During summertime, St-Tropez’s pleasure port is trimmed with super-yachts, each one berthing stern-to after a day of hedonistic excess at nearby Plage de Pampelonne. Yacht owners, their lucky guests, spectators, and celebrity-seekers all intermingle along the town’s chic quays.
In the Old Town, one of the most interesting streets is rue de la Miséricorde. It’s lined with stone houses that hold boutiques and evokes medieval St-Tropez better than any other in town. At the corner of rue Gambetta is Chapelle de la Miséricorde, with a blue, green, and gold tile roof. Locals come to swim on Plage de la Ponche, an old fishing boat launching beach beyond the old town, or at Plage des Graniers, a longer beach 5 minutes further east underneath the Citadelle.
Port Grimaud makes for a rather wacky outing. From St-Tropez, drive 4km (2 3/4 miles) west on A98 to route 98, and then 1.5km (1 mile) north to the Port Grimaud exit. If you approach the village at sunset it looks like a 16th-century version of Venice. However, that vision is a mirage: Port Grimaud is the Venetian dream of far-out architect François Spoerry. Flanking Spoerry’s man-made canals, fingers of land extend from the village center to the sea. Boat owners can anchor at their doorsteps. One newspaper called the port “the most magnificent fake since Disneyland.” Visitors can join in the fun by hiring an electric boat from Barques Electriques de Port Grimaud, place de l'Eglise (tel. 06-73-87-76-84; no license needed) for a cruise through the canals.
Day Trips from St-Tropez
11km (7 miles) S of St-Tropez
Ramatuelle has the village feel of St Tropez in the 1950s. Retired actors, bona fide locals, and discreet A-listers wander this village perché’s medieval streets. In truth, cosmopolitanism runs through the village's veins. Saracen marauders, Ligurian tribesmen, and visiting film crews have long been entranced by its roving sea views. Plage Pampelonne—where American troops disembarked in 1944 and where American celebrities still pop champagne seven decades later—shimmers in the distance.
Irregular buses (www.varlib.fr; tel. 04-94-24-60-00); trip time: 30 minutes; 2€ one-way) putter south from St-Tropez’s Gare Routière to Ramatuelle, passing Gassin en-route. If you’re driving take D93 all the way there. It’s far quieter than the coast road. The Office de Tourisme is at place de l'Ormeau (www.otorange.fr; tel. 04-98-12-64-00).
Exploring Ramatuelle & Around
Entrance to the village is via an imposing Saracen-era gate. Step into the pedestrian-only lanes to place de l'Ormeau. A colorful street market takes place here every Thursday and Sunday, when local cafés and restaurant terraces become more animated than usual. Visitors may also shop alongside Ramatuelle’s 2,500 residents everyday for local handicrafts, boho-chic fashions, and contemporary art. A wander through the pastel-shuttered, jasmine-strewn streets is an attraction in itself. Follow the signposted village walking route. Or snap your smartphone on the tourist office's new QR code tour around town, which describes the Napoleonic prisons and Chapelle Ste-Anne church in greater detail.
If you have a car, it’s worth driving deeper into the St-Tropez peninsula. Five minutes from Ramatuelle, in a forest of wild olives, is the wonderfully restored Moulin de Paillas windmill. When in operation, it grinds wheat on an ancient millstone. Further inland is Gassin. Another perfectly kept medieval village, it’s a far cry from the temptations of St-Tropez, although legendary hell-raiser Mick Jagger did his best to disturb the peace here in 1971, when he married Bianca Bianca Pérez-Mora Macias in the local village church. An orgy of drinking and partying carried on back on place des Lices after the ceremony.
Where to Stay & Eat
If you choose to sleep in Ramatuelle, Villa Marie (www.villamarie.fr tel. 04-94-97-40-22)is themodel of blissfully unreconstructed luxury. An unseemly array of fragrant grounds, Provençal patios, and a delicately manicured pool make this elegant retreat an oasis of decadence. The alfresco gastronomic restaurant peeks over the peninsula towards Plage Pampelonne. Their signature tiramisu (served in a glass hemisphere) is blowout bliss. Guests may work off the calories in the Pure Altitude indoor-outdoor spa the following morning. Doubles from 330€; suites from 620€.
The restaurants around place de l'Ormeau are your best bet for local bites. Le Jardin des Mets,31 rue Georges Clemenceau (tel. 04-94-79-18-68), serves Provençal classics like fish soup and grilled Sisteron lamb in a charming interior garden. La Reserve (www.lareserve-ramatuelle.com; tel. 04-94-44-94-44) is an A-list escape with a world-renowned spa. Doubles start from 500€ per night.
29km (18 miles) W of St-Tropez
The southern French coastline becomes beach-laden from Rayol-Canadel to La Lavadou. No less than 12 blissful beaches run underneath the coastal road. The two finest, Plage du Cap Nègre and Plage de Pramousquier, are found on either side of Carla Bruni’s seaside mansion. Former French president Nicholas Sarkozy is a regular on these sun-kissed shores.
No site better sums up this area’s sub-tropical sunbaked shores than the Domaine Rayol botanical gardens. Imagine a Jurassic park laden with black bamboo, sultry ferns, and giant palms, and choked with bougainvillea. This family-friendly must-see also boasts a snorkeling trail on the private beach below.
The 7801 and 8814 buses (trip time: 35 min.; 3€ one-way) from St-Tropez loops through Rayol-Canadel every hour. The prettiest (but by no means the shortest) driving route from St-Tropez takes the D559 out of town, then continues west on the D93. The Office de Tourisme is at place Michel Goy (www.lerayolcanadel.fr; tel. 04- 94-05-65-69). The friendly team has maps detailing several fragrant walks along the coast.
For those interested in staying in Rayol-Canadel, Villa du Plageron (www.plageron.com. tel. 04-94-05-61-15)is a short walk or drive from the Domaine-Rayol botanical gardens. With its tiny private beach, pool, garden hammocks, and palm-shaded grounds, choose one of these 10 rooms, priced from 160€, as the perfect place to recover after excessive sightseeing. Bi-lingual owners Virginie and Bruno cater to every whim (a glass of rosé? a local restaurant reservation?) and preside over the never-ending Provençal breakfast.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.