Yes, Saint-Tropez is known for a jet-set lifestyle made famous by moguls, royalty, and movie stars who frequent the sherbet-colored fishing village about 120 miles west of Nice on the French Riviera. There are mega yachts, swanky beach clubs, pricey restaurants, and champagne — oh so much champagne (but who’s complaining?), especially during high season, July and August, when the glitterati population rises and the sun sets late.
But as a mere mortal, and someone who’s been visiting the village for more than 10 years, I can confirm that Saint-Tropez is still a small fishing village at heart with many pleasant and peaceful surprises that make a day trip, or an over-nighter, worth the trek, especially outside of peak season.
Start the day with a coffee at the legendary Sénéquier, an institution perfectly poised for people and yacht watching on the port (just look for the red awning), then head around the corner through the Halle aux Poissons, the small daily fish market. From here, meander up the narrow streets past Saint-Tropez’s most recognizable landmark, the Italian baroque style Eglise Notre Dame de L’Assomption whose bell tower soars above Saint-Tropez.
On the hill behind the town, the Citadel hides local maritime history and has spectacular views over the gulf of Saint-Tropez. Check out their calendar of summer concerts, too. If you’re up for about 15 more minutes of walking, head past the town’s cemetery to a small croissant-shaped sandy beach called Plage des Graniers.
From here you have two choices: head back into the village for lunch (see below) or pack your own (and some proper hiking shoes) and make a beeline for the Sentier du Littoral, a coastal path that winds its way along rocky points and turquoise bays around the perimeter of the Saint-Tropez peninsula to the tranquil Plage des Salins. A little farther down the coast you’ll come to the world-famous Pampelonne Beach. One of the first of many beach clubs is Tahiti Beach where you can walk along Rue de Tahiti back to the village (about two miles), or call a cab.
This entire trek will take about four to five hours.
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Meanwhile, back in the village, Hotel La Ponche is not just an historic hotel and gourmet restaurant, it’s also a gathering spot and the name of this quaint part of town where bougainvillea climb up the side of houses and wind around balconies, and where a sandy beach invites you to dip your toes into the bay.
If you’d like to do as the locals do, slurp platters of oysters and a glass of cold rosé at Chez Madeleine, behind the Halle aux Poissons on Places des Herbes.
Or check out Saint-Tropez’s main square Place des Lices, shaded by plane trees and often occupied by older gents playing serious games of pétanque, the Provençal version of bocce ball. Every Tuesday and Saturday morning, a huge Provençal market unrolls over the square. There are numerous cafés flanking both sides, including a local favorite called Le Sporting
Saint-Tropez is synonymous with shopping, even if you just “lick the windows” (window shop) as they say in French. Wander Rue Gambetta, Rue Francois Sibilli, and Rue Georges Clemenceau where you’ll find myriad shops including Rondini, Saint-Tropez’s first sandal maker, where you can pick up the ultimate Saint-Tropez souvenir, hand made and fitted to your feet on the spot.
Fancy some art in the afternoon? On the far side of the port sits one of the French Riviera’s most under-the-radar museums, Musée de L’Annonciade, housed inside a 14-century chapel. Near the Place des Lices, the Lavoir Vasserot is a former communal washing house turned public gallery with free entry. A number of posh galleries are dotted around town too, such as Galerie des Lices.
Afternoon sweets don’t get better than Saint-Tropez’s namesake cake La Tarte Tropezienne (rumored to have been named by Brigitte Bardot). There are numerous shops of the same name in the region but go for the original on Place des Lices.
Indulge in a pre-dinner aperitif. The Bar du Sube balcony is a perennial favorite with locals and visitors with a few coveted balcony seats with views over the port. The rooftop lounge “Les Toits” at the Hotel de Paris is popular for sun-downers, too. Blink and you’ll miss the two wooden doors of the Pan Dei Palace Hotel on Rue Gambetta, but push them open and head to the back where a pool bar is a tranquil oasis of calm in the heart of the village, where you can have drinks by their pool.
Looking to blow a wad of euros? Well then you’ve come to the right village.
Try Vietnamese and Thai at Bahn-Hoi or Italian at Casa di Stefano. Or if you you want to get your Mediterranean stars on then the 3-Michelin-star La Vague d’Or is worth its heavenly crown, with stratospheric prices to match.
Wallet-friendly options exist, too. Don’t shy away from nibbling at the market. Bistro Pastis offers casual brasserie-style fare. Grab a pizza or calzone at a small joint called L’Aroma, just off Place des Lice, or a burger at Basilic Burger.
La Verdoyante is outside the village, just below the lofty village of Gassin, and about a 15-20 drive/taxi from the port of Saint-Tropez. It’s open for lunch (with amazing views over the Chateau Minuty vineyards), but you’ll need a reservation to nab a table on the terrace.
Night owls will not flock alone in Saint-Tropez. The ultimate perch (if you are ‘selected’ for entry) is Les Caves du Roy disco, located at the gorgeous Byblos Hotel. The outdoor terrace of L’Opera swells with revelers late into the evening. White 1921 is a tony lounge on Place des Lices owned by Louis Vuitton.
Make restaurant reservations well in advance.
Pampelonne Beach is not located at the port of Saint-Tropez but on the other side of the peninsula, about a 15-minute drive from the village (depending on traffic).
Car traffic in and out of Saint-Tropez during the summer makes nightmares look like daydreams. Consider arriving via the easy Bateaux Verts from Sainte-Maxime during peak season. In July and August they run all night long!
To book a suitable hotel or other accommodation in, or near Saint-Tropez, you can use the map below, which shows current prices for hotels and apartments. To book further afield, then just enlarge the map (+/-) to see more properties or, if you are headed for a particular part of the coast, enter your preferred resort/town/village in the ‘Where are you going?’ box.