The French Riviera’s peninsula town of St-Tropez has a reputation of being the preferred summertime playground for the jet-set. The former fishing village became a celebrity-magnet after Brigitte Bardot’s appearance in the 60’s movie And God Created Woman (or, in French: Et Dieu… créa la femme). It made St-Trop the place to be for decadent holidays, over-the-top parties and exclusive shops. For decades, the town managed to harmonize its old town chic with that modern luxurious edge. In the past few years, however, the town’s ongoing success tipped the scales and St-Tropez’s classic appeal got lost in luxury. The once so sought-after 83990 postal code seems to have lost its shine. Some say that it has sold its soul and, although we feel that’s partly true, St-Tropez still makes for an excellent (extended) weekend trip destination. Because, especially during the off-season, you can still catch a glimpse of the iconic spirit that put this acclaimed town in the French Riviera on the map. Here’s our take on the best things to do in St-Tropez and beyond.
Essential things to do in St Tropez, France
– Vet the luxurious yachts at the Port of St Tropez
The Port of Saint Tropez is the perfect place to start your itinerary. Mooring your multi-million dollar yacht in the marina is one of the ultimate St Tropez things to do. Unfortunately, that remains the privilege of the happy few or, well, more than a few in fancy St Tropez. Most visitors arrive by car only to get stuck in traffic before finally arriving at the port’s parking lot. From there, you can slowly make your way to the Quai Gabriel Péri while admiring the work of the most renowned yacht builders and silently wishing it was you who was lounging on the expensive sundeck. For the record: This could be you, since many of these yachts can be chartered. Just sayin’…
– People-watch from one of the Quai Suffren’s most sought-after terraces
The iconic Café de Paris might come to mind now, am I right? Well, you’re not entire wrong but just missed out on the latest news. One of St Tropez’s most established businesses closed its doors this year. This popular spot for people-watching on the French Riviera has a new name: La Guérite. That other Saint Tropez institution along the boardwalk, Café Sénéquier, is strong as ever. Alternatively, you could opt for the ever-delighting La Petite Plage at the Quai Jean Jaurès as your people-watching base.
– Wander the streets of La Ponche, St Tropez’ old town
The marina of St Tropez and the terraces along the quays are merely layers of chic coating that hides the town’s true charm. Now that we’ve got that part over and dealt with, it’s time to find some authentic St Tropez allure. The old town is located right behind the Quai Jean Jaurès. It’s where you’ll find meticulously paved picturesque streets, charming pastel-colored houses with touches of bougainville and plenty of cute cafés and restaurants.
Where better to see some couleur locale than at the local market? You’ll find the most colorful one every morning at the Place aux Herbes, with an assortment of fruits, veggies, cheese and flowers.
– Take in the views from the Citadel
One of the recommended things to do in St Tropez is to climb the steps to the Citadel. You’ll be treated to some sensational bay views. The hexagonal Citadel, which dates back to the early 17th century, was part of the French Riviera’s defence line. It’s now home to the Museum of Maritime History (Musée d’Histoire Maritime) where visitors can find out more about St Tropez’s maritime heritage and the seamen that shaped it, such as captain Bailli de Suffren.
– Enjoy the old-time charm at the Places des Lices
The true heart and soul of Saint Tropez is the Places des Lices. It’s the kind of place that seems unaffected by time, mainly thanks to the old plane trees that create the necessary shade. Soak in the atmosphere while watching the local seniors play a game of pétanque, the local variation of jeu de boules from one of the benches or from the Café des Arts.
On Tuesday and Saturday mornings, you can wander around the artisan market that’s held in this location. Delight your senses with the many scents and flavours that fill the air: lavender, local cheese, honey, artisanal soap, herbes de Provence, olives…
– Sink your teeth in a Tarte Tropézienne
Apart from the delicious mediterranean food that you’ll find in the various St Tropez restaurants, there’s one sweet local delicacy that you absolutely must try. The famous Tarte Tropézienne consists of a soft brioche split in two, filled with vanilla cream and sprinkled with sugar crystals. The convenient small versions are referred to as babies and make for a wonderful snack.
– Beaches in St Tropez
If there’s one French Riviera town that’s renowned for its beach scene, then it’s St Tropez. But did you know that most of the beaches of St Tropez are actually located in neighbouring Ramatuelle?
Of course, Pampelonne beach has been the crown jewel of beaches in the St Tropez area ever since it appeared in the And God Created Woman movie. To this day, it’s one of the most iconic places in France. Most of the beach – about three quarters – is public and free of charge, the other part is home to numerous beach clubs. In recent years, however, the many luxury concessions have damaged the environment. Therefore in 2019, in order to give the sand dunes a necessary break, the number of beach clubs has been decreased from 27 to 23. Some classic clubs, such as family-friendly Les Jumeaux, had to make room for more luxurious hang-outs such as the sparkling new Byblos Beach. Other legends, such as Club 55, stood the test of time. Expect to pay anywhere from €40-€70 for a sunbed. If you’re looking for a tranquil club, then we’d recommend the Indie Beach and Tropicana Beach clubs at the southernmost point of Pampelonne beach in St Tropez.
Feet in the sand at Pampelonne, probably the most famous beach in France, is one of the essential things to do in St Tropez. However, if you’re not into the beach club scene, here are some more low-key suggestions nearby:
- Plage de la Bouillabaisse is a sandy public beach with clear waters, all necessary facilities and a handful of restaurants that rent out sunbeds and umbrellas.
- Plage des Salins offers a wide public beach, again with soft sand and the clearest waters. And just up north from this beach, you’ll find Plage de la Moutte in a scenic sandy cove.
- Family-oriented Plage de Gigaro in La Croix-Valmer, with its golden sands and picturesque coves.
All public beaches have lifeguards on duty during the summer season (mid-June to mid-September).
– Drive a Mini Moke
The gorgeous St Tropez beaches are located just outside the city and traffic, especially in the summer, is pretty bad. An alternative mode of transportation is recommended and a stylish town like St Tropez calls for a fashionable vehicle. Enter the Mini Moke, the cute leisure car that’s actually a former military vehicle. Highly instagram-worthy but, thanks to Brigitte Bardot, also tied to the city and therefore one of the essential things to do in St Tropez. Nowadays it comes in an electric version as well. Rental prices start at around €150 for a full day. Worthy alternatives we spotted are the Fiat 500 Mare and the Citroën Mehari.
– Visit one of the St Tropez museums
If you’re looking for a break from the crowded beaches and shops, then you can catch a breath at one of the unique St Tropez museums. Entrance fees are only a few euros per person.
- The Musée de la Gendarmerie et du Cinéma (Gendarmerie and Cinema Museum) links the French police force to the cinema via the legendary comic movies featuring St Tropez police agent Louis de Funès. To us, Belgians, these movies are epic and so nostalgic. Have you seen them too? The museum is even housed in a former police building, to add that extra touch of authenticity.
- La Maison des Papillons (the Butterfly Museum) is located in a Provencal town house in the heart of St Tropez. It displays a private collection of over 35,000 butterflies, mostly French species but also some rare, exotic ones. The artist presents the butterflies in a way that complements their natural colors, sometimes against a backdrop of his own landscape paintings.
- St Tropez has an artistic soul. Painter Paul Signac was the first artist to discover and capture the beauty of this seaside gem over a century ago. He invited other artists, such as Matisse, to do the same. In 1922, their collection was displayed in a 16th century chapel, now known as the Annonciade Museum. Apart from the Signac and Matisse paintings, you’ll find pointillist and fauvist works by renowned artists such as Klee, Serat, Gaugin too. This artistic legacy still inspires many artists. They can be found in the shadow of the Annonciade Museum, where they display and demonstrate their work during the late summer afternoons.
– Explore St Tropez’s natural scenery
The Coastal Trail or Sentier du Littoral is a former customs trail that follows the coastal edge of the Esterel National Park, from Fréjus to Saint-Cyr and includes the Hyères islands or Iles d’Hyères. It’s not a continuous trail but consists of several sections. A gorgeous section of the Sentier du Littoral in the St Tropez area follows this route: Plage de Cannebiers (in front of the sailing school) – Brigitte Bardot’s house – Pointe de la Rabiou – Pointe de L’Ay – Plage de la Moutte – Plage des Salins – back to Cannebier via back road Chemin de la Moutte. This hike covers a distance of 9 km and will take about 2 hours. Not only is it a popular one for tourists, also local residents consider it one of their favorite things to do in St Tropez.
Another beautiful spot on the Saint Tropez peninsula, is the rugged Cap Camarat area. Even from the small parking lot next to the tall lighthouse, you’ll enjoy sweeping vistas over Pampelonne beach.
– Go jet-setting with celebs
Depending on your travel style, you could explore the vibrant Saint-Tropez nightlife. Les Toits is the rooftop bar of the Hôtel de Paris and offers a sophisticated club-like atmosphere from the late afternoon onwards. The evenings in L’Opéra are said to be pretty memorable. We travel as a family and so we’re not familiar with the local night clubbing scene but we’ve heard that Les Caves du Roy and The VIP Room are the best places in St Tropez for celeb-spotting.
Best things to do beyond St Tropez, France
– Day trip to Cassis
One of our favorite seaside towns in the South of France is idyllic Cassis, France. The beautiful port, the charming streets and the amazing Calanques National Park make this destination an absolute must-visit.
– Discover the Var region’s medieval mountain-perched villages
Part of the Provence’s attraction are the medieval villages that top the mountains. In the Var department, where St Tropez is located, you’ll find several of these dreamy French villages. We love getting lost in the maze of alleys while soaking in the authentic vibe. Some of our favorite mountain-perched places near St Tropez include Ramatuelle, Bormes-les-Mimosas, Cotignac, Le Castellet and Grimaud (not port Grimaud, which was fabulous many years ago but has lost its splendour).
– Explore the Domaine du Rayol
A must-see near St Tropez is the Domaine du Rayol in Rayol-Canadel-Sur-Mer. These wonderful Mediterranean gardens with exotic touches can be explored individually or with a guide. Landscape architect Gilles Clément created this paradise on earth: A vivid green setting dotted with colorful flowers along the borders of the sparkling blue Mediterranean.
– Hike your way around the Plaine des Maures Natural Park
The Var department’s first Natural park, the Plaine des Maures (La Réserve Naturelle Nationale de la Plaine des Maures) is a vast plain amidst the Massif des Maures, a collection of mountain ridges that extends from Hyères to Fréjus. The African-savannah like plaine is bordered by the villages of Cannet-des-Maures, La Garde-Freinet and Gonfaron and features plenty of water streams and creeks. It’s where the Hermann’s tortoise feels right at home. The surrounding mountains offer more of a rugged landscape dotted with cork oak and chestnut trees. The Plaine des Maures offers plenty of trails for hikers, horse riders and bikers. An excellent hike is the 6.2 km Les Vallons des Escarcets.
– Day trip to Cannes
Majestic Cannes is another French Riviera favorite. Luxury cars criss-cross the city’s grand boulevards aligned with gracious palm trees and exclusive yachts steal the show in the glamorous marina. Strike a pose on the steps of the Palais du Festival, where the yearly Cannes Film Festival is held or (window-)shop in the expensive boutiques along the Rue d’Antibes. Don’t forget to include the old town of Le Suquet in your itinerary and to enjoy the city view from the Notre Dame de l’Espérance church.
– St Tropez to Nice day trip
Nice is the city where I spent many summers, rollerblading my way over the Promenade des Anglais while enjoying the views over the Baie des Anges and the iconic Hotel Negresco. I remember how I went terrace-hopping in the Vieille Ville, the city’s old town, before dancing the night away in some of the city’s hottest clubs. Those were the days. 🙂 Nice has a major cultural side with museums such as the Chagall Museum in a beautiful contemporary building, the Matisse Museum in a stately mansion next to the romantic Cimiez Gardens, the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Nice and the Villa Massena – Musée d’Art et d’Histoire. Stroll around the Cours Saleya market and have a break at the Place Massena before enjoying the city views from the Colline du Château.
– Day trip to Marseille
With the Basilique Notre Dame de la Garde, nicknamed La Bonne Mère (The Good Mother) watching over her, the city of Marseille enjoys a beautiful location along the Mediterranean. Famous for its old port, where to this day fishermen still filet the freshly-caught fish for the eyes of visitors, the city offers an interesting mix of old and new. Wander the streets of Le Panier (The Basket), Marseille’s oldest district or visit the MUCEM, the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, an architectural masterpiece, before enjoying a pastis on one of the terraces with views over the Vieux Port.
Best places to stay in or near St Tropez
Do have a soft spot for luxurious accommodations and are willing to pay for that glamorous St Tropez lifestyle? Then you’ll be spoilt with choice when deciding where to stay in St Tropez. We personally feel that such a high-end destination calls for a more intimate setting. Understated boutique accommodations like Le Pré de la Mer and La Bastide des Salins fit the bill perfectly, so do the many exclusive villas that are for rent. More popular hotels, where the cool kids hang out, include Sezz Saint-Tropez and the palatial Hotel Byblos Saint-Tropez. Expect a vibrant atmosphere and live music during summer nights.
But even the frugal traveler can find a place under the St Tropez sun. How about the Kon Tiki luxury camping bungalows?
You could also consider staying near St Tropez. We highly recommend neighbouring Rayol-Canadel-sur-Mer which offers the same stunning natural surroundings but is much more low-key. We’re confident that you’ll love the elegant Le Bailli de Suffren and the Hôtel La Villa Douce as much as we do. Villa Marie in Ramatuelle is also a gorgeous property with excellent service.
Getting to St Tropez, France
Glamorous St Tropez is located right in between Marseille and Nice. It has its own airport, La Mole – Saint Tropez Airport, which is more suited for private flights or smaller international flights (e.g. from Geneva). The closest international airports are:
- Toulon Hyères Airport: 52 km – 50m drive.
- Nice Côte d’Azur Airport: 107 km – 1h 30m drive.
- Marseille Provence Airport: 145 km – 2h drive.
St Tropez doesn’t have its own railway station. The closest train station is the one of Saint-Raphaël – Valescure 40 km further. From there you could take the 7601 bus to St Tropez, France or the Bateaux de St Raphaël shuttle boat service across the bay.
Alternatively, head to your hotel in true St Tropez style by taking a helicopter from the airport. If that’s not an option, then it’s recommended to rent a car from the airport. Because, as mentioned in our list of things to do in St Tropez, you’ll need a car to explore the city to the fullest. Or the Mini Moke, remember?
St Tropez map
With so many things to do in St Tropez and beyond, it’s highly recommended to determine your itinerary before your arrival. To help you do just that, we’ve created this map that includes all sights and attractions mentioned in this article.
Which St Tropez things to do will you include in your itinerary?
Have you been to St Tropez, France before? Or do you plan on visiting one day? Then we sure hope that our suggestions on things to do in St Tropez will help you plan your Côte d’Azur itinerary. We can’t wait to find out how you’ll spend your St Tropez holidays!
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