Var (department)

The Var is a French department in Provence, in southeast France. It takes its name from the Var River, 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 Bandol.


(For the 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 1793. 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 Prime Minister

*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.

*August 15, 1944. American and Free French forces land at Cap Nègre, at Trayas, at Saint-Tropez, at Sainte-Maxime and at Saint-Raphaël. The Free French fleet arrived at Toulon on September 13.

*1960s. About one hundred thousand French citizens were repatriated from Algeria following the Algerian War of Independence, and settled in the Var Department.


The Department of the Var has a surface area of 6032 square kilometers, and 420 kilometers of coastline, including the offshore islands.

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 des Maures (highest point, 771 meters) and the Massif de l'Esterel, along the coast, (highest point - 618 meters) are made of quartz rock.
  • 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 highet 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 sveral plateaus, such as the plateau of Siou Blac to the north of Toulon, which rise from 400 to 700 meters in altitude.

  • The Canyon du Verdon, the gorge of the Verdon River, is a popular place for hikers, kayakers, and nature lovers.
  • The Îles 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, slightly 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.

In 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 in La Seyne-sur-Mer; 52,500 in Hyères; and 32,742 in Six-Fours-les-Plages.

The population of other important towns, according to the 2004-2005 estimate:

  • 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 Var.

800 km² or 13% of the total area is dedicated to agriculture, on which 38,000 people 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 animals) and goats (4,200 animals). Vines and viticultural related activities account for 345 km² of farmland. The 450 domaines / cooperatives and the 4 AOCs (appellation d'origine controlleé) produce 150 million litres (3.3 m UK gallons) of wine a year.

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 profit is 610 million euros per year, of which 45% is sales of wines and 42% of horticultural products.

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 works. .

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.
  • *Bandol AOC, is grown on the coast west of Toulon, mostly around the villages of La Cadiere d'Azur and Castellet. Wines of this appellation must have at least fifty percent Mourvèdre grapes, though most have considerably more. Other grapes used are Grenache, Cinsault Syrah and Carignan.

Tourism in the Var

Popular tourist attractions in the Var include:

References and Sources

See also

External links

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