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852km (529 miles) S of Paris; 100km (62 miles) SE of Aix-en-Provence; 122km (76 miles) SW of Cannes; 18km (11
miles) E of Toulon
The broad avenues of Hyères, shaded by date palms, still evoke the lazy belle époque.
The full name of the town is Hyères-les-Palmier, as it is known for its production of
palm trees. Believe it or not, many of these trees are exported to the Middle East.
Hyères is the oldest resort along the Côte d’Azur, having once been frequented by
the likes of Queen Victoria, Napoleon, Leo Tolstoy, and Robert Louis Stevenson. It
was particularly popular with the British before 1939. It has changed so little from its
heyday that many French film directors, including Jean-Luc Godard (Pierrot le Fou)
and François Truffaut, who shot his last film here (Vivement Dimanche, released as
Confidentially Yours in the United States), have used it as locations for period pieces.
Today it lives off its past glory and its memories.
As a visitor, you’ll find the most interesting section of Hyères to be the Vieille Ville,
which lies 5km (3 miles) inland from the sea on a hill. Try to arrive early to attend a
bustling morning market around place Massillon. The more modern town and the
nucleus of the 19th-century resort stretch toward the sea.
GETTING THERE Flights from Paris arrive at the Toulon-Hyères airport, which
lies between the town center and the beach. For flights, call & 04-42-14-14-14. Rail
connections are fairly easy, as Hyères lies on the main Nice-Lyon-Paris line. Nine local
trains a day connect Hyères with Toulon; a one-way ticket costs 8.50€ ($11). Two
buses per day arrive from Toulon, Cannes, and Nice. For information about bus
schedules, call Phocéens Car, 2 place Massena in Nice at & 04-93-85-66-61.
If you’re driving, A5 goes through Toulon to Marseille and points north and west;
A57 goes northeast to join A8, the autoroute between Nice and Aix-en-Provence.
VISITOR INFORMATION Other than temporary, summer-only kiosks without
phones that distribute brochures and advice near the ferry docks in Porquerolles and
Port-Cros, there are no tourist bureaus on the islands. The offices in Hyères and
Toulon try to fill in the gaps. Contact the Office de Tourisme, 3 av. Ambroise
Thomas, Hyères (& 04-94-01-84-50), or the Office de Tourisme, place Raimu,
Toulon (& 04-94-18-53-00).
EXPLORING THE AREA
The land lying between the city and the sea is unattractive, and the beaches are a bit
polluted, but there are some swimming possibilities here, notably at Hyères-Plage.
There is also a yacht marina at Port d’Hyères. We find the parks and old town of
Hyères more interesting than its beachfront.
Heading into town from the beach, go along the wide avenue Gambetta shaded by
double rows of palms. At the end of Gambetta, continue along rue Rabaton to place
Massillon, the beginning of the old town and the site of many good terrace caferestaurants.
The daily market also takes place here. The 12th-century Tour St-Blaise,
which stands on the square, was once a command post of the Knights Templar.
Above place Massillon is a warren of intriguing old streets climbing the hillside.
Many are cobblestoned and bordered by stone walls, with an abundance of flowers in
summer. Look for the medieval arched portes. Most of the Vieille Ville houses have
been restored, often painted in lovely Mediterranean pastels with contrasting shutters
Part of the ramparts have survived, although most of them have been torn down;
they date from the 12th century. All that remains of the south “curtain wall” are
Porte-St-Paul, next to the Collegiate Church, and Porte Baruc. A trio of lovely old
towers has survived from the north curtain wall.
Steep narrow streets lead up behind Tour St-Blaise to the 18th-century Le Collegiale
St-Paul, place St-Paul (& 04-94-65-83-30). In the Romanesque narthex are
400 fragments from the Church of Notre-Dame-de-Consolation, destroyed in bombing
raids in 1944. The Gothic nave dates from the 15th and 16th centuries. The
church is flanked by an elegant turreted Renaissance house constructed above one of
the medieval city gates. The church is open Wednesday to Saturday April to October
from 10am to noon and 3:30 to 6pm. November to March, it is open Wednesday to
Saturday from 3 to 5pm.
Artifacts left behind by the Greeks and Romans can be examined at the Musée
Municipal, place Lefebvre (& 04-94-00-78-80). The museum is often the venue for
special exhibitions. Entrance is free, and it is open Monday, Wednesday, Thursday,
and Friday from 10am to noon and 3 to 6pm. If a special exhibition is running, it is
also open Saturday and Sunday from 3 to 6pm.
The main attraction of the town is Parc St-Bernard, 20km (13 miles) east of
Toulon by N98, on the hill above Hyères. It is open year-round daily from 8am to
6:30pm. To reach the park, go up rue Saint Esprit to where it becomes rue Barbacane.
Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, great patrons of the arts, commissioned a modern
Cubist-style villa here in 1924 and brought in garden designer Gabriel
Guevrekian, who created an extensive garden in the shape of an isosceles triangle,
pointing away from the end of the villa. The Noailles played a role in nurturing the
avant-garde artists of the Jazz Age, including F. Scott Fitzgerald. Edith Wharton was
a devoted friend of the family. The villa is currently being restored, but you can visit
the terraced gardens and relax on benches shaded by olives and pines. Above in the
villa, in a separate compound of its own, are the ruins of Château d’Hyères, above
the medieval old town. Signposts and arrows lead visitors on a self-guided walk
through the ruins, which have unrestricted access.
WHERE TO STAY
Hôtel du Soleil The foundations of this hotel date from the 11th century, when
they were lodgings for the guards who defended the once-formidable fortress of
Hyères. What you’ll see, however, dates from around 1900—a boxy-looking bastide
(masonry building) atop the old foundations. Over the years, a sheathing of ivy has
softened the angles a bit, and the interior has been kept up-to-date with frequent
modernizations. Bedrooms are cozy, if somewhat small, with Provençal furniture and
casement windows; from the back are views of the sea, and in front are views of upscale villas on a nearby hill. Breakfast is the only meal served, although there are several
places to eat (including the Bistrot de Marius, below) within a 3-minute walk.
Rue du Rempart (place Clemenceau), 83400 Hyères. & 04-94-65-16-26. Fax 04-94-35-46-00. www.hoteldu
soleil.com. 27 units. 32€–80€ ($42–$104) double. AE, DC, MC, V. Amenities: Breakfast room. In room: TV.
Ibis Thalasse This hotel is located between the coastal road and the beach, on the
eastern edge of the land bridge that stretches between the French mainland and the
Gien peninsula. Designed in a horseshoe shape, with the open end of the U facing the
beach, the hotel places emphasis on resort life. Guest rooms are decent-size and decorated
in a standardized format that includes one double bed and one single bed, a
writing table, and a soothing color scheme of blue-gray. Bathrooms are motel standard,
with tidy maintenance. Another Ibis hotel is located downtown.
Allée de la Mer, La Capte, 83400 Hyères-Plage. & 04-94-58-00-94. Fax: 04-94-58-09-35. 95 units. 60€–125€
($78–$163) double.AE, DC, MC,V. Amenities: Restaurant; bar; outdoor pool; health club; spa.In room: A/C,TV, hair dryer.
WHERE TO DINE
Bistrot de Marius PROVENÇAL/SEAFOOD Set almost adjacent to the Tour des
Templiers, this restaurant dates from 1906, when it was established in a building whose
foundations date from the 13th century. Its trio of dining rooms (one is upstairs) has
exposed stone and paneling, and a sense of historic charm. Fish, especially grilled sea
bass, monkfish, dorado, and tuna, are specialties here, along with mussels and oysters.
Sauce choices include marchand de vin (a red wine–based sauce), and lemon-butter and
basil-flavored vinaigrette. A succulent version of bouillabaisse, priced at 34€ ($44), is a
meal in itself, and there is a limited selection of chicken, veal, and beef.
1 place Massillon.& 04-94-35-88-38. Reservations recommended. Main courses 9.50€–34€ ($12–$44); fixedprice
menus 17€–30€ ($22–$39). AE, DC, MC, V.Wed–Sun noon–2:30pm and 7–11pm. Also open on Tues in Aug.
Closed Nov 15–Dec 15.
Le Jardin MODERN MEDITERRANEAN Set directly across the street from the
Town Hall (Mairie) of Hyère, this restaurant takes gardening, and its name, seriously.
During most of the year, the retractable roof, a motorized contraption of folding plastic
panels, remains open to night breezes, as doors and windows and outdoor tables showcase
the venerable plantings of a mature garden ringed with crabapple, orange, and palm
trees. The London-trained owner, Mr. Cheval, who speaks perfect English, welcomes a
young and young-at-heart crowd who keep the place amusing and convivial. Menu
items derive from both the northern and southern edges of the Mediterranean, and
include a salad of grilled scallops with ginger; a platter of crudités accessorized with both
anchovy paste and a tapenade of olives; a genuinely wonderful version of octopus stew
cooked in red wine (daube de pulpe) a tagine of the day (during our visit, it featured
roasted lamb with prunes, slow-cooked in a clay pot in the Moroccan style); and a grilled
filet of bluefin tuna served with wasabi-flavored mashed potatoes.
19 av. Joseph Clotis.&04-94-35-24-12. Reservations recommended. Main courses 8€–16€ ($10–$20). AE, MC,
V. Daily noon–midnight. Closed Dec. 22–Jan 24.