TOULON has never been a particularly pleasant place. Half destroyed in the last war, the city is dominated by the military and associated industries. The arsenal that Louis XIV created is today one of the major employers of southeast France, and the port is home to the French Navy's Mediterranean fleet. The shipbuilding yards of La Seyne have, however, been axed, closing the book on a centuries-old and at times notorious industry. Up until the eighteenth century, slaves and convicts were still powering the king's galleys, and following the Revolution, convicts were sent to Toulon with iron collars round their necks for sentences of hard labour. After 1854 convicts were deported to the colonies in whose conquest ships from Toulon played a major part. If you want to stay in a Toulon hotel, check this website.
Today, the museums are dull, motorway traffic crawls through the centre, and Toulon has all the paranoia of a big city but with few of the charms in short, a place to avoid. The only positive in recent years has been the National Front losing control of the town Hall in March 2001, which had previously relegated French nationals of non-European origin to second-class status.
The gare SNCF, on place de l'Europe, and gare routière, on place Albert-1er, lie northeast of the town centre. There's a tourist office (JuneSept MonSat 9am6pm, Sun 10amnoon; OctMay MonSat 9.30am5.30pm, Sun 10amnoon; tel 04.94.18.53.00, www.toulon.com) on place Raimu, in the old town: head down rue Vauban, turn left at place d'Armes, follow the busy avenue that runs parallel to the coast, and turn left into rue Letuaire. Around place Victor-Hugo you'll find any number of cheap shops and places to eat, and a market (TuesSun).
If you do get stuck here, there's plenty of cheap accommodation: the Foyer de la Jeunesse hostel, 12 place d'Armes (tel 04.94.22.62.00; open July & Aug only; beds €15), just west of the old town; the Hôtel des Allées, 18 allées Amiral-Courbet (tel 04.94.91.10.02; under €30); or Little Palace, 68 rue Berthelot (tel 04.94.92.26.62, fax 04.94.89.13.77; €4055) all very central.