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835km (519 miles) S of Paris; 127km (79 miles) SW of Cannes; 68km (42 miles) E of Marseille
This fortress and modern town is the principal naval base of France: the headquarters
of the Mediterranean fleet, with hundreds of sailors wandering the streets. With its
beautiful harbor, it’s surrounded by hills crowned by forts. A large breakwater protects
it on the east, and the great peninsula of Cap Sicié is on the west. Separated by the
breakwater, the outer roads are known as the Grande Rade, and the inner roads are
the Petite Rade. On the outskirts is a winter resort colony. Like Marseille, the population
of Toulon has grown because of the large influx of people from North Africa,
especially French-speaking Algeria, which was once a part of France.
Note that racial tension here has worsened by the closing of the shipbuilding yards.
There are no particular dangers to tourists that one wouldn’t find in any Mediterranean
port, be it Barcelona or Genoa. However, caution at night is always advised,
especially in the immediate port area.
Park your vehicle underground at place de la Liberté; then go along boulevard des
Strasbourg, turning right onto rue Berthelot. This will take you into the pedestrian
zone in the core of the old city, centered on the rue d’Alger. This area is filled with
shops, hotels, restaurants, and cobblestone streets but can be dangerous at night. The
best beach, Plage du Mourillon, is 2km (11⁄4 miles) east of the heart of town.
GETTING THERE & GETTING AROUND Trains arrive from Marseille about
every 30 minutes (trip time: 1 hr.); the one-way fare is 10€ ($13). If you’re on the
Riviera, trains arrive frequently from Nice (trip time: 2 hr.) and Cannes (trip time: 80
min.). For rail information and schedules, call & 08-92-35-35-35.
Three buses per day arrive from Aix-en-Provence (trip time: 75 min.); the fare is
about 10€ ($13) one-way. For information, call Sodetrav (& 08-25-00-06-50). If
you’re driving from Marseille, take A50 east to Toulon. When you arrive, park your
car and get around on foot—the Vieille Ville (old town) and most attractions are easy
to reach. A municipal bus system serves the town as well. A bus map is available at the
tourist office. For information, call Le Réseau Mistral at & 04-94-03-87-03.
VISITOR INFORMATION The Office de Tourisme is at place Raimu (&04-94-
EXPLORING THE TOWN
In Vieux Toulon, between the harbor and boulevard de Strasbourg (the main axis of
town), are many remains of the port’s former days. The site where the city’s raffish and
gutsy style might best be appreciated is the open-air fruit and vegetable market, Le
Marché, which spills over onto the narrow, plantain-lined streets around cours
Lafayette every morning from 7:30am till around 2:30pm. Also in Old Toulon is the
Cathédrale Ste-Marie-Majeure (St. Mary Major), rue Emile Zola (& 04-92-92-
28-91), which was built in the Romanesque style in the 11th and 12th centuries and
then much expanded in the 17th century. Its badly lit nave is Gothic, and the belfry
and facade are from the 18th century. It’s open daily from 8:30am to 7pm.
In contrast to the cathedral, tall modern buildings line quai Stalingrad, opening
onto Vieille d’Arse. On place Puget, look for the atlantes (caryatids), figures of men
used as columns. These interesting figures support a balcony at the Hôtel de Ville (city
hall) and are also included in the facade of the naval museum.
The Musée de la Marine, place du Ingénieur-Général-Monsenergue (& 04-94-
02-02-01), contains many figureheads and ship models. It’s open Wednesday to Monday
July and August from 10am to 6pm, and September to June from 9:30am to noon
and 2 to 6pm. Admission is 4.60€ ($6) for adults and 3€ ($3.90) for students. The
Musée de Toulon, 113 bd. du Général-Maréchal-Leclerc (& 04-94-36-81-00),
shows works from the 16th century to the present. It maintains a particularly good
collection of Provençal and Italian paintings, as well as religious works. The latest
acquisitions include New Realism pieces and minimalist art. It’s open Wednesday to
Monday from 10am to noon and 2 to 6pm. Admission is 4.60€ ($6) for adults, 3€
($3.90) for students, free for ages under 18.
Somewhat less interesting is the Musée du Vieux Toulon, 69 cours Lafayette
(& 04-94-62-11-07), which is not to be confused with the above-mentioned Musée
de Toulon. Its exhibits pertain to the role of commerce, shipbuilding, and the French
military during the development of Toulon, with a tableau of the historic figures who
either protected it or fostered its growth from medieval times to the present. It’s open
Tuesday to Sunday from noon to 6pm. Entrance is free.
PANORAMAS & VIEWS
We suggest taking a drive, an hour or two before sunset, along the corniche du Mont-
Faron. It’s a scenic boulevard along the lower slopes of Mont Faron, providing views
of the busy port, the town, the cliffs, and, in the distance, the Mediterranean.
For a panoramic view over the dry, sun-flooded landscapes, consider boarding a
funicular (& 04-94-92-68-25 for information), which departs from a point on the
boulevard l’Amiral Vence near the Hôtel La Tour Blanche. The télépherique (cable car)
operates Tuesday to Sunday from 9:30 to 11:45am and 2:15 to 6:30pm; the roundtrip
costs 5.80€ ($7.55) for adults, 4€ ($5.20) for children 4 to 10 years old. It is not
in service from November 5 to February 3. At the top, enjoy the view and then visit
the Memorial du Débarquement en Provence, Mont Faron (& 04-94-88-08-09),
which documents the Allied landings in Provence in 1944, among other events. It’s
open in summer daily from 9:45 to 11:45am and 1:45 to 4:30pm; from October to
March, it’s open Tuesday to Sunday from 9:15 to 11:45am and 2 to 4:45pm. Admission
is 3.80€ ($4.95) for adults, 1.55€ ($2) for children 8 to 16.
WHERE TO STAY
Hôtel La Corniche An attractive hotel near the town’s beaches, with an interior garden,
La Corniche offers a pleasant staff, two restaurants, and comfortable accommodations.
Those at the front have sea views and loggias, and are more expensive. Room
decoration is in Provençal style. The more formal of the two restaurants is the Bistro;
it features a trio of pine trees growing upward through the roof and a large bay window
overlooking the port. The simpler restaurant is the cramped but cozy Rôtisserie, which is under different management. Both emphasize fish among their offerings. A fairly
good but limited wine list complements the food, which is perfectly adequate and
much improved in recent years. You’ll find this place in the neighborhood known as Le
Mourillon, a 15-minute walk from the congested commercial center of Toulon.
17 Littoral Frédéric-Mistral (at Le Mourillon), 83000 Toulon.&800/528-1234 in the U.S., or 04-94-41-35-12. Fax
04-94-41-24-58.www.hotel-corniche.com. 23 units. 85€–125€ ($111–$163) double; 150€–190€ ($195–$247) junior
suite. AE, DC, MC, V. Parking 9€. Amenities: 2 restaurants; bar; limited room service; laundry service. In room:
A/C, TV, dataport, minibar, hair dryer.
Hôtel Maritima The most decent bargain hotel in Toulon stands near the railway
station and Jardin Alexandre-1er. Built in the late 1800s, it has been frequently renovated
and altered over the years. Furnishings are blandly traditional but serviceable; it’s
modest but well maintained. Bathrooms are small and short on shelf space, and have
rather thin towels but are tidily maintained. The hotel doesn’t have a restaurant,
although several lie right outside the door. Breakfast is served on-site.
9 rue Gimelli, 83000 Toulon.&04-94-92-39-33. 35 units, 5 with shared bathroom. 32€ ($42) double with bathroom.
No credit cards. Amenities: Lounge. In room: TV.
New Hôtel La Tour Blanche With excellent accommodations, terraced gardens,
and a pool, this 1970s hotel is one of the best in Toulon. It lies in the hills about
1.5km (1 mile) north of the center of town, which gives it sweeping views of the port
and sea even from the lower floors. Many rooms, especially those overlooking the bay,
have balconies. All are comfortably and simply outfitted in international modern style.
The compact bathrooms have showers, but only half have tub/shower combinations.
Some units have dataports. The restaurant, Les Terrasses, has a panoramic view. Fixedprice
menus of traditional Provençal cuisine cost 20€ ($26).
Bd. de l’Amiral-Vence, Mont Faron, 83000 Toulon.&04-94-24-41-57. Fax 04-94-22-42-25. www.new-hotel.com.
91 units. 84€–108€ ($109–$140) double. AE, DC, MC, V. Free parking. Bus: 40. From the town center, follow signs
to the Mont Faron téléphérique and you’ll pass the hotel en route. Amenities: Restaurant; bar; outdoor pool; gym;
limited room service; babysitting; laundry service; limited-mobility rooms. In room: A/C, TV, minibar, hair dryer, iron.
WHERE TO DINE
La Chamade SOUTHERN FRENCH The cuisine here is memorable, and the
restaurant is the finest for miles. It’s in the town center, in a nondescript building
whose thick walls hint at its age. Menu items change with the seasons but might
include foie gras of duckling with salty caramel sauce; eggplant with roasted lamb
served with coriander sauce; and a dessert confection consisting of semi-baked, ultramoist
chocolate cake with mint-flavored cream sauce. The fixed-price menu includes
a choice of three appetizers, three main courses, and three desserts.
25 rue Denfert-Rochereau.& 04-94-92-28-58. Reservations recommended. Main courses 18€–26€ ($23–$35);
fixed-price menu 32€ ($42). AE, MC, V. Mon–Sat noon–2:30pm and 7:15–9:30pm. Closed Aug 1–25. Bus: 1 or 21.