.
Despite its remote feel, the Île de Porquerolles offers upscale restaurants and a lively jazz festival in July.
Read More: Top-Rated Beaches in the South of France
11. Le Lavandou
This former fishing village is now popular as a summertime holiday resort. Set on a broad bay at the foot of the Massif des Maures, Le Lavandou features beautiful scenery. Lavender fields bloom here in season. At the town's picturesque marina, recreational boats dock in the turquoise waters while awaiting sailing excursions.
Along the palm-tree-lined Boulevard de Lattre de Tassigny are wide sandy beaches with sweeping views of the sea and the Hyères Islands.
In the south of Le Lavandou, the wooded Cap Bénat peninsula has a lighthouse at its tip. The Road N559 running east from Le Lavandou leads to more sandy beaches interspersed with rocky stretches.
Le Lavandou is an easy day trip from Toulon, about 40 kilometers to the east. From the harbor, ferries depart for the Îles d'Or (Îles de Hyères).
Read More: Top-Rated Beach Destinations in France
Bormes-les-Mimosas hugs the slopes of a hill in a breathtaking rural setting. The vistas are superb, especially from the terrace near the castle ruins. You can admire the expanse of Provençal countryside all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.
This village has a beautiful 16th-century church, the Chapelle Saint-François-de-Paule, at the Place de la Liberté. A statue commemorates the beneficent deeds of Saint Francis of Paula during the plague of 1481.
Also of interest are the Tour de l'Horloge clock tower and the Church of Saint-Trophime, which both date to the 18th century. Below the church is the oldest part of the village, with steep narrow streets known as "rompi-cuou" ("breakneck"). This type of cobblestone pedestrian lane is a common characteristic of Provençal medieval hilltop towns.
Bormes-les-Mimosas is also famous for its flowers, especially the fragrant mimosa blossoms that flourish throughout the village. The town celebrates the arrival of mimosa blooms in February with a lively festival, Le Corso Fleuri, which features a parade of floats made from fresh flowers.
Bormes-les-Mimosas lies 38 kilometers from Toulon and just two kilometers from Le Lavandou.
This quiet country village offers an escape from the crowds. A bit off the beaten path, Signes is surrounded by olive groves and fruit orchards. Charming pedestrian streets invite a leisurely stroll, while the peaceful ambience allows you to relax and enjoy the moment.
The village has a beautiful historic chapel at the Place Saint-Jean. Inside the chapel are pictures, votive tablets, and penitents' garments. The Place Saint-Jean also features an 18th-century fountain.
Another interesting sight is the Church of Saint-Pierre, with its 16th-century belfry and an exquisite wooden altar.
Signes is about 30 kilometers north of Toulon.
14. Jazz à Toulon in July
Held in mid-July, this lively summer festival animates Toulon with a series of free jazz concerts held in public squares throughout the city. The Jazz à Toulon festival provides a stage for renowned jazz performers, including local and international musicians.
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The Charm of Provence: Located in the South of France, where the regions of Provence and the Var meet, Toulon is surrounded by vibrant countryside. The spectacular coastline gives way to rolling hills dotted with enchanting hilltop towns. If you're spending more time in the area, it's worth visiting Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.
Highlights of the Côte d'Azur: The gorgeous beaches and glamorous seaside enclaves of the French Riviera are also within easy reach (1.5 hours away) by car or train. From Toulon, you can begin exploring the Côte d'Azur at Saint-Tropez, about 70 kilometers away, and continue to the legendary resort of Cannes, about 125 kilometers away.