Toulon National Maritime Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

Toulon National Maritime Museum

Toulon, Provence-Alpes-Cote d'Azur, France

The Toulon National Maritime Museum houses exhibits relating to the city’s naval history.

Image Credit: Wikimedia / Public Domain

About Toulon National Maritime Museum

The Toulon National Maritime Museum (Musée national de la Marine à Toulon) is an historical and naval museum in the city of Toulon.

Toulon National Maritime Museum history

Toulon has long been home to a naval base and the Toulon National Maritime Museum is housed in a former naval arsenal, one of the city’s few remnants to have survived World War Two.

The ‘modern’ history of the port began when Louis XII built his Tour Royale at Toulon in 1514. A naval arsenal and shipyard were built in 1599, and small sheltered harbour, the Veille Darse, was built in 1604–1610 to protect ships from the wind and sea. The shipyard was greatly enlarged by Cardinal Richelieu, who wished to make France into a Mediterranean naval power.

In 1680, Jean-Baptiste Colbert, Secretary of State of the Navy and Controller of Finance of King Louis XIV, began building a much larger port, called the Darse Vauban or the Darse Neuve, and shipyard, designed by his commissioner of fortifications, Vauban. In 1697, Vauban built the impressive corderie, a building designed to make ropes. A triumphal gate (now the Museum of the Navy) was added to the Arsenal in 1738.

The Arsenal port was enlarged still further in the 19th century and the 20th century. The construction of the arsenal du Mourillon began at the start of the 18th century, as an extension of the major Toulon arsenal on the roadstead’s east coast. Until the 20th century this extension held stores for the wood to build the French Navy. From the late 19th century it was this shipyard that built France’s first ironclad frigates then the world’s first modern submarines.

The Arsenal was badly damaged by Allied bombing in World War Two, but since has been reconstructed and modernised. It has eleven drydocks for ship repair, the two largest of which are 422 metres by 40 metres. The Arsenal is still the principal military port of France, the home port of the aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, France’s attack submarine squadron, and the other ships of the French Mediterranean fleet.

The Arsenal is not open to the public, but the Naval Museum at its entrance has a remarkable collection of enormous ship models from the 18th century, used to train the heir to the throne in seamanship, as well as other naval memorabilia. The building of the Corderie can be seen beside the road nearby. Boat tours depart regularly from the waterfront, and allow visitors to have a good look at ships of the French fleet.

Toulon National Maritime Museum today

Building on its rich collections, inherited know-how men’s arsenal since the second half of the 17th century, the museum offers an educational and attractive accessible to all human and technical history.

Inside the Toulon National Maritime Museum, visitors can learn about the development of this historic port and the events which have taken place there, including the 1793 recapture of the port from the British by Napoleon Bonaparte.

There are also a series of models of old ships as well as real ones, some dating back to the seventeenth century. Among the must made since 2010 is a space dedicated to Vauban and the first arsenal, the galleys at Toulon with a reconstruction of the Hospital of the prison, the Franco-Russian alliance and diplomatic gifts, a focus on the Navy in the World War Two and today’s Navy developed the first floor around submarines and aircraft carriers.

Workshops and tours are also available.

Getting to Toulon National Maritime Museum

The address of the museum is Place Monsenergue, Quai de Norfolk, 83000 Toulon, France.

From Toulon SNCF station, you can reach the Toulon National Maritime Museum by foot in 15 minutes. From the Place de la Liberté, it will take you 10 minutes.

If travelling by bus, routes 7, 23, 40 and U (University) will take you to Préfecture Maritime bus stop, just outside the museum.

The nearest available parking is at Place d’Armes or Place de la Liberté.

Featured In

France Historic Sites

From towering imposing castles to First World War trenches, ancient Roman ruins to historic Revolutionary sites, France is brimming with relics of its esteemed and turbulent history. Here's our pick of 10 of the very best attractions in the country.