With a long military history, the town of Toulon remains the most important Mediterranean naval base in France. This is also a sporty town, rugby being particularly dear to its inhabitants.
The impressive military arsenal which is still in use today is over 500 years old, although it was reinforced by Vauban, Louis XIV's military engineer in 1700. It covers an area of 268 hectares, with 10 kilometres of quays, and employs almost 12,000 people. Although the naval base is not open to the public, in summer you can take a boat tour from the marina with a knowledgable tour guide.
Learn all about Toulon's maritime history at the National Naval Museum of Toulon. You will enter by the monumental Arsenal door, with its four 18th century columns. The museum's annex is to be found in the Tour Royal, a fortress built by Louis XII in 1514.
If you're feeling seasick after all that, there are plenty of other museums and monuments in Toulon such as The Museum of Asian Art, and the Museum of Photography. The latter has long been a springboard for local photographers, and you'll find works by the greats, such as Robert Doisneau, Man Ray and Henri Cartier Bresson exibited there too.
Take a stroll through the old town, admire the cathedral, and lose yourself in the colours and smells of the Provençal market which can be found on Cours Lafayette every morning.
Head for the Quai Stalingrad and relax at one of the cafes or browse some of the best shops in Toulon which you'll find here.
If you're looking for family things to do and see in Toulon, try the zoo on Mont Faron , and from the top of this hill you'll get the most splendid view over the old town.
The best times to travel to Toulon are during the week-long Toulon Jazz Festival in July, when you'll find twenty or so concerts around town, all free of charge; and the Bacchus: festival of wine and food which takes place in March and offers the chance to try all sorts of local produce and pick up some bargains.
From Toulon you could pop over to Corsica, as Toulon is the best point of access to the island by ferry. If that's too far, you could explore the Hyères islands instead, just a hop, skip and a jump from the mainland.
Lastly, don't miss the chance to sample the atmosphere of a rugby match here with the Rugby Club Toulonnais at Stade Mayol. Smile, you're in the South.
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