Toulon is France’s second-largest naval port city, situated on France’s Mediterranean coast, Marseille to its west and Saint-Tropez to its east. Its dazzling neighbours often draw away the crowds but if you linger long enough, its maritime history and authentic charm will win you over.
Musée Mémorial du Débarquement
History Museum, Transportation Museum
This museum is a real highlight when visiting Toulon. The Musée Mémorial du Débarquement is a World War II fortress perched high above Toulon on Mont Faron, commemorating the Allied landing of August 1944 and paying tribute to the liberation of Provence. Inside, you’ll find an extensive collection of period objects and outside, you’ll see replicas of an anti-tank gun, an anti-aircraft gun and a Sherman tank. What’s more, the views are simply fantastic from here. Also located nearby are the zoo and the Notre-Dame du Faron chapel if you have time to spare afterwards.
Maison de la Photographie
The Maison de la Photographie is a vast photography exhibition space and gallery, hosting both permanent and temporary exhibitions and contemporary artistic productions. The space is an extension of the photographic collection of the Toulon Museum of Art and currently has more than 400 works to peruse. It is conveniently located in the heart of the old town and it’s free to enter, so there’s no excuse not to pop by and escape the Mediterranean sun for a few hours.
Musée National de la Marine
This rich and beautifully-fronted museum charts Toulon’s maritime history and the role of the navy throughout the centuries. The museum features permanent collections as well as seasonal exhibitions. There are also free audio guides available in English to accompany your visit. Its impressive door is the original gate of the arsenal, which dates back to 1738 and once inside, the museum is easily accessible and spacious. For a city inextricably linked to its waters, this museum is a must-see when visiting Toulon.
Galerie Estades Toulon
Set back just a little from Toulon’s port is this gorgeous, light gallery that you could easily walk past without noticing. But step inside and you’ll have a treat. Art expert and dealer Michel Estades founded three galleries in France, Toulon being his first in 1990. All three spaces focus on modern and contemporary art, specifically on artists and subjects from Provence.
Hôtel des Arts
The Hôtel des Arts, Toulon’s Mediterranean Art Centre, is free for visitors to explore. This gorgeous heritage building is light and airy, not too far from the train station, yet tranquil even during the summer months. Whatever your opinion on modern art may be, this space will intrigue and delight you with its ever-changing exhibitions.