The beautiful city of Toulon sits in the middle of paradise. Located on a beautiful natural harbor in the Mediterranean, Toulon offers an abundance of culture and is an open door to the Var Provence region, known for its seaside resorts, fine wines, Roman and Medieval architecture, and great climate. To its north and west are medieval Provençal hilltop villages and superb vineyards. To the east lie the glamorous towns, fabled coves, and beaches of the Côte d’Azur, also known as the French Riviera. Everywhere there is the miraculous fusion of sky and sea that forms the essence of Southern France.
The city is best known as a center for the French Navy, beginning in the 15th century and continuing to today. The harbor front fortifications are the most obvious reminders of this legacy. While Toulon has plenty of interest for a day in port, it is also a convenient starting point to explore other highlights of the Riviera, from hill towns like Aix-en-Provence to sleepy Mediterranean villages along the Corniche.
Walk along Toulon’s cobblestone streets, steeped in history, to see its monuments, renowned architecture, and museums. Take the time to explore and you will be rewarded with exquisitely sculpted fountains, medieval streets packed with appealing terrace cafés, and interesting shops. By the waterfront is the old fishing village of Le Mourillon. This historic area is characterized by its narrow lanes and charming small fishermen’s houses painted in an array of vibrant colors. The Mourillon quarter also has lovely sandy beaches where you can take a leisurely seaside stroll and spend time basking on the beach soaking up the sunny South of France lifestyle. A charming tourist train begins a route in Le Mourillon to the beaches and the gardens of the Mourillon and Saint Louis fort.
Toulon’s traditional Provençal street markets are the best place to discover the local delicacies. The most famous is the market held on the Cours Lafayette which is filled with colorful stalls of fruits, vegetables, flowers, and Provençal textiles. A visit to the market gives you a taste of typical daily life in Toulon. In keeping with the whole Provence region of France, Toulon is well-known for its wonderful cuisine and excellent restaurants and cafes, and culinary specialties including tapenade, an aromatic decadent spread, ratatouille, a stew composed of tomatoes, eggplants, onion, zucchini, and bell peppers and bouillabaisse, an authentic seafood dish.
Above the town rises the impressive Mont Faron accessible by the iconic red Téléphérique du Faron (cable car). Rising to an altitude of 584 meters (1,916 ft.), Mont Faron towers over Toulon, and the views are, as you would expect, epic. The cable car is without a doubt the most picturesque way of enjoying the breathtaking panoramic vistas of the Bay of Toulon and the landscape of the Var region. You will be at the top in six minutes and can fall in love with the view! Once you reach the top, visit the Musée Mémorial du Débarquement (Allied Landings Museum) commemorating the liberation of southeast France in August 1944. On display are audiovisual presentations, archival videos, models, and a collection of objects of the landing in Provence.
Drive from Toulon through the lovely Provençal countryside to the charming and ancient town of Aix. Bathed in the light of its special climate, Aix-en-Provence is a city of refined elegance among constantly bustling streets and squares. There is plenty to do in Aix en Provence. Most of it involves meandering around the small streets of the inner city observing the crooked Roman architecture, elegant fountains, and beautiful boutiques, or watching the world go by as you sip on an Aixpresso. Stroll the Cours Mirabeau, one of the city’s avenues shaded by 200-year-old trees. See the elegant façades of the mansions along the Cours, with their wrought-iron balconies and finely carved doorways. View the old Mazarin District begun by Archbishop Michel Mazarin in 1646. Originally inhabited by artisans and separated from other parts of the city, it later attracted the nobility and is noted for its walled gardens. Discover beautiful St. Sauveur Cathedral, with its many different and contrasting architectural styles. This eclectic legacy of building is the result of structural additions and renovations done between the 5th and 18th centuries. Two notable spots are a 12th-century Romanesque nave, where bits of a Roman-era wall were used in a new wall, and the 15th-century Gothic portal.
Ah, Provence! The name conjures up visions of lavender, sunflowers, olive trees, and wine – lots of wine – white, red, and, of course, rosé! Toulon suffers no shortage of wine and wineries. Wine has been made in this region for over 2,600 years, making Provence the oldest wine-producing region of France. To taste the best of the Provence region, you can drive the wine route from Toulon to the wine country of Bandol and Cassis. The Bandol region west of Toulon is one of the more internationally recognized Provençal wine regions and is known for its luscious, velvety reds. Cassis is known for its strong, fresh, and very dry whites, arguably the best white wine in Provence.
This city is tagged as one of the prettiest natural harbors in France and what sets it apart from other destinations in France is that it has unique attractions that will make you feel lucky to experience them. With its beautiful sites, you will surely enjoy your visit here where you can explore and discover. Toulon is one of those cities that each time you visit you discover something new, some hidden gem.
Enjoy visiting the fascinating city of Toulon, France!
Video credit: Vimeo (A Day in Toulon) by @ChrisStanleyHD