For most of its history, La Seyne-sur-Mer was an industrial enclave that supported the port of Toulon.
La Seyne is a shipbuilding town whose shipyard was still being launched in the 1980s.
But since then, the town has turned to tourism, revamping the waterfront, opening restaurants and building accommodation.
This transformation is marked by the Pont de la Seyne, a century-old steel bridge transformed into a stylish observation deck.
This is a lovely destination, within easy reach of the superb Plage des Sablettes beaches and all the excitement of Toulon’s old harbour.
This remains France’s main Mediterranean naval base, and has a wealth of history to reveal to anyone interested in French military history.
Let’s discover the best things to do in La Seyne-sur-Mer:
1. Port of Toulon
The Port of Toulon, on the Saint-Mandrier peninsula to the south, is an unparalleled natural harbour: the Fallon Hill behind Toulon is both a land barrier and a natural lookout tower.
The port remains the main base of the French Navy in the Mediterranean.
If you’re interested in military hardware, you’ll need to take a ferry to Toulon to catch a glimpse of the warships and aircraft carriers on the ferry.
Another way to experience the harbour is to stroll along La Seyne’s marina and watch the sea traffic come and go.
2. Balagir Fort
The fortress was built in 1673 to defend the eastern edge of the port of Toulon.
Its most pivotal event occurred after the surrender of Toulon to Britain in 1793.
French troops led by Napoleon Bonaparte launched an attack on the fortress, which helped drive the British out of the city.
This was a milestone in Napoleon’s career as he was promoted directly to general.
The fort is still owned by the French Navy, but is run by the local council, which has set up a small maritime museum inside.
3. La Pont de la Seyne
Over the past decade, La Seyn’s iconic railway bridge in the port of Toulon has accomplished some very creative things.
The steel structure is 44 meters long and was built in 1917. It has been in a permanent upright position since decommissioning, and was turned into a viewing platform during restoration work.
There is an elevator serving the lookout with an excellent view of one of the most famous ports in the world.
On the lower level is a small exhibition center where you can view the century-old mechanisms used to power the bridge.
4. Plage des Sablettes
On the seaward side of the isthmus that connects the Saint-Mandrier peninsula to the mainland is one of the region’s most prized beaches.
Plage des Sablettes is a kilometer of curving fine white sand bathed in clear, mild waters on most days.
From the beach, you’ll be able to gaze at the dramatic silhouette of Cap Sicié, as well as the Deux Frères rocks with local legends rooted in Greek mythology.
Next to the Plage des Sablettes there are several water sports companies offering windsurfing, kayaking, scuba diving and light sailing in summer.
In the evening, you might be able to watch a concert or fireworks display on the beach.
This waterside community to Les Sablettes was designed by architect Michel Pacha at the end of the 19th century.
Here he developed 70 villas, as well as cabins, two hotels, three casinos, all enriched by gardens.
It was a winter destination where aristocrats and industrialists took shelter from the wind and rain and took advantage of the sweeping views of Toulon.
If you want to get closer to Pacha’s Orientalist mansion, Le Seyne’s tourist office organizes a walking tour nearby.
One of them, Villa Tamaris, is a modern art center that hosts temporary exhibitions of regional artists in extraordinary settings.
6. Navy Park
Just east of the marina, this waterfront park sums up La Seyne’s rebirth after the collapse of the shipbuilding industry.
The park, with its fresh pine forests and swaying palm trees, covers five hectares where the old shipyard once stood.
There is a large ocean-themed playground for the little ones to play, and a long waterway with a small pedestrian bridge crossing it.
For couples, there’s no better place to take a walk after dinner, as you can overlook the water and see Toulon, the harbour and Mount Fallon in the distance.
7. Église Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Voyage
Built in 1673, the church was built to cater to LaSaine’s growing seafaring congregation.
Sailors would pray for safety before setting off and then thank them on their return.
By the end of the 19th century, the church began to fall apart, and Michel Pacha intervened.
He redesigned the façade, giving it a sleek neo-Gothic rose window and a portal adorned with fine carvings.
Carved in Bourg-Saint-Andéol, a few hours north, this magnificent marble altar was donated to the church by local architectural magnate Amable Lagane in 1892 when her daughter was married in the church.
8. Forêt de Janas
For those looking to stretch their legs, 391 hectares of expansive woodland can be seen from the hills of the West West Point coast.
Take a family outing in the fragrant forest of Aleppo pines, holm oaks and eucalyptus, and admire the south side of the harbour from this natural balcony.
By car You can simply drive the Corniche Varoise, which hugs the coast high above the water.
There are several places to stop, get out, and contemplate the breathtaking views of the Port of Toulon, Mount Fallon and the Mandril Peninsula.
9. Perlas Battery
One of the historical sites traced in Forêt de Janas is this huge gun installation dating from 1879. It was built in a now-forgotten time when there were fears of a new conflict in the Mediterranean.
Perched nearly 200 meters above the sea, it was designed to land artillery shells on ships attacking the port.
The battery was never actually used for this purpose, and the Germans converted the unit to a bulletproof battery in World War II.
Their guns are still there today, along with a lot of infrastructure, like powder depots, rainwater cisterns, and barracks, all under a layer of reinforced concrete.
10. Téléphérique De Toulon
We’ve already mentioned Mont Faron several times, and you can take the cable car to the top from the outskirts of Touon.
It takes about 15 minutes from La Seyne to the next station.
Installed in the late 1950s, the gondola was a remarkable project, running nearly half a kilometer and climbing 378 meters.
It takes 6 minutes to reach the upper station, where you will see the whole of Toulon and the mysterious harbour that unfolds below.
To continue your adventure, you can use the walking trail system, and there is also a small wild cat zoo about 20 minutes from the upper station.
11. National Maritime Museum
If you have any questions about the port of Toulon and its relationship with the French Navy, you can get them answered here.
The Naval Museum is a stately institution, established in 1814 during Napoleon’s reign. You will reach Toulon’s former armory through the grand gates, which dates back to 1738 and is one of the few historic buildings in the port during the Allied bombing raid in 1944. The gallery showcases the history of the port and the various ships built and moored here, such as the imperious aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle.
Among the many treasures is a model of a large ship from the 1700s used to train sailors in seamanship.
12. Lafayette Avenue Market
Every morning except Mondays, two long rows of stalls line this street in eastern Toulon.
There are about 80 stalls, and for anyone vacationing in La Seyne’s self-catering accommodation, you should stop by for fresh fish, fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, baked goods and a variety of delicacies. Regional cuisine from Provence.
As with all the best markets, the choice is entirely dependent on when you visit.
You might also be drawn to the aromas of chichi frégi (a long fried doughnut) and socca (called “cade” in Toulon), a pizza oven baked and seasoned with salt and pepper Chickpea Flatbread.
13. RC Toulonay
A 15-minute drive will take you to the home of one of the best rugby teams in the world.
It’s no exaggeration either: RC Toulonnais is almost always in contention for major honours in the top 14 leagues, and often goes deep into the Heineken Cup, Europe’s biggest prize, rugby.
In 2017, the squad was littered with active France and South Africa internationals, most notably lightning-fast Springboks winger Brian Havana.
So seasoned rugby fans will want to get a piece of the action at Stadium Mayor, while newcomers won’t find a better introduction to rugby in the northern hemisphere.
This lovely old town is ten minutes from the slopes of La Seine.
You’ll experience a history that Toulon may lack, and exercise your calves as you navigate the tight medieval core with steep alleys under flowered balconies, up stairs and in passages.
Climb to the top of the town is the decaying tower of a medieval feudal castle, and if you’re really fit, you can walk along the top of Gros Cerveau overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.
Meanwhile, Ollioules Gorge and its caves are the hideout of Gaspard de Besse, the 18th-century robber and folk hero who robbed the wealthy stagecoach and gave it to the poor.
15. Other beaches
Plage des Sablettes is a piece of paradise, but it can fill up in July and August.
However, if you continue towards Cap Sicié, you will encounter a few more in about 20 minutes from La Seyne.
There are seven in all, of various sizes, ranging from the long sands of the secluded nude beach Plage du Jonquet to the coves of Plage des Vernette and Plage de la Verne.
If you want some solitude, you can choose a less popular pebble beach like Plage des Pins, a pine-edged cove surrounded by old boat ramps that creak in the rocks.
Where to stay: The best hotels in La Seyne-sur-Mer, France
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