Discovering the old and new Fréjus

by alicia

There's lots to see and do here as well as the beach. Fréjus is a great place to stay while discovering the rest of the Côte D'Azur and the kids won't complain about "another quaint litle village"

The need to see and feel the deep Mediterranean hits me regularly. To cure this longing for fresh, clear waters and blue skies, I usually head to Fréjus, between St. Tropez and Cannes. I am lucky; it’s only an hour away from where I live.

Although only 65 km from Nice and 35 km from Cannes, Fréjus is certainly not as glamorous and chic as these two but what really stands out is the striking contrast of the old and new: the Roman remains, narrow streets and plethora of small shops in old Fréjus combine beautifully with the new port area and its magnificent beaches.

Beach activities

Beach lovers will probably want to check out the main beach area first; follow the signs to Port Fréjus leading to the marina that is chic and modern  - you will be impressed by the line up of yachts as well as the beach itself. This sandy beach, with safe turquoise waters, is  2km long and 100 metres wide stretching all the way to neighbouring St. Raphael.

Not very well known among tourists, but popular amongst the locals, is the Base Nature - right at the very end of the Marina opposite end to St. Raphael. This is a huge area of public land with more beach area. Used also for recreation and nature protection, locals go here to play rugby, volleyball, skating and even kite flying. If the sea is too choppy because of the Mistral (the local wind) then go indoors and use the 25 metre pool there. It’s open from 11am to 7pm and costs only 3 euro per visit.

Roman and historic Fréjus

Fréjus is ranked as a ‘town of art and history’. Founded by Julius Caesar in 49BC, there are still loads of monuments and buildings dating back to Roman and medieval times. Head towards the Place Calvini and old Fréjus; the medieval circuit is clearly marked and easy to follow. I recommend a visit to the beautiful St Léonce Cathedral, with its very high Romanesque steeple. The baptistery is one of the oldest in France dating back to 5th century. Seen from the outside, it’s a curious structure - square on the bottom and octagonal on top. Leading off the cathedral, on the northern side, are the 13th-century two-storey cloisters with nine white marble columns. Some of the original small paintings are still visible on the ceiling.
The Museum of Local History (Musée d’Histoire Locale Et des Traditions) at 153 Avenue Jean Jaures (+33 4 94 51 64 01) is the place to go to appreciate Provence lifestyle through the ages. Here also are the details of the Malpasset disaster of 1959, when the Malpasset dam broke, killing 420 people, still a painful memory for the people of Fréjus.

Other activities

Go to Aqualand Fréjus if you need a change from the beach. Situated at Quartier Le Capou on the RN 98 this aquatic park boasts eight hectares of water activities including water sprouting toboggans, twisters, and white water raft. It might seem expensive (24.50 euro per adult in 2009) but you can get special rates if you buy on the internet (two adults and two kids for 74 euro). Aqualand is open from June 20 to September.
Every Friday evening in the summer months, the Town Council puts on impressive fireworks displays at Port Fréjus starting at 10.30pm.
The bustling Sunday morning market along the beach front is amazing; stock up here on fresh fruit, vegetables, local sausages and clothes. Prices are competitive so wander around before making your final purchase.
During the summer months the Tourist Board organises quite a few tours both in and around Fréjus. They’re in old Fréjus at 325 Rue Jean Jaures (+33 4 9451 8383).

Where to eat, drink and be merry

Bars, cafés, pubs and restaurants are numerous especially as you walk along the beach front at the Marina itself. The most attended discotheque in Fréjus is La Playa on the boulevard de la Liberation on the waterfront. (; +33 4 945 22298).

Where to stay

There’s a huge choice here; hotels, guest houses and some very good camp sites. I mostly go to Fréjus for the day but once stayed in a mobile home at Camping La Baume, a french campsite situated about 5km from the sea (Route des Combattants). Here you can rent bungalows and studios, or come with your caravan, camping car or tent. The camp had a definite warm international atmosphere, its own restaurant, five outdoor swimming pools and shows in the evening; a true French four-star campsite.

Right in the centre of Fréjus at 35 Rue Grisolle is a quaint hotel suitable for families, Hotel le Flore. The eleven rooms in this two-star hotel are all priced differently depending on how many people are staying; during the peak season a double room costs 75 euro. Breakfast costs 7 euro.

If you need pampering in style go to the Accor Thalassa Port-Fréjus at Rue des Forces Francaises Libres. Located on the marina, guests have direct access to the beach. The thalasso centre linked to the hotel offers all the usual spa treatments including a sea water swimming pool. Prices start at 60 euro per person for a double room at this three star hotel.

How to get to Fréjus

Easy jet, British Airways, BMI, and Aer Lingus fly to Nice from the UK; Ryanair flies to Toulon, 90km away (summer only). If driving, take the A8, auto route and follow the signs to Fréjus. You can also travel by train from Paris.