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Var guide

PUBLISHED: 10:15 21 September 2016 | UPDATED: 13:14 08 November 2016

Hyéres in Var © Hyéres Tourisme

Hyéres in Var © Hyéres Tourisme

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An insider’s guide to Var in Provence-Alpes-Côte d´Azur, including the main attractions to visit on holiday, the best towns and villages to live in, the major festivals and events, and buying property in Var

From St-Raphaël to St-Tropez and Ste-Maxime, the department of Var in Provence-Alpes-Côte d´Azur is home to some of France’s most iconic seaside resorts. While it boasts some 420km of coastline, including the offshore islands, some 56% of the department is forest and it is also largely mountainous as a result of its location at the foothills of the Alps.

Created at the time of the French Revolution in 1790, the department took its name from the River Var which used to flow along its eastern boundary until the boundary was moved in 1860. To the east of Var is the department of Alpes-Maritimes, Bouches-du-Rhône to the west, the Verdon River by the department of Alpes-de-Haute-Provence to the north and the Mediterranean Sea to the south.

Although Var enjoys hot temperatures and a pleasant Mediterranean climate throughout the year, the department doesn’t attract too many tourists outside the summer months. However it’s a popular place for expats looking for a second home due to the beautiful seaside locations, the pretty city and main French Navy Base of Toulon and stunning scenery to explore in the mountainous parts of the department.

Map Of France © Ministere de l'InterieurMap Of France © Ministere de l'Interieur

Getting here

Plane: The nearest airport is Toulon. Regular flights leave the UK generally stopping in Paris.

By train: After getting the Eurostar to Paris, jump on the TGV to Toulon

By road: Toulon is 1135km from Calais

Toulon in Var © SergiyN - ThinkstockToulon in Var © SergiyN - Thinkstock

Places to visit in Var

Located on the Mediterranean coast, Var’s capital Toulon is an important centre for naval construction, armaments and the production of aeronautic equipment. The city boasts a quaint centre, sprinkled with wonderfully restored fountains and sun-dappled squares, along with numerous Provençal food markets, the most famous of which is held daily on the Cours Lafayette, selling fruit, vegetables, flowers and textiles. Throughout the summer months, 50 free concerts take place in the city centre and surrounding neighbourhoods for crowds to enjoy an eclectic mix of music in the sun.

The Gorges du Verdon, often dubbed France’s Grand Canyon, is one of the most popular tourist sites in Provence. At over 1000 years old, 25km long and 700m deep, it is a haven for water sports enthusiasts, hikers and nature lovers.

Lying off the coast of Hyères, the charming islands of Porquerolles, Port-Cros and Levant make up the Îles d´ Hyères and together they cover an area of 29km. They can be reached by boat from either Hyères or Toulon. Of the three, Porquerolles and Port-Cros are perfect for peaceful strolls and picturesque views. Both are privately owned and have been maintained as National Parks to protect their awe-inspiring cliffs, crystalline coves and fine sandy beaches.

Hyéres beach in Var © Julien MauceriHyéres beach in Var © Julien Mauceri

The department also boasts the stunning Le Thoronet Abbey and Fréjus cathedral; the 12th century abbey is one of the country’s best preserved medieval Cistercian monasteries, while the cathedral is considered to be the oldest Christian structure in Provence. Make sure to gaze up while exploring inside the Fréjus cathedral: the painted ceilings are to be marvelled at.

Things to do in Var

With a coastline stretching along the south of the department, visitors can expect many popular beaches to relax at. For those after a peaceful coastal walk, a seaside path winds almost all the way along the Var’s southern coast. Pretty stretches of beach include golden sands of the St-Tropez peninsula between Plage de Gigaro and Plage Pampelonne; ideal for a spot of sunbathing.

Major mountains in Var include Massif des Maures and Massif de l´Esterel which sit along the Mediterranean coast, the Sainte-Baume mountain ridge in the west and Mountain of Lachens in the North. Mountain of Lachens, commonly referred to as the Roof of Var, stands at a staggering 1715 metres high. From the mountain’s summit, incredible panoramic views can be enjoyed, stretching from Sainte-Baume to stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea. The mountain ridge is rich with wildlife; with many various birds of prey to spot while hiking to the top. For thrill seekers, paragliding from the mountain top makes for the ultimate view of the department.

Porquerolles in Var © Hyéres TourismePorquerolles in Var © Hyéres Tourisme

Bandol wines can be enjoyed in Var – with its selection of red, white and rosé, the Bandol AOC dates back to 1941 and is one of the oldest appellations in France. One of Provence’s most internationally recognised wine region, the climate and soils are ideally suited for the ripening of the Mourvèdre grape, the major component of Bandol wines. Mediterranean influences can be found in a lot of dishes in Var – with seafood and spiced meats aplenty when dining out.

Read more: 10 outstanding vineyards in France you have to visit

Buying property in Var

Due to the close proximity of the sea, the stunning Mediterranean coastline and its scenic countryside further inland, Var has a lot to offer expats looking for a second home. Prospective homeowners are also enchanted by the warm weather that the department boasts throughout the year. There’s a wide range of property styles and prices; from luxury villas sat beside popular coastal resorts, stone brick farmhouses with large plots of land for building and traditional bastides and Provencal houses.

The average property price in this department is around €309,600, a fair amount more expensive than the average property price in France (€157,600) and the second most expensive department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d´Azur region.

As you may expect property prices do vary throughout Var, with the most expensive being the large market town of Draguignan with an average property price of €350,700 while the bustling town of Brignoles has an average property price of €240,000.

Read more: Where to buy a bargain property on the Riviera

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