14 Top-Rated Attractions & Things to Do in Toulon
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Toulon centers around its picturesque port, which is sheltered by the steep hillsides of the Faron Mountains. The Bay of Toulon is a beautiful natural harbor with multiple ports that provide berthing for a variety of watercraft, from small fishing boats to fashionable yachts and cruise ships. Along the scenic waterfront, palm-fringed sidewalks are lined with boutiques and the terraces of bustling brasseries.
The city of Toulon combines the ambience 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. Toulon is also one of the best places to visit in Provence to experience the region's douceur de vivre (sweet life) and to visit traditional Provençal markets.
Tourists can soak up the sunny South of France lifestyle on leisurely seaside strolls, by relaxing at outdoor cafés and basking on the beach. For an even more blissful experience, travelers can take a ferry from the Toulon port to the Île de Porquerolles, a dreamy island prized for its sublime sandy beaches and gentle turquoise waters.
There are so many wonderful things to do and places to see in Toulon. Make the most of your visit by using our guide to the city's top attractions.
See also: Where to Stay in Toulon
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
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.
Tourists 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, visitors 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 fishermen's houses painted in an array of vibrant colors. On the Rue Lamalgue are many boutiques and gourmet restaurants. The Mourillon quarter also has lovely sandy beaches, ideal for families; the beaches feature sporting activities 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. From April through October, Les Petits Trains de Toulon offer sightseeing tours in Le Mourillon. The "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 harbor, pleasant waterfront sidewalks are lined with boutiques and restaurants featuring outdoor terraces. Visitors will enjoy a leisurely quayside stroll to soak up the scenery.
Toulon is an important military base and a 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, tourists 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 to Italy's Sardinia.
3. Mont Faron
The most dominating landmark 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, visitors are awed by the sweeping views overlooking the five Mounts of Toulon, the sea, and the coastline. Other attractions and things to do include the picnic areas, two restaurants, footpaths for walking and hiking, and visiting the Musée Mémorial du Débarquement (Allied Landings Museum).
Address: Téléphérique (cable car) starting point is at Boulevard Amiral Vence (bus #40 téléphérique stop).
4. Musée Mémorial du Débarquement (Allied Landings Museum)
The Musée Mémorial du Débarquement is 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.
Housed in a martial building, the Allied Landings Museum displays a collection of artifacts and documentation, weapons, and articles of equipment related to the landing of the Allied Forces from 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 was designed 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 Toulon Opera House was constructed in 1862 with the help of many local artists to create the decorations. The southern facade is adorned with allegorical statues of Tragedy and Comedy that were sculpted by Joseph Daumas, while the northern facade depicts the Muses created by Montagne.
The lavish red and gold interior exemplifies Napoleon III style and features many paintings, beautiful chandeliers, and bronzed loge seating. With its gorgeous design details and exceptional acoustics, the Opera House provides an exquisite venue for opera and symphony performances as well as music festival concerts.
Tourists can admire the interior by attending a performance or special events 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)
The Musée National de la Marine presents the history of Toulon's military port and is fittingly located right at the Arsenal de Toulon. The Naval Museum houses 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. The most famous is the market held on the Cours Lafayette. A visit to the market gives tourists a taste of the typical daily life in Toulon.
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 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 Historical Monument 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.
The cathedral's bell tower dates to the 1740s. The typically Provençal structure features a unique bell and ringing contraption crafted from wrought iron.
The cathedral features a blend of architectural elements. Even with the mix of styles, there is still a sense of harmony in its single-vault Gothic interior.
When touring the cathedral, visitors should 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 (Classical Music Festival)
The Festival de Musique de Toulon is a prestigious music festival held at different venues in Toulon and nearby. The program of festival concerts runs for most of the year, beginning in August and continuing through the fall, winter, and spring until early June.
Many of the venues are in historic buildings, such as the Opéra de Toulon auditorium, the Cathédrale Sainte-Marie-de-la-Seds, and the Théâtre de Verdure du Faron in Toulon, the Collégiale Saint-Pierre in the seaside village of Six Fours Les Plages, and the Tour Royale in the Mourillon quarter.
The festival offers a range of classical music performances from Beethoven operas to Mozart orchestra concerts. 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.
Address: Ticket Office - Place Louis Blanc, Toulon
10. Île de Porquerolles
A perfect day trip from Toulon, the Île de Porquerolles is the largest of the Îles d'Or (Golden Islands) in the serene Mediterranean Sea, about an hour ferry ride from the Port of Toulon. This idyllic island offers a relaxing change of pace from the glitzy Côte d'Azur.
In a magnificent unspoiled setting, the island has pristine protected coves and tiny beaches. It's the ideal resort destination with pleasant weather and sunshine year-round.
The island is an interesting place to try out snorkeling and other outdoor activities. Well-groomed trails shaded by pine and eucalyptus trees are wonderful for nature walks, hiking, and mountain biking. Despite its remote feel, the island offers upscale restaurants and a lively jazz festival in July.
11. Le Lavandou
In a beautiful location at the foot of the Massif des Maures on a broad bay, Le Lavandou enjoys a gorgeous seaside setting. Lavender fields bloom here in season.
Le Lavandou is an easy day trip from Toulon, about 40 kilometers to the east. This former fishing village is now popular as a summertime holiday resort. Its harbor is filled with yachts, and ferries depart from here for the Îles d'Or (Îles de Hyères).
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 extends out into the sea with a lighthouse at its tip. The Road N559 running east from Le Lavandou leads to more sandy beaches interspersed with rocky stretches.
The charming medieval village of Bormes-les-Mimosas lies 38 kilometers from Toulon and just two kilometers from Le Lavandou. In a picturesque rural setting, the village hugs the slopes of a hill and boasts exceptional views (especially from the terrace near the castle ruins).
The 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 is 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 lanes 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.
Surrounded by verdant countryside known for its olive groves and fruit orchards, the quiet village of Signes lies about 30 kilometers north of Toulon.
The village is a wonderful place to spend an afternoon wandering around its charming old streets. 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.
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 festival provides a stage for renowned jazz performers, including local and international musicians.
Where to Stay in Toulon for Sightseeing
Most of Toulon's hotels lie between the port and the Old Town, and this is the best place to stay for sightseeing. From here, visitors have easy access to attractions like l'Opéra de Toulon and Musée de la Marine. For travelers who prefer a seaside location near the beach, Le Mourillon quarter or the town of La Seyne-sur-Mer (about six kilometers away) are good options. Here are some highly rated hotels in these convenient locations:
- Overlooking the fishing port in Le Mourillon quarter, the four-star Best Western Plus Hotel La Corniche is a short walk to the beach and near many restaurants. The bright, spacious guest rooms feature minimalistic decor. Some rooms have balconies with sea views. This hotel has earned the European Eco-label certification.
- The beachfront Grand Hotel des Sablettes Plage, Curio Collection by Hilton is a historic resort property in La Seyne-sur-Mer, just a 15-minute drive from Toulon. The four-star hotel is steps away from a large sandy beach and has rooms with stunning sea views. Amenities include three restaurants, a fitness center, spa, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools.
- A short stroll from l'Opéra de Toulon, the Hôtel Amirauté occupies a renovated 19th-century building. Guest rooms feature warm contemporary-style decor. The triple rooms and suites are designed to accommodate families. This three-star hotel offers a 24-hour front desk and concierge services.
- Near the Gare de Toulon train station, The Originals Boutique - Grand Hôtel de la Gare provides spacious guest rooms decorated in a bright, cheerful style. Guest rooms are soundproofed and outfitted with modern amenities, like coffee makers and flat-screen televisions. This three-star hotel has a 24-hour front desk and concierge services.
- The Grand Hôtel Dauphiné is in the Old Town near the Opera House and a short walk from the Port of Toulon. This three-star hotel offers stylish modern guest rooms at an affordable price. The hotel's rooftop sundeck has a swimming pool and fabulous city views.
- Near the Musée d'Art de Toulon and a short walk to the Arsenal de Toulon, the four-star Holiday Inn Toulon City Centre offers comfortable guest rooms with amenities including coffee machines and flat-screen televisions. The hotel has a restaurant that serves traditional French cuisine, a fitness center, and a garden courtyard with an outdoor swimming pool.
- The ibis budget Toulon Centre provides basic accommodations at reasonable rates. The modern guest rooms feature colorful decor accents and include air-conditioning, as well as Wi-Fi. Some rooms accommodate families. This two-star hotel offers a 24-hour front reception desk and a breakfast buffet for an additional fee.
- Surprisingly refined for budget accommodations, the charming Hôtel Bonaparte occupies a historic building that was once the residence of Napoléon Bonaparte. Tourists will appreciate the location in the heart of Toulon, near the Arsenal de Toulon and the Musée National de la Marine. The hotel has been recently renovated with soundproofed rooms.
- Steps away from the Arsenal de Toulon, the Hôtel Le Jaurès offers a convenient central location and superb views of the Bay of Toulon. Guest rooms are simple yet sufficient, and the value is exceptional for a hotel in the center of Toulon. Amenities include free Wi-Fi and breakfast service for an additional charge.
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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.