For most of its long history, St Tropez was a sleepy fishing town on the southern coast of France. With the arrival of better transportation, the town began to grow, both in population and cultural importance. Since the glamorous 60s, the town has been associated with artistry; Impressionist painters like Paul Signac made their home here, and film icons like Brigitte Bardot took advantage of the beautiful weather and azure shoreline in classic films like ‘…And God Created Woman’.
Today, St Tropez is one of the smaller, but still important parts of what we call the French Riviera, a region known for glamour, culture, fashion and long stretches of pristine beaches. Should you end up in St Tropez, there’s a lot to see and do, including:
If you want a snapshot into St Tropez’s past as a fishing village, this is the place to be. Vieux Port is the original port of St Tropez, and is currently home to both fishing vessels and recreational boats alike, although the size of the port prevents any superyachts from docking. The sidewalk running along the harbour carries painting made by St Tropez’s still vibrant artistic scene.
Near the harbour you’ll find all sorts of leisure spots and amenities: the famous Café Senequier, the Place aux Herbes market and the Môle Jean-Réveille promenade offers an exceptional view of Vieux Port. This idyllic seafront has inspired Impressionist painters around the world for decades. Luxury yachts in the harbor provide a splendid spectacle, especially when the regatta “La Nioulargue” is held in the beginning of October.
The Old Town
The Old Town of St Tropez, known as “La Ponche” to locals, borders the Vieux Port harbor basin and is below the town citadel. La Ponche is the historic center of the fishing village and is the most picturesque area of Saint Tropez. Part of it has recently been laid out as a pedestrian zone of narrow alleyways and quaint cobblestone lanes filled 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, where the 18th-century Eglise de Notre-Dame de l’Assomption awaits. With its beautiful Italian Baroque bell tower, this church punctuates the Saint-Tropez skyline. Inside, visitors can admire the statue of Saint Tropez, the town’s namesake, 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 naval fleet in the 1700s.
Chapel of the Annunciation
One of the top tourist attractions in Saint-Tropez is its art museum, which occupies the former Chapelle Notre-Dame de l’Annonciade (English: 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.
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 (English: 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.
When you walk off the boat onto St Tropez’s harbours, visiting these historic parts of the town is vital to getting a full experience of both St tropez, and the Riviera in general. If you’re looking for a super yacht charter based in The Mediterranean, with access to ports around the French Riviera, You Charter Direct provides several cruising locations in the area so you can see some of the natural culture and history of this region for yourself.