I’d heard about the glitz and the glamour of St. Tropez, but I had to see it for myself. This ritzy vacation town is nestled on the Côte d’Azur and is known for its exclusivity. I don’t know if I was “just like Leo in St. Tropez,” as Taylor Swift croons on her Lover album, but I sure enjoyed my visit, especially the views. Here are 12 things to do in Saint Tropez. Or as the cool kids call it “St. Trop.”
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How to Get to St. Tropez
France’s public transportation system astounds me. It’s wild how many places I can travel to via train with my Oui.SNCF card. But St. Tropez is not one of these places, hence its exclusivity. St. Tropez is where the celebs come to vacation, and it’s reflected in the prices and how out-of-the-way it is.
We rented a car in Marseille and took a road trip along the Côte d’Azur. Having a car allowed us to get to Saint Tropez and navigate the city, but finding free parking is tough. (If you are looking for free parking, our Airbnb host told us about this small lot. We parked here overnight and had no problems.) Here are four ways to get to St. Tropez as there’s no train station.
Where to Stay in St. Tropez
Like I said, this is where the celebs come to relax. That means the prices are steep and everyone is impeccably dressed. My jaw dropped as I walked by people sipping on their coffees at Sénéquier because everyone is gorgeous. If you’re looking to penny pinch, this is not the destination for you. I’ve traveled extensively throughout France, and I can truly say St. Tropez is in its own category. Paris is expensive, but it’s so big that you can find ways to do it more affordably. St. Tropez is just all expensive, end of story. Parking cost nearly 30 euros for three hours of parking; I wish this were a joke.
That being said, St. Tropez was on my bucket list, and I’m glad I was able to explore another corner of France. Mallory and I found a studio apartment near downtown, and it was a great location. Out of all of our Riviera Airbnb rentals, this one was by far the most expensive and by far the smallest. But for two teaching assistants, it fit our budget. Although it lacked space, Aude was a phenomenal host and was quick to answer our questions.
The following year, I was able to return to Saint Tropez with the family I au paired for, and it was a much more comfortable experience. So I’ve done Saint Tropez several times in different styles.
Indie Beach House and Pampelonne Beach
On Sunday morning, we made our way to Indie Beach House nestled right on Pampelonne Beach. The restaurant oozes chic with its swanky furniture and humming French rap music. Mal and I came here for morning beverages, and it was very pleasant. But we wished we could’ve experienced Indie Beach House at night (and also pre-Covid).
When in St. Tropez, Le Sénéquier is a must. Not only is it oh-so ‘grammable, but its brand also boasts more than 130 years of business. And this bright red café — it’s awful hard to miss — has been serving diners since 1930. Its prestige and clientele match its menu prices. Mal and I went for dessert and split the gluten-free chocolate cake and ice cream. Splendidly divine.
The minute we mentioned we’d be splitting, our waiter’s countenance immediately changed. He was very sassy and delivered the check with our food — something extremely rude in French culture. I have never been rushed out of a restaurant in France, but Le Sénéquier is an exception. All that to say, Le Sénéquier has historical significance, so it’s worth a visit. That being said, I had the rudest French waiter of my life here, too. If you go, be willing to fork over some change and dress the part.
On the second time I visited Le Sénéquier and came for a full dinner, they were much kinder and provided better service. It depends on your type of travel.
La Vieille Ville
Take a stroll through St. Tropez’s Vieille Ville (old city) for views of the port, pastel-colored buildings and shops and restaurants sitting on the water. Le Sénéquier is in the heart of Le Vieille Ville as is La Crêperie Bretonne.
La Crêperie Bretonne
After walking past lots of expensive lunch spots near Vieux Ville, we found a more affordable spot. And although less expensive than its neighbor restaurants, La Crêperie Bretonne did not lack in flavor or busyness. I ordered an andouille sausage, egg and cheese crêpe, and my mouth still waters thinking about this meal. The restaurant is mere steps away from the water and suits those looking for an authentic, affordable meal. If you’re looking for less expensive things to do in Saint Tropez, this is a good stop.
Take photos at Capitainerie du Port
The thing about St. Tropez is there’s a lot of boats. And by boats, I mean big boats. Yachts galore. I love fancy boats just as much as the next guy, but if you’re looking for an unobstructed view of the sea, walk over to Capitainerie du Port to get your glamour shots. You also can snap a photo of Vieux Ville in all its glory. Out of all the things to do in Saint Tropez, I enjoyed this port area for its views best.
This restaurant-meets-beach boasts a sand floor to wiggle your toes in while you eat. Or simply order your meal to be delivered to your beach chair. Cap 21 offers private beach access. We enjoyed our meals at a table under the restaurant’s canopy. But the next day, we returned, and I ordered my truffle risotto to be enjoyed directly on my beach chair just feet from the water’s edge. Ooh la la!
Café de Paris
This iconic restaurant is nestled in the heart of the Port of Saint Tropez. If you’re into classy dining with a view and convenient location, the Café de Paris is for you. After the heat of the day on the beach, I packed up my book, Uncommon Grounds by Tim Keller, and booked a table for one. I ordered their burger topped with an egg and sipped on a fresh fruit smoothie as I watched people stroll past the yachts and read my book.
Listen, there are lots of health bloggers out there promoting all the greens, juices and such. But I am not one of those bloggers, especially when it comes to travel. I have a rule that goes something like this: ice cream is a daily requirement on vacation. Barbarac is an ice cream shop that was founded in St. Tropez in 1988. Not only do they have more flavors than you can imagine, but it’s also conveniently located in the port.
This hot new beach club and restaurant serves up Italian fare and drips high class. About a 15-minute drive from Saint Tropez, Gigi is located in nearby Ramatuelle and offers a bellini bar, pool, pétanque, spa and boutique. Every square inch of this place is Instagrammable and entirely beautiful. Be sure to note that Gigi’s Ramatuelle location near Saint Tropez is open seasonally and not year round.
Out of all the beach clubs we visited, LouLou was definitely my favorite. The bright yellow aesthetic, vibrant atmosphere and location on Pampelonne Beach create the most idyllic summer ambience. And cheers for their gluten-free options! I enjoyed laying out on my beach chair for hours after a filling meal.
Just a few steps away from the Citadelle, Koh Petrie isn’t all that glitzy from the outside. We almost passed it by, but we were hungry. And my, are we glad we did. The inside of the restaurant is intricately decorated, and the food will have you salivating.
I am obsessed with pad thai, and I can honestly say this is the best bowl I’ve ever consumed. The next day, I was still drooling over this meal. I told the waiter how much I loved the meal, and he said the owner was from Thailand. So the recipes are the real deal!
Mal and I struck up a conversation with the couple sitting next to us. We told them about our grand adventure along the Côte d’Azur and mentioned we’d be stopping in Nice.
“Nice? We live in Nice! We should get dinner or drinks.”
The whole point of moving to a foreign country, especially during a pandemic, is about saying yes. We exchanged phone numbers and got all their Nice recommendations. After the rude waiter at Le Sénéquier, Pauline and Julien restored my faith in French humanity. (And a few days later, they invited us to sip cocktails at a secret Gatsby-themed speakeasy. Like, what is my life?!) Imagine what can happen when you start saying yes — I’ll wait.
Saint Tropez Citadel
For those of you who enjoy the patrimoine and history of la France, be sure to visit La Citadelle de Saint Tropez. For 4 euros, you can explore the maritime history of Saint Tropez, which used to be one of the top three French ports on the Mediterranean in the 1700s.
Being the patrimoine buff that I am, I was a bit disappointed that we weren’t able to squeeze in a visit to the Citadel the first time I visited, but on my second time to Saint Tropez, I made time to explore the Saint Tropez Citadel.
After the museum has already closed, Mal and I bought a bottle of Nicolas champagne and made our way up to the Citadel to watch the sunset. We were shocked to see peacocks milling about the citadel grounds. Who would’ve guessed?
Musée de l’Annonciade
Originally a chapel built in the 1500s, this art museum houses pieces by artists ranging from Henri Matisse to Georges Seurat. Musée de l’Annonciade is small but mighty: its impressionist paintings will introduce you to the artists’ renditions of St. Tropez and Marseille among other scenes. This museum can easily be done in an hour or two. Out of all the things to do in Saint Tropez, this was one of my favorites.
If you love big names like Jimmy Choo and Dior, you will love St. Tropez. Never have I ever seen so many luxury brands in such a small perimeter. After reading a book about the life of Coco Chanel, I had to see the store here. You may be thinking: what’s the difference between one location and another? The Chanel in St. Tropez isn’t just in a strip of stores. Chanel takes its residence at a mansion called La Mistralée in St. Tropez.
No photos are allowed in this not-so-humble abode, but Vogue France was able to get some exclusive glamour shots. The actual merchandise is sparse, but it’s styled in a way that makes you feel glamorous simply standing there.
Mal and I wandered by Dior and were so bummed to see that their café was closed. If I go back, café Dior Des Lices is on my list. Some streets to explore for shopping: Rue Georges Clemenceau and Rue François Sibilli.
Along with browsing haute couture — emphasis on browsing — I stopped in Ladurée. To be fair, there are Ladurée locations all over the world, even in New York City. But I had to right the wrongs of a trip to France six years ago.
During high school, I visited France for the first time, and the sights and language mesmerized me. When our class visited Versailles, I had a classmate who bought a macaron keychain at Ladurée. I thought it was so cute but wasn’t sure I wanted to pay the price. I decided not to buy it, and I regretted it. And six years later, I still wanted that keychain and made good on that high schooler’s wish.
Un Jour à Peyrassol
When in doubt, listen to your Airbnb host. They know the area and often have great recommendations. And Un Jour à Peyrassol was one of Aude’s recs, and it did the trick. Mal and I ate here on our first night, and this spot bleeds St. Tropez vibes. Think swanky music filling the room and model-worthy outfits on every patron. It only felt right to order a glass of Taittinger champagne, which did not disappoint — as if it ever did. If you’re looking for a fancier dinner during your stay in St. Tropez, add Un Jour à Peyrassol to your list.
On our way out of St. Tropez, we stopped at Port Grimaud, which is deemed the Venice of southern France for its canals. It’s even smaller than St. Tropez and radiates quaint charm. Mal and I were bummed that we went on a Monday morning when most everything was closed. It was still fun to walk through this small town and see all the boats.
Take a boat ride
Dying to take a boat ride? There’s a ferry between Saint Tropez, Port Grimaud and Sainte Maxime. Les Bateaux Verts also offers special excursions if you’re looking for more than the 15-minute commute between Saint Tropez and Sainte Maxime. My family and I enjoyed this boat ride as it’s a great way to get out on the water, and it doesn’t break the bank. Here’s a look at the times and prices.
More tips on things to do in Saint Tropez
A few more pro tips on planning a trip to St. Tropez: An easy way to save money is buying groceries for several meals. At the beginning of the week, Mal and I bought some pastries, bread, Nutella, yogurt and coffee. And we ate breakfast at our Airbnb each morning. Also, if you’re driving to St. Tropez, research parking options. Paying exorbitant amounts on parking is just a silly way to spend money. In retrospect, we wish we would’ve inquired about parking several days before from our Airbnb host.
Unless you’re planning a vacation to mainly relax (totally cool, too), you could easily do St. Tropez in one or two days. If you love to shop and sunbathe, this Côte d’Azur gem is for you. Personally, I like the patrimoine element of France: the history, museums, castles, etc. And St. Tropez is richer in the luxury and relaxation than patrimoine and exploration. With these 12 things to do in Saint Tropez, there’s something for every traveler.