Pastel-painted Saint-Tropez has two faces. In summer, it’s the ultimate celebrity-studded playground whose narrow streets are chockablock with chic shops and restaurants, where day trippers mingle with the rich, the famous, and the designer clad. In winter, this north facing fishing village shuts down to all but the loyal townsfolk brave enough to face the bitter mistral wind. It’s worth a visit just to ogle the yachts backed into the picturesque quayside harbor or gaze towards the Alps from the 17th-century citadel.
Near the town center, the golden sands and shallow waters of Plage de la Bouillabaisse and Plage des Graniers are ideal for families. The Plage des Salins and Plage de Pampelonne are the most famous beach of Saint-Tropez where lots of people go to tan under striped parasols. For hedonistic exhibitionism there’s Tahiti Beach, on the north end of Pampelonne. The favorite beach for gay men is Coco Beach where to show bronze bodies.
Saint-Tropez’s port is a requisite stop, a pretty place where luxury yachts bob rhythmically on the shimmering water. Here, don’t miss the tiny fish market behind Porte de la Poissonnerie, resplendent in mosaics and marble; or the Ponche quarters, where fishermen and artists once inhabited narrow, pastel streets. Don’t miss the Riviera’s best collections of post-Impressionist masters at Musée de l’Annonciade.
Place des Lices, where locals sip pastis and play pétanques in the balmy shade of plane trees, is lined with cafes selling France’s ubiquitous steak-frites. This is also the lair of La Tarte Tropézienne, the patisserie that invented Saint-Tropez’s famed sticky bun, a glorious sponge cake filled with orange blossom, infused cream custard. For lip-smacking Mediterranean cuisine and more than 300 wine references, indulge at top chef Alain Ducasse’s exclusive Spoon Byblos.
Start your soirée sipping crisp rosé at Café Sénéquier, the venerably stylish epicenter of nightlife around the port. Dress to the nines for a boogie at Le Papagayo, one of the largest nightclubs in town. Bump into celebrities at Les Caves du Roy, or order a bottle to share between friends at the all-chromed, all-mirrored Le VIP Room, this Parisian outpost is self-consciously trendy but serious fun.