Toulon - Starting Point of Napoleon
Built around a sheltered bay, with 1,700-foot Mount Faron as an impressive backdrop, Toulon is an important naval port and a city of industry and manufacturing. Its large harbour serves as the base for the French navy’s Mediterranean fleet and as the home to a sizeable marina, with yachts and pleasure boats adding bright splashes of colour.
Toulon was the site where Napoleon Bonaparte first made a name for himself in 1793 during a siege in which the English, who had taken over Toulon, were expelled.
During World War II, the bulk of the French fleet anchored off Toulon was scuttled by French crews to prevent its acquisition by occupying German forces. The city was liberated in 1944 by French troops.
A maze of pedestrian streets constitutes the heart of old Toulon. Shops and colourful stalls make it an attractive area to explore. Avenue de la République runs parallel to the waterfront. At the western edge of the quay, the Naval Museum may be worth visiting by those with an interest in Toulon’s maritime history.
The town’s attractions can be seen in a fairly short time. Most visitors come here to explore the hinterland and other parts of the Riviera.
Look for items indicative of the Provence, such as olive oil, honey, herbs and soaps. Store hours are generally from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. The Mayol Commercial Centre near the port stays open throughout the day, while the local market takes only place in the morning. The local currency is the euro.
Your best choices are the restaurants and cafés along the waterfront. Fish and seafood are popular dishes along with local specialties.
Take a walk in the old town with its lively atmosphere. Highlights include the Romanesque Church of Sainte-Marie-Majeure, which was begun in the 11th century, the Church of Saint-Louis and the local market.
At the western end of the harbour stands an old arsenal building, now housing the Naval Museum. It features models of ships, figureheads, paintings and other items related to Toulon’s maritime history. Be sure to check opening hours.
Trips around the bay depart from Quai de la Sinse (commentary is in French).