The little town of La Seyne-sur-Mer on the French Riviera is one of those places that doesn’t attract as many visitors as its neighbouring villages. This small port on the Mediterranean sea is about an hour away from the Gulf of Saint Tropez, but not anywhere as famous.
However, there are plenty of things to do and see in this charming seaside town, if you are looking for a relaxing holiday in the sun.
Southern France is a popular holiday destination for local and foreign tourists with its beaches, coastal resorts and medieval cities. One of these cities is La Seyne-sur-Mer in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region (PACA) in southeastern France.
This stretch of the Mediterranean counts several popular French beach towns including Bandol, Cassis, Sanary-sur-mer, Saint-Cyr-sur-mer and La Ciotat which are all very close. The hilltop “most beautiful village” Le Castellet is also within an hour’s drive.
The Var area is an ideal holiday destination for families, couples or groups of friends with a wide range of activities, places to visit, food and wine on offer.
Although it has has a population of around 65,000, the charming city of la Seyne-sur-mer actually part of the larger agglomoration of Toulon, which is right next door. The name Seyne is for a type of reed that grew in the area in the 19th century, when the town started to grow.
Initially a shipbuilding town, the shipyards were significantly damaged during WWII. With a series of massive strikes in the 1970s, the industry collapsed and the town diversified into tourism.
These days, the shipyards have receded, and La Seyne-sur-Mer’s magnificent coastal scenery and beaches are the main feature. So let’s look at the top things to do in the area, shall we? Allons-y!
Things to do in La Seyne-sur-mer
1. Plage des Sablettes
If you are visiting La Seyne-sur-mer, one of the things you are probably interested in is the beach. One of the finest beaches in the area is the Plage des Sablettes, which is around 2 miles (4 km) away from the town’s main port.
A fine sand beach, in an area where many beaches have pebbles, the Plage des sablettes is a little slice of heaven for beachgoers.
There are several kiosks and restaurants on the beach, making it one of the most popular. There are plenty of activities in the summer months for the full family, from scuba diving, windsurfing, kayaking, and sailing. It can get crowded in the warmer months, so head over early to grab a piece of prime real estate.
2. Fort de Balaguier
At one end of the La-Seyne-sur-mer harbor is the impressive looking Fort de Balaguier. Constructed in the 17th century, it was built to protect the harbor of Toulon, which is just on the other side of the fort. At the time, several such forts were being built along the coast, to deter foreign incursions.
The fort saw significant fighting during the Napoleonic wars with the U.K. in the early 1800s. It was also occupied during the two world wars.
Today the fort houses a museum called Musée Balaguier, focusing on the area’s naval history. Open usually in the afternoons, the museum costs around €3 to enter.
3. The Town
The heart of La-Seyne-sur-mer is of course its large historic port. With rows upon rows of fishing and small boats aligned in the harbor, it is a sight to behold. If you get a room in the Mercure hotel of La Seyne, you can ask for a view of the harbor from your room, with the town behind it.
Lined with shops, bars and restaurants, the area around the harbor front and on the small streets behind, are well worth a visit. Directly behind the waterfront, is the 17th century catholic church, Église Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Voyage.
The church’s name “Our Lady Bon voyage” is meant to bless good fortune to those sailors setting out to sea and to wish their safe return. Just meters away is the protestant church, which is a smaller and more discrete building.
4. Market days
There are several market days in La Seyne-sur-mer, with different markets occurring on different days:
- Marché provençal: Around in Cours Louis-Blanc from tuesday to sunday mornings 8am to 1pm.
- Marché forain: Around Blvd du 4 Sept from tuesday to sunday mornings 8am to 1pm.
- Marché provençal des Sablettes: Around Place Lalo from tuesday to sunday mornings 8am to 1pm.
- Marché forain des Sablettes: around Esplanade Boeuf every friday morning
- Marché aux puces: Around Place Benoît Frachon every sunday morning
In addition, in the summer months, there is the Carré des artistes (Marché de créateurs) and the Marché nocturne aux Sablettes (night market).
So as you can see, whatever day you go to La Seyne-sur-mer, you will likely be there on market day. Unless it is a monday, of course! You can read more about local foods and drinks to buy in Provence here.
5. Other nearby beaches
If you continue down towards the Cap Sicié peninsula, you will cross several beaches that are within a 15 minute drive of La Seyne-sur-Mer.
Stretching along the coast, the main ones from closest to furtherest are:
- Plage des Vernette – a quiet secluded beach that is quite rocky.
- Plage de la Verne – a beach with pebbles on it, that is a protected cove for calm waters.
- Les Pins Parasols – a small beach with pebbles on it, that is right next to the Plage de la Verne
- Plage du Jonquet – a small beach with pebbles on it, where naturism is allowed.
If you prefer sandy beaches, I suggest heading towards the beaches near Bandol, which about 30 minutes away.
6. Villa Tamaris centre d’art
Villa Tamaris is a 19th century grand pavilion-type villa that was built by a man named Blaise-Jean-Marius Michel, who was granted the title of Pasha by the Ottoman empire.
Born in nearby Sanary-sur-mer, he went to the Ottoman Empire (today Turkey) on behalf of France, and with the authority of the Sultan, built a series of lighthouses there.
After making his fortune, charging fees to passing ships, Michel Pasha as he became known, proceeded to built 50 villas around La Seyne-sur-mer, among them Villa Tamaris. His idea was to turn the area into a seaside resort called Tamaris to attract rich Parisians.
Today Villa Tamaris is an art gallery surrounded by parks with exotic trees and plants seen around Bosphorus strait in Turkey, where Michel Pasha’s lighthouses were located.
Focusing on photography and artworks from the 20th century, it features artists like Klasen, Rancillac, Monory, Giacobazzi, and Stämpfli. Villa Tamaris is open in the afternoons on most days and is free to enter.
How to get to La Seyne-sur-mer?
La Seyne-sur-mer is about 40 miles (65 km) west of Marseille, which has both a high-speed TGV train service as well as international airport with connections across Europe and the world.
From Marseille, there are TER trains that run from the main train station to La Seyne-sur-mer several times a day.
How many days should you spend?
I would recommend one day to explore La Seyne-sur-mer. Visit on a market day (Tuesday or Sunday mornings) to make the most of your visit.
Where should you stay?
If you wish to stay in La Seyne-sur-mer, I recommend staying within walking distance of all the main sights and attractions:
€€€€ – Hôtel Mercure Toulon La Seyne-Sur-Mer
If you enjoyed that post, you may want to read more about traveling around Provence and the French Riviera. A bientôt!