Toulon is where Provence and the French Riviera meet, and has traditionally been a transit point between the two, with excellent rail and ferry connections. Recently however, this hitherto overlooked naval port has taken advantage of its incredible position and surrounding natural beauty to become an attractive destination in its own right.
The physical features that made Toulon a good place to settle in 3,000 years ago make it a great city to spend time in to this day - Mount Faron protects it from the whipping mistral winds and provides super views over the sea, ideal then to detect invaders, ideal now to enjoy boats bobbing on the sparkling Mediterranean. The peninsula that almost encloses the harbour makes the water super stilled, so perfect for a port, and port cities are almost always exciting ones. Toulon is certainly that, with new bars and restaurants popping up harbourside, with its Jazz festival held on the beaches, a dance festival, a Maritime Film Festival and numerous events held at the lovely old Opera House and at the numerous café-theatres. The food market - held every day except Monday - is a source of further drama and delightful produce.
Architecturally, Toulon is an interesting mix, with the little ochre, yellow and pink houses of the historical centre lining the narrow winding streets that spin around the ancient cathedral marking the lower town, or basse ville. Haute ville, the upper town, is an altogether more airy and structured affair, designed by Haussman and filled with monuments and buildings built under Napoleon's orders.
Dotted everywhere are a multitude of museums, including the Naval Museum and the Allied Landings Museum, as well as one dedicated to regional and international photography. There are beautiful if busy beaches to be found nearby, and at Mourillon, a village within the city and now part of a chic neighbourhood, with promenades and botanical gardens to wander about in and eclectic boutiques to browse in. And if all that doesn't satisfy, try to catch a local rugby game - the local side are a force to be reckoned with and have included Jonny Wilkinson among its rugged ranks.