8 Top Tourist Attractions in Saint-Tropez & Easy Day Trips
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 shrublands.
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, artists sell colorful paintings depicting scenes of Saint-Tropez.
One famous establishment along the harbor is the Café Senequier, distinguished by its bright red facade and awnings. One of the most fun things to do in Saint-Tropez is to stop at this café, or any of the others, for a refreshment, to 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 promenade 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 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
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), a few steps away from 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. With its remarkable assortment of Impressionist paintings, the museum is a reminder of the village's avant-garde artistic past. The museum boasts a broad collection of works, from Signac's Pointillist works to Matisse's vibrant Fauvist paintings and Bonnard's evocative Nabis-style pieces. Most of the pieces on display were created by 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, Georges Braque, Pierre Bonnard, Henri Matisse, Edouard Vuillard, Raoul Dufy, and Maurice de Vlaminck.
Address: 2 Rue de l'Annonciade, Place Georges 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
Although Saint-Tropez is 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 a seaside restaurant. During summertime, a bathing zone is roped off where swimming is permitted and lifeguards survey the area.
The Plage des Canoubiers is a large sandy beach with free public showers and toilet facilities. This beach is popular with Saint-Tropez residents. Shaded by pine trees, the Plage des Salins is a large, wide sandy beach with crystal-clear waters. This family-friendly beach has lifeguards in summer, free public showers, and toilet facilities. 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 low-key atmosphere. Although the beach does not have a restaurant or snack bar, there are many restaurants nearby.
Besides its public beaches with well-equipped facilities, Saint-Tropez also has more natural beaches (without public restrooms or showers). The Plage des Graniers is 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 wild and rugged feel. The Plage de la Moutte is a small sandy beach in a protected cove, accessible from the scenic path of the Treilles de la Moutte. The splendid scenery of Moutte Beach makes it the ideal spot for a leisurely picnic lunch.
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
At the other end of the French Riviera (about a 90-minute drive away), the legendary resort town of Cannes lives up to its reputation of elegance and glamour. For many tourists, Cannes is a must-see on a Côte d'Azur itinerary. The town's palm-fringed, grand boulevards run alongside the picturesque waterfront and yacht-filled marinas of the Golfe de la Napoule bay, the perfect environment for soaking up the sun or taking leisurely strolls. Almost any time of year is pleasant in Cannes, thanks to the balmy Mediterranean climate with mild winters. Sunbathing or dining alfresco by the beach is enjoyable from May through October. Travelers who visit in May will catch the Festival de Cannes film festival, a stunning red-carpet affair attended by filmmakers and celebrities from around the world. In any season, Cannes is a wonderful place to visit museums, shop at upscale boutiques, and indulge in gourmet meals at fancy restaurants. On the drive to Cannes, tourists may also want to stop at Fréjus (located halfway between Saint-Tropez and Cannes). This attractive port town is appreciated for its beautiful marina, sandy beaches, and interesting Romanesque cathedral.
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- 14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Cannes
Continuing past Cannes (about 30 minutes farther by car), Nice exemplifies the charm and culture of the French Riviera. This gorgeous seaside city enjoys mild, sunny weather and a spectacular location on the Baie des Anges. The most emblematic sight in Nice is the Promenade des Angles, where locals and tourists alike can bask in the sunshine, admire the sea views, and take in the lively ambience (it's a great place for people-watching). Other top attractions in Nice include the atmospheric Vieille Ville (Old Town); the Colline du Château park; and four superb art museums: the Musée Matisse, Musée Chagall, Musée d'Art Moderne et d'Art Contemporain, and the Musée des Beaux Arts.
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Ramatuelle and Port-Grimaud
Just 10 kilometers south of Saint-Tropez (about a 15-minute drive), Ramatuelle is a typical Provençal town perched on a hilltop overlooking the Bay of Pampelonne. The medieval village is a cluster of ancient buildings that spiral around in the pattern of a snail shell, with winding cobblestone streets that lead to lovely squares. The village's characteristic Mediterranean architecture features cream-colored facades with brightly painted shutters. Fragrant jasmine, honeysuckle blossoms, and vibrant bougainvillea flourish throughout the village. At the center of the town, the 16th-century parish church, the Eglise Notre-Dame, has a 14th-century bell tower and a marvelously decorative interior featuring gold-leafed statuettes. For visitors interested in experiencing the local culture, it's worth checking out the traditional Provençal market held at the Place de l'Ormeau on Thursday and Sunday mornings.
Another charming Provençal town nearby is Port-Grimaud (about eight kilometers from Saint-Tropez). This traffic-free waterfront resort town is reminiscent of Venice, with walking paths and footbridges (parking lots are outside of the resort area). Most of the colorful houses along the canals have their own mooring places outside their front doors. Visitors may make use of motorboats available for self-drive hire to explore the canals. Tourists can easily visit both Ramatuelle and Port-Grimaud as well as other Provençal villages on a day trip. The best way to have a leisurely sightseeing experience is by taking the Saint-Tropez Shore Excursion: Day Trip to Provençal Villages guided tour, which visits both these towns.
Massif des Maures
A popular tourist destination near Saint-Tropez, the Massif des Maures mountain range extends for 60 kilometers along the coastline between Hyères and Fréjus, about 20 kilometers from Saint Tropez. Within the Massif des Maures are 26 ancient villages. One of the prettiest villages, Bormes-les-Mimosas delights visitors with its vibrant floral decorations and red-roofed, pastel-shuttered houses. The most noteworthy attractions in Bormes-les-Mimosas are the exquisite 16th-century chapel and a terrace with exceptional views near the village's castle ruins. Another quaint medieval village, Collobrières has pleasant squares adorned by fountains and shaded by plane trees.
One of the natural highlights of the Massif des Maures is the Corniche des Maures, an area found in between the sandy beaches of Le Lavandou and Saint-Tropez. The Corniche des Maures boasts exceptional scenery, with many secluded bays and dramatic cliffs. Within the densely wooded forest of the Corniche des Maures is the Monastère de la Verne, which houses the monastic family of Bethlehem of the Assumption of the Virgin and Saint-Brunois. Visits to the monastery must be arranged in advance with the Collobrières Office of Tourism.
More Seaside Resorts and Beautiful Towns near Saint-Tropez
A beach lover's paradise, Saint-Tropez is perfect for a sunny and relaxing vacation. While Saint-Tropez may be one of the most well-known resorts on the French Riviera, visitors will also be delighted by other less-discovered seaside towns along the nearby Mediterranean coastline, such as Fréjus, Saint-Raphaël, and Sainte-Maxime. Another must-see resort on the Côte d'Azur is glitzy Cannes, less than a two-hour drive away or just over two hours by train. Tourists more interested in authentic local culture than glamour should visit the port town of Toulon, a 90-minute drive away. After visiting the area's seaside destinations, the countryside outside of Saint-Tropez awaits. The charming pastoral region of Provence is within a two- to three-hour drive. Especially noteworthy are the medieval hilltop villages of the Luberon and its UNESCO-listed nature reserve.