Between Nice and Marseille, the question often arises, what to do in Toulon? Since December 2017 I have moved to the Var in Toulon, a golden opportunity for me to discover a beautiful and surprised region while feeling in my element. For Yes, even if I grew up in the Vosges, my parents are from Nîmes, I have always grown up in the Provençal culture. So it was not a total displacement, whether for cooking, warmth, language…
So I finally took the time to discover and show you the most beautiful nooks and crannies of Toulon! And above all to tell you about this city often forgotten and neglected among its famous neighbors, Marseille, Nice, Antibes, Monaco, Hyères …
You have to know that Toulon is located on a TGV line and that the station is in the city centre, rather convenient. This makes it possible to reach Paris in 3:40 and Lyon in 2:30. A large network of buses allows to travel on a large part of the coast, because yes, in the south the car parks are very expensive…
And yet! The history of Toulon begins before the 4th century, before the Roman invasions. On these lands, a native people made a cult to Telo, goddess of the gushing sources. In the 2nd century, Telo Martius has about 4000 inhabitants who live mainly from the vine and the dye. The history of Toulon is closely linked to its Port, as soon as the Provence is attached to France, the city becomes a major place of naval construction and houses military fleets. Vauban fortifies the city and Toulon is then with Brest the only French port capable of hosting the great warships. Heavily bombarded during the Second World War following a mutiny by sailors who refuse to follow the Vichy regime, the lower part of the old town becomes a particularly poorly notorious place and will be dubbed “the Little Chicago”. Reputation which, unfortunately, always sticks to the skin…
For several years already the face of the city has changed dramatically. Renovation, better desert of roads and transport, diversity of the events proposed… Through this article I will do my best to show you what Toulon looks like today and the pretty places it reserves.
Toulon, the place of freedom …
Like many of the city of Provence, Toulon has several pretty squares, more or less small and more or less hidden. Here are the two largest and best known, the place Victor Hugo called also place of the opera, which as its name implies, is dominated by the very beautiful opera of Toulon. A great place to have a little drink.
Not far from there is the place of liberty in the center of which sits a great fountain. All around, many very nice restaurant!
The square as for it regularly hosts concerts which makes it a relatively popular place. Right next to this place you will find a nice bar called the black brown or beer is good and the wraps are veggie! The place of the Globe is also a very nice place to spend a good evening away from the hustle and bustle of the harbor.
Toulon city centre
Partly in the middle of a renovation, the city centre is still changing its face for the better. The Rue des Arts is the perfect example! Still a few years back the neighborhood was a real cutthroat, today the street proudly celebrates its 1yr. In the midst of galleries, artists ‘ workshops, ceramists, I had a real favorite for a shop called the Little Biscuit. This biscuit and deli will offer you a lot of local products (wines, teas, beers, fruit juices etc), but especially sweet and savoury biscuits for all tastes. Romain, the owner and pastry chef will welcome you and advise you.
Besides the fact that its biscuits are excellent, it also offers a gluten-free range and that is particularly appreciable.
My second culinary coup is for a small tea room called Dégus’thé. The owner, who is also called Manon, will delight you with her lasagna, her quiches, but also with the delicious cakes and pastries she prepares every day. I confess to having a real heart for its carrot cake and all the organic teas it offers.
Vegetarian and greedy friends of all kinds, I can only advise you to stop at feel food. Thomas and Morgane, the owners, compete with inventiveness to offer you a new card every two weeks! A seasonal cuisine, healthy, generous… What more could you ask for?
Among the other restaurants and snacks that I recommend in the city center there is the head to toto, the heads of garlic, the bistro du boucan, the organic canteen, the Queen of pies, the Café Liberté, Gaetano…
What to do with the family? The port and the Arsenal
Toulon and the sea its closely linked since always, the port is a very nice place where those who work in town come to eat lunch, sitting on the steps, facing the sea. Besides the possibility of admiring beautiful boats coming and going the Port is mainly home to the famous aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle as well as the diksmuide. Without being passionate about history or ships, it remains very impressive to see this legendary aircraft carrier.
It is also on the port that you can take the bus boats that will take you to Saint-Mandrier, the Seyne-Sur-mer or the Sablettes for my modest sums of 2euro, rather nice right?
What to do in Toulon when it rains? Museums!
Like most cities, Toulon has its museum of fine Arts. Only it will still take a little patience before seeing it opened again as it is under renovation until November 2019. And yes, the city is in complete renovation! In the meantime, we can always admire the façade.
The Naval Museum is located right next to the military buildings at the end of the harbour. Free for the less 26ans, it allows to better understand the history between Toulon and the sea while crossing the history of the Navy in general.
You will also find other museums such as the Var departmental museum, the Var departmental hotel and the house of photography.
The Mourillon, the Mitre, the Brown Cape
Although the beaches of the Mourillon are the best known, they are far from the only beaches of Toulon, on the contrary! Many other places are full of charm, but here is a glimpse of these beaches where you can eat a bit facing the sea.
Within walking distance from the city centre the beaches of the Mitre are old military beaches recovered by the city. Located between the Royal Tower and the Mourillon, they are easily accessible, at least in part. Because to access the coves they will have to jump from rock to rock along the coast for a hundred meters. Two staircases in the rock will allow you to access its magical places. Take all the same guard at your feet as the bottom of the water is made of pebbles. It is also important to know that coves are not supervised bathing areas.
Cape Brun is best known for the pretty chapel of Notre-Dame de Falcon overlooking the sea. A small corner allows the most daring to indulge in dives, to practice paddle, kayak, or simply to bathe in a water of a mesmerizing blue.
Within walking distance from the chapel, Anse Méjean and Anse Ma will be a delightful surprise and a total displacement. Halfway between Greece and Italy, this little corner of paradise will delight the lovers of the Mediterranean. However, it is difficult to park nearby, you will have to walk to enjoy this place! Little Tip, a pizzeria book directly on the beach, from memory it comes to Cabana Pizza!
Mont Faron dominates Toulon, montage for some, Hill for others, it offers an exceptional point of view on Toulon, its Port and its harbor. Accessible by foot or by car, you can enjoy very pleasant roads and trails. An unusual anecdote, the road is one-way, you will not be able to go down and climb on the same side. Think of stopping at the orientation table as you ascend, it offers a splendid viewpoint. If you choose to walk, be brave, you have almost two hours of ascension. For those who do not want to walk or take their cars, there is an alternative: the cable car. Besides its little vintage and cool side, it offers a remarkable point of view on the city.
At the top you will find the memorial of the landing of Provence, numerous hiking trails, as well as several restaurants and a small zoo.
I confess that I do not really know the best hotels and the good plans to stay because I live in the city center, but I would not fail to complete this article at the slightest opportunity!
There are so many other places I don’t know yet! Every week that passes gives me new things to see, restaurant to try, coves to discover…
I hope this article will convince you of the qualities of this beautiful region and the potential of this city. So, you coming?