Celebrities, super yachts, Lamborghinis, Hermès Birkins and flocks of the outrageously rich and beautiful spring to mind when you think of Saint Tropez. And you’d be right to think so. It really is like that… and then some! This is one place you have to see for yourself.
Up until the 50’s St Tropez was a sleepy little fishing village that was a favourite of creative types like artists and writers. Everything changed once sex kitten Brigitte Bardot arrived to film And God Created Women. St Tropez exploded onto the international spotlight, lead by jet setters from neighbouring party towns Monaco and Cannes.
As a result of the over exposure this sun-soaked town in the heart of the French Riviera has swung in and out of fashion, at times suffering a ‘trashy’ stigma. BUT rest assured, amidst the glitterati glitz and glam, much of St Tropez has somehow held kept the Mediterranean village charm and the entire town has struck a magical balance of both.
There is seriously so much to see, eat and do that you could easily spend weeks or months here (Brigitte Bardot still hasn’t left!) but you’d need a bank account or two in the Cayman Islands to fund it. If you are lucky enough to spend some time in St Tropez, here’s a summary of what you can’t miss…
St Tropez boasts the most stunning white sand beaches in all of France and possibly Europe. Sandy beaches are quite rare in Europe as most are pebbly or rocky. During the day, especially in the peak months of July and August, you’ll see its mesmerising turquoise blue shores dotted with eye-popping super yachts. Most of those on board check in to the private beach clubs along St Tropez’s most famous beach, Plage de Pampelonne.
Plage de Pampelonne can be a hassle to get to without a car since it’s about 5km (ten minute drive) from town and the narrow windy roads aren’t pedestrian friendly. Apparently there are buses and a free shuttle from the town centre but I have yet to see either. Even if they did exist I doubt they’d be reliable. You’re best hiring a scooter for about 50EUR per day – it’s well worth it considering St Tropez taxis (all big black Mercedes) are 70EUR each way during high and 30EUR during low season – ouch! If you’re not keen on a scooter your best bet is to use Uber (approx. 10EUR each way) however these can also be hard to find at the best of times and almost non-existent out of peak season.
Of the private clubs along this splendid stretch of white sand Le Club 55 is the most chic and celebrated by far. Decorated with rustic drift wood, bamboo, cream canvas, reeds and tamarisk trees, it is understated luxury at its finest. The food is also unpretentious. The raw vege platter is literally an assortment of whole fresh veges on a slice of cork bark. Make sure you have seafood here, it is of course incredibly fresh, simply cooked and divine. Lunch gets very merry, usually starting around 2 or 3 and finishing around 7, even 8 with lots of rosé and champagne and often a three piece jazz band. Expect to pay upwards of 150EUR per person for lunch including wine.
The dining area is semi enclosed from the club’s private beach which has dozens of sun worshipping loungers that resemble mini shipwreck huts. Each spot costs about 80EUR for the day.
If you’re going to see celebs anywhere in St Tropez it’s here. On this latest trip, Princess Beatrice of York was sitting at a nearby table! Club 55 is a St Tropez institution – you really haven’t been to St Tropez unless you’ve been here.
[Club 55: 43 Boulevard Patch, 83350 Ramatuelle | +33 4 94 55 55 55]
A ten minute stroll or 15 minute rosé fuelled stumble along the beach from Club 55 is Bagatelle. You feel more like you’re dining right on the beach here because everything is open and breezy. Again this place is très chic and the French cuisine superb but it’s a tad more affordable, and has more of a party vibe and younger crowd. Around 3 or 4 there’s often a fashion show of the latest beachwear. Soon the DJ gets louder and bottles, magnums and jeroboams of champagne are flying left right and centre, each one served by superheroes (waiters in costume), sparklers ablaze and plenty of table top dancing by all.
[Bagatelle: Route de l’epi, Plage de Pampelonne, 83350 Ramatuelle | +33 4 94 79 83 25]
Nikki Beach isn’t technically a beach club since it’s not on the beach but rather across the road from Bagatelle. THIS is where you come to party! And often where everyone heads once fired up from lunch at the previous two venues. It’s also a wonderful place for sunbathing on its large white cabanas and sun loungers that surround a pool and an international DJ. Lunch here is nice and of course pricey (around 100EUR per person excluding drinks) but you don’t come here for the food you come for the exciting atmosphere. By 4pm it’s wet bodies everywhere bumping and grinding to the hottest beats and not necessarily wet from the pool. Expect to get sprayed with champagne if you’re near the pool! #champagneshowers
[Nikki Beach: 1093 Route de l’Épi, 83350 Ramatuelle | +33 4 94 79 82 04]
You don’t have to pay to enjoy Plage de Pampelonne. There’s plenty of public beach space between the private beach clubs. It can get crowded in peak season so try and get there early. When I say early I mean midday as many will still be in bed from the night before. Officially or unofficially (didn’t stick around to find out) several of these spaces are nudist beaches if that’s your thing.
Back in town you’ll find so much exquisite shopping just meandering through the quaint old streets embellished with little flags. Of course all the usual luxe brands are here like Hermès, Fendi, Louis Vuitton and Prada, but make sure you check out Christian Dior and Chanel as here they aren’t your ordinary boutique. This year marks the seventh summer in a row that La Mistralée mansion has been taken over by Chanel as a pop up store. Similarly Dior’s boutique is also housed in a beautiful mansion with 18th century Parisian decor. During summer Yannick Alléno, 3 star Michelin chef creates a shopper and foodie heaven with a pop up eatery in the Dior garden.
You can get the crème de la crème of swim and beachwear anywhere throughout St Tropez however if you feel that 200EUR is pricey for a bikini, try Kiwi. There are three stores here and they do quality swimmers to suit everyone – men, women and kids. For the ultimate casual chic cover ups (perfect for Club 55), go to La Chemise Tropezienne and footwear to match is at Rondini.
Food, Dining & Nightlife
If you’ve got a sweet tooth you can’t leave St Tropez until you’ve tried the official sweet, la tarte tropézienne. You’ll find it on the menu in just about every cafe or restaurant for around 15EUR or you can pick up a slice from La Tarte Tropézienne for just 3.50EUR. These shops are everywhere in St Tropez and claim to be the original creators of the sweet delight. They also now offer cute mini versions in different flavours. My favourite is still the original – custardy cream sandwiched in airy brioche topped with sugar crystals.
For a nice casual lunch go to Le Sporting. It’s a relaxed all day eatery where you can have anything from fish, pasta, salads and hamburgers at reasonable prices. You’ll also have a great view of the pétanque players who meet daily at Place des Lices (town square).
After a day in town, head to the port for an apértif and some of the most interesting people-watching you will ever experience. People-watching with a coffee at the port is fascinating any time of the day really, but in the late afternoon is when the yachts return to port to get ready for dinner so there’s more of a buzz. Sénéquier is without a doubt the best place to sit for this as it’s right in the center of the port; has the most comfortable seats; receives the perfect angle of afternoon sun and serves the most delicious little cheesy scone puffs along with green olives with your apértif. It started in 1887 as a bakery so no wonder it does pastries well and also why it’s a great place for your morning croissant. It’s also one of Karl Lagerfeld’s go-tos. There was a flood of paparazzi out the front while he sat right in the back left corner table with a beautiful young male model. Funny seeing him there after looking at a fluffy cartoon handbag clip-on made in his likeness at the Fendi store!
Another must-do in the port on a sunny day is enjoy a delicious ice cream at Barbarac. You can imagine that there are several ice cream stations at the port and with such long queues I had my doubts about this one. But one taste and I knew the eternal crowd around this place is totally substantiated. The flavour range is huge and includes some really unique ones and the best part – they’re not snooty about giving out tastings 😀
Brasserrie Des Arts is a really fun place to have dinner. It’s also at Place des Lices, directly across from Le Sporting. Book a table here for dinner at 9.30 or 10. It’s the perfect place to prepare for a big night because dinner usually turns into a party. The brasserie is very elegant with white table clothes and the food and service is very good. It’s best to go in a group because they have the most impressive platters of sushi, seafood, fruits etc. in big elaborately detailed displays. On the latest trip we went just us two and it was still a highlight of our stay. The tuna tartare starter was a standout with Asian flavours of soy and wasabi. My salad doesn’t look all that exciting but it was so fresh and tasty even I was surprised. You can still join the fun without dining here, just head straight to the bar nearer to midnight and dress to impress.
[Brasserie des Arts: 5 Traverse des Lices, 83990 Saint-Tropez | +33 4 94 40 27 37]
Another really fun evening dining experience is L’Opera, down at the left end of the port. Don’t go for the food but rather for the racy show they put on every night and electric party atmosphere. Crystal chandeliers and pop art surround you while pretty much everything else is white, including a white catwalk running down the middle for the models / dancers. You will love seeing the beautiful girls strut their stuff around the room to the pumping music in their creatively skimpy costumes.
[L’Opera: Résidence du Port, 83990 Saint-Tropez | +33 4 94 49 51 31]
After dinner unless you’re partying on one of the yachts, the ONLY place to be is Les Caves du Roy, the nightclub underneath Hôtel Byblos. Here you absolutely must to dress up as it’s quite exclusive and can be difficult to get into after midnight during July and August. If you’re a group of guys, don’t expect to get in AT ALL unless you find some lovely ladies to accompany you. Inside it looks like the set of Cirque du Soleil and the music is always amazing. It’s all too easy to dance until the morning market at Place des Lices has started! Les Caves du Roy and Hotel Byblos are iconic to St Tropez, hosting celebs including Brigitte Bardot, Cher, Jack Nicholson, Clint Eastwood and Romy Schneider. Mick Jagger and Biance Perez even spent their honeymoon in one of the suites.
[Les Caves du Roy: Avenue Paul Signac, 83990 Saint-Tropez | +33 4 94 56 68 00]
No matter what you do here you can’t go wrong, simply to be here is a thrill. Welcome to St Tropez!
What are your favourite experiences in St Tropez?