St Tropez was a sleepy fishing village beloved of artists in the 1950s, until Brigitte Bardot appeared on the beach in the movie ‘And God Created Women’. Now it is one of the most glamorous places on earth.
St Tropez is full up in the summer: some people come here to be seen, others come to look at the people who want to be seen. So you have the odd spectacle of multi-millionaires watching TV in their yachts, and crowds of onlookers shuffling round the port watching them watch TV.
If you come in the off-season you will see what all the fuss was about in the first place. St Tropez is a beautiful little town with a picture-perfect harbour, sandy beaches and a historic old centre full of boutiques and restaurants.
Lined with pink and yellow houses and restaurants all around, the Vieux Port is your first sight of St Tropez when you arrive by yacht, or indeed park in the port car-park. Many visitors to St Tropez find it important to walk around the vieux port looking in at the yachts, which are helpfully moored rear-first to allow a good view inside. Lunch or dinner in one of the port restaurants can be expensive, but you do pay for the location and some of the world’s best people-watching. St Tropez is generally reckoned to have more famous faces per square foot than anywhere else on the planet.
The best-known place to sit and watch is the Cafe Senequier, legendary coffee stop with the red awning and directors’ chairs.
Pass through the Porte de la Poissonnerie – with its tiny fish market – into the old town and the delightful little market in the Place aux Herbes.
This part of town is the oldest, in between the harbour and the citadel, it is also the most attractive part of town. This was where the fishermen and then the writers and artists settled. In the picturesque streets restaurants, bars and chic boutiques coil round the shore, along with the tower of what was Chateau de Suffren.
At the top of the town is the 16th-17th century Citadelle, a military stronghold with an unexciting little naval museum but a fine view over St Tropez.
Musee de l’Annonciade
An unexpected treat in St Tropez is a great little art museum. Musee de l’Annonciade occupies a 17th century former chapel by the port, and holds a collection of post-Impressionists who worked in St Tropez in the late 19th and early 20th centuries – making the link between van Gogh, Gauguin et al. and Cubism. Signac, Seurat, Derain, Dufy, Bonnard, Braque and Matisse feature.
Also… if you love mounted butterflies, you will love the Maison des Papillons – a house filled with 25,000 specimens from around the world.
Place des LicesIf the Port is the most obvious heart of St Tropez, Place des Lices is the centre of town – it is where the market is held, where locals play petanque under the shade of the plane trees, and the square is lined with cafes and restaurants that give you a more charmingly Provencal view than mega-yachts. Market days are Tuesday and Saturday mornings.
There are some smaller beaches dotted around the town, including one right in town, Plage de la Ponche. On the way into town are Plage de la Bouillabaisse and Plage des Graniers. But the biggest and for some the best is Plage de la Pampelonne – 3 miles of sand, turquoise water, hedonistic beach clubs and restaurants with outrageous prices. In the summer there are many yachts anchored offshore, and many of their occupants go to the Club 55 for lunch – the place to see and be seen. If you don’t have a reservation Club 55 also has a little beach shack where you can get a salad or a sandwich. Note that one section of Pampelonne beach is naturist, and it is not well signposted so you may find yourself wandering into it if you walk along the seashore.