Var (department)

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The Var is a French department in the region Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur in Provence, in southeast France. It takes its name from the river Var, which used to flow along its eastern boundary, but the boundary was moved in 1860. The Var is bordered on the east by the department of Alpes-Maritimes; to the west by Bouches-du-Rhône 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 include Fréjus, Saint-Raphael, Draguignan, Brignoles and Hyères.

The Var is known for the harbour 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 Fréjus Cathedral; and for its wines, particularly the wines of Bandol.



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.

  • 1815 - Following the defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo the department was occupied by Austrian troops until November 1818.
  • 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.

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