While this sun-kissed town has a well-known air of hedonism, Tropezian style is blissfully understated, it’s not in-your-face. Saint-Tropez attracts artists, musicians, models, writers, and an A-lister movie colony each summer, with a flamboyant parade of humanity trailing behind. In winter it morphs back into a boho fishing village, albeit one with modern art galleries and some of the best restaurants along the coast.
The 1956 Brigitte Bardot movie “And God Created Woman” put Saint-Tropez on the tourist map. Droves of decadent tourists baring almost all on the peninsula’s white-sand beaches trailed in her wake. Two decades ago, Bardot pronounced St-Tropez dead, “squatted by a lot of no-goods, drugheads, and villains”. But even she returned, followed in recent years by international celebrity A-listers, from David Beckham and Beyoncé to Vanessa Paradis and Kourtney Kardashian.
Near the town center, the golden sands and shallow waters of Plage de la Bouillabaisse and Plage des Graniers are ideal for families. The daring Plage des Salins and Plage de Pampelonne are where the beautiful folk go to burnish their tans under striped parasols. For hedonistic exhibitionism, head to Tahiti Beach, on the north end of Pampelonne. Or step over the scantily clad bronzing bodies on Coco Beach, a favorite with gay men.
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 (with the same name as the shop), 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. Bump into celebrities at Hôtel Byblos’ 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.