8 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Saint-Tropez
The name "Saint-Tropez" evokes images of sunbathing celebrities, designer boutiques, and luxury yachts. It's hard to believe this glamorous town was once just a humble fishing village. The appeal of Saint-Tropez was first discovered in the late 19th century by the Impressionist painter Paul Signac who later lured artists such as Matisse and Marquet here. Then in 1955, the film Et Dieu Créa la Femme (And God Created Woman), starring Brigitte Bardot, forever changed this small port town into a legendary seaside resort sparkling amid the glitz of the Côte d'Azur.
Saint-Tropez is one of the most glamorous places in France, with sunny weather, sandy shores, and mild Mediterranean waters. Picturesque pastel-colored houses, narrow cobblestone streets, and shady squares add to the charm. Besides the mesmerizing azure blue seas, Saint-Tropez also boasts a verdant countryside of pine trees, olive groves, cypresses, and shrub lands.
See also: Where to Stay in St. Tropez
1 Vieux Port (Old Port)
The atmospheric Vieux Port is the heart of Saint-Tropez, where the old fishing village first sprung to life. Visitors are charmed by the idyllic scene of small fishing boats and fashionable yachts docked in the harbor, which is lined by pastel-colored Mediterranean houses and lively cafés with outdoor terraces. On the wide sidewalk at the water's edge, local artists sell colorful artwork depicting scenes of Saint-Tropez. One famous establishment along the harbor is the Café Senequier, distinguished by its bright red facade and awnings. This café or any of the others is a lovely place to stop for a refreshment, soak up the sunshine, and enjoy the people-watching. Another attraction near the harbor is the Place aux Herbes, the ancient market square that is filled with colorful fruit, vegetable, and flower stalls in the early morning. At the nearby Halle aux Poissons, the daily fish market (also early morning) offers some of the freshest fish in Provence, which is sold to locals and chefs of the town's fine restaurants. There are also many gourmet specialty food shops in the area. Enclosing the harbor on the North, the Môle Jean-Réveille offers an exceptional view of the Vieux Port. This idyllic seafront setting inspired the Impressionist painters. Luxury yachts in the harbor provide a splendid spectacle, especially when the regatta "La Nioulargue" is held at the end of September and in the beginning of October.
2 La Ponche: The Old Town
The Old Town of Saint-Tropez, known as "La Ponche" borders the Vieux Port harbor basin and is below the citadel. La Ponche is the historic center of the fishing village and is the most picturesque area of Saint Tropez. Part of it has been laid out as a pedestrian zone of narrow alleyways and quaint cobblestone lanes abounding with small shops, upscale boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. Tourists can begin exploring this lively quarter at the Rue de la Citadelle that leads into the center of the Old Town. Turn left on the Rue du Portail-Neuf until reaching the 18th-century Eglise de Notre-Dame de l'Assomption (26 Rue Gambetta). With its beautiful Italian Baroque bell tower, this church punctuates the Saint-Tropez skyline. Inside visitors can admire the bust of Saint Tropez, the town's patron saint, and the delicately crafted wood carvings. At Christmas time, there is a fine Provençal nativity crib. By continuing northwest of the Eglise de Notre-Dame de l'Assomption near the harbor and passing by the Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), visitors will stumble upon the Palais des Bailli Pierre-André de Suffren who was the Bailiff of the Order of Malta and one of the most important admirals of the French navy fleet in the 1700s.
3 Musée de l'Annonciade
Even though Saint-Tropez is most famous as a jet-setting beach resort, the village also has important cultural sites. One of the top tourist attractions in Saint-Tropez is its art museum, which occupies the former Chapelle Notre-Dame de l'Annonciade (Chapel of the Annunciation). At the Saint-Tropez harbor, this chapel dating from 1510 was once the Church of the White Penitents, a Catholic brotherhood founded during the Middle Ages. The museum contains the magnificent art collection donated by the industrialist Georges Grammont of Lyon, France. With its excellent assortment of Impressionist paintings, the museum is a reminder of the village's avant-garde artistic past. The museum boasts a broad collection-from Signac's pointillist works to Matisse's vibrant Fauvist paintings and Bonnard's evocative Nabis-style pieces. The collection represents the work of Impressionist artists who came to live and work in Saint-Tropez in the late 1890s and at the beginning of the 20th century. Artists featured include Paul Signac, André Derain, Kees van Dongen, Georges Braque, Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Aristide Maillol, Edouard Vuillard, Raoul Dufy, Felix Vallotton, Henri-Edmond Cross, Roger de la Fresnaye, Albert Marquet, and Maurice de Vlaminck. This exceptional collection includes pieces created from 1890 to 1950, all of remarkable artistic quality. The works exemplify new styles of Impressionist painting based upon the study of color and shape.
Address: 2 Rue de l'Annonciade, Place Grammont, Saint Tropez
High above the village of Saint-Tropez towers the citadel built in the early 1600s. In the gateway of the citadel is an impressive relief by Paul Landowski, featuring a ship's cannon that is ready for action. This foreboding hexagonal fortress now houses the Musée d'Histoire Maritime (Museum of Maritime History) in the space that was formerly the citadel's dungeons. The museum allows visitors to discover the maritime past of Saint-Tropez through stories of the men and women who shaped the history of the village. Visitors can learn about the town's fishermen who traveled the seas of the world, from short fishing expeditions along Provence's coast to longer voyages aboard merchant sailing boats. Beginning in the 16th century, enterprising fishermen began traveling beyond the Mediterranean Seas of Europe to the Ottoman Empire, then to Africa in the 18th century, and in the 20th century, to the far corners of the world, including Cape Horn, India, and the Far East. Visitors can learn more about these exotic destinations and about local heroes such as Bailli de Suffren, the famous seaman of Saint-Tropez. The museum also has a wonderful viewpoint from the bastions with stunning panoramas of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez and the Massif des Maures mountain range.
Address: Citadelle de Saint-Tropez
5 Public Beaches
Saint-Tropez is a beach lover's paradise. Although famous for its private beach clubs along the Pampelonne, several public beaches are free (except for fees to rent lounge chairs and beach umbrellas). The Plage de Bouillabaisse is a large sandy beach right outside the village's port. This beach has free public showers and toilet facilities as well as seaside restaurants. From June 15 through September 15th, a bathing zone is roped off in the area that is ideal for swimming. The Plage des Graniers is also near the center of the village, within easy walking distance of the citadel. This shoreline is a combination of sand and pebbles. The scenery around this beach has a natural and rugged feel. The Plage des Canoubiers is a large sandy beach with free public showers and toilet facilities. This beach is popular with Saint-Tropez residents. The Plage de la Ponche and Plage de la Fontanette are in the old quarter of La Ponche, on the shores where fishermen once docked their boats. These small beaches are popular with sunbathers in search of a less crowded, more relaxing atmosphere. The Plage de la Moutte is a small sandy beach within walking distance to a tiny and peaceful beach in a protected cove. The Plage des Salins is a beautiful large, wide sandy beach shaded by pine trees. This beach has free public showers and toilet facilities. All beaches indicate the water quality for bathing and swimming.
6 Place des Lices
This pleasant, shady town square (also known as Place Carnot) is in the heart of Saint-Tropez, within a short walk of the Old Port and the Annonciade Museum. Visitors will be delighted by the charming village atmosphere. At this lovely square beneath the plane trees, the older men of Saint-Tropez still gather to play the ancient game of pétanque (the Provençal version of bocce ball). On Tuesday and Saturday mornings, a traditional Provençal market takes advantage of this spacious square. Tourists will enjoy the vibrant scene of colorful stalls filled with fresh local fruit, vegetables, and flowers. Another attraction on the Place des Lices is the Café des Arts, a well-known establishment where the pétanque players and other locals hang out. This café gives a feel for the ordinary, everyday village atmosphere that has not changed even though Saint-Tropez has become a world-class resort town.
7 Maison des Papillons (Butterfly Museum)
A visit to the Maison des Papillons (Butterfly Museum) offers a change of pace from the sunbathing, sightseeing, and shopping of Saint-Tropez. With more than 35,000 items on display, the museum allows visitors to admire a wide range of butterflies-from extinct species to rare species such as the Black Apollo. The collection also features exotic species from Amazonia and the Solomon Islands, known as "the most beautiful butterflies in the world." The specimens are organized by category and sometimes presented in a setting of their natural environment to give a sense of color and camouflage. Entomologists consider this museum's collection to have exceptional value. The average visitor will also enjoy the variety and beauty of the butterflies on display.
Address: 17 Rue Etienne Berny, Saint-Tropez
8 Sentier du Littoral: Scenic Seaside Path
This beautiful coastal path begins just outside the old quarter of La Ponche and runs along the peninsula of Saint-Tropez. The Sentier du Littoral offers a pleasant way to explore the natural beauty of the shoreline and the seaside environment. The route incorporates rugged seaside footpaths, steps through the hills, and more gentle beachside trails. For outdoorsy types, the Sentier du Littoral path can be approached as a half-day hiking trail. It is also possible to walk along portions of the path on the way to the beach. For instance, the trail leads to the Plage des Salins with its wide shoreline of fine sand and shady pine trees. Along the way to the Salins Beach is the Crique des Salins (creek) and the tomb of Emile Olivier, former owner of the Château de la Moutte and last head of government under Napoleon III. While hiking along this trail, visitors are asked to respect the environment by avoiding litter and refraining from smoking. It is also advised to wear hiking boots and to exercise caution when walking through sections of the trail at the cliff's edge.
Where to Stay in St. Tropez for Sightseeing
The best place to stay in St. Tropez is in the Old Town, where you'll find cobblestone streets, unique shops, and a whole host of restaurants with patios. Accommodations are expensive in St. Tropez, but less expensive options can be found a little further out. A good choice for those with a more moderate spending plan is to stay closer to the yacht basin, a 10-minute drive from the Old Town, where there are nice beaches and restaurants. Below are some highly-rated hotels in great locations:
- Luxury Hotels: The Hotel Sezz is a fashionable hotel with contemporary rooms featuring the design talents of Christopher Pillet. The hotel, just minutes from the Old Town, also has one of the largest pools in the city and rooms have outdoor showers. A short walk to downtown is the boutique Hotel Villa Cosy, with exceptional service, impeccable rooms, and a poolside breakfast service if you desire. The Chateau De La Messardiere sits on a rise above the Old Town, offering a beautiful terrace that looks out over the bay. The hotel has an on-call shuttle service that runs 24 hours a day and will whisk you into town in five minutes.
- Mid-Range Hotels: The recently renovated and conveniently located Hotel des Lices offers bright, airy rooms and a pool. It is located near the port and features free parking, which can be critical in summer. The La Bastide du Port is very close to the beach and has large rooms that feature sea views; parking is included. At the top end of the mid-range price scale, the Hotel de Paris Saint-Tropez has a hip and fun atmosphere and features an impressive rooftop pool and pleasant courtyard.
- Budget Hotels: The Hotel Playa provides cozy rooms at an attractive price in a good location near the yacht basin. Basic rooms, with spectacular views out over the water and surrounding country, plus a well-regarded restaurant are on offer at the Hotel L'Ecurie du Castellas. A bit further out, but featuring rooms with balconies overlooking a pool, is the comfortable Hotel La Romarine.
Day Trips from Saint-Tropez
Massif des Maures
One of the top tourist attractions near Saint-Tropez, the Massif des Maures extends for 60 kilometers along the coastline between Hyères and Fréjus, about 20 kilometers from Saint Tropez. The Massif des Maures is one of the wildest areas of Provence. In the Provençal dialect, the Massif des Maures is called "Leï Mauro," meaning "Black Mountain," because of its austere dark rock and deep green forests. (The area is also known for its sweet chestnuts.) The mountain range encompasses 334,000 acres and is a fragment of the vast continent that formerly included Corsica and Sardinia. The Iles d'Or (Golden Islands) off Hyères are actually summits of this mountain range that emerge from the Mediterranean Sea. Within the Massif des Maures, are 26 ancient villages. The township of Bormes-les-Mimosas has a beautiful 16th-century chapel and gorgeous views from a terrace near the village's castle ruins. The village of Collobrières is famous for its "marrons glacés," a regional specialty of sugar-glazed chestnuts. One of the most spectacular natural highlights of the Massif des Maures is the Corniche des Maures, an area between Le Lavandou and Saint-Tropez. The Corniche des Maures boasts exceptional scenery with many lovely bays and dramatic cliffs.
A typical "village perché," Grimaud sits high above the Plain of Cogolin on a site that was once a settlement of the Ligurians. About 12 kilometers from Saint-Tropez, this little medieval village has a particularly charming townscape with many ancient stone buildings and cobblestone streets. Two must-see tourist sites include the ruins of the Château du Grimaud, an 11th-century fortress offering spectacular views of the countryside, and the Romanesque-style Eglise Saint-Michel, also built in the 11th century. The village also has a well-preserved Maison des Templiers (House of the Templars) with striking Gothic arcades. During the summer (mid-July to mid-August), the Château du Grimaud hosts "Les Grimaldines" music festival. This festival features a diverse assortment of musical concerts (from French and Cuban to African-American) in splendid outdoor settings. A stage is set up around the château and its ruins, offering a magical ambience. Other free performances take place throughout the village on the streets, squares, and little alleyways.
About eight kilometers from Saint-Tropez, this attractive holiday resort is at the southwestern corner of the Bay of Saint-Tropez at the foot of the Massif des Maures, surrounded by the plains of the Garde and Giscle Rivers. With its maze of channels, Port-Grimaud is a waterside town reminiscent of a Venetian fishing village and lagoon settlement. The resort was developed with a lovely townscape typical of the region. Designed for pedestrians, the entire town is traffic-free with pleasant waterside restaurants, walking paths, and footbridges; parking lots are outside of the resort area. Charming houses are painted in bright colors with pastel shutters, and most apartments along the canals have their own mooring places outside their front doors. Visitors can make use of motorboats available for self-drive hire, to explore the picturesque canals. The town bustles with activity and has many boutiques, shops, and restaurants. A traditional Provençal market is held regularly in the main square. Facing the sea stands the ecumenical Eglise Saint-François d'Assisi, designed in the Romanesque style. Tourists may visit the church tower to take in the exceptional panorama of the little town, the lagoons, and the mountainous hinterland.
The beautiful village of La Garde-Freinet is nestled in the heart of the Maures Mountains with spectacular views. Visitors arrive by traveling inland from Port-Grimaud (about 16 kilometers away) through a gorgeous landscape. The approach to La Garde-Freinet winds through the wild, natural scenery with its distinctive Mediterranean shrubbery and lush forests. This old Provençal village has preserved its authentic character and boasts a fascinating history. The village was founded as a Roman military post and was later a stronghold of the Saracens. La Garde-Freinet has an interesting tourist attraction: the ruins of the former Saracen fortress with its expansive panorama of the surrounding countryside. The fortress is on a hill about a 30-minute walk from the center of the village.
Just 12 kilometers south of Saint-Tropez, this typical old Provençal village is perched on a hilltop surrounded by pine woods and overlooking the Bay of Pampelonne. The medieval village is a cluster of ancient buildings that spiral around the hilltop in the pattern of a snail shell. Ramatuelle charms visitors with its narrow streets, pleasant squares, and ancient passages. The village's characteristic Mediterranean architecture features cream-colored facades with pastel-painted shutters. Throughout the village, the quaint alleys and cobblestone lanes flourish with fragrant jasmine, honeysuckle blossoms, and vibrant bougainvillea. The church with its picturesque bell tower is at the heart of the village. On Thursdays and Sundays, a traditional Provençal market is held at the Place de l'Ormeau.
A popular Côte d'Azur destination among French vacationers, Sainte-Maxime is on the Gulf of Saint-Tropez, about 14 kilometers north of Saint-Tropez. The resort of Sainte-Maxime offers seaside attractions including its extensive Mediterranean coastline and pristine waters. The beautiful sandy beaches and peaceful natural environment make for a relaxing summer holiday. Sainte-Maxime offers plenty of opportunities for leisure as well as active sports such as tennis, golf, swimming, water-skiing, and scuba diving. There are also cultural attractions including museums, art galleries, and theater. The Musée de la Photographie et de la Musique has on display a collection of more than 300 musical instruments and phonographs. Another noteworthy site is the village church that boasts an 18th-century marble altar from the Carthusian Monastery of La Verna in Italy.