Sanary-sur-Mer, Provence: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Sanary-sur-Mer in Var

Visit Sanary-sur-Mer (Provence, France)

PHOTO GALLERY MAP & PLACES TO VISIT

Sanary-sur-Mer is a popular coastal resort on the Cote d'Azur between Bandol (to the west) and Toulon (to the east). A relatively quiet resort compared to many on the Riviera it is a pleasant place to explore.

Exploring Sanary-sur-Mer

France This Way comment: Sanary-sur-Mer would be a pleasure to visit because of its harbour, old town and promenade, but the additional treat of seeing all the historic boats in the harbour mean a visit is one of the highlights of a tour along this part of the Cote d'Azur.

Your visit to Sanary-sur-Mer will start in the pretty harbour, lined with palm trees and pastel coloured houses, with a stroll along the water front. This harbour is the centre of activity in the town and a lovely place for your promenade.

Historic boats in the harbour at Sanary-sur-Mer

Among the buildings that line the port you can see the Church of Naint-Nazaire, built in the centre of Sanary-sur-Mer in the 19th century on the site of an earlier church. The church has an interesting byzantine style facade, and inside you can see various orthodox christian frescoes - these are beautiful paintings, large and colourful, so make sure you go in for a look - as well as an imposing organ.

You will also see the square 13th century tower (behind the Hotel de la Tour at the end of the port) that was once part of an important defensive system for the town - it was around this tower that the village originally developed in the middle ages.

The tower now contains a Diving Museum, and you can climb to the top of the tower for lovely views: it was in the waters off Sanary-sur-Mer that Jacques Cousteau developed the diving equipment that is still crucial to deep-sea diving, hence the Diving Museum in the 'roman tower'.

As you stroll around the port you will notice the numerous colourful small boats. There are 100 traditional fishing boats kept here, some more than 100 years old and some listed as historic monuments, and typical fishing boats of Provence called "pointus". The port also still contains an active fishing fleet and you can buy fresh fish on the quai here each morning, or visit one of the many restaurants that serve delicious seafood.

If you are lucky you will be here on one of the days in the year when events are held that involve the boats sailing around the harbour, but even if that is not possible they are lovely to see - an interesting contrast to the super-yachts you will see elsewhere on the riviera!

Behind the port, the historic centre is quite extensive and partly pedestrianised and is a very lively place with numerous shops and restaurants. On Rue Lacet just behind the Place de la Republique you will notice the small Chapel of the Penitents Blanc with its 17th century piéta and busts of Saint-Nazaire and Saint-Peter.

A plaque in the village next to Sanary-sur-Mer tourist office at the east end of the harbour commemorates the German authors who sought exile in Sanary-sur-Mer before the second world war, many of whom were subsequently interned by the French as enemy aliens. The writers included Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann among many others. The tourist office can give you a map showing the villas where each of the exiled authors lived.

From the Church of Saint-Nazaire there is a pleasant walk to the west of Sanary-sur-Mer, which follows the Stations of the Cross up Oratory hill until you reach the Chapel of Notre-Dame de Pitié, a 16th century chapel with numerous ex-votos. From here you also have very good views of the coast and the small islands that lie offshore: if you continue beyond the chapel you reach a flight of stairs that takes you back down to the seafront promenade.

The main market in Sanary-sur-Mer is held on a wednesday morning in the area next to the parking to the east of the harbour. While you are here you can take a stroll through the gardens which contain various monuments and a 19th century washhouse.

Colourful houses in the historic centre of Sanary

Beaches at Sanary-sur-Mer

If you are looking for beaches you won't be disappointed: although there is not a main beach in the town centre there are several in close proximity to the town, some sandy and some rocky. To the west of Sanary-sur-Mer are the beaches of Lido, Gourgette and Beaucours, while Portissol and the beach of the Esplanade are most centrally placed, and the beach at Bonnegrace is to the south-east. Other smaller beaches can also be found.

Although small the Esplanade beach gets very busy due to its proximity to the town centre, while the beaches of Lido, Portissol and Bonnegrace are the most popular with families. La Cride, Beaucours and Roc Amour are smaller, pebble beaches.

Attractions nearby

There are several other well known resorts nearby, including Bandol where you can also sample the famous local wines.

A little further afield, you will also enjoy excursions to Cassis, from where you can take a boat trip along the Marseille calanques (to the west of Sanary-sur-Mer); and to Hyères to take a trip the the beautiful Iles d'Hyères including the Ile de Porquerolles (to the east of Sanary-sur-Mer).

You can find more local travel ideas in the Var guide and the Provence guide.

See also:

Map of Sanary-sur-Mer and places to visit

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Tourist classifications

Sanary-sur-Mer is classified as a village in bloom (ville fleurie) 4*

Address: Sanary-sur-Mer, Ollioules, Toulon, Var, Provence, 83110, France || GPS: latitude 43.12, longitude 5.80306

Plan your visit to Sanary-sur-Mer, Provence

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Ollioules: recommended detour (4km)
  • Cap Sicié: site of natural beauty (8km)
  • Cap Sicié: site of natural beauty (8km)
  • Saint Cyr sur Mer: recommended detour (10km)
  • Zoo du Mont Faron: zoo or wildlife park (12km)
  • Mont Faron: site of natural beauty (12km)
  • Domaine d'Orvès: remarkable garden (15km)
  • Jardin de Baudouvin: remarkable garden (15km)
  • Parc du Mugel: site of natural beauty (17km)
  • Parc municipal du Mugel: remarkable garden (17km)

The French version of this page is at Sanary-sur-Mer (Francais)