Think of Toulon and you’ll probably consider rugby. Or Jonny Wilkinson. You may also know that Toulon is residence to France’s second-largest naval port. But not everybody comes here to observe RC Toulon or to stare upon French warships. The rest of us are here to enjoy its engaging Old Town with leafy squares, fountains, terrace cafes, cosy bars and conventional bistros. And when you like somewhere with a bit of history, Toulon certainly won’t disappoint.
As a Roman settlement, the city was originally often called Telo Martius and has long been related as a military and naval stronghold. Its coastal place not solely supplies a natural defensive point – it also advantages from the hills and mountains flanking the town, which help to guard the port from the robust mistral winds. In 1481 Toulon became part of France and with the port as its trump card, town continued to grow in prominence. In the late 18th century the younger Napoleon Bonaparte successfully took Toulon back from the English, making a name for himself within the process and as soon as again placing Toulon on the map.
In more moderen history, Raimu – star of Marcel Pagnol’s 1931 traditional, Marius – was born here, and references to France’s beloved actor can be discovered all over the city.
At the moment Toulon thrives on its enticing coastal location. Referred to as the western gateway of the CÃ´te d’Azur, it has turn into a popular Mediterranean city with chic bars, top-notch seafood restaurants and fashionable shopping districts. Wander across the giant open squares, explore the coated passages within the Old Town or take a stroll alongside the seafront, perhaps stopping for somewhat refreshment in a terrace cafe. And should you really can’t resist the lure of these magnificent warships, there’s a lot in the way in which of museums, monuments and tours to maintain you busy down by the harbour.
Toulon Special Feature – Battle, peace and dinosaurs…
Toulon has a wealthy and interesting historical past. Because of its coastal place and large port, it has been on the forefront of many important battles, and town is peppered with museums that commemorate its key defensive position over the centuries.
Down on the west side of the Old Port is the Museum of the French Navy (Musee National de la Marine), positioned on Place Monsenergue in an imperial arsenal building. This glorious museum holds many fascinating collections but additionally harbours its own historic tale, having been based in 1814 throughout Emperor Napoleon’s reign. It was – fairly miraculously – left largely unscathed after Allied bombing raids throughout World Warfare II, and survived to tell the story of Toulon as a French naval port throughout the ages. Its escape from the bombings is all of the extra incredible since a lot of town, and in particular the port, was closely bombed and extensively damaged through the warfare. Amongst its numerous collections are 18th century ship fashions, historic paintings and models of the Charles De Gaulle aircraft service.
After the Musee Nationwide de la Marine, it’s effectively value taking the cable car and whizzing as much as the summit of Mount Faron. The views are impressive enough, but there may be additionally a small memorial museum to the Allied Landings in Provence (Memorial du Debarquement). Opened in 1964 by President Charles De Gaulle, the museum holds a set of images, weapons and fashions to commemorate the 1944 landings and the world’s function on this monumental event.
Finally, no journey to the city is full without a bit of pure history. Founded in 1888, the Museum of Natural Historical past of Toulon and the Var (Musee d’histoire naturelle de Toulon et du Var) has a formidable collection of displays featuring dinosaur fossils discovered in the area, along with birds, mammals and minerals.
It is fair to say that Toulon is awash with historical past. But don’t forget that all the things that occurred prior to now is what shaped the town as we know it at present. So as soon as you have had your fill of trying again, take time to take pleasure in right this moment’s Toulon. Go shopping. Attempt the latest cocktail. Pattern a inventive dish. Watch the rugby. It’s one of the best ways to take pleasure in a style of its past, current and future. However be warned that Toulon would not stand nonetheless for long, so it’d just warrant a return visit…
Issues To Do – A brand new twist on ‘seeing the sights’…
Trompe l’oeil murals
Talk about seeing the sights. Toulon is dwelling to some fairly spectacular trompe l’oeil murals. Meaning “deceive the eye”, this form of portray is a way that creates an optical illusion, as if the themes exist in 3D. A positive instance is the mural covering a whole wall on the former Lodge du Port on rue Paul Chevalier, representing a workshop of nineteenth century rope manufacturers. One other one is the galleon mural on the Place Vatel. This isn’t a painting, but a physical object – the front of an outdated crusing ship extending out from a building wall, as if it is crusing proper out of the property itself.
Bikinis and bathers
If there’s one factor the Cote d’Azur does finest, it is fun in the sun. Toulon has a number of enticing seashores south of the Mourillon quarter, however these can get busy. Heading east, the beaches of Cap Brun and Anse Magaud are usually less crowded, partly as a result of they’re much less accessible – however for those who don’t mind a little bit of a climb, you should find a good sunny spot to settle in. In fact you may simply travel additional alongside the coast by car or by bus to make the most of other quieter areas too.
If you’re here in December, the town comes alive with Christmas cheer. Head to the newly refurbished palm-fringed Place de la libertee;, the primary city square with its beautiful fountains, and luxuriate in a spot of ice skating. There’s usually a Christmas market here too, serving up native specialties as well as these from further afield. Get into the spirit and warm your cockles with a steaming chocolate chaud or a cup of scorching mulled wine.
Burst into music
Gown up in your finery and head to the Opera de Toulon for an evening of orchestral delights and impossibly pitched singing voices, that might rip the roof right off its manicured joists. The building itself is a sight to behold. Designed by Charles Garnier, it’s the second-largest opera home in France and dates back to 1862. It has just lately been refurbished and its ornate stonework, spectacular pillars and plush interiors have all been introduced back to their former glory.
Markets – Day by day
Conventional markets happen on Tuesday-Sunday mornings on Cours Lafayette. There are also a number of different smaller markets dotted around the city.
Prime Restaurants – Our choice of eating places in Toulon:
04 94 90 30 20
A gorgeous waterfront location that includes Mediterranean cuisine and contemporary seafood in contemporary environment. The menu adjustments recurrently and contains lunches (from â‚¬32) and night meals (approx â‚¬seventy five) with a la carte options. Along with modern seafood, count on such classics as foie gras, escargots Ã la provenciale, sea bass and John Dory.
Le Gros Ventre
04 ninety four 42 15 forty two
An enthralling little place serving conventional French delicacies with an attention-grabbing wine record. As you would anticipate the seafood is contemporary and native, and other substances comparable to beef are additionally sourced domestically. Set menus range from â‚¬28 – â‚¬54 with a la carte options additionally available.
Chez Daniel et Julia
04 ninety four 94 85 13
Situated in an isolated inlet, this standard restaurant specialises in recent local seafood. The remainder of the menu is conventional and dishes are usually based mostly around seasonal and domestically available elements. Costs vary from â‚¬forty as much as the â‚¬eighty mark.
Often known as the western gateway of the Cote d’Azur, Toulon holds a lovely location between mountains and the Mediterranean. It has recently undergone numerous renovation works – in particular refurbishing elements of the Previous Town – and likewise advantages from wonderful practice connections in addition to ferry and bus services. Air traffic uses the worldwide airport at neighbouring Hyeres.