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Cities of France - Toulon

Nestled in Southern France on the Mediterranean Coast, Toulon is a picturesque city with a medieval core, although it’s probably best known for the harbour which is one of the best natural anchorages on the Mediterranean, and one of the largest harbours in Europe.

The veille ville or old town is a charming pedestrian area of narrow streets adorned with small squares, quaint shops and cafes. One area of the old town has many covered passages crossing between the long, parallel streets. There are an abundance of fountains, around 18 of them, to be found in many of the small squares, each with a different character. The original system of fountains was built in the late 17th century; most were rebuilt in the eighteenth or early 19th century, and many of them have recently been restored.

Join the locals at the colourful daily market with a true Provençal character. It's the perfect spot to buy fresh produce with plenty of the prime ingredients of garlic, olive oil and the sought after herbes de Provence.

The Upper Town was built in the mid-19th century under Napoleon. The project was begun by Baron Haussmann who was prefect of the area in 1849. Improvements to the neighbourhood included the Toulon Opera, the Place de la Liberté, the Grand Hôtel, the Gardens of Alexander I, the Chalucet Hospital, the palais de Justice, the train station, and the building now occupied by Galeries Lafayette, among others. Haussmann went on to use the same style on a much grander scale in the rebuilding of central Paris.

Mount Faron dominates the city of Toulon. The top can be reached either by a cable car or by a narrow and terrifying road, but it is worth the effort to enjoy the expansive view of the town and handsome natural harbour.

The city is home to restaurants specialising in the local cuisine from the Mediterranean and from Provence. Other local treats are: the Chichi Frégi (a type of donut from Provence), the cade toulonnaise (a local speciality composed of chickpea flour and which is equivalent to the Socca of Nice) and Smash Sandwiches (a common sandwich available from street vendors throughout Toulon).

Known for its military history, Toulon remains as an important naval base. Toulon is also an important centre for naval construction, fishing, wine making, and the manufacture of aeronautical equipment, armaments, maps, paper, tobacco, printing, shoes, and electronic equipment. Learn more about Toulon in the "Discover Provence" DVD set.