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Toulon is a town which has a timeless beauty due in no small part to its insistence in avoiding the mainstream tourist traps that populate plenty of the French coast's finest townships. The port itself sits upon the southern coast overlooking the turquoise expanse of the Mediterranean. The water here is extremely calm, as the bay is protected by the peninsula of Saint-Mandrier; indeed, the peninsula is so prominent as to make this gorgeous bay into a pseudo lagoon.
From the water, Toulon is a breath-taking sight, with a sprawling township which is scattered across a lush expanse of the hills which are home to secluded inlets and valleys. An abundance of greenery flourishes upon the slopes and mountainsides that encircle the town, providing a vivid contrast to the bright blue of the Mediterranean. A hidden gem of the French coast, Toulon is a port which deserves any cruisers attention.
Situated just north of the city, this majestic peak is 548 metres tall, but is easily reached by forest trails beautifully preserved by the locals. From the vantage point of its summit, cruisers can get an incredible view of the pastel colours and red roofs of Toulon's buildings, as well as the entire crescent of the bay. This beautiful vista is also home to the Memorial du Debarquement, a striking monument which commemorates the Allied Landings on D-Day. Other highlights include the Telepherique du Mont Faron, and a Zoo du Faron, a wildcat breeding centre.
The Photography Museum
This intimate, yet high quality museum is so absorbing that it will more than likely take up an entire afternoon. The Maison de la Photgraphie, as it is known by the locals, is an utterly contemporary gallery space, furnished with amazing modern furniture and futuristic interior decoration. The exhibits on show include the finest shots taken of the Toulon Bay, framed perfectly and spread over two tiers.
The Cathedral of Sainte-Marie-de-le-Seds
This Toulon cathedral has more than 900 years of history behind it, making it a contender for the key cultural spot in the entire region. Unusual blends of styles that have characterised the church throughout the years mean that the architecture is utterly unique. The classical façade which was created in the classical era gave way to the magnificent wrought iron campanile and the massive, ornate tower in the 1740s, adding even more grandeur to this spectacular site. The interior is much the same, defined variously by Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance influences. A worthy place to soak up the history of the region, and a beautiful one to boot.
For a unique shopping experience, head to Le Mourillion, which is situated just off the beaches on the shoreline. Heading toward the boulevards of Frederic Mistral and Sainte Helene will reward cruisers with a trip to several boutiques which specialise in high fashion clothing, home furnishing, and artistic glass pieces.
A staple in the Old Town since 1907, Le Chantilly is blessed with a wonderfully intimate interior consisting of varnished beams and mahogany tables, as well as outside seating on the promenade which is perfect for a sun-dappled lunch. The cuisine is exquisite, with local delicacies such as seafood platters and gourmet cheeses popular with the locals.
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