Things to Do in St-Tropez
Though Saint-Tropez is famous for its glamour and glitz, the city also has a rich and eventful past. The St-Tropez Citadel (Citadelle de Saint-Tropez) is a prime example, having been the town’s crown jewels since the 17th century, and one of the few monuments of its magnitude to still stand today on France’s southern coastline. In fact, the Saint-Tropez Citadel is one of the city’s most visited historical and cultural sites, both for its history and its panoramic views over the Bay. The Citadel was built between 1602 and 1608, based on the drawings of engineer Raymond de Bonnefons. The building, composed of a thick-walled hexagonal tower, a concealed interior courtyard, towers with cannon openings, and a bastioned outer wall, was used to defend the strategic port of St-Tropez, the most important strongholds between Antibes and Toulon for centuries. Its location on a hill with slopes bare of vegetation helped the military spot and bomb all vessels that came too close to the walls of the city.
St-Tropez is known for its French luxury: massive yachts, picturesque fishing villages and stunning European villas. But travelers who make their way to this destination will find that St-Tropez is also home to one of the region’s most incredible museums—the Annonciade Museum (Musée de l'Annonciade).
Despite its location in a tiny seaside village, the museum boasts an incredible collection of works from Matisse,Signac, Kee, Rodin and other iconic artists. Travelers will find its quiet galleries and beautiful displays the perfect respite from the bustle of St-Tropez, and the perfect place to spend a morning or afternoon taking in some truly incredible works of art.
The Our Lady of the Assumption Church (Eglise Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption) in St-Tropez is in the Old Town of Saint-Tropez and is now considered to be one of the city’s emblems, with the ocher-colored steeple and bell tower being visible from miles around. Built in the Italian Baroque style, the church has a white limestone façade with distinct yellow and red accent hues that were selected to contrast with the blue of the sky and the sea. Construction took many years, ending in 1784. In 1820, the Archbishop of Aix-en-Provence Pierre-Ferdinand Bausset-Roquefort consecrated the church. Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption underwent extensive renovations and repair works in 1990, and was made a historic monument shortly after. Inside the church, visitors can see the bust of Saint Tropez (patron saint of sailors and patron saint of St-Tropez) as well as the bust of Saint Pierre (patron saint of fisherman and masons). The church is home to many events during the year, including the bravade (a religious and military festival held in May) and a renowned nativity scene in December and January.
Place des Lices, in the heart of St-Tropez’s Old Town, is mostly famous for its open-air market every Tuesday and Saturday, from 8 am until 1 pm. The square is then bursting with colorful stalls full of fresh local produce, flowers, spices, baked goods, olives, and hand-made preserves; it is consequently very popular with tourists and locals alike, as it offers an aromatic glimpse into the legendary southern French cuisine.
Get to St-Tropez Market (Marché Place des Lices) early in order to beat the crowds and get a less overwhelming experience. Place des Lices is still busy even on non-market days with seven long lines of kiosks flanked by dozens of centennial plane trees, it probably feels and looks like it did two hundred years ago when it first came to life . This is the perfect opportunity for pétanque players to gather into small groups and play the iconic southern French sport all day. There are also many restaurants, cafés and bars nearby.
Often named “St-Tropez’s jewel beach”, Pampelonne Beach (Plage de Pampelonne) is actually located just outside city limits in nearby Ramatuelle. The beach is a 4.5-kilometer stretch of sand very popular amongst tourists, as just one of the few sandy beaches on the French Riviera (as opposed to the pebbly beaches in Nice, for example). Pampelonne was one of the main targets of Operation Dragoon, the large-scaled Allied invasion of southern France in August 1944 that ultimately caused theGerman army to abandon southern France altogether. After World War II, the Parisian elite, including big names like Brigitte Bardot, Coco Chanel, and Juliette Greco, gave St-Tropez its glitz and glam reputation by spending their summers at the beach, a tradition that most Northern French vacationers still uphold today – hence why the French Riviera is often qualified asovercrowded in August when the majority of the country is on holiday.
Logistics-wise, a supervised bathing zone is roped off from June 15 through September 15th, making it ideal for families wishing to spend a carefree day at the beach. Topless sunbathing is accepted everywhere in southern France, and two areas of Pampelonne are "clothing-optional" (between the Tamaris and Patch entrances, as well as at the chemin des Barraques entrance). It is a very natural beach: there are no souvenir stalls, no promandes, just beautiful white sand.
There are public washrooms and showers near the access points of Tamaris, Patch and Barraques, where parking is also available. Many restaurants and beach clubs also call the beach their home, amongst the better known ones are Club 55, great for celebrity spotting, and Nikki Beach, which has its own pool.
Cap Taillat (also known as Cap Cartaya) is a promontory into the Mediterranean Sea located right at the doorstep of Saint-Tropez. Although difficult to reach (it is only accessible on foot after a short coastal trek), Cap Taillat is one of the most beautiful sights in the area, with wild and unspoiled beaches as well as preserved flora. The many viewing points offer splendid and unobstructed panoramas of the turquoise sea and the dramatic coastline, punctuated by creeks and endemic palm trees. It is a popular summer attraction for visitors from all over France.
The most impressively preserved of Provence’s Cistercian abbeys, the Abbey of Thoronet was built between 1160 and 1230. Renowned for its sparse yet precise architecture and remarkable acoustics and now protected as a National Monument, the abbey offers fascinating insight into life under the Cistercian order of Saint Bernard.