Var (83700) Population: 26,616
Saint Raphaël is a large seaside town, nestled up beside Fréjus, and located half way between Cannes and St Tropez. Saint Raphaël has sandy beaches, marinas, good shopping, and lots of dining and lodging possibilities. The town is also easy to get to, being close to the A8 autoroute, and the local railway station is a stop on the TGV line between Paris and Nice. Market day Daily, Thur, Mon, Tue, Daily, Wed.
Saint Raphaël isn't very picturesque, being more of a resort destination than photogenic village. There is an old town, here called the "village district", and there are a fair number of interesting things to see by wandering the streets.
The town is full of fine old villas from the 18th and 19th centuries, with many of the Palladian style, and others evoking the Belle Epoque. The Office de Tourisme has a list of the villas with a map.
History of Saint Raphaël
First record, 1703 Sanctus Raphaël
Prehistoric: Traces of prehistoric habitation have been found in many places in and arouond the commune of St Raphaël, most especially in the nearest part of the Masif de l'Estérel, where over a hundred archeological sites have been located. Many Stone-Age megaliths and dolmens remain from the paleolithic and neolithic eras.
The dolmens de Suveret can be seen north of the center, at Valescure, near the hotel Latitudes and the Golf de Valescure. There's a menhir to the east of there, at the entrance to the Parc de Veissieres. A more ornate example is the "Pierre Levée" (or "Pierre Guérisseuse") in the area of Les Ferrières: it's an elipitical megalith about 2 metres high, with 219 small cavities.
Gallo-Roman: During the Roman period, the area now occupied by St Raphaël was popular for the wealthy families [patriciennes de Forum Julii], where they built their Gallo-Roman villas. One example was located at the site of the town's casino, where it had a view across the bay towards Saint Aygulf. Excavation showed this villa was decorated with mosaics, had a vivarium to stock live fish, and have thermal baths.
The area at the north of the current town, Valescure, was named Vallis Curans for the curative properties of the climate, and many wealthy families built their villas there. The ruins of one are at the site of the Golf de l'Estérel club house.
More Recently: Saint Raphaël was a fishing port from the 15th to the 19th century, as it is to a much lesser extent today.
The towns popularity as a tourist destination began at the end of the 19th century: the writer Alphonse Karr, who moved from Paris to Nice in 1855, visited St Raphaël often, along with other writers and artists, includingGeorges Sand, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Frédéric Mistral and Guy de Maupassant. Karr died here in 1890.
In 1799 an even more important Frenchman put St Raphaël on the map a bit earlier, when Napoleon Banaparte landed here on his return from Egypt. The "conqueror of the pyramids" passed through town in the other direction on 28 April 1814, debarking for Elba Island as a prisoner.
On 15 August 1944, the allied troups landed at Dramont beach, 5 km east of the center, beginning the debarquement of operation "Camel-Green".
Museum of Prehistory and Underwater Archaeology
Located in the presbytery of the former San Raféu church. It houses local heritage collections. The great prehistoric periods are represented by rare objects fouond in recent excavations. The museum also has a large collecion of antique amphora and furnisings discovered during underwater excavations.
Location: Place de la Vieille Eglise
Open: Tue-Sat, 9h-12h30, 14h-17h30
Closed: November; bank holidays
Tel: 0494 192 575
Transportation Saint Raphaël
Department 83, Var Buses
- See Beyond's Var Department Bus Schedules for downloading the Var bus-lines map [Plan du Reseau] and bus-line schedules [Horaires] (link for PDF files).
- Schedules for the Var bus lines are on the VarLib Horaires-Ligne page (http://www.varlib.fr/horaires_ligne/?rub_code=6") - type the line number in the Numéro ... ligne box to access the bus schedule PDF link. (Type a couple of digits in the box to get a list of route numbers.)
Nice, Aix, Marseille RN7 Bus
- The LER-20 (Ligne Express Regionales) bus line is a daily service between Nice, Aix-en-Provence and Marseille.
See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 16: Var Department for downloading the latest schedules (link for PDF files).
Line 20 (LER) - Nice (gare routiere), Nice (airport T1), Le Cannet (office de tourisme), Mandelieu-la-Napoule, Fréjus [beside St Raphaël], Puget-sur-Argens, Le Muy, Vidauban, Le Luc, Falssans-sur-Issole, Brignoles, Tourves, Saint Maximin, Pourcieux, Chateaneuf, Aix-en-Provence, Marseille.
Saint Raphaël Area Buses
- Saint Raphaël and Fréjus have excellent bus service with other towns and village in the Var, as well as service to Nice and Mandelieu-la-Napoule in the Alpes-Maritimes.
See Beyond's Bus Schedules Page 16: Var Department for downloading Var bus-lines map and schedules (link for PDF files).
Line 2601 - Saint Raphaël, Fréjus, Le Muy, Trans-en-Provence, Draguignan
Line 2602 - Saint Raphaël, Fréjus, Puget-sur-Argens, Le Muy, La Motte, Trans-en-Provence, Draguignan
Line 2603 - Saint Raphaël, Fréjus, Puget-sur-Argens, La Bouverie, Roquebrune-sur-Argens, Les Issambres, Saint Aygulf
Line 3603 - Saint Raphaël, Fréjus, Les Adrets-de-l'Estérel
Line 3003 - Saint Raphaël, Fréjus, Mandelieu-la-Napoule, Nice (airport T1 & T2) - 4 buses a day, 1hr10 journey.
Line 3601 - Saint Raphaël, Fréjus, Tourettes-sur-Var, Fayence, Seillans
Line 3602 - Saint Raphaël, Fréjus, Tourettes-sur-Var
Line 7601 - Saint Raphaël, Fréjus, Saint Aygulf, Les Issambres, Sainte Maxime, Saint Pons, La Foux, Saint Tropez
- Saint Raphaël/Fréjus is on the main rail line [rail map], for service between Paris, Lyon, the Riviera and Italy. The railway station is the St-Raphaël Valescure station, serving all SNCF trains (TER and TGV), located on the Rue Waldeck Rousseau in the town center.
TGV Trains. Saint Raphaël is on the TGV line between Paris Gare de Lyon and Nice. Several daily TGV trains stopping at Saint Raphaël are direct; others require changing at Lyon or Marseille. Booking can be done online via the SNCF website or on the iDTGV (internet-TGV) website, listed below.
Saint Raphaël/Fréjus is also, along with Nice, a "Train-Auto Accompagné" station, for travelling with your car between the Riviera and Paris. The auto-train station is on the Rue Denis Papin, just west of the town center.
- Web: www.idtgv.com/en/