Toulon is a wonderfully vibrant port city on the Mediterranean, well-placed for spending time on the sandy beaches and shingle coves of the Med, as well as being a perfect base for exploring the unforgettable landscapes and beautiful villages of Provence, with their superb food and vineyards. Late summer, autumn and spring are perfect times of year to visit – when temperatures are milder, the coast less crowded, and the Provençal landscape is a riot of colour.
Whether you’re looking to holiday on a shoestring, or blow the budget, here’s where to stay, eat and explore in Toulon, Hyères and Provence off-season …
Budget: Grand Hôtel de la Gare, Toulon
Family owned for more than 30 years, the Grand Hôtel de la Gare occupies an elegant Haussmann-era building, its bright, colourful decor perfectly matching the warm welcome. An antique staircase leading up from the lobby sets the scene, decorated with details of iconic artworks from the early 20th century. The location is handy, as the name implies – right across the street from the railway station – and guests can also use the rooftop swimming pool at the nearby Grand Hôtel Dauphiné.
Treat: Hotel Moxy, La Ciotat
Moxy La Ciotat has a fun, open and youthful spirit reflected in its bold design. It has an accessible style where interaction is at the centre of the experience – there’s a video wall in the lobby and “plug and meet” meeting spaces. There’s also a rooftop terrace and swimming pool.
Splurge: Lou Calen, Cotignac
Surrounded by gorgeous Provençal countryside, Lou Calen is a luxurious three-hectare (7.4-acre) estate, within easy reach of both the coast and the stunning Gorges du Verdon. Choose from a range of beautifully decorated rooms and suites – including exquisite garden suites, and rooms overlooking the village square – and enjoy fine dining in a lovely garden setting, or chill out in the rooftop wine bar.
Budget: Les Halles de Toulon
Toulon’s vibrant art deco covered market – renovated and reopened in 2021, after being closed for about 20 years – is now home to some 25 artisan food and drink merchants. It’s perfect for stocking up for a picnic, or buying some delicious Provençal food and wine to take home – or grab a seat and enjoy a cheese and charcuterie platter or other gourmet market cuisine.
Treat: Chez Jeanette, Commanderie de Peyrassol, Flassans-sur-Issole
Enjoy memorable fine dining – and of course, excellent wines – in a wonderful setting, at this vineyard in the Provençal countryside. Chefs Michel Portos (two Michelin stars) and Alexia Fresia create exquisite and imaginative dishes, with an emphasis on local, seasonal produce, much of which is grown or reared on the vineyard’s own organic farm.
Splurge: La Bastide de Moustiers, Moustiers-Sainte-Marie
At La Bastide de Moustiers, which is located near the Lac de Sainte-Croix and the Gorges du Verdon, chef Adrien de Crignis throws a spotlight on the flavours of Provençal cuisine and local terroirs. Menus follow the seasons, with vegetables and herbs being picked fresh from the restaurant’s gardens.
Budget: Villa Noailles, Hyères
Villa Noailles is a contemporary art centre in the town of Hyères, and is home to temporary exhibitions as well as workshops and festivals.
Treat: Villa Carmignac, Île de Porquerolles, Hyères
This is a gallery setting like no other; located on an island in the middle of a national park, in an underground space beneath a modern villa and lit by an aquatic ceiling. The collection includes more than 300 works by contemporary artists, and the gallery is also home to temporary exhibitions including the prestigious annual Carmignac photojournalism award. Visitors are obliged to walk barefoot within the gallery.
Splurge: Beyond the Wine, La Croix Valmer
Discover some of the best wines from across the Côtes de Provence appellation, by joining a specialised wine tour. Beyond the Wine offers themed, small-group tours, operating daily and starting from La Croix Valmer, just 10 minutes from Saint-Tropez.
Budget: Mount Faron cable car, Toulon
Ride the cable car from Toulon up to the summit of Mount Faron, for panoramic views over the city and surrounding landscape.
Treat: Six-Fours Surf Club, Six-Fours-les-Plages
Learn to surf or have a go at stand-up paddleboarding (Sup), at one of only three surf clubs on the Mediterranean endorsed by the École Française de Surf. There are children’s courses, sunset outings and Sup yoga and pilates sessions.
Splurge: Vertical Horizon, Hyères
Don’t miss the unforgettable experience of whale watching in the Pelagos sanctuary – one of the greatest places in Europe to see whales and dolphins – in small boats (12 passengers maximum), with a responsible and knowledgeable local tour operator.
Budget: Street Bar, Toulon
Located near the harbour, this busy little bar is the place to come for well-priced cocktails, street food and beers.
Treat: Les Halles Milona, La Moutonne
Located midway between Toulon and Hyères, this covered market brings together artisan food stalls, along with wine bars and cafés, serving food ranging from oysters to tapas.
Splurge: L’Anna, Hyères
With live music and DJs from Thursday to Sunday, a glitzy terrace, and menu of Mediterranean classics, L’Anna is the perfect spot for a memorable meal.
Budget: Maître Savonitto, Toulon
Whether you’re after a gift for a friend or a holiday memento for yourself, artisan soap shop Maître Savonitto is the place to go. Not only are their soaps made from natural, traceable ingredients, but they’re all made locally in the Haut Var region.
Treat: VinoSpirit Expériences at Château de Saint-Martin, Taradeau
Château de Saint-Martin has a history of winemaking that stretches back several centuries, and is also home to a premium craft distillery, Liquoristerie de Provence. Take a tour through the 18th-century cellars of this cru classé vineyard, and visit its small spirits museum with interactive displays, before treating yourself to a few bottles to take home.
Splurge: Grande braderie de Saint-Tropez, Saint-Tropez
This huge annual clearance sale, which takes place over four days in late October, sees designer fashion labels move discounted items out on to street stalls, with some ridiculously good bargains more or less guaranteed.
Discover a new side to the south of France with an off-season trip to Toulon. With EasyJet flights from various UK airports, it’s never been easier to catch some autumn sun. Find out more at easyjet.com