Glitzy and brash, or glamorous and laid-back? Saint-Tropez, a popular resort town on the French Riviera, often divides opinion. Its iconic beaches, yacht culture, and nightlife scene tend to attract style-conscious and affluent travelers, but there's more to the former fishing village than Brigitte-Bardot-style glamour and exclusivity.
From markets heaving with colorful produce to quiet waterside paths and unassuming sites that are rich in art history, Saint-Tropez also has plenty to offer travelers in search of natural beauty, architecture, local culture, and heritage. If you're looking for a more relaxed and casual style of nightlife, you'll find plenty of local restaurants and bars with a warm, welcoming vibe.
Walk Around the Old Port
The best way to arrive in Saint-Tropez is probably by yacht—preferably your own. But for the vast majority of us, a walk around the Old Port will have to do, offering a way to take in the beauty and star-studded glamour of the waterfront. You may just glimpse a few famous faces as you wander around the 18th-century harbour, but even if you don't, the vantage points over the sea, stunning yachts and boats, and pastel-colored mansions are memorable.
After strolling around the waterfront and taking in different viewpoints, it's time to settle in for a drink or meal. There's no shortage of bars and cafes in the area, but we especially recommend heading for the historic cafe where French writer Colette, filmmaker Jean Cocteau, and countless other famous figures once flocked: Le Sénéquier. This is an excellent spot for a leisurely breakfast of coffee and croissants, or for a sunset drink and people-watching session on the water.
If your walk around the port falls at lunchtime, we recommend pulling up a chair outside or in at Le Girelier, where the fresh fish dishes are excellent.
Explore Beautiful Beaches and Coastal Paths
There are plenty of wide, sandy, easily accessible beaches for sun worshippers on the Saint-Tropez peninsula and Bay, with many of the more popular ones technically located in the adjoining town of Ramatuelle.
Possibly the best known, because it's a nudist beach, is Tahiti plage. But for most travelers, Pampelonne Beach will be a first port of call: a huge, sandy stretch along the east side of the peninsula, and dominated by the Camarat lighthouse. One of the highest in France, it's been guiding sailors since 1831 (though it was modernised during World War II and fully automated in 1977).
For those of you who prefer more active beach excursions, there’s a wonderful walk along the headland (sentier du littoral). This is a 7-mile walk, so it's not necessarily for everyone; it's always possible to take a taxi part of the way, or plan to complete only stretches of it by foot. But if you want to find a more private stretch of beach and sea away from the crowds, this is the place to search for it.
From Saint-Tropez and the road known as the Chemin des Graniers, you'll first pass the maritime cemetery where film director Roger Vadim is buried. The rocky headland, studded with pines, is the site of a luxurious villa (and private beach) belonging to Brigitte Bardot. There are also a number of other private beaches, coves, and gorgeous perspectives over the water along the route.
Roam Around the Old Quarter of La Ponche
Between the Old Port and the Citadel lies La Ponche, the oldest and prettiest part of town, and where local fishermen and artisans have thrived since the 18th century. Looming over the Place de l’Hotel de Ville (City Hall Square), a tower is all that remains of the Chateau de Suffren; for centuries, this was the home of the Lords who reigned over Saint Tropez.
From here, walk to the small, charming church of Notre-Dame de-l’Assomption. Its iconic tower frequently figures in postcards and photos of the town; in the Italian baroque interior, you’ll find a wooden sculpture of Saint-Tropez himself. Each year on May 15 and 16, locals take to the street with a procession to celebrate the saint. The celebration, called Les Bravades, is well worth witnessing during a spring trip to the French Riviera.
La Ponche also features its own small, pebbled beach, which can be a nice spot for a quick dip.
Tour the Shops for Tropezian Style and Gifts
From the Vieux Port, walk up any of the little streets towards the center. If you fancy high-end shopping, take the Rue Gambetta for a whirl through standalone boutiques from top designers- think Louis Vuitton, Dolce & Gabbana, and Tommy Hilfiger, as well as concept stores and shops from local fashion houses and beach footwear specialists such as Rondini. This is a good area for finding some stylish swimwear, sandals, and beach accessories.
Another major big shopping street is Rue du General Allard, which runs west from the Old Port, while the nearby Avenue Général Leclerc is home to boutiques from Chanel and other designers; Chanel has in recent years opened glamorous pop-up concept stores at the site. Rue François Sibilli is yet another chic street to explore and houses a boutique from Christian Dior.
Old Town is also a great place to shop for souvenirs and gifts, from Provencal-style lavender soaps and perfumes to kitchenware and specialties like dried fruits, honey, chocolates, and pastries. It may seem odd to see global fashion brands alongside traditional artisan shops. Still, this mix of old and new, top designer gear, and everyday Provencal goodies, is what "St. Trop," as it's locally called, is all about.
Visit the Old Market Square (Place des Lices)
It's now time to see the town's most beloved market square, at the central Place des Lices. This is a picture-book pretty market square, with warm facades and cafes framed by plane trees, a daily market whose stalls are heaping with fresh Provencal produce, and local petanque players enjoying a game on sandy pitches.
For lunch or a drink, settle in at Café des Arts (1 Place des Lices), whose marble tables, old wooden floorboards, and outdoor seating are ideal for people-watching. It's also beautiful around sunset when the light's warmth hits the pastel buildings around the square.
Climb to the Old Citadel to Enjoy Panoramic Views
Interested in learning more about Tropezien history? The Old Citadel is an excellent place to start. Standing high above the town, the Citadel and its fortified walls were constructed in the early 17th century to defend the town and its surrounding area from attack. Today, it offers breathtaking views over the St-Tropez Bay.
It's also an interesting site for its naval and maritime museum, located in the Citadel's donjon; the permanent collection offers excellent insight into the town's economic and military history.
Head up to the site before sunset, and as dusk falls, you'll be rewarded by the splendid view over the town, golf course, and the sea beyond.
Visit the Musée de l'Annonciade
For art and art history fans, this museum should be a stop on your itinerary. From the Old Port, make your way to the west side and the nearby Musée de l’Annonciade, a small museum featuring an impressive collection of paintings depicting Saint Tropez. Most are from post-Impressionists of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Paul Signac, who arrived in Saint-Tropez aboard his yacht in 1892, Henri Matisse, and André Dérain.
Also within the collection, housed in a 16th-century chapel, are works by Van Dongen, Braque, Vlaminck, Rouault, Utrillo, and other major artists of the post-Impressionist and Expressionist schools.
Visit the Butterfly House (Maison des Papilllons)
If you’re at all interested in natural history or entomology (the study of insects), the Maison des Papillons (Musée Dany-Lartigue) is worth a stop. Located in the family house of the French painter Dany Lartigue and his father, the photographer Jaques-Henri Lartigue, the small but impressive museum was conceived by the former. It includes a collection of 4,500 specimens of butterflies, presented for the most part against painted backdrops.
While the visit generally requires less than an hour, the extraordinary colors and shapes at this intimate collection are mesmerizing, while the house itself is worth a look.
Soak Up Some Tropezian Nightlife
Last but certainly not least, soak up a bit of Saint-Tropez's legendary nightlife, whether you're up for a simple cocktail with sea views on the old port or a night of dancing at one of the resort town's best nightclubs.
Saint-Tropez after dark is varied but manageable and offers something for anyone. We recommend the Bar du Port, a waterside bar with breathtaking views over the harbor, for before or after-dinner drinks in a stunning setting. After dark, DJ sets add to the lively but relaxed vibe. The champagne bar at the Maison Blanche hotel, just off the Place des Lices, is another spot worth checking out, especially for a festive occasion.
To party into the wee hours of the morning, clubs like the VIP Room, known for its celebrity guests and techno dance sets, and Tsar Folies, a young, friendly, lively club reputed to host some of the town's best dance nights and DJ sets.
Up for a laid-back drink at a locally authentic bar? The Brasserie des Arts on Place des Lices is a brewery with a touch of local chic—and a wide variety of beers.
Finally, for old-school Tropezian glamour, try the Stefano Forever bar and nightclub on Pampelonne Beach, legendary for its cabaret performances and jet-set audience members.