Things to do in Toulon, France from a Cruise Ship

Things to do in Toulon, France from a Cruise ShipIf you have read any of our other guides, then you will know that we love to cruise. What’s not to love, you see lots of amazing places in one trip, enjoy great food and incredible entertainment. During 2022 we took a number of cruises on the Carnival Pride, with our favourite being a Mediterranean itinerary.

As you can imagine we visited some beautiful spots, including Kotor in Montenegro and Naples in Italy, where we took a day trip to the Amalfi Coast. Toulon in France was one of our last ports on the itinerary and we honestly didn’t expect much, thinking it would be one of those small quaint towns. But we can admit we were very wrong, because Toulon is an impressive place with lots to see and do, pretty much the ideal cruise stop.

So let us explain a little about Toulon and how easy the port is for cruisers, then we’ll delve into the important stuff, the attractions.

If you have booked a cruise on the Carnival Pride then check out our guide on the decks, facilities, and entertainment.

A Little About Toulon

French aircraft carrier ‘Charles de Gaulle’ in ToulonToulon is a city found on the French Riviera and because of its location it’s not only a popular cruise port, but it’s also a major naval base. This is because of its position and the fact it has a protected harbour. Located in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region and the Provence province, Toulon is the 13th largest city in France.

As well as being a major naval centre on the French Mediterranean coast, the city is known for naval construction, fishing and wine making. It’s also home to the French aircraft carrier ‘Charles de Gaulle’ and its fleet.

Although you’ll find many glitzy ports along the French coast such as Cannes and Nice, Toulon is more alike its neighbour Marseille. It offers a down to earth authentic French vibe, where you can simply wander and take in the local sights.

Because of Toulon’s history revolving around the fact it’s a naval town, with sixty percent of Frances fleet being based there. The military complex takes up a significant section, almost like a city within a city and Toulon is incredibly proud of its importance in protecting its country.

If you take the petit train, you will also notice Toulon’s other interest and that is rugby. They have the impressive Mayol rugby stadium which is home to the RC Toulonnais which is a successful rugby team having won the Heineken Cup a number of times.

Aswell as the main town itself, Toulon also has a beautiful harbourfront where you will find lots of fish restaurants. This is because it’s a large fishing area and was incredibly popular during the Roman age because it had tiny sea snails (known as murex) which were used to create a purple dye for the emperor’s robes.

As we have mentioned above, the best part of Toulon is the town itself, it is the perfect cruise port because you don’t need big excursions or even plans on what you’re going to do. For this amazing city you simply need comfy shoes and the enjoyment of wandering around the streets and taking in the French culture. We’ll admit now, we absolutely loved it, the ability to not have to rush around to make sure we saw everything was a nice change.

Cruise Port Toulon

Toulon Cruise PortIf you’ve read our other guides, then you’ll know that we have a cruise tradition. No matter what room we have booked, whether it’s an inside cabin or balcony, we always head up to the top deck for our first view of a port. Everything just looks more spectacular from the top deck, and you get to see the entire city and ocean. Some of the time you’ll simply get views of a working dock, but there are those ports which are jaw dropping and leave you eager to get off the ship. We have a couple which come to mind and they are Kotor, Montenegro and Skjolden in Norway; they left us speechless.

If you’re visiting either Kotor or Skjolden, then please check out our guides on the port and the best things to do when you’re there.

Toulon does have a terminal (or dock) for three ships under 300 metres, but you will find that most cruise ships will dock at La Seyne sur Mer which is across the bay. How you are transferred to the Espace Marine in Toulon will depend upon the cruise line. We were taken across the bay via a boat which left every 30 minutes, and it took about 10 minutes for the overall journey. But we have read that sometimes passengers are shuttled by bus instead which takes about 20 minutes. Our trip via ferry did not have an additional charge, but again we have seen others mention a 2 Euro charge each way. What we loved about this was the fact that the journey across the bay gives you a different view of the naval complex, including some incredible navy ships.

In 2016 Toulon opened a new cruise terminal building, which offers a few souvenirs but no Wi-Fi. Outside of the terminal you will find yourself on the harbour front, and it’s here you will see the usual locals selling excursions, but also the petit train which is a great way to get around Toulon.

When to Visit Toulon

The majority of this will be determined by when you’re going on your cruise, but it’s worth researching as it can influence what you pack.

If you’ve never cruised before or you’re still a newbie, then check out our ‘What to Pack for a Cruise’ guide.

Unless you have children and are tied to the school holidays, we always recommend heading to Europe for the Spring (April, May and even June) and Autumn (September and October) months. This is because you have milder temperatures, and it shouldn’t be too busy.

When to Visit ToulonAs you can imagine the end of June, July and August are the hottest months and temperatures can get incredibly warm with strong sunshine and dry summers. If you’re unlucky and it rains, then it tends to be heavy. Because of the location and its proximity to the sea, the winters in Toulon are mild and as such it is classed as the warmest city in metropolitan France. The spring and autumn combine warm temperatures, but not to the point where they’re unbearably hot, making it ideal for walking around all day.

Getting Around

The easiest way to get around Toulon is walking, but some areas such as the beach and Mont Faron are a distance from the cruise terminal so you may want to use public transport. Toulon offers a variety of options for tourists, whether it’s the petit train, buses, the cable car, or boats.

Using local transport doesn’t have to cost you a lot, because they have the 1 Jour téléphérique which is quite reasonably priced and offers unlimited travel for one day on Toulon’s buses, boat shuttles and the cable car. There is another version of the 1 Jour which doesn’t include the cable car. Tickets are available to purchase in newsagents and tobacconists all over the city, but also from the Toulon tourist office which is a short walk from the port.

This is a summary of the transport options available in Toulon.

  • Petit Train – We’ve mentioned the Petit Train a couple of times already in this guide, and that’s because it’s an incredibly handy transport option. It’s basically a small tourist train, similar to those you find in other holiday hot spots. But this little train goes a fair distance, especially when you consider how cheap the cost is at a mere 8 Euros per person. We have read that it’s a Euro cheaper if you buy your ticket in the tourist office, but we bought our ticket by the train, so we cannot confirm that.
  • Cable Car – The Telepherique du Mont Faron is a seven-minute cable car ride up Mont Faron. It is one of the most popular attractions in Toulon, but you need to walk about forty minutes uphill to reach the lower station. There is a public bus which stops outside the lower station, so if the walk sounds too much then check out the local timetables. We have read it is the no.40, but we would suggest asking at the tourist office.
  • Bus – For most people the easiest way to get around is simply walking, but sometimes it’s not always an option. This could be because of physical difficulties you may have, or the attraction you want to see is too far away. So buses are the ideal solution to get around and Toulon has a great network throughout the city which is ran by the Réseau Mistral. You can find routes and timetables on their website, or simply ask at the tourist office. There are various tariffs available including single fares and day passes. You can either buy them when you get on the bus or purchase them at certain locations around the city. Using buses has two setbacks, one doesn’t affect cruisers, but the other one will. Firstly, Toulon’s bus service stops in the middle of the evening, but most of us will have already made our way back to the ship because of the departure time. Secondly, the city’s road system can get quite congested with cars, and of course buses will get caught up in this, so if you’re eager to get as much done as possible, then maybe work out if walking is a better option.
  • Taxi – This isn’t necessarily an option we’d recommend, but sometimes it can be the easiest. If you prefer to travel in a little luxury then you can find the number for a cab on the Taxis Toulon site, use the app or head to a taxi rank. Uber is also available in Toulon, so if it’s something you already use then that’s also another option. Obviously, this is the more expensive transport choice, but you’ll also get there quicker and enjoy a more comfortable journey.
  • Bicycle – There isn’t an official bike hire scheme, as we’re finding in other tourist areas. But you will find private companies close to the port terminal. If you struggle to see one, then head to the tourist office and they should be able to help with details of local businesses.
  • Boat – You can find ‘bateaux-bus’ or boat buses on the gare maritime boat pier which is near the town hall. These boats stop at Toulon, La Seyne sur Mer, Les Sablettes and Saint Mandrier. They are used by commuting locals, but also tourists who want to enjoy sailing the bay area. If you would prefer a guided tour with information about the area, then you’ll find boat tours along the harbour front.
  • Rail – For most people you won’t need to use the trains in Toulon, especially if it’s your first visit we would recommend enjoying the city. Should you want to head further afield, but you don’t want to pay cruise ship excursion prices, then this is a great option. The train station is next to the bus station, which is about 20 minutes’ walk from the cruise port. You can get trains to the medieval city of Hyères, Aubagne and even Marseille. Because you’re constricted by time during a cruise, we’d recommend preparing for your journey and checking out the train times on their website.

Things to See and Do in Toulon

Petit Train – Les Petits Trains De Toulon

Petit Train – Les Petits Trains De ToulonAs we walked through the cruise terminal in Toulon, we found ourselves on the harbour front. There will be plenty of locals selling excursions, but you’ll also see a cute little train trolley which is called the Petit Train. Most popular tourist spots have tourist trains, especially smaller locations such as Olden in Norway.

We have been told that there are two 45-minute circuits, but we were only offered one. The one that wasn’t offered takes you inside the military naval base, but we have read it was stopped for security reasons. If you opt for the other route then you’ll pass the main tourist sites such as the Stade Mayol rugby stadium, the street market on the Cours Lafayette, the Opéra and Haussmann Quarter, the Old Town, Port Saint Louis, and the furthest point which is the beaches of Le Mourillon. We were given the option of getting off the train at the beach area so you can enjoy the beautiful sea front and then jump back on another trolley.

This is a great option if you have physical difficulties and as such you cannot walk far, especially because when we visited, the cost was only about 8 Euros. But even we enjoyed the journey, although we will admit that you won’t see lots along the way, because of how the city is laid out, you tend to drive through the quieter streets of the city.

As you ride the train, you’re given headphones so that you can listen to commentary about the history of the area you’re going through. This audio is available in both English and French and we could understand it quite clearly.

For those of you who love to walk and see as many attractions in a port as possible, then this may not be for you. Although we did the train and then walked around Toulon taking in the sites. But it does take up a chunk of your day and you don’t really get into the main parts of Toulon; it stays more towards the harbour front.

If you’re visiting Olden in Norway via a cruise, then please make sure you check out our guide on the port and things to do when you’re there.

Telephonies du Mont Faron

The Telephonies du Mont Faron is a cable car and the most popular attraction in Toulon; so it’s got to be good! The walk to the lower station from the harbour is about forty minutes, but you can use public transport such as buses to get there. The impressive red cable car is one of a kind on the Mediterranean coast and rises to a height of 584 metres.

Prices are pretty reasonable in comparison to some of the cable cars we have taken in other places. Current prices as of February 2024 are.

  • Return Trip – Adult 8 Euro, Child 6 Euro,
  • Day Pass (cable car/bus/boat bus) – Adults 7.50 Euro – Includes a return trip to the summit of Mont Faron in the cable car and unlimited travel on the Réseau Mistral public transport network.
  • Cable Car and Landing Museum – Adults 13 Euros – A museum focusing on World War II within the area and on the mountain of Faron.

The cable car runs for most of the year but check the website for open and closing times. Plus, high winds can cause a closure of the car at a short notice. Once on board the cable car which has a glass panel on the floor, you will enjoy a 7-to-8-minute journey to the top with incredible views below and across the city all the way to the harbour.

At the top of the mountain there are facilities to enjoy, including two restaurants where you can have something to eat or drink with an amazing view. They also have a number of marked trails at various difficulty levels, which take you to various spots over Mont Faron. Most of the trails will have picnic areas so you can rest and take in the views and have a nibble.

Five minutes from the cable car arrival terminal you’ll find the Provence Allied Landings Museum. It is a World War II Memorial Museum which commemorates the Allies in Provence. There are audiovisual images, models, and objects such as a Sherman tank, a German anti-tank gun and an anti-aircraft gun which were used in the war. You’ll also discover how ‘Operation Dragoon’ helped with the liberation of southeastern France in August 1944.

So, if you’re looking for something more active which offers spectacular views, then this is a great option for your visit in Toulon. You will probably need one or two hours, depending on what you want to do when you’re there.

Musée National de la Marine

The Musée National de la Marine is a Museum of the French Navy and can be found within a short distance from the harbour. Located behind what was formerly the monumental gate to the Arsenal of Toulon, the museum was actually founded in 1814 during the reign of Emperor Napoleon. The museum building which was built in 1738 and the clock tower beside it, are two of the few buildings which survived the Allied bombardments throughout World War II.

Within the museum you’ll find displays showing the history of Toulon as a French Navy port from the 17th century onwards. You’ll find various displays including an 18th century model of the aircraft carrier Charles De Gaulle, relief plans, paintings, and scientific instruments. You’ll also discover the stories of the lives of the people working on the dockyard.

Entrance to the museum is currently 6 Euros and it includes an audio guide which is available in English. We recommend that you check the website of the museum for opening and closing times, but when we’ve looked it says 10am to 6pm and closed on Tuesdays.

Old Town Toulon – Cours Lafayette

Old Town Toulon – Cours LafayetteToulon old town known as the medieval quarter is a quintessential European city, with beautiful narrow streets, small squares, and lots of fountains. This was our favourite part of Toulon, because strolling around and feeling like a local was such a wonderful experience. The historic centre of the old town is classed as anything between the port, the Boulevard de Strasbourg, and the Cours Lafayette.

Toulon Cathedral also known as Sainte-Marie-Majeure is worth visiting, but obviously be respectful for other parishioners. Another notable spot is the Place de la Liberté, also known as Freedom Square. The central piece of the square are three beautiful fountains which are said to represent France, strength, and justice.

Another must see spot is the Provencal Market which is found on the street of Cours Lafayette. It is a sight to behold, because there are long rows of market stalls selling the most beautiful produce. Obviously because it’s a market for local people, you won’t find many touristy things to buy. But it was so hard not to want to buy as much fruit and vegetables as possible and take them back on the ship. The market is open every day except Monday from 8am to 1pm.

If you find yourself in need of refreshment, then don’t worry there are plenty of restaurants and bars around the area, but especially near Cours Lafayette.

The Hôtel des Arts

This art gallery can be found next to Liberty Square in a beautiful Haussmanian building. It is free to enter and presents various exhibits of works by well-known contemporary artists such as Sean Scully, Jannis Kounellis, Per Kirkeby and Vik Muniz. The exhibits tend to be in a variety of formats such as painting, photography, architecture, and digital arts.

Musée d’Art

The Museum of Art (Musée d’art) founded in 1888, contains collections of modern and contemporary art, as well as paintings from the region of Provence from the 17th to the beginning of the 20th century. The neo-Renaissance building was specifically designed for the purpose of being a museum with facades which are decorated with sculptures. It is open all year round except Mondays and public holidays, and entry is free, so if you’re an art fan then it is certainly worth taking a look.

Centre Mayol – Shopping Mall

Only five minutes’ walk from the cruise terminal is the Centre Mayol which is a French mall. Inside you will find lots of shops, as well as small restaurants which makes it the ideal spot to eat on those really hot days, especially because it’s air conditioned. There is also a large Carrefour which is a supermarket, located on the ground floor level, which is perfect for grabbing those snacks or essentials you may have forgotten for your cruise.

Musée d’Histoire de Toulon et de sa region – The Museum of the History of Toulon and its Region

Located in the historic centre of Toulon, this museum displays the history and development of Toulon as a city with such rich naval and military heritage. Within the museum there are collections of archaeological artifacts from both ancient Greek and Roman eras. You will also find pieces and documents from medieval and modern periods. This includes pivotal roles in French history such as the French Revolution and World War II.

The museum building was a former Bishop’s Palace which dates back to the 17th century. As you walk through the museum make sure you take in the beautiful interior design and courtyards. Admission to the museum is free and it is open Monday to Saturday between 2pm and 6pm (closed on Sundays).

RC Toulonnais - Stade Mayol Rugby StadiumOther things to see when you’re in Toulon.

  • Stade Mayol Rugby Stadium
  • Plages Due Mourillon – Mourillon Beaches
  • Opéra de Toulon – Opera House
  • Partie de Cartes de Raimu – This is an interactive statue of two older gentlemen playing cards and it can be found in Toulon old town. It’s a cute picture to get because you can sit on one of the spare seats around the table and join in the game.
  • The Harbour Front and Marinas – With lots of quaint shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars.
  • ‘The Genie de la Navigation’ the Navigation Genius – Found along the harbour area this statue of a sailor is dedicated to navigation and seamen. There is a quirky side to it though, because when it was erected in 1847 the local people nicknamed it the ‘Cul-vers-ville’ which means ass to the city, which is apt because the statue shows a bare bum. It was a play on words for the surname of the commander in chief of the Mediterranean squad, who at the time was named Admiral Jules de Cuverville.
  • Toulon Cathedral – The Sainte-Marie-de-la-Seds or Sainte-Marie-Majeure, is a Catholic cathedral in the old town of Toulon. The current building is Romanesque architecture and was built in the 11th
  • Porte d’Italie Vauban Fortification – The Porte d’Italie is a gate constructed in 1678, it has a notable presence in history because Napoleon departed for his Italian campaign through this gate in 1796. This beautiful structure was part of an elaborate system of fortifications which were used to protect the city of Toulon. You can still find sections throughout the city, although much of it was removed so that Toulon could be enlarged.
  • Musée des arts asiatiques – The Museum of Asian Arts – This museum is around a 30-minute walk from the port and is located in a house which belonged to the son of author Jules Verne. The museum contains a small collection of art objects from the time of the French Colonisation of Southeast Asia. This includes pieces of art and paintings from various Asian countries.
  • Musée d’histoire naturelle de Toulon et du Var – The Museum of Natural History of Toulon and the Var – Although this museum is a little far away, being a 40-minute walk, we still thought we’d mention it because you can get public transport there. The Museum of Natural History of Toulon and the Var was founded in 1888 and displays large collections about dinosaurs, birds, mammals, and minerals, mostly from the region.

Additional Excursions which can be Booked from The Cruise Lines

Plages Due Mourillon – Toulon BeachesAlthough these have been specifically cited from the Carnival website, you will find that many other cruise lines offer similar packages.

  • Experience St.Tropez and Port Grimaud – St Tropez is known as an area of luxury with stunning beaches and incredible sea views. This charming town is steeped in history and is now a favourite destination for Parisians and international jet setters. You’ll find a port lined with luxury yachts, and the town offering tiny boutiques, galleries, cafes, and restaurants. Once you’ve enjoyed the chic visit to St Tropez then your tour will head to the unique seaside resort of Port Grimaud. What was a coastal wetland is now a waterside village, with each house having a waterfront view, a garden, and space to moor a boat.
  • Le Castellet and Wine Tasting – Castellet is a Provençal hilltop village which is perched on a wooden hill above vineyards. The 11th century castle and 12th century church are well preserved and after you enter the two fortified gates, you will begin a walking tour through the narrow streets up to the castle. As well as art and craft shops, you’ll also stop at the famous vineyard to taste some of the local wines.
  • Medieval City of Hyeres – After a scenic drive along the coast, you’ll head to the medieval city of Hyères. Here you’ll do a walking tour through the 12th century narrow streets and Tour des Templiers, built by the Templars, and used as a commandery. The tour also includes the 13th century Romanesque Saint-Louis Church and the Castel Saint Claire, a 19th century home and garden.
  • Marseille with Aix-en-Provence – As you meander along the coastline on the way to Marseille, you’ll witness lovely views of offshore islands dominated by the Marseilles Veyre Massif. You’ll then have time to enjoy the old port before heading to Aix en-Provence, with a guided walk along the Cours Mirabeau.


As you research cruises, a fundamental aspect of which one you choose will be the itinerary. For most people, Toulon probably isn’t a place you’d consider as a must visit. We hadn’t heard of Toulon before our Mediterranean cruise and as such we saw it as an addition to our trip. Sadly because of this we didn’t plan to do much other than wander, which is fine because Toulon is the ideal walking city. But there is so much to do there, so keep our guide saved so you have an easy-to-follow list of attractions.

There are plenty of transport options if needed and they’re all relatively cheap in price. But if you can, take our advice and put on the comfy shoes and get walking.

Partie de Cartes de RaimuAs a cruise stop it is ideal because most attractions are close to the cruise port and as such are walkable. We managed to do most of the activities within a couple of hours, but there is more we’re eager to do next time.

If you fancy the Mont Faron cable car then our advice would be to head there first and early, as it is a popular attraction. There are plenty of museums for the history buffs and as you can see from our guide, they’re either free or incredibly cheap, so you won’t end up spending much there. This of course means you can treat yourself to souvenirs or maybe trying out the local cuisine.

Other than that, we spent our time wandering the streets and seeing the sights, which felt like an idyllic day in the sunshine. We even popped into a supermarket to grab some snacks for the ship. But if all that walking sounds a little too much then you can always head to the beautiful beaches and just relax, because basically there is something for everyone.

Remember that most shops, museums, banks, and the tourist office will be open all day. But some of the smaller businesses such as boutiques may close for lunch, which is usually between 12.30 and 2pm. You may find that on Sunday many businesses will close at noon.

Make sure you tag us in on Instagram if you end up visiting magnificent Toulon, we love to see what you’re up to as you tick off your bucket lists.