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Toulon is a city in southern France and a large military harbour on the Mediterranean coast, with a major French naval base. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte-d'Azur region, Toulon is the capital of the Vardepartment.
The Commune of Toulon has a population of 165,514 people (2009), making it the fifteenth-largest city in France. It is the centre of an urban area with 559,421 inhabitants (2008), the ninth largest in France. Toulon is the fourth-largest French city on the Mediterranean coast after Marseille, Nice and Montpellier.
Toulon is an important centre for naval construction, fishing, wine making, and the manufacture of aeronautical equipment, armaments, maps, paper, tobacco, printing, shoes, and electronic equipment.
The military port of Toulon is the major naval centre on France's Mediterranean coast, home of the French Navy aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle and her battle group. The French Mediterranean Fleet is based in Toulon.
|TIME ZONE :||• Time zone CET (UTC+1)
• Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
|AREA :||42.84 km2 (16.54 sq mi)|
|ELEVATION :|| 0–589 m (0–1,932 ft)
(avg. 1 m or 3.3 ft)
|COORDINATES :||43°08′N 5°55′E|
|SEX RATIO :||• Male: 48.40%
• Female: 51.60%
|AREA CODE :||4|
|POSTAL CODE :||83137 / 83000|
|DIALING CODE :||+33 4|
Toulon is a medium-sized city (15th town of France) between Marseille and Nice. It is in the west of French Riviera and in the southeast of Provence.
The Old Town
The old town of Toulon, the historic centre located between the port, the Boulevard de Strasbourg and the Cours Lafayette, is a pedestrian area with narrow streets, small squares and many fountains. Toulon Cathedral is located here. The area is also home of the celebrated Provençal market which takes place every morning on the Cours Lafayette, which features local products. The old town had decayed in the 1980s and 1990s, but recently many of the fountains and squares have been restored, and many new shops have opened.
The Old Town of Toulon is known for its fountains, found in many of the small squares, each with a different character. The original system of fountains was built in the late 17th century; most were rebuilt in the eighteenth or early 19th century, and have recently been restored.
The Upper Town of Baron Haussmann
The upper town, between the Boulevard de Strasbourg and the railway station, was built in the mid-19th-century under Louis Napoleon. The project was begun by Baron Haussmann, who was prefect of the Var in 1849. Improvements to the neighbourhood included the Toulon Opera, the Place de la Liberté, the Grand Hôtel, the Gardens of Alexander I, the Chalucet Hospital, the palais de Justice, the train station, and the building now occupied by Galeries Lafayette, among others. Haussmann went on to use the same style on a much grander scale in the rebuilding of central Paris.
The Harbour and Arsenal
Toulon harbour is one of the best natural anchorages on the Mediterranean, and one of the largest harbours in Europe. A naval arsenal and shipyard was built in 1599, and small sheltered harbour, the Veille Darse, was built in 1604–1610 to protect ships from the wind and sea. The shipyard was greatly enlarged by Cardinal Richelieu, who wished to make France into a Mediterranean naval power. Further additions were made by Jean-Baptiste Colbert and Vauban.
Le Mourillon is a small seaside neighbourhood to the east of Toulon, near the entrance of the harbour. It was once a fishing village, and then became the home of many of the officers of the French fleet. Mourillon has a small fishing port, next to a 16th-century fort, Fort Saint Louis, which was reconstructed by Vauban. In the 1970s the city of Toulon built a series of sheltered sandy beaches in Mourillon, which today are very popular with the Toulonais and with naval families. The Museum of Asian Art is located in a house on the waterfront near Fort St. Louis.
Mount Faron (584 metres (1,916 feet)) dominates the city of Toulon. The top can be reached either by a cable car from Toulon, or by a narrow and terrifying road which ascends from the west side and descends on the east side. The road is one of the most challenging stages of the annual Paris–Nice and Tour Méditerranéen bicycle races.
At the top of Mount Faron is a memorial dedicated to the 1944 Allied landings in Provence (Operation Dragoon), and to the liberation of Toulon.
Beginning in 1678, Vauban constructed an elaborate system of fortifications around Toulon. Some parts, such as the section that once ran along the present-day Boulevard de Strasbourg, were removed in the mid-19th-century, so the city could be enlarged, but other parts remain. One part that can be visited is the Porte d'Italie, one of the old city gates. Napoleon Bonaparte departed on his triumphant Italian campaign from this gate in 1796.
- Office de Tourisme (Tourist Office), 12 place Louis Blanc, , e-mail:[email protected]. April - October: Mon-Sat 9:00-18:00, Sun and holidays: 10:00-12:00; November - March: 9:00-17:00, Sun and holidays: 10:00-12:00.
- Tourist information counter (in the lounge of the train station, next to the information point). Mon-Sat 09:00-13:00, 14:00-17:00.
Prehistory to the Roman era
Archaeological excavations, such as those at the Cosquer Cave near Marseilles, show that the coast of Provence was inhabited since at least the Paleolithic era. Greek colonists came from Asia Minor in about the 7th century BC and established trading depots along the coast, including one, called Olbia, at Saint-Pierre de l'Almanarre south of Hyères, to the east of Toulon. The Ligurians settled in the area beginning in the 4th century BC.
In the 2nd century BC, the residents of Massalia (present-day Marseilles) called upon the Romans to help them pacify the region. The Romans defeated the Ligurians and began to start their own colonies along the coast. A Roman settlement was founded at the present location of Toulon, with the name Telo Martius – Telo, either for the goddess of springs or from the Latin tol, the base of the hill – and Martius, for the god of war. Telo Martius became one of the two principal Roman dye manufacturing centres, producing the purple colour used in imperial robes, made from the local sea snail called murex, and from the acorns of the oak trees. Toulon harbour became a shelter for trading ships, and the name of the town gradually changed from Telo to Tholon, Tolon, and Toulon.
Arrival of Christianity and the Counts of Provence
Toulon was Christianized in the 5th century, and the first cathedral built.Honoratus and Gratianus of Toulon (Gratien), according to the Gallia Christiana, were the first bishops of Toulon, but Louis Duchesne givesAugustalis as the first historical bishop. He assisted at councils in 441 and 442 and signed in 449 and 450 the letters addressed to Pope Leo I from the province of Arles.
A Saint Cyprian, disciple and biographer of St. Cæsarius of Arles, is also mentioned as a Bishop of Toulon. His episcopate, begun in 524, had not come to an end in 541; he converted to Catholicism two Visigothic chiefs, Mandrier and Flavian, who became anchorites and martyrs on the peninsula of Mandrier. In 1095, a new cathedral was built in the city by Count Gilbert ofProvence. As barbarians invaded the region and Roman power crumbled, the town was frequently attacked by pirates and the Saracens.
Royal Port (15th–18th centuries)
In 1486 Provence became part of France. Soon afterwards, in 1494,Charles VIII of France, with the intention of making France a sea power on the Mediterranean, and to support his military campaign in Italy, began constructing a military port at the harbor of Toulon. His Italian campaign failed, and 1497, the rulers of Genoa, who controlled commerce on that part of the Mediterranean, blockaded the new port.
In 1524, as part of his longtime battle against Emperor Charles V and the Holy Roman Empire, King François I of France completed a powerful new fort, the Tour Royale, Toulon, at the entrance of the harbour. However, a few months later the commander of the new fort sold it to the commander of an Army of the Holy Roman Empire, and Toulon surrendered.
In 1543, Francis I found a surprising new ally in his battle against the Holy Roman Empire. He invited the fleet of Ottoman Admiral Barbarossa to Toulon as part of the Franco-Ottoman alliance. The residents were forced to leave, and the Ottoman sailors occupied the town for the winter. See Ottoman occupation of Toulon.
In 1646, a fleet was gathered in Toulon for the major Battle of Orbetello, also known as the Battle of Isola del Giglio, commanded by France's first Grand Admiral, the young Grand Admiral Marquis of Brézé, Jean Armand de Maillé-Bréze of 36 galleons, 20 galleys, and a large complement of minor vessels. This fleet carried aboard an army of 8,000 infantry and 800 cavalry and its baggage under Thomas of Savoy, shortly before a general in Spanish service.
King Louis XIV was determined to make France a major sea power. In 1660, his Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert ordered Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban to build a new arsenal and to fortify the town. In 1707, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Toulon successfully resisted a siege by the Imperial Army led by Duke Victor Amadeus II of Sardinia of Savoy and Prince Eugene. However, in 1720, the city was ravaged by the black plague, coming from Marseilles. Thirteen thousand people, or half the population, died.
In 1790, following the French Revolution, Toulon became the administrative centre of the département of the Var. The leaders of the city, however, were largely royalists, and they welcomed the arrival of a British fleet. At the siege of Toulon, the British were expelled by a French force whose artillery was led by a young captain, Napoleon Bonaparte. To punish Toulon for its rebellion, the town lost its status as department capital and was briefly renamed Port-de-la-Montagne.
During the Napoleonic Wars, from 1803 until 1805 a British fleet led by Admiral Horatio Nelson blockaded Toulon.
In 1820, the statue which became known as the Venus de Milo was discovered on the Greek island of Milo and seen by a French naval officer, Emile Voutier. He persuaded the French Ambassador to Turkey to buy it, and brought it to Toulon on his ship, the Estafette. From Toulon it was taken to the Louvre.
In 1820 Toulon became the base for the conquest of France's colonies in North Africa. In 1820 a French fleet with an army departed from Toulon for the conquest of Algeria.
1849, during the brief Second French Republic, Baron Haussmann was named Prefect of the Var. During his year as prefect, he began a major reconstruction of the city, similar to what he would later do in Paris. He tore down large parts of the old fortifications and built new boulevards and squares. The new Toulon Opera House, the second-largest in France, opened in 1862.
In 1867, on the orders of Napoleon III General François Achille Bazainearrived in Toulon without an official welcome after abandoning the Mexican military campaign and Emperor Maximilian I of Mexico.
During World War II, after the Allied landings in North Africa (Operation Torch) the German Army occupied southern France (Case Anton), leading to the scuttling of the French Fleet at Toulon (27 November 1942). The city was bombed by the Allies in November of the following year, with much of the port destroyed and five hundred residents killed. Toulon was liberated by the Free French Forces of General Jean de Lattre de Tassigny on 28 August 1944 in the Battle of Toulon.
In 1974 Toulon became again the préfecture, or administrative centre, of the Var. Five years later the University of Toulon opened. Toulon was one of four French cities where the extreme-right Front National won the local elections in 1995. The Front National was voted out of power in 2001.
Climate is typical of the South of France. The summers are relatively hot, with temperatures usually higher than 30 °C. June is a hot month but a sudden storm may occur every once in a while . July usually features hot temperatures and blue sky. August may be even hotter, but storms may begin to occur especially after the 15th of the month. Autumns are rainy. Storms *will* occur. Winters are dry. Temperatures don't usually drop sharply under 0 °C, but the wind factor causes a loss in Celsius degrees equal to one less degree per 10 km wind speed, thus with a wind blowing at 50 km/H O°C will feel like minus 5°C.
Unlike many other towns of France, there is no a big river which crosses this city. As a matter of fact, there are no big rivers in the whole department of Var. A few smaller ones in the city are: Rivière neuve, Le Las, L'Égoutyer also known as Rivière des amoureux (lover's river for a no apparent reason). All the other rivers are in tunnels under the town, and not visible.
Climate data for Toulon
|Record high °C (°F)||23.0
|Average high °C (°F)||12.9
|Daily mean °C (°F)||9.3
|Average low °C (°F)||5.6
|Record low °C (°F)||−7.2
|Source #1: Meteo climat|
|Source #2: Infoclimat.fr|
The economy relies on the presence of a big French naval base that creates thousands of direct and indirect jobs. Tourism is also important. the town has up to 167,400 tourists every year.
Prices in Toulon
MARKET / SUPERMARKET
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€1.50|
|Bottle of Wine||1 bottle||€5.00|
|Dinner (Low-range)||for 2||€30.00|
|Dinner (Mid-range)||for 2||€45.00|
|Dinner (High-range)||for 2||€60.00|
|Mac Meal or similar||1 meal||€7.50|
|Beer (Imported)||0.33 l||€4.00|
|Beer (domestic)||0.5 l||€4.00|
|Coctail drink||1 drink||€7.00|
|Men’s Haircut||1 haircut||€|
|Mobile (prepaid)||1 min.||€0.22|
|Pack of Marlboro||1 pack||€7.00|
|Toilet paper||4 rolls||€2.45|
CLOTHES / SHOES
|Jeans (Levis 501 or similar)||1||€78.00|
|Dress summer (Zara, H&M)||1||€37.00|
|Sport shoes (Nike, Adidas)||1||€84.00|
|Local Transport||1 ticket||€1.40|
70 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- meals in cheap restaurant
- public transport
- cheap hotel
212 € per day
Estimated cost per 1 day including:
- mid-range meals and drinks
Transportation - Get In
- Toulon-Hyères regional airport (18 km East of Toulon), , fax: . The airport mostly server the flights to other French cities. A bus runs from the train station to the airport 4 times a day (€1.40). The last bus leaves for the airport at 7:30PM. If you arrive on a late night flight into the airport, you'd need to take a taxi (around €60 to Toulon).
Other airports are Marseille-Provence (100 km west of Toulon), and Nice-Côte d'Azur (150 km east of Toulon).
There are two roads drive to Toulon from Toulon-Hyères airport. Either you follow the highway (free, fast, but not very interesting) (French: Toulon par autoroute) or you choose the road that follows the coast (French: Toulon par la côte). It may take a longer time, but this is nicer and on rush hour you may avoid traffic jam on the highway.
Cityjet offers a direct flight from London to Toulon.
- Gare de Toulon (railway station), Place de l'Europe, 3635. 04:30 - 00:00. Hourly links to Marseille (45 min, €9.60 full price one-way ticket), regular links to Nice (1h30).
The main roads are from east to west (and the opposite). There are highways from Nice (A57) and Marseille (A50). You'll have to pay a toll to go outside the suburbs of the town on these highways.
Toulon is a large harbour and offers several ferries to the ports in Corsica:Ajaccio, Bastia and L'Île-Rousse. Among the international routes there is a service to Civitavecchia (close to Rome). An advance booking is advised in all cases.
Transportation - Get Around
Metropolitan bus and ferry network is operated by Réseau Mistral.
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The town features several beaches just south of the Mourillon quarter. They were set up in the 1950s to develop tourism. More beautiful beaches may be found elsewhere on the coast. In any location, you should be prepared to crowd on the beach. The beaches of Toulon are associated to a park with entertainment for children of all ages. At the east of the town, the Cap Brun and Anse Magaud beaches are more isolated, far less crowded, but more difficult to reach (need to climb a little).
- Les Sablettes in la Seyne sur Mer.
- L'Argentière, in the town of La Londe-les-Maures (30 km east of Toulon).
- La Capte, near Hyères (15 km east of Toulon). The bottom is of pure sand (no seaweed) and the depth increases very very slowly.
- St Cyr sur Mer some 20 km west of Toulon features a long sandy beach, perfect for families and kitesurfers. There too the seabed drops rather slowly, enabling one to reach way out into the water.
- Marché de Provence (traditional market), Cours Lafayette. every morning except on Mondays. Perhaps the biggest market in the region. You'll find all local products of the region there.
- Marché des Producteurs (farmers' market), Rue Paul Lendrin (just off Cours Lafayette). Tuesday, Friday and Saturday.
- Le Pascalou, 3 Place À l'Huile, . fish restaurant in the centre
- Brasserie Le Saint Gabriel, 334 Avenue de la République, . provençal cuisine.
- Pizzeria La Flambée, 518 Boulevard Bazeilles, .reasonable prices and good food.
- Le Grand Café de la Rade, 224 Avenue République (in the harbour, facing the statue of the spirit of navigation), . Big coffee shop and restaurant, easy to find. There are really numerous coffee shops and restaurants on the harbour, this is only an example. Mixed reviews.
- Lycée des Métiers de l'Hôtellerie et du Tourisme de Toulon (Toulon's Catering and Tourism School), Rue César Vezzani, . (9h00 - 16h00)lunch Monday to Friday, arrivals 12h00 - 12h30, end 13h45; dinner Tuesday and Thursday, arrivals 19h00 à 19h30, end 22h30; closed during school holidays. This is quite unusual venue, but they have 2 restaurants where their students are practising: Le restaurant Provence with menu imposé (fixed menu, approx €20) and Le restaurant Cote d’Azur with menu a la carte. Great prices and good reviews. There is also Boutique Gourmande (opened 9h-15h) on the ground floor where they sell ready meals, pastries and bakery.
Sights & Landmarks
Vieille Ville (old town) or Basse Ville (lower town) is a historical centre of the city. It is located NE of the harbour. As it was built in the Middle Ages, it's a really a maze of narrow streets. A couple of bigger ones, Rue d'Algerand Cours Lafayette, are bordered by numerous shops and crowded every Saturday.
- Vieux Port. Visit the old harbour and its promenade. The folk of old Provence, the typical accent of locals, and some wooden boats on the still sea (the folk is better in smaller town along the coast, however). Numerous souvenir shops, coffee shops and fish restaurants. Also on the port square, you'll see the statue of the Spirit of navigation pointing at the sea, locally known as "cul vers ville" for its buttocks are turned toward the city.For the record it might interest you to know that the statue was hidden and thought lost, during WWII, until it was found by chance in a local carpenter's shop who returned it to the authorities.
- Place Puget. in the historical center, is the ancient center of the town. There is a fountain built in 1780 with a sculpture of three dolphins, now completely covered by ivy. You'll enjoy staying in the shade of this place, at a coffee shop, during a hot afternoon.
- Cathedral Notre-Dame-de-la-Seds (near Place Puget). (aka Saint Marie de la Seds Cathedral) Built in the XIth century, it has never been finished, but widened in 1738. There are numerous paintings of the XVIIIth Century.
- Tour de l'horloge. (aka Tour Carrée), a monumental clock at the entry of the naval base (at the west of the port), formerly used to ring at the beginning and at the end of the working day.
- near the City Hall). By Louis-Joseph Daumas, erected in 1847. (
- Church of Saint François de Paule.Just between the harbour and the south of Cours Lafeyette. Built in the XVIIIth Century, it is of typical baroque style.
Haute Ville (upper town) is located on the north of the historical center. The most of the buildings and squares there are in splendor of the late XIXth century style. The major part of Haute Ville was built under the guidance of Georges-Eugène Haussmann (aka "Baron Haussmann", who was later called to build Paris).
- Place de la Liberté. (Liberty plaza in English) This is one of the town's main square with a fountain of "Monument de la Fédération", featuring a very idealized start of the journey of the Statue of Liberty from Toulon to New York on the frigate Isere. In winter, a skating rink is put up for children and there's a picturesque Christmas market featuring tasting of several specialties from around France during most of December. However this square may be noisy due to the main boulevard of the town running just along the square.
- Opera of Toulon, place Victor Hugo (100 m east of the Place de la Liberté), .
- The railway station is 100 m northwest of the Place de la Liberté, also of XIXth Century style.
Museums and places of interest
- Musée de la Marine (Naval Museum), place Monsergue (at the entrance of the naval base), . Collections relating the naval history of the town.
- Museum d'Histoire Naturelle(Natural history museum), Boulevard de Strasbourg. An interesting building per se, the museum features wild life collections. The same building also hosts Bibliothèque municipale (Municipal Library).
- La Tour Royale, pointe de la Mitre, . The Tour Royale, one of the numerous forts of Toulon, was built in 1514 by the king Louis XII. Later, it was used as a prison, now opened for visits. It also features a naval exposition.
- The Boat-Museum named La Dives, pointe de la Mitre (+33 4 94 02 06 96), opened May to October. Before being a museum, this boat was dedicated to the transportation of tanks for a landing.
- Take the cable car (French: téléphérique) to go to the Mont-Faron Hill. Téléphérique du Mont-Faron, boulevard Amiral Vence (or bus 40, stop attéléphérique), +33 4 94 92 68 25. It gives direct access to the Memorial Museum of landing in Provence.
- Memorial Museum of landing in Provence (French: Musée-Mémorial du débarquement), top of Mont-Faron, +33 4 94 88 08 09.
- Mont-Faron zoo (French: Zoo du Mont-Faron), +33 4 94 88 07 89. It is a center for wild beast reproduction.
- On the top of the Mont-Faron hill (500 m high), you'll be able to enjoy a birdseye view of the town . If you drive by car, the road is impressive. If you ride up by way of the cable car,the feeling is even more impressive. Several paths allow hikers to walk across the forest and go to/from the museums, the zoo, the cable car, etc.
- Alexandre the 1st Garden (French: Jardin Alexandre Ier), at the west of the Municipal Library, garden opened with entertainment for young children, and a bandstand with casual concerts on Sundays.
- Frédéric Mistral Garden (French: Jardin Frédéric Mistral), cours Frédéric Mistral, garden with collections of exotic species. Newliwed often choose to go there to have their wedding photographs taken, on Saturdays afternoon.
Out of town
Fort de Brégançon — a summer residence of the President of France, which is located near the town of Bormes-les-Mimosas. Now it can be visited by a prior reservation.
Museums & Galleries
Toulon has a number of museums.
The Museum of the French Navy (Musée national de la marine) is located on Place Monsenergue, next on the west side of the old port, a short distance from the Hotel de Ville. The museum was founded in 1814, during the reign of the Emperor Napoleon. It is located today behind what was formerly the monumental gate to the Arsenal of Toulon, built in 1738. The museum building, along with the clock tower next to it, is one of the few buildings of the port and arsenal which survived Allied bombardments during World War II. It contains displays tracing the history of Toulon as a port of the French Navy. Highlights include large 18th-century ship models used to teach seamanship and models of the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle.
The Museum of Old Toulon and its Region (Musée du vieux Toulon et de sa région). The Museum was founded in 1912, and contains a collection of maps, paintings, drawings, models and other artifacts showing the history of the city.
The Museum of Asian Arts (Musée des arts asiatiques), in Mourillon. Located in a house with garden which once belonged to the son and later the grandson of author Jules Verne, the museum contains a small but interesting collection of art objects, many donated by naval officers from the time of the French colonization of Southeast Asia. It includes objects and paintings from India, China, Southeast Asia, Tibet and Japan.
The Museum of Art (Musée d'art) was created in 1888, the museum contains collections of modern and contemporary art, as well as paintings of Provence from the 17th century to the beginning of the 20th century. It owns works by landscape artists of Provence from the late 19th century (Paul Guigou, Auguste Aiguier, Vincent Courdouan, Félix Ziem), and the Fauves of Provence (Charles Camoin, Auguste Chabaud, André Alexandre Verdilhan). The contemporary collections contain works from 1960 to today representing the New Realism Movement (Arman, César, Christo, Klein, Raysse); Minimalist Art (Sol LeWitt, Donald Judd); Support Surface (Cane, Viallat côtoient Arnal, Buren, Chacallis) and an important collection of photographs byHenri Cartier-Bresson, Dieuzaide, Edouard Boubat, Willy Ronis and André Kertész).
The Memorial Museum to the Landings in Provence (Mémorial du débarquement de Provence) is located on the summit of Mount Faron, this small museum, opened in 1964 by President Charles De Gaulle, commemorates the Allied landing in Provence in August 1944 with photos, weapons and models.
The Museum of Natural History of Toulon and the Var (Musée d'histoire naturelle de Toulon et du Var) was founded in 1888, has a large collection of displays about dinosaurs, birds, mammals, and minerals, mostly from the region.
The Hôtel des arts was opened in 1998, presents five exhibits a year of works by well-known contemporary artists. Featured artists have included Sean Scully, Jannis Kounellis, Claude Viallat, Per Kirkeby, and Vik Muniz.
Festivals and events
- Jazz in Toulon, annual music festival.
- On July the 14th, Bastille Day is commemorated with a military march on the main boulevards. During the afternoon, there is usually an aircraft show that will be best seen from the beach and, at midnight, fireworks.
- On August the 15th, fireworks at the Saint Louis fort next to the beaches.
Safety in Toulon
Avoid walking alone at night in the historical center of the town. Or remember to be nice to the people you may meet there. This is the "red" quarter of the town.
- Sainte-Anne hospital, 2 boulevard Sainte-Anne, +33 4 94 09 90 00, fax. +33 4 94 09 92 16.
- Chalucet Hospital, rue Chalucet, +33 4 94 22 77 78.