The French Riviera - or CÔTE D’AZUR, as the French call it – is synonymous with elegance and extravagance, pastel-colored fishing villages and endless stretches of sea views that have inspired artists, aristocrats, and mere mortals to find their happily-ever-after on its shimmering coastline. Bookended by Saint-Tropez’s legendary beach clubs in the west and Monaco’s palace-clad cliffs in the east, the 85-mile strand reveals itself to be every bit as grand, gorgeous, and over the top as its reputation suggests. Keep your favorite sunglasses within reach as we take it all in.
Summer swells with Louboutin- and Louis Vuitton-clad visitors who zip through town on Vespas and pull gargantuan yachts into port to swig rosé all day. Yet despite the seasonal crowds, the village oozes authenticity – from the wooden fishing boats that haul in the morning catch to heated games of boules (known as pétanque in these parts), played under plane trees on the place des Lices.
“The first thing I do in Saint-Tropez is head to Café Sénéquier’s terrace on the port [quai Jean Jaurès] to people-watch before the crowds arrive.” – Joëlle Kolich, Virtuoso travel advisor, Bordeaux, France
Here are five more tips for your next visit to Saint-Tropez.
BEACH DAY - Hedonism is always en vogue on Pampelonne Beach, the famous curve of sand stacked with revelers at clubs such as Saint-Tropez’s first, Club 55 (43 boulevard Patch), and Les Palmiers (Route de l’Épi). Mellow out at Cabane Bambou (Route de Bonne Terrasse), where the Polynesian decor and tropical drinks are more soothing than sinful.
THINK PINK - Rosé is the French Riviera’s undisputed drink of choice, and several award-winning Côtes de Provence vineyards have tasting rooms just a cork’s throw away. Local favorites include Château Minuty (2491 Route de la Berle, Gassin), Château Barbeyrolles (presqu’île de Saint-Tropez, Gassin), and Château des Marres (Route des Plages, Ramatuelle).
ON THE MENU - Chef Laurent Mouret and his wife, Bérénice, welcome diners to La Verdoyante (866 chemin Vicinal de Coste Brigade, Gassin), where regulars gather for Provençal cuisine served on a sunny terrace with vineyard views all the way to the Gulf of Saint-Tropez.
SOUVENIR HUNTING - The region’s flavors and scents are on display at the Tuesday- and Saturday-morning Provençal Market (place des Lices), where beachgoers can pack picnic baskets or pick up souvenirs. Treat your feet to a pair of Tropéziennes, the famous leather sandals handmade at K. Jacques (39 bis rue Allard and 28 rue Seillon) and Rondini (18 rue Georges Clémenceau) for decades.
LOCAL KNOWLEDGE - Driving over for the day? Avoid the city’s notorious traffic and jump aboard a Bateaux Verts ferry in Sainte-Maxime (14 quai Léon Condroyer); its scenic 12-minute jaunt drops you right in Saint-Tropez’s port.
Built by a French general for his Indian princess wife in the mid-1800s, Pan Deï Palais now serves as an in-town oasis with a candlelit pool bar in a hidden courtyard.
Since 1967, Hotel Byblos has lured jet-setters who get pampered by day at its Sisley Spa and pool, then party all night at the legendary Caves du Roy nightclub – the Riviera hot spot.
Escape the frenzy amid Château de la Messardière’s castle grounds and statue-filled gardens, then board its 24/7 shuttle to access its sun loungers on Pampelonne Beach, or restaurants and clubs around town.
La Réserve Ramatuelle’s three- to six-bedroom villas, perched on a seaside promontory just outside town, are perfect for families, with private pools, butler service, and plenty of outdoor space.
By Kimberley Lovato
Photography by Nanna DÍs