Saint Tropez is a glittering seaside destination on the French Riviera, in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region of France. While it was once a sleepy fishing village and military stronghold, it began a glamorous transformation in the ’50s to become the popular celebrity-attracting haven is it today. Beautiful beaches, azure waters, cobbled lanes and exciting nightlife attracts the rich and famous and everyday tourists alike.
Sizzling sex-symbol Brigitte Bardot turned the spotlight on Saint Tropez when she arrived to film Et Dieu Créa la Femme (And God Created Woman) in 1956. The French actress wowed the world with her captivating performance, while simultaneously showing off the enchanting town and natural splendours of the area. She enjoyed the place so much that she bought a house and relocated there from Paris not long after filming concluded. Everywhere she visited became a trendy hotspot for celebrities and visitors to flock to.
Among these hotspots are an array of chic restaurants and beach clubs along the famous Pampelonne beachfront. Set in a picturesque sheltered bay, the beach stretches over 5km long and has a mix of public areas and businesses set up to take advantage of the sand and sun. Loungers and parasols are available to hire to get a good view of the luxurious superyachts vying for a park out in the bay. Beyond the yachts lie the Maures mountains, creating a spectacular backdrop to gaze upon.
How Far is Nice to Saint Tropez?
It is about 115km southwest by car from Nice to Saint Tropez, taking around 1 hour 40 min on the fastest highways with light traffic. The slower, more scenic route takes you right along the coastline is just under 3 hours. During summer, there is a direct ferry from the ports of Nice to Saint Tropez, offering unique views of the Cote d’Azur from the water.
There is no train station in Saint Tropez, but a 1-hour train from Nice will get you to San Raphael, where the rest of the journey can be taken by bus, taxi or ferry.
What is There to See and Do in Saint Tropez?
As well as lounging on the beach and searching for celebrities, there are a huge number of interesting things to do in Saint Tropez. Here are some of the best.
Vieux Port – Old Port :
The old port of Saint Tropez is the heart of the town. It is a wonderful spot to stroll the quays and admire the lines of yachts and their scurrying crews. Here is where a statue of Bailli de Suffren stands, a 17th-century navy admiral who is considered a French hero. A street back from the port front you can find the bustling morning fish market on place aux Herbes.
Plage de Pampelonne – Pampelonne Beaches :
The most well-known stretch of beach associated with Saint Tropez is sparkling Pampelonne. Actually located 10 minutes south of the town, a bus service regularly shuffles beach-goers from the village centre. It is the longest and most popular beach in the area, and where you’ll find the most A-list celebrities, glitzy beach clubs and superyachts that have become synonymous with Saint Tropez. There are lifeguards present from mid-June to mid-September, and public toilets, showers and first aid stations are easy to find.
Maison des Papillons – Butterfly Museum :
Located within a typical Provencal house in the old town of Saint Tropez, The Maison des Papillons is a museum housing over 35,000 butterfly specimens. The collection was built over decades by the painter Dany Lartigue in what used to be his family’s home. The amazing display is largely aimed at French diurnal species, including the hard-to-find Apollon Noir from the Mercantour region. The butterflies are displayed in a beautifully artistic way, which isn’t surprising given that an artist was in charge of arranging them. The museum is a great place to admire the beauty of butterflies while learning more about them.
Port Grimaud :
The fascinating next-door neighbour of Saint Tropez is known as the “little Venice of France”. Located only 7km away, it takes about 10 minutes by car to visit. Building began in 1966 by French architect François Spoerry, and has been slowly added to until it’s completion in 2000. Channels inspired by Venetian design were constructed by altering the marshes, with raised houses along the channels built to reflect Saint Tropezian fisherman’s homes. Boats are the best way to get around here, with water buses available for residents and visitors to get into the town.
Eglise Notre Dame de l’Assomption – Church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption
One of the most easily recognised sights in Saint Tropez is the Italian baroque-style church, Notre Dame de l’Assomption. Built in 1784, the church is painted in bright orange and yellow, and is topped with a bell tower and clock. A beautiful site to visit, there are historical wood carvings and statues inside to enjoy. The bust of Saint Tropez is kept here in between being paraded down the streets each year during the ‘Bravades’ festival.
Saint Tropez is the perfect place to explore on foot with a customised walking tour. With flexible starting and finishing times and locations, it’s easy to get the most out of your visit. Let knowledgeable guides take you to the best must-see attractions, or adjust the content to suit your individual interests. Ask questions as you go and travel at the pace that suits you.
Where to Eat in Saint Tropez?
Le Club 55 :
Made famous as being Brigitte Bardot’s favourite place to hang out, Club 55 strives to continue to serve simple food with a casual style despite being regularly packed with the hottest celebrities. The beach restaurant also features a boutique bazaar, selling relaxed yet stylish apparel perfect for a beach side stay. Find it at 43 Boulevard Patch, right on Pampelonne Beach.
La Vague d’Or :
For an exquisite fine dining experience, La Vague d’Or boasts 3 Michelin stars for it’s Mediterranean morsels. Located on Plage de la Bouillabaisse, this chic modern restaurant is open every evening in summer except Wednesdays to enjoy exceptional Provencal food and wine of world-class standards. The prices reflect the awards here, but it’s worth it for the experience.
Hôtel de La Ponche :
Another regular haunt of Brigitte Bardot and crew, the restaurant at Hôtel de La Ponche also attracts visitors for the view where famous author Francois Sagan, writer of Bonjour Tristesse, was photographed. Owner Simone Duckstein says the beautiful view of the bay has not changed much since World War II. She claims to have memories of when Pablo Picasso would come for a drink, back when the place was a simple fisherman’s bar run by her father.
Where to Stay in Saint Tropez?
This luxurious palatial hotel calls itself a timeless “temple for all the pleasures”, thriving for decades without succumbing to trends. With the feel of a Provence seaside, terracotta and gold-coloured houses cluster around a beautiful pool area complete with restaurant “B by the pool”. One of the regions most famous nightclubs, Les Caves du Roy is found within the resort, as well as delicatessen L’Epicerie. There is a free shuttle service from the hotel to Pampelonne Beach.
Château de la Messardière
This huge 19th-century château is the largest hotel in Saint Tropez, covering an area of 25 acres. Perched on a private hillside, the castle provides spectacular views of the nearby bay and beaches. With a 1000m² spa to relax in and an on-site art gallery, the hotel is a peaceful sanctuary to recharge after days of sightseeing and partying.