10 things you must take the time to see when visiting Saint-Tropez
Not just a hotbed of parties for the rich and famous, Saint-Tropez – the Côte d’Azur’s jewel – has long attracted the culturally astute, from Pointillist Signac, Matisse and Picasso to transformational starlets like Bridget Bardot. The result is a heady mix of cobbled streets lined with designer shopping, golden shores awash with the best beach clubs in Saint-Tropez, and the yachting fraternity who flock to soak up the essence of morning markets, ritzy nights out, destination eateries and palatial out-of-town resorts, including the famed Résidence Goélia Le Domaine de La Pinède found on the hills of Cap Nègre.
Take an early morning walk on Place des Lices market
Every Tuesday and Saturday is market day on Place des Lices. The aroma of freshly baked baguettes and seasonal produce mixed with fragrant florals, spices and herbs wafts on the Riviera air. Here is where the locals do their twice weekly shop and meet for morning coffee. For savvy visitors, typical French Riviera style fashion accessories can also be sourced. Away from market day, the tree-lined 19th century square, also known as Place Carnot, is perfectly placed to enjoy a brightly lit morning promenade.
Climb the Citadel of Saint-Tropez
Designed as a circular courtyard that could only be accessed by drawbridge, the citadel of Saint-Tropez remains a bastion of maritime history to this day. The 17th century fortress, awash with turrets and cannons, is today a popular spot to drink in vast vistas across the bay from the building’s scenic roof terrace. Inside, it houses the Museum of Maritime History, which celebrates the lives of generations of Saint-Tropez fishermen and sailors. Bought by the town in 1993, the listed building has become one of the area’s most visited attractions.
Explore Musée d'Histoire Maritime
The Maritime History Museum delivers cultural exploration for all ages. A reasonably priced admissions fee makes it a popular family excursion, while its location in the Citadel’s dungeons adds an extra layer of intrigue. The museum’s contents track the lives of fisherman in all guises, from the town’s seamen to large merchant sailing boats beyond Cape Horn. A particular highlight is a room dedicated to the Virtual designed in 1995 by Philippe Starck.
Relax on Pampelonne beach
Measuring up to 5km along an idyllic sheltered bay, Pampelonne beach is one of the longest and busiest stretches of sand in the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. This is where Brigitte Bardot seduced onlookers. For visitors keen to shy away from the crowds, the collection of Pampelonne beach clubs combine access with privacy. Claiming top billing is Gigi, with its Tuscan-inspired design and elegant cuisine, it pairs a children’s play area with a Bellini bar and wellness centre. For the honeymooners, Loulou Ramatuelle provides a romantic spot just steps from the area’s prestige residences, while revellers will find their vibe at Verde Beach Club with its shisha lounge and party atmosphere lasting into the early hours.
Visit Musée de l'Annonciade
Bringing a holy experience to an artistic delight, Saint-Tropez’s Annonciade Museum is a 1500s chapel-turned-museum exhibiting paintings by prominent modern artists. Its role in promoting avant-garde art is largely in thanks to Paul Signac who landed in Saint-Tropez in 1892 aboard his yacht L'Olympia and opened his studio. The chapel of Notre-Dame dates to 1548. Today, temporary exhibitions are regularly organised highlighting the history of modern art.
Enjoy a night on the town
Named after Loulou de la Falaise, Yves Saint-Laurent’s muse, Loulou Ramatuelle is a highly desirable private beach club on mythical Pampelonne beach. It brings a sense of hedonism to the regular beach club scene, with its terrace on stilts made from whitewashed wood and topped with a white sail roof. An elegant and rustic restaurant by day, it transforms into party central once the sun goes down. As one of the most popular hang outs in the region, advance booking is not just recommended, but very much required.
Relax in Place des Lices
Playing boules beneath the plane trees is a standard pursuit on the Place des Lices. Dating back to medieval times, the public square was once the location for knights’ jousts and public executions. Today, the leafy square is lined with terraces of bars and restaurants, overlooked by the towers of Saint-Pierre cathedral. Its bustling market has seen purveyors of goods setup stalls every Saturday since 1622, and it remains a vibrant centre of commerce to this day.
Get active and hike Sentier du Littoral
As coastal walkways go, the Sentier du Littoral is up there. The narrow, rocky pathway traces the coastline near to Antibes, starting at Plage de la Garoupe and continuing to the Villa Eilenroc. Swimming pockets and picnic spots line the route, as do various access points allowing visitors to choose whether they hike the entire 5km or just a few sections. Those looking for an easier climb should stick the first half to avoid a the more arduous areas further along.
Try a wine tasting
As the darling of rosé country, carving out time to enjoy a wine tasting while in Saint-Tropez is a must. Drawing the A-list crowds in high volume is Château des Marres, conveniently sat just inland from Pampelonne beach. Bought by Henri Benet in 1907, the 27-hectare vineyard produces white, red and pink varieties. To sample the area’s quintessential rosé, the 65-hectares estate belonging to Bertaud Belieu never fails to delight. In fact, its sandy limestone and clay terroir delivers such good harvests that the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation frequently chooses to hold key events on the estate.
Discover Musée de la Gendarmerie et du Cinema
The Musée de la Gendarmerie et du Cinema is an attraction that has a bit of everything – history, celebrity and entertainment. The building that housed the real gendarmerie from 1789-2003 was made famous by film director Jean Girault. It was also where Roger Vadim’s film …And God Created Woman starring Brigitte Bardot was released. Though not showing any films for viewing, today the museum introduces the history of cinema in Saint-Tropez and the films that were shot in the Var peninsula.
Appreciate the idyllic scenes of Vieux Port
A trip to Saint-Tropez is incomplete with a visit to Vieux Port. The picturesque, cafe and shop-lined harbour is home to the region’s yachting crowd, with motorboats and sailing yachts berthed Mediterranean style as far as the eye can see. A yacht charter on the French Riviera is a quintessential pastime and one of the best ways to experience the Côte d’Azur on your own schedule and terms. Even when not enjoying a yachting charter, the pedestrian-friendly quays provide a romantic setting for an evening walk ahead of a Michelin-level dinner.