Saint-Tropez was an upper-class resort long before the paparazzi arrived and spread its image around the world. At the turn of the last century, it was discovered by the impressionist painter Paul Signac, who bought a house here and was soon followed by Matisse, Picabia and Bonnard, while in the 1930s the likes of Tyrone Power, Clark Gable and Errol Flynn would drive here to escape the spotlight in Monaco.
But the person who changed everything was Brigitte Bardot when she played the sex kitten in the 1956 film And God Created Woman. Bardot was transformed from a schoolgirl who used to come here on holiday with her parents into nothing less than a sex goddess, a siren who would dance a sensual mambo at the Bar de la Ponche.
Today, of course, St – Tropez is a favorite watering hole for Russian oligarchs, movie stars, corporate moguls and celebrities. A killer combination of amazing beaches, azure waters, the little port, the magnificent mega-yachts and modern resorts with all the bells and whistles. All the while, maintaining its original fishing village atmosphere with small shops, boutique hotels and even the occasional B&B.
As a yachting destination, St – Tropez is an obligatory place that everyone needs to visit, at least once in their lifetime. Nothing has changed. If you know the right people, get the right invitations to their sublime houses and yachts, then you don’t need to see what goes on out in the streets.
From the decadent 1960s this has been a capital of debauchery – everything that is or was illegal can be found here: le parfum de l’interdit, the seductive aroma of the illicit. Anything goes in Saint-Tropez, the best and the worst, and that is what makes it so special. It can be vulgar and distinguished, aristocratic and nouveau riche at the same time.
What to see and do
- Soak in the atmosphere of the old port: this is the nerve center of the town.
- Take in the magnificent surrounding scenery: if Saint-Tropez became a famed tourist destination in the first place, there’s a reason.
- Wander around the streets of the Old Town: the most picturesque and atmospheric streets and squares are located behind the Quai Jean-Jaurès.
- Climb up to the Citadel: this early 17th century castle, dating back from the period when Provence had to be defended against enemy intruders.
- Check out the Musée de l’Annonciade: this museum, located in a converted chapel on Place Grammont in one of the corners of the Old Port, is for art aficionados who want to understand how Saint-Tropez inspired some famous painters.
- Sample some “Tarte Tropézienne” on the Place des Lices.
- Follow the coastal walking trail and explore some of the beaches
- Visit the neighboring towns of Sainte-Maxime and Ramatuelle. If you are visiting by car, these two very different destinations just about warrant a quick stopover, in this order.
Things to eat and drink in St Tropez
Obviously, you’re in the South of France so all things Provencal and Seafoody will be on the menu. Provencal specialties include Ratatouille, Daube (a beef stew slow cooked in wine), Bouillabaise (a Marseille special fish soup), maybe an omelette aux Truffes. And don’t forget the Tarte Tropezienne!
Pastis is a favorite aperitif and of course the delightful French wines of which your local vin de la maison should always be at the top of the list.
How to get there
Fly into Toulon from Paris or other European city.
Take the TGV train from Paris to Marseille and Toulon. Drive or take a bus to St. Tropez.
Epitomizing the very soul of France’s southern coast, whether it be by land or by sea, St – Tropez has to be on your bucket list.