From a quaint fishing village to an international holiday resort icon, St Tropez is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of the Cote d’Azur. Frequented since the late 19th century by the likes of Picasso, Sartre, and Brigitte Bardot, St Tropez is the Riviera’s capital of ‘see-and-be-seen’. Indeed the trend continues today with many of the world’s A-listers enjoying the endearing joie de vivre of the small coastal town. The reasons are plain to see. The town finds itself in a stunning location on the southern shore of one of the most beautiful bays of the French Mediterranean. Here, enchanting Provençal buildings and clock towers provide a colourful backdrop to the modern luxury yachts which bob gently about the ancient port. Such is the charm of St Tropez, that at peak season up to 100,000 visitors a day are lured to her shores. Here’s why:
In spite of the high number of tourists, the colossal private yachts moored here and the occasional rumble of a Ferrari’s engine, the vieux port maintains all the appeal of a sleepy French village. Pastel coloured bars, cafes and restaurants hug the port. On either side of the curving azure blue bay lie the ruins of St. Tropez’s ancient town fortifications to the East, and to the West, tucked behind Mole Jean-Reveille at the top of the jetty, are the captivating remains of the old fisherman’s village. However, St Tropez’s glamorous waterfront is still quite rightly the town’s abiding image. Be sure to arrive in style, ideally upon the deck of a luxury yacht.
Beaches & Coastal Walks
From the port, several of are easily accessible. Spectacular rocky coves neatly divide the long, glorious stretches of fine golden sand. Each partition along the bay has something to offer everyone. Bouillabaisse beach, the nearest beach to the port, is renowned for its perfect wind sailing conditions. Meanwhile, nearby Cannebiers Bay provides brief glimpses onto the sumptuous villas of the global stardom that doze under the Mediterranean sun. The most fashionable beach of all however can be found on Pampelonne Bay. Located upon a 4 mile peninsula, the bay is well sheltered from the Mistral winds and promises some of the finest sun lounging sand in Europe. At night, it is equally popular, with the trendy Club 55 and Voile Rouge being favourite meeting points for celebrities to rendez-vous over exotic cocktails and light wines.
If that seems unappealing, a late afternoon stroll along the coast, when the sun begins to yield, is a fine alternative. Le Sentier du Littoral is the most fondly admired of these coastal walks. Seven miles of beautiful Provencal wilderness and stunning natural scenery is all the explanation necessary.
Proudly stood upon a hillock smothered in oleander, is the 16th century fortress of St Tropez. Enclosed by a hexagonal keep, the ramparts cast an impressive silhouette over the town. Even more impressive are the panoramic views which visitors can enjoy from above. Climb the green and wooded hills that surround the citadel’s walls and from there, the skyline consumes the orange curved-tile roofs of the Old Town, the commanding presence of the Maures and Esterel hills and the glistening blue of the bay dotted with the crisp white sails of the boats sailing below. Such sights leave little wonder as to where Picasso found his artistic inspiration.
The Old Village
Designer fashion shops rub shoulders with modest greengrocers, century old parishes quake to the sound of supercar engines and meanwhile elderly locals enjoy a spot of boules in the town’s peaceful centrepiece, the Place des Lices. The Vieille Ville is truly something that needs to be seen to be believed. A beehive of narrow ochre streets provide cool shade from the midday heat, perfect for a leisurely stroll around the small old houses and chic boutiques. Surrounding the Place des Lices are rows of plane trees and cosy cafes which serve some of the finest local flavours: A glass of pastis from the barman and a slice of Tarte Tropézienne from the artisan baker next door. Pure bliss!
Only a short drive inland are the impossibly beautiful villages of Ramatuelle and Gassin. Set among the marauding vineyards of the arrière-pays, the pink roof tops of Ramatuelle loom above the green woodlands which roll out at the foot of its hill. The village is worthy of a visit if only to sample the delights of wandering along its old streets. A Romanesque church rises prominently above little artisan shops and art galleries. Gassin too has breath-taking views, having been selected as a strategic lookout point by the invading Saracens. Both are becoming increasing popular for foreign investors in search of second properties, and rightly so. Each has its own beauty to match its more famous coastal counterpart, the magnificent St Tropez.