Saint Tropez Tourist Attractions

Saint TropezSaint Tropez

The little port and well-known resort of St Tropez lies on the southern shore of the gulf of the same name at the foot of the eastern part of the Massif des Maures. There is a large parking lot to the west of the town at the Nouveau Port.

Citadel

High over the town of St-Tropez towers the Citadel, which was built between 1590 and 1607. In the gateway is a large modern relief by Paul Landowski, depicting a ship's cannon being made ready for action. Within the six-cornered fortress is the Musée de la Marine et de l'Histoire Locale (Museum of Shipping and Local History), in which there is a good reproduction of a Greek galley to be seen. From the battlements there is a good view of the Gulf of St-Tropez and the Massif des Maures.

Old Town

The Old Town of St-Tropez is situated to the west below the citadel and is bordered on the other side by the harbor basin. Part of it has been laid out as a pedestrian zone where shops, boutiques and restaurants abound.
Rue de la Citadelle leads down into the center; on the right in Rue du Portail-Neuf stands the 18th century church, in Italian Baroque style, in which can be seen a bust of St-Tropez and beautiful woodcarving (at Christmas time there is a fine Provençal crib).
Northwest of the church near the harbor and the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall) stands the former Palais des Bailli Pierre-André de Suffren (1729- 1788), Bailiff of the Order of Malta and one of the most important admirals of the French fleet ("Scourge of the English"; his statue stands on the east side of the harbor). From here it is not far on the right to the Mole Jean-Réveille, enclosing the harbor on the north, from where there is a good view of the town's seafront. Luxury yachts in the harbor provide a splendid spectacle, especially when the regatta "La Nioulargue" is being held at the end of September and beginning of October.

Museum of the Anunciation

At the southern corner of the harbor basin in St Tropez (Quai de l'Epi) stands the former Chapel Notre-Dame de l'Annonciade (Chapel of the Annunciation, the Church of the White Penitents of 1510). It now houses the Musée de l'Annonciade, which contains the very remarkable collection of the Lyons industrialist Georges Grammont, pointillist and Fauvist paintings, the creators of which have worked in St Tropez - artists such as Signac, Derain, van Dongen, Rouault, Braque, Bonnard, Matisse and Maillol.
Address: Place Grammont, F-83990 Saint Tropez, France

Grande Bravade

This is an annual religious procession and folk festival held in mid-May. The event honors Saint Tropes, and includes a parade in which his statue is carried through the streets. The less religious aspects of the festival include outdoor concerts, competitions, games, food and drink stalls, craft sales and public dances.

Surroundings

Ramatuelle, France

On the hilly and for the most part wooded peninsula 12km/7.5mi to the south of St Tropez, lies the picturesque hill village of Ramatuelle, which has many superb views, besides its fortified houses with imposing gates, surrounded by pine woods. In the tiny cemetery is the grave of the actor Gérard Philipe (1922-59).

Moulins de Pallas

To the northwest of Ramatuelle towers the 326m/1,070ft high Moulins de Pallas, named after the former mill situated on its southern flank. A narrow road leads to the top, from which there is a fine view across the whole peninsula of Cap Camarat, westwards to the Massif des Maures, southwestwards to the Bay of Cavalaire and northwards to the Bay of St Tropez. 5km/3mi beneath Ramatuelle, Cap Camarat extends into the sea; from its lighthouse there are more views over to the beaches of the bay of Anse de Pampelonne (to the north) and Plage de l'Escalet (to the south).

La Croix-Valmer

Coming from St-Tropez and passing Ramatuelle the D93 road enters a scenically very rewarding but winding stretch over the Col de Collebasse to the resort of La Croix-Valmer which lies like an amphitheater on the Bay of Cavalaire.

Ste Maxime

On the far side of the bay to the north of St-Tropez (14km/9mi) lies the port of Ste-Maxime, a popular holiday resort. In the church to the west of the harbor is a striking marble altar (18th C.) from the Carthusian Monastery of La Verna (in Italy). To the north-east of the little town there is the Sémaphore (signal station, 127m/417ft) with fine views. The Musée de la Photographie et de la Musique has on display a collection of over 300 musical instruments and phonographs.

Port-Grimaud, France

Port-Grimaud is situated at the southwestern corner of the Bay of St Tropez at the foot of the Massif des Maures; behind it stretches a plain which the Rivers Garde and Giscle have filled up with their deposits.
The very attractive modern holiday resort of Port-Grimaud is reminiscent of a Venetian fishing and lagoon settlement, with its maze of channels. When the resort was translated from the drawing board to reality in 1966, great importance was laid on creating a townscape typical of the region.
The resort is free of traffic; there are parking lots outside the town for holidaymakers and visitors. As well as motorboats plying regular routes, there are four-seater electric boats for self-drive hire on the canals.
By the canals, on which there are many fine sailing ships and cabin cruisers, there are boutiques, shops and restaurants; the market is held in the main square. Many of the apartment houses have their own mooring-places outside their front doors. Facing the sea stands the ecumenical Church of St François d'Assisi, designed according to Romanesque models; a coin-operated turnstile gives access to the tower from which there is an exceptional panorama of the little town, the lagoons and the mountainous hinterland.

Cogolin, France

Cogolin, situated on the southwestern edge of the coastal plain of Port Grimaud, is a center of artisan and industrial wood and textile production. The main products are bamboo and cane furniture, carpets and pipes made out of bruyère (heather roots). In the village there is a pretty 16th C. church and a clock-tower - the remains of an earlier fortification.
To the south of Port Grimaud lies the yachting harbor of Les Marines de Cogolin.

Grimaud, France

Grimaud is situated inland on the site of a settlement which was used by the Ligurians; it is a "village perché", high above the Plain of Cogolin and with a particularly picturesque townscape. Of interest are the ruins of the fortress (11th C.; view) and the Church of St-Michel, also dating from the 11th C. Also well preserved is the Maison des Templiers (House of the Templars) with its Gothic arcades. Some 2km/1mi east on the road from Port-Grimaud stands the charming Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-la-Queste.

Draguignan, France

Draguignan lies about 27km/17mi inland of Fréjus, north of the Massif des Maures and the Valley of the River Artuby which borders these mountains.
In the fifth century the area was Christianized by Hermentarius, the first Bishop of Antibes. According to legend the Bishop had won the confidence of the inhabitants by killing a dragon which had threatened the whole countryside and laid it to waste. The name of the town also recalls this episode; it appears to be derived from "dragon" and the legendary monster figures in the arms of the town.
In the 17th century when Anne of Austria was acting as a Regent for her under-aged son Louis XIV, the town was surrounded by a stout defensive wall. During the French Revolution Draguignan was the district capital and then the capital of the Département of Var.

Townscape

The broad streets south of the Old Town of Draguignan, which are unusual in a small town, were laid out by Baron Haussmann who was largely responsible for the infrastructure of Paris (he was Prefect there from 1853 to 1870).

Tour de l'Horloge

The old town center of Draguignan is clustered about the Tour de l'Horloge (clock tower) which stands on a rock from which there is a fine view.

Ursuline Convent Museum

Not far northwest of the clock tower, in the Rue de la République in Draguignan, stands a former 17th C Ursuline convent which was later the summer residence of the Bishop of Fréjus.
It now houses a museum which has a number of treasures (Rembrandt: "Child blowing soap-bubbles"; Franz Hals: "Kitchen Interior", as well as paintings by Van Loo, J. Parrocel and Ziem, and a sculpture by Camille Claudel. Also notable are ceramics (Moustiers, Sèvres), furniture, French and Flemish 17th C painting, an illuminated manuscript (with pictures) of the "Roman de la Rose", the most important work of courtly poetry in France (12th C) and an illustrated Bible in Latin with 2,000 engravings which dates from 1493 and which came from a workshop in Nuremberg.

The Abbey of Le Thoronet

The Abbey of Le Thoronet (26km/16mi to the southwest of Draguignan on the D562) is the oldest and smallest of the three Cistercian monasteries in Provence and has a secluded position in a wooded, hilly area to the south of the Argens.
Le Thoronet is the epitome of the Provençal Romanesque style and represents a perfect embodiment of Cistercian building principles, which derive from the strict rules of the order - absolute simplicity, clear lines and proportions, a complete absence of decoration. The severe exterior is tempered by the reddish hue of the building materials (stone from the Esterel Massif), the bright Provençal light and the beautiful setting.
The convent and church were built, like Sénanque, by the monks of Mazan (Ardèche) between 1160 and 1190, after they had settled near there in 1136 at the instigation of Raymond Bérenger, Count of Barcelona and Toulouse. Raymond also ensured that the foundation should have a secure basis for its existence by transferring land to its ownership. One of the first abbots, Folco or Folquet (from 1201), had been a famous troubadour before he renounced worldly and amorous concerns and became a Cistercian monk in 1196. After a period of decline during the 14th century, the monastery was abandoned and in 1791 during the Revolution was confiscated by the state and sold off. That it was bought back by the state in 1840 and preserved from dilapidation is thanks to the French writer Prosper Mérimée. The Baroque additions which the building acquired in the 18th century were removed during restoration work which took place after 1873.
Le Thoronet - Cistercian Abbey - Floor plan map Le Thoronet - Cistercian Abbey Map

Church

The stone belfry at Le Thoronet is unusual for a Cistercian church - normally only roof turrets were permitted. The masonry is impressive by virtue of the exactness with which the slabs of stone have been cut and laid; the slightly sloping saddle-roofs rest directly on the vaults. The facade does not have a central doorway - as there was no "congregation" - but merely two side doors (the left one was assigned to lay brothers).

Interior

The nave of Le Thoronet is built with four bays and pointed barrel-vaulting; they are separated from one another by simple rectangular girders which rest on simple ledges made up of a quarter-circular bar and a straight strip. The lower arms of the transept do not form a crossing with the nave, but are merely attached to it. Set in the eastern wall of the transept, to the left and right of the choir, there are two apses, while the choir, even from the outside, appears to the eye to form a semicircle.
The transition to the Gothic style is heralded by the ogival barrel-vaulting in the nave and transept and the rising half-barrels in the side aisles, which divert the weight from the vaulting on to the exterior walls. The eastern bay of the northern side aisle, which was the first to be built, still possesses a quarter-barrel; similarly the chronological succession of the various building elements can be traced in the development and refining of the ledges.
The only subdivision on the walls is provided by semicircular articulated columns, which rest on a console at a height halfway up the arcades, as well as a perimeter ledge which marks the base of the vaulting. Light reaches the interior through a few small windows in the west, south and east walls and in the apses; the north side has no windows.

Cloister

The Le Thoronet cloister is reached from the northern side aisle. The noticeably irregular shape of its ground-plan (a trapezium with unequal sides, the longest 37m/121ft) and vertical plane is caused by the shape of the land on which it is built. The walls and vaults appear even more massive than when seen from inside the church, because of the almost total absence of any subdivisions. The history of building is also documented here in the various shapes of the ledges and vaults; the early south wing (ca.1160-1170) has barrel-vaulting, while the vaulting in the east wing is slightly broken. In the north-east and north-west corners the Gothic ribbed vaults which have been placed there are very evident. The round-arched arcades leading to the garden rest on rectangular buttresses and are filled out with a pair of rounded arches, which sit on circular pillars with simple capitals and soften the heavy impression made by the 1.50m/5ft thick wall. Here it is possible to trace the tradition of Romanesque building forms (cf. the Temple of Diana in Nîmes).
The terrace above the cloister, which is reached from the dormitorium, offers the best view across the site.

Wellhouse

The wellhouse on the north wing of the cloister is the only remaining example in Provence to have survived. The hexagonal building has hinged ribbed vaulting and round- arched windows and is provided with a separate entrance and exit. The fountain itself is modern.

Monks' Buildings

Next to the northern transept arm on the same level as the Cloister in Le Thoronet is the 3m/10ft wide sacristy and the tiny library (the Cistercians restricted themselves to only the most essential of reading matter), which, like the conventual buildings is situated at a lower level. Connected to it is the 9.5x8m/ 31x26ft chapter house, the six ribbed vaults of which rest on two free-standing pillars. The sculptures on the capitals (leaves, palm branches, volutes) represent the only building decorations in the whole complex; probably it was felt fitting not to deny a certain degree of embellishment to what was, after the church, the most important room for monastic life.
The parlatorium (speaking-room) is situated between the cloister and the monastery garden. Other buildings in the north of the site (warming-room, refectory, kitchen and monks' hall) have not been preserved, although their ground-plan is still discernible.
Following the Cistercian tradition, a staircase leads from the northern arm of the transept directly into the dormitorium, the monks' sleeping room, which is situated above the chapter house.

Converse Building

The converse building at Le Thoronet (lay brothers' building), which dates from the early 13th century, is connected to the northwest end of the cloister. On the ground floor is the refectory with a double-bayed hinged ribbed vault; on the upper floor the dormitorium with ogival barrel- vaulting. The door in the north wall led to the latrine, now in ruins, which was directly above the stream.

Cellar

There is a store-room built on to the cloister at Le Thoronet, which, like the latter, dates from the end of the 12th C. It is a long room with ogival barrel-vaulting and arcades on the west wall. Here there are walled containers for oil, the remains of an oil-press and an exhibition dealing with the restoration of the monastery and the building activities of the Cistercians.

Outbuildings

In the northwest corner of Le Thoronet the foundation walls of the guest house have been uncovered; in the south stands the former tithe barn.

Lorgues, France

The little town of Lorgues, 13km/8mi southwest of Draguignan, is a center for the production of olives and olive oil; it has a beautiful Old Town and a fine boulevard lined with plane-trees. In the Classic Collegiale St-Martin (parish church; 17th C.) can be seen a statue of the Virgin which is attributed to Pierre Puget.

Entrecastaux

Entrecastaux, situated to the west of Draguignan (31km/19mi via Salernes, or about 20km/12mi from Le Thoronet) has an impressive castle with severe architecture; this dates essentially from the 17th C. and was the seat of the Comte de Grignan, the stepson of Madame de Sévigné. The castle, which is open to the public, was renovated after the Thirty Years War and contains furniture and objets d'art from many countries. The spacious park was laid out by Le Nôtre who was also responsible for the park of Versailles. Entrecastaux itself, a medieval, typical Provençal village, with narrow streets and house facades, is a protected monument. Worth seeing are the fortified church of St-Sauveur, the 17th C. washing place and Notre Dame de l'Aube which dates from the 12th C.

Massif des Maures

The Massif des Maures, on the coast between Hyères in the west and Fréjus in the east, is a hilly area some 60km/37mi long and 30km/18mi wide; it is composed of primitive rocks - granite, gneiss and slate (reddish or dark gray in color, with metallically glistening mica). It represents the remains of a land mass which once covered the whole of the western Mediterranean. The deeply fissured afforested uplands are still relatively isolated. The name has nothing to do with the Moors who in these parts were always called "Sarrasins", but is derived from the provençal "maure" or "moure", meaning dark, uncanny.

Corniche des Maures

The Corniche des Maures for the greatest part of the way is road D559 along the coast and, with its many bays and cliffs between Le Lavandou and St-Tropez, has exceptionally fine scenery. It passes a considerable number of resorts; just beyond Cavalaire it skirts Cap Nègre (120m/394ft) and, via Canadel-sur-Mer and Rayol, reaches the resort and port of Cavalaire (castle ruin) situated on a sheltered bay. To the northwest rises the 528m/1,733ft high summit of Les Pradels. The Corniche continues around the peninsula of Cap Camarat near St-Tropez and ends near St-Tropez Bay.

Maures - Collobrières

Reached by road D41 going north from Bormes-les-Mimosas for about 22km/13mi, Collobrières lies in a hollow in the heart of the Massif des Maures. It is well known for its marrons glacés and Provençal joinery. Good fossils and minerals have been found in the vicinity.

La-Garde-Freinet

Inland lies La Garde-Freinet, reached from Port-Grimaud along roads D14 and D558 (16km/10mi). Situated on a pass with fine views, the village was a major strongpoint of the Saracens, but had already been a Roman military post. Of interest are the ruins of the former Saracen fortress of Freinet on a hill to the northeast (about 30 minutes' walk), from where there is an unusually extensive panorama.

Le Lavandou

Le Lavandou lies at the foot of the Massif des Maures, about half-way between Toulon and St Tropez (40km/25mi east of Toulon), on a broad bay facing southeast.
This pretty former fishing village, now popular as a holiday resort, may owe its name to the large amount of lavender which grows in the surrounding area. Extensive areas of holiday homes and numerous high-rise buildings are prominent features of Le Lavandou. From the harbor, in the eastern part of which spacious mooring facilities for yachts have recently been established, ferries leave for the Iles de Hyères.
West of the harbor stretches the Rade de Bormes, a bay with fine sand, and along it runs the Boulevard-de-Lattre-de-Tassigny; from the boulevard there is a comprehensive view of the sea and the islands of Port-Cros and Levant (part of the group of the Hyères Islands). In the south the bay is enclosed by the wooded slopes of Cap Bénat. Far to the east Cap Lardier rises from the sea.
Road N559 running east from Le Lavandou gives access to sandy beaches, interspersed with rocky stretches.

Cap Bénat

South of Le Lavandou the wooded Cap Bénat extends out into the sea. The road leading to it comes first to the resort of La Favière (yacht harbor, beach) before reaching the settlement of holiday homes at Cap Bénat. On the highest point, Les Fourches (205m/673ft), stands a castle and, on the extremity of the cape, a lighthouse.

Bormes-les-Mimosas

The old township of Bormes-les-Mimosas, 2km/1mi northwest of Le Lavandou, is picturesquely situated on the flank of a hill. The best view is from the terrace near the castle ruins. In the Place de la Liberté stands the handsome 16th C. Chapelle St- François-de-Paule (illuminated in summer), flanked by two cypress trees. A statue commemorates the beneficent deeds of St Francis of Paula during the plague of 1481. In the cemetery can be seen a memorial to the landscape-painter Jean-Charles Cazin (1841-1901); some of his work is to be seen in the Hôtel de Ville. Also of interest is the Tour de l'Horloge, an 18th C. clock tower, and the Church of St-Trophime (also 18th C.; fine winged altar). Below the church extends old Bormes, a typical Provençal town with steep streets (known as "rompi-cuou" = breakneck). With La Favière Bormes-les-Mimosas has a good yacht harbor.

Frejus, France

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