is a French department
in Provence, in southeast
takes its name from the river Var, which used
to flow along its eastern boundary, but which now flows into the
Mediterranean further to the east. The Var is bordered on
the east by the department of Alpes-Maritimes; to the west by Bouches-du-Rhone to the north of the Verdon River by the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, and to the south by the Mediterranean Sea.
Toulon is the
largest city and administrative capital of the Var.
Other important towns in the Var are:
The Var is
known for the harbor of Toulon, the main port of the French Navy; for its seaside resorts, the most
famous of which is Saint-Tropez; for some fine examples of Romanesque and medieval
architecture, such as the Le Thoronet Abbey and Frejus Cathedral; and for its wines, particularly the wines of
early history of the Var before the French Revolution, see Provence; the French Riviera; and Toulon.)
The Department of the Var was created at the time of the French Revolution
, on March 4, 1790, from
a portion of the former Royal province of Provence
. Its capital was originally Toulon, but this
was moved to Grasse in 1793 to
punish the Toulonnais for having handed the town to British in
The capital was moved to Brignoles in 1795, then to
Draguignan in 1797. It was not returned to Toulon until 1974.
- 1854. The first railroad reaches Toulon.
- 1860. With the creation of the new department of
Alpes-Maritimes, following the annexation by France of Nice, the
eastern part of the department, including Grasse, was moved to the
new department. This move also shifted the Var River, which
had given the department its name, to the new Department.
- 1884. A cholera
epidemic struck Toulon. The leader of the fight against the
epidemic was Georges Clemenceau,
a doctor and a member of the National Assembly for the Seine
region. He was elected Deputy from the Var from 1888 to 1893 and
Senator from 1902 to 1920, during which time he also served as
- 1914-1918. The First World War stimulates growth in
shipyards and military industries in the region, but weakens the
agricultural and food industry.
- 1942. The German Army moves from Occupied France into the Unoccupied Zone,
including the Var. The French Fleet is sabotaged in Toulon Harbor
to keep it from falling into German hands. The Maquis Vallier, a group of maquis resistance fighters, is active.
The Island of Porquerolles, Îles
The Gorge of the Verdon River
Le Trayas (at Forêt Domaniale de
l'Estérel and Mediterranean Sea coast)
The Department of the Var has a surface area of 6032 square
kilometers, and 420 kilometers of coastline, including the offshore
Over half (56 percent) of the Var is covered with forest. Its
geological formations are divided into two regions; one composed of
limestone to the west of a line between Toulon and Draguignan; and
of crystaline rock (quartz) to the east.
The department is in the foothills of the Alps. is largely
mountainous. The major mountain ranges are:
- The Massif of Saint-Baume, lies in the west, with its highest
point at 1,147 meters.
- The mountain of Lachens (1,715 meters), is in the northwest of
the department, and is the highest point in the Var. is in the
north of the Department, To the west of the *The Mountain of
Lachens (1,715 meters) .
The Plain of Cajuers is located in the north of the var, and
gradually rises from 500 to 1000 meters. In the south and west
there are several plateaus, such as the plateau of Siou Blac to the
north of Toulon, which rise from 400 to 700 meters in
Verdon, the gorge of the Verdon River, is a popular place
for hikers, kayakers, and nature lovers.
d'Hyères (or Porquerolles) is a group of three islands off
Hyères The islands
are named Porquerolles, Port-Cros, and Île du Levant.
Together, they make up an area of 26 km². They can be reached
by boat from either Hyeres or Toulon.
The Department of the Var has a Mediterranean climate
warmer, dryer and sunnier than Nice and the Alpes-Maritime, but
also less sheltered from the wind. Toulon has an average of 2899.3
hours of sunshine a year, making it the sunniest city in
metropolitan France, The average maximum daily temperature in
August is 29.1 degrees C., and the average daily minimum
temperature in January is 5.8 degrees C. The average annual
rainfall is 665 millimeters, with the most rain from October to
November. Strong winds blow an average of 118 days a year in
Toulon, compared with 76 days at Frejus further east. The strongest
Mistral wind recorded in Toulon was 130 kilometers an hour.
In 2007, the population of the Var was estimated at 990,000, of
whom nearly half live in and around Toulon.
2004-2005, the population of the urban area of Toulon was estimated
at 403,743 persons, of whom 160,639 lived in Toulon itself: 60,188
Seyne-sur-Mer; 52,500 in Hyères; and 32,742
The population of other important towns, according to the 2004-2005
- Frejus - 49,100
- Saint-Raphael - 32,200
- Draguignan - 35,500
- Brignoles - 15,540
Industry and Agriculture
The principal industry of the Var is tourism, thanks largely to the
enormous summer influx of tourists to the Mediterranean coastal
towns, and to the Verdon River Canyon and hilltop villages of the
800 km² or 13% of the total area is dedicated to agriculture,
on which 40,000 people (14% of the Var working population) depend
for their livelihoods. The department also has 10 km² of
horticultural land (of which 4 km² are covered). The Var is
France's largest grower of cut flowers, producing some 500 million
stems a year. Livestock farming is mainly sheep (50,000 head) and
goats (4,200 head). Vines and viticultural related activities
account for 345 km² of farmland. The 450 domaines
and the 4 AOCs (appellation d'origine
) produce 150 million litres (3.3 m UK gallons) of
wine a year. The Var leads the world in the production of rose
Other important agricultural products include olives (42 km²,
a quarter of all French olive groves, and some 40 mills), figs -
the Var produces 80% of France's figs, and honey (800 tonnes a
year). There are also 9 km² of market gardens.
Agricultural turnover in the Var is 610 million euros per year, of
which 45% is sales of wines and 42% of horticultural
The construction industry employs 28,000 workers in the Var of
which 4,000 work alone. 4,500 companies employ the 24,000 salaried
employees. The industry generates an annual turnover of 2.5 billion
euros. Of this 500 million euros is derived from public
Wines of the Var Department
- AOC Coteaux varois en Provence is a recent AOC
in Provence. The name Coteaux Varois was first used in 1945, and
became an AOC in 1993. the name was changed to Couteaux Varois en
Provence in 2005. The red wines principally use the grenache, cinsaut, mourvèdre and syrah
grapes. White wines use the clairette,grenache
blanc, rolle blanc, Sémillon Blanc, and Ugni Blanc. There are
2200 hectares in this AOL. It produces 80 percent rosés, 17 percent
red wines, and 3 percent white wines.
Tourism in the Var
Popular tourist attractions in the Var include:
port and beaches of Saint-Tropez
beach of Cavalaire-sur-Mer, the longest sand beach on the coast.
tours of the Rade, or harbor, of Toulon, the main
anchorage of the French Navy
- Wind-surfing offshore of the peninsula of Giens
- Le Thoronet Abbey, one of the best-preserved medieval Cistercian
monasteries in France.
Baptistery of Frejus
Cathedral, the oldest Christian structure in
hilltop village of Bormes-les-Mimosas
the underwater natural park around the Ile de
- Hiking in the Massif de l'Esterel
hilltop villages of (Montauroux, Fayence, Callian, Seillans, Tourrettes, Saint-Paul-en-Forêt, Mons and Tanneron in the Fayence region.
Verdon, Lac de Sainte-Croix, and the hilltop villages of
the upper Var.
hilltop villages, wine caves and vinyards near Bandol.
References and Sources