What to See & Do in...

What to see and do in… St. Tropez

On what was to be our fourth trip to the most famous of all Provençal villages, I was determined to get our weekend visit to St. Tropez “right”.

Past trips had been memorable for all the wrong reasons… including one ill-timed winter outing where we were whipped-about by Mistral winds & doused by rain. A couple of overpriced cocktails, and a few fleeting glances at Gucci bags later, and we were back on the road.

And then there were our two summer visits, where we finally had a chance to bask in that glorious South of France sunshine…. along with what seemed like every other tourist on “the cote”. As any good resident will tell you, summertime is when St. Tropez comes alive – massive yachts, extravagant parties, and very, very high heels. Besides the spectacular people-watching (I can still see those pink platforms & barely there halter-tops), St. Tropez left me feeling a bit overwhelmed and underfed – with a small(ish) budget & sizable appetites, we had a difficult time finding our foodie niche.

This time, after a bit of research and a more realistic approach (there’s no Gucci’s in this girl’s future), we set out to experience more of the “charm” of this pretty town & less of its supersized glamour. Here are a few ideas for spending a savvy, budget-friendly day in St. Tropez:

1. Pack a picnic.

There are many great, quality restaurants in St. Tropez (including a lovely seafood one, Les Girelier), but if you’re looking to save some euros, not much beats a picnic along the sea.  The drive up the coast is magnificent, so we made a quick detour at the (almost) deserted beach at Cavalaire for our picnic feast.

2.  Do a DIY gelato crawl.

You’ll find plenty of gelaterias or glaciers in St. Tropez.  Luckily, two of the best happen to be virtually side-by-side.  While we’d tried well-known Barbarac on past trips, this visit we were quite taken my nearby Giovanni Gelateria.  Call it a bit of Italian longing, but I think a heaping scoop of panna cotta caramel & Bacio gelato cures all that ails.  Qu’est que c’est bon…

Panna Cotta
Panna Cotta Carmel + Bacio gelato from Gelateria Giovanni.

 3.  Take a walk on the port-side.

If you’re not just a teeny-bit awed by the massive boats making their home in the port of St. Tropez than I’d recommend making a beeline for the boutiques (or going back for more Bacio) and avoiding the port altogether.  Port-side is basically yacht-side, as floating luxury-homes masquerading as “boats” greet you at every turn. Sure, it’s more than a little bling-bling …as the French would say… but it’s also part of the whole St. Trop’ experience.  Plus, there’s some really fab artwork to enjoy in between star-sightings.

St. Tropez Paintings
Colorful artwork and colorful locals port-side.

4. (Window) shop the boutiques.

Gucci, Dior, Fendi, the list of luxury brands is endless, but whether you can afford it or not, a quick browse around town is fun.  You might even catch a sale on the famous tropezienne sandals – which we priced at over a 100 euros on Saturday.  If you do, you know where to find me.

Fendi
Getting fancy in St. Tropez.

5. See and be seen at the cafés.

Bask in the sun, and enjoy a front row seat to some fantastic people watching, at St. Tropez’s cafés & brasseries.  Senequier cafe is arguably the most famous, and most written about, but we had an equally enjoyable glass of wine at Café de Paris (skipping the  €17 cocktails this time around).

 6.  Take-in a game of Petanque at the Place des Lices.

Besides having a really rockin’ Saturday market, the Place des Lices is famous for its petanque games & tournaments.  Perhaps no where else in St. Tropez does it feel quite so “Provençal” as you turn back the clock and imagine what this “fishing village” must have been like before its ascent (descent?) to glamour.

 7.  Admire the views from the lighthouse.

Want a picture-perfect view of the port & village? Then head straight to the lighthouse with your camera at the ready. St. Tropez weather can be quite “changeable” as they say, prepare for dramatic color & light displays as captured on this spring day.

8.  Pick up a perfect tarte tropezienne.

Impossible to go to St. Tropez without diving into a bit of creamy heaven known as the tarte tropezienne.  Thankfully, they don’t make it difficult to find this local namesake, at it has its very own pâtisserie:  La Tarte Tropezienne.  Tartes range from petite to grande… and although I don’t think I could fit that big puff in my handbag, since you’ve saved so much on your low-cal St. Tropez day, feel free to splurge as needed.

 

To Learn More:

St. Tropez official tourism site.

St. Tropez guide on Lonely Planet.

Frommer’s guide to St. Tropez.

St. Tropez restaurants on Telegraph travel.

 

 

About Tuula

I’m a 40-ish American woman & I’ve been blogging about my travels around belle Provence since moving here in 2010. You can also find my travel writing in International Living magazine, Charming Small Hotels (France), & Living France magazine. Bienvenue!

8 comments on “What to see and do in… St. Tropez

  1. Some years back before we bought our house in Sablet, we spent a week in Gassin just a few kms from St. Tropez thinking we might want to buy there and we were truthfully quite underwhelmed. It was fall and the tourists were gone and many of the shops and cafes were closed and it just didn’t have the charm that it does in the summer. It is a beautiful area and you have caught that very well.

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    • Anonymous

      Yes, things can be pretty dismal in the fall… and I can understand how you felt. On the other hand, I’ve heard really incredible things about Gassin… we’re planning a day trip there soon, have been researching restaurants & things to do.. plus I heard the view is spectacular!

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  2. I’ve been to St. Tropez a grand total of 2 times! I think I’m done. It just doesn’t hold the charm for me. It is too crowded and too expensive and summertime is near impossible to get around. We did go to the fort and I must write about that some time soon. I do agree that people watching is the best you’re gonna ever get in this region! That is something I could do there for hours. I much prefer the tiny coastal villages that most tourists haven’t found, yet. BTW-the man sitting with his paintings. I saw him there in that same spot the last time I went to ST!
    Ashley

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    • Anonymous

      All very true Ashley – this was actually the first time I went to St. Tropez and had an enjoyable experience. I think it has a lot to do with the season. There were far less people than in the summer… in pasts visits the crowds have been almost unbearable. I would go back again…. put probably only in spring or early fall… too funny about the man with the paintings, he fits right in with the atmosphere, bon weekend !

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  3. Although I may never be able to afford one of those yachts along the port, I like to walk by and dream. Whenever someone says DIY gelato crawl, I’m ALL in!

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    • Anonymous

      Too true Kathy, and in fact they had pretty good gelato, a pleasant surprise… Do I see a St. Tropez trip in our future ? Many thanks for your comment 🙂

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  4. Beautiful post, Tuula! Picnics are the best! If those Fendi shoes in the store window don’t say St. Tropez, I don’t know what does. And la tarte tropezienne? Swoon!

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    • Anonymous

      Thanks Margo ! It’s true, St. Tropez is quite a dreamy spot… and I’d be content with la tarte tropezienne alone… although a pair of Fendi’s wouldn’t hurt either 🙂

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