As the fourth largest French city on the Mediterranean coast, and one of the country's most important military ports, Toulon is an underrated city that we think deserves to steal some of the limelight from its glitzy neighbours St. Tropez and Cannes. Being a key French naval port the city was badly damaged during the Second World War, so the Toulon you see today is a dramatically renovated place, making for an interesting and colourful destination. Whether you're doing a road trip around France or a day trip from Marseille, it's worth spending some time in this pleasant coastal city.
Toulon's port is its defining feature, and it's right in the heart of the city, with boats dotted all around its sweeping marina. Visit the Musée National de la Marine (the National Maritime Museum) right on the water to learn about the proud French naval history and get to grips with the roots of this seaside city. When you leave the museum, hop on the petit train for a whirlwind 50 minute ride around town (€7), then take a stroll through the winding streets and pretty squares of the old town, stopping at a quaint cafe for a coffee.
Explore the Cours Lafayette market, open every morning except Mondays from 7.30am until 12.30pm, for a true taste of the surrounding Provence region. This market is one of the city's most famous landmarks, and sells a colourful range of fruit and veg, flowers, and trinkets.
Alternatively, admire the city from above on the cable car to the summit of Mount Faron (€7 return tickets if purchased from the tourist office), sample the local speciality food cade toulonnaise, a dish made from chickpea flour and olive oil, or head to one of the many nearby beaches.
For those on a longer trip to Toulon, why not do a day trip to picturesque Aix-en-Provence or Le Castellet?
Being a naval base, expect quite a high military presence around the city. But don't worry, it's completely safe to wander around the city's streets, and this side of Toulon will quickly become part of its charm.
Toulon, like the rest of the south of France, is prone to strong winds, so hold onto your hats! On the plus side, these winds bring clear, fresh water, making this stretch of coast ideal for swimming.