Toulon - home to the French Mediterranean fleet
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Toulon is a historic French city on the Mediterranean coast, about 40 miles southeast of Marseilles. It is the most important naval base in France, and is home to the French Mediterranean fleet. It is also a ferry port with services to Corsica and to Sardinia.
Toulon and vicinity
The anchorage of Toulon is one of the best protected natural harbours on the Mediterranean.
Toulon has been a port city since Roman times. The Romans called the settlement Telo Martius, a name that with time turned into the modern name Toulon.
Toulon became a naval port at the end of the 15th century shortly after the death of King René of Provence, when Provence became part of France. From then on, it played a capital role in French naval campaigns in the Mediterranean . As an important military base, the city had its fortifications rebuilt and strengthened by Vauban in the seventeenth century.
For two years during the Napoleonic wars, the port of Toulon was blockaded by Nelson and a British fleet. During the second world war, the French Mediterranean fleet was scuttled in the anchorage of Toulon, to prevent it from falling into German hands; later the the naval area and much of the city nearby was subjected to intense Allied bombardment.
Today, other than for activities relating to the naval dockyards, Toulon is no longer an industrial city; as capital of the Var department, which encompasses a good part of the French Riviera, it is an administrative centre, with a university set up in the 1970s.
The Toulon suburbs of Six Fours les Plages and Saint Mandrier, both accessible by city buses, have some attractive coastline and small beaches. The nearest beaches to the centre of Toulon are located a mile south of the city centre, at Le Mourillon, and can also be reached by bus.
Tourist attractions in Toulon
Compared to other coastal towns and cities in the Var department, Toulon is not considered as a tourist city. However it has its share of historic monuments and other tourist attractions. These include notably
- The old town. Old Toulon is a typical Mediterranean city, with narrow streets and attractive squares and fountains.It has been considerably renovated in recent decades.
- The port and quayside. Boat trips round the port and anchorage.
- Téléphérique du Mont Faron. Just a mile from the old city, take a cable car to the top of Mont Faron, 584 metres above sea level. One of the only coastal cable cars in Europe. Views from the top are stupendous. It is also possible to drive nearly to the top of the mountain. However the zoo gets a lot of poor reviews.
- Naval museum. On the quayside, Avenue de la République. French national museum of naval history
- Le Mourillon - due south of the city centre. Small fishing port, 17th century Fort St. Louis, and sandy beaches.
Places to visit near Toulon
Toulon is for many tourists a departure point for the ferry to Corsica or Sardinia; but there are plenty of tourist attractions nearby.
Cassis and the Calanques
Cassis and the Calanques
- The French Riviera - stretching for 100 miles northeast from Toulon, the Riviera is the most famous part of Mediterranean coastline in Europe, with small and large resorts, including Saint-Raphaël, Saint Tropez, Juan les Pins, Antibes, Cannes and onwards to Nice. Many resorts can be reached by local train from Toulon, since the railway follows the coast for much of the way to Nice.
- Les Calanques and Cassis - to the west of Toulon. Dramatic cliffs overlooking the Mediterranean, with narrow inlets. France's newest National Park.
- Port Cros National Park - France's only marine national park, covering the islands of Port Cros and Porquerolles and the sea around them. Access by boat from Port Saint Pierre in Hyères, or from Le Lavandou. No vehicles.
- Marseilles - 50 km west of Toulon. Museums, old port, cathedral
- The Var department, inland. Discover the wild countryside of the Var, away from the coast. Pine forests, vineyards, olive groves, and small towns and villages.
Location and access
- By air Toulon airport is served by a few low-cost flights from the UK. The nearest major airport, with connections to many UK airports, is Marseille-Provence. For details see Fly to France.
- By train Toulon is accessible by direct high speed train services from Paris and many other French cities. Timetables and tickets
car Driving from Calais to Toulon :
Distance (via Reims and Lyon) 1135 km. Driving time - around
Driving from Paris to Toulon; 850 km, via A6 and Lyon. Time around 8½ hours.
- By Ferry. Direct ferries from Corsica and Sardinia.
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Cablecar to Mont Faron
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Cablecar photo by M. Specht
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