Var (83000) Population: 167,619 Altitude: 1 m
Toulon is a Mediterranean seaport town, between Marseille and Saint Tropez. It's interesting, international town with a pretty and active port area; the naval base; a fascinating "old town" with squares, terrace cafés, trompe-l'oeil wall murals; excellent shopping, a modern main-line railway station, and lots of lovely old buildings with wrought-iron balconies.
The veille ville (old town) is large and interesting. It has a combination of Provencal village feeling with some typical seaport-town areas (little "dive" bars and places named after far-away locales). A fair number of oriental fast-food places adds to the exotic touch.
There are nice squares everywhere in the old town, and it's fun to discover them by wandering randomly through the area, rather than navigating by map. In fact, the large square where we ate didn't even appear on the map (at least I couldn't locate it). And the squares aren't just in the old town. The Place de la Liberté, half way between the old town and the railway station is large and open and has a magnificant fountain on a grand scale. There's also a pleasant, open square outside the ramparts at the Porte d'Italie at the east end of town.
Passages. One area of the old town has many covered passages crossing between the long, parallel streets.
Seafront. The seafront along the port is a walking area lined with terrace cafés, souvenir shops, fishing boats, tour boats for excursions of the Rade de Toulon and the islands, yacht harbor and a backdrop of warships of the naval base.
The statue base has nautical bas-reliefs and, with the figure pointing out to sea for the sailors. It was built in 1847 in honor of King Louis-Philippe.
Here in Toulon we found the largest and most elaborate trompe l'oeil wall murals we've ever seen. The Hotel du Port scene is probably the finest that we've seen. It's located at the Square Léon Vérane, a couple of blocks from the port. It's at the edge of a town quarter that was once called Chicago, and depicts nautical scenes, including sailors and prostitutes, ones a staple of that area.
The galleon mural at the Place Vatel is actually 3-dimensional, with the front of the old sailing ship extending out from the wall in larger-than-lifesize stone. The sculpture accurately depicts the 19th-century 80-gun, Royal ship Neptune. The actual ship was decommissioned in Toulon in 1868, and the original figurehead of Neptune is on display in Toulon's Maritime Museum.
The old town is full of terrace cafés, located in the different squares (places) scattered throughout the area. We stopped in the Brasserie Van Gogh for a morning coffee, beside the Place Fulcran Suchet. The service was swift and friendly, and a unique guestbook inside showed that the bistro has an international reputation for the warm welcome. Among the messages and salutations by visitors from all over the world, including many American service men, the book contained some really fine artwork, some that were done over a period of several days.
The terrace cafés at the Gare SNCF (railway station) at the upper end of town are also large, clean and comfortable. We only mention this because the cafés next to the train stations in many places tend to be the lower end of the scale.
Place de la Liberté.
This vast, open square is considered the heart of Toulon, and its heart is linked to New York, USA, through the monumental fountain. This Fontaine de la Fédération in white marble is large, elaborate and beautiful. It was built in 1889, depicting the Statue of Liberty departing Toulon on the frigate Isère for the United States of America.
Port d'Italie. This Medieval fortified gateway into the east side of Toulon [43.121370, 5.936829] was built in 1791 by the famed military engineer Vauban. Bonaparte departed Toulon through this gate on is Italian campaign. It now exits across the Place de Douamont.
Space Mayol is a modern, two-level indoor mall, located at the southeastern corner of the old town (at the eastern end of the port area). We've seen bigger malls, but this isn't bad for the center of a French town. It has a FNAC and a large Carrefour (hypermarché - food and everything else), as well as the typical boutiques.
Old town. Shops galore throughout the old town.
Town Center. Shops along the central streets, more or less between the old town and the railway station.
Suburan Mall. There's a very large shopping complex a few km north of town, out the expressway towards the autoroute in the direction of Hyeres and Nice.
Sundial (Cadran Solaire). There's an old sundial, in excellent condition, at the Porte d'Italie [photo-4].
"Raimu" was born in Toulon. We found two statues of him, including the nice bronze statue at the Place Victor Huge in front of the Opera; but not at the Place Raimu.
This bronze [photo] of the card players is from Marcel Pagnol's Marius, in which Ramu played the key role of César.
Tel : 0494 18 53 00; Fax: 04 94 18 53 09
The Office de Tourisme is nicely decorated inside, with art exhibits and an information kiosk with a local version of their web.
The Mairie (town hall) has a separate Tourist Office, with information and maps, and a photo exhibit of Toulonaise sights and objects. They are located at the Hotel de Ville on the Ave de la République, the street that parallels the seafront.
• GPS: 43.221161, 5.931112
IGN (1/25,000) #3346 OT "Toulon, Le Gro Cerveau, Mont Faron"
Toulon is on the main railway line [ Provence France Rail Map ]. The gare SNCF at the top of the town is in easy walking distance of the town center and old town.
The A51 autoroute goes northeast from the city center, joining the A8 (Aix-Cannes) autoroute 50 km from Toulon. Toulon to Cannes is about 1h15.
From the west side of town, the A50 autoroute goes past Bando and Cassis to Aubagne; one branch goes west into Marseille; the other branch continues north to the A8 and on to Aix-en-Provence (and points beyond).
A car rental center, with several major brands, is located at the railway station (gare SNCF).
Department 83, Var Buses
- See Beyond's Var Department Bus Schedules for downloading the Var bus-lines map [Plan du Reseau] and bus-line schedules [Horaires] (link for PDF files).
- Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)
Toulon - Le Lavandou - St-Tropez Bus 7801
- Var bus line 7801 connects the Toulon with all the towns along the coast to Saint Tropez (but not the airport).
- For the Toulon-Hyères Airport, transfer at La Londe-les-Maures to line 7803.
- For Grimaud, St Maximin, Fréjus, transfer at St Tropez to line 7601.
The complete route for bus line 7801 is: Toulon, La Valette, La Garde, La Crau, Hyères (center), La Londe-les-Maures, Bormes-les-Mimosas, Le Lavandou, Le Rayol-Canadel, Cavalaire-sur-Mer, La Croix-Valmer, Gassin, La Foux, St Tropez.
Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number (7801) in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)