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SAINT-TROPEZ – A Living International Fantasy of Provence Côte d’Azur

Written by KeiKwan Kwong Published Aug 29, 2014
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Saint-Tropez was a stronghold in the 16th century, a fishing village in the early 20th century, and developed into a famous seaside resort in the 1950’s. Nowadays, it is favoured by the jet set as a holiday resort.  Many tourists come to Saint-Tropez in search of an authentic Provençal style of living or even celebrities!

Situated on the Saint-Tropez peninsula, at the coast southeast to the Var department, the town enjoys a Mediterranean climate with warm summer, mild and humid winter.

Saint-Tropez: History

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence

Saint-Tropez was a fishing village in the early 20th century. Guy de Maupassant used to come here to relax in his yacht in 1887. Paul Signac on his L’Olympia discovered this small port in 1892. He bought La Hune, the house that served as his atelier. The spa towns nearby attracted a lot of artists like Colette in the 1920’s. Léon Volterra, director of the Parisian concert halls, became mayor in the 1930’s and promoted greatly the town nationwide. Louise de Vilmorin, Arletty and Jean Cocteau also came for short stays.

In the 1950’s Saint-Tropez was an internationally well-known seaside resort. Many New Wave artists fell in love with this place. Several films were shot here: La Collectionneuse, La Piscine, La Cage aux Folles, La Scoumoune, L’Année des Méduses, the series Gendarmes – just to name a few. A beloved place by artists like the yé-yé, actors, singers and politicians.

Saint-Tropez and Art

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence

Saint-Tropez played an important role in the history of modern art. Paul Signac discovered the wondrous light of the town and persuaded painters like Matisse, Bonnard and Marquet to come. Pointillism and Fauvism were thus born. All these artists exhibited their works at the Musée de l’Annonciade at the port. Saint-Tropez remains a point of attraction for the generations to come. Bernard Buffet, David Hockney, Donald Sultan lived and worked here. Stefan Szczesny also chose Saint-Tropez as his home. Writers Colette and Françoise Sagan got their inspiration from this seaside town. Jean-Yves Lechevallier’s sculpture-fountain Spirale adorn the Celli square.

Places to Visit

The Citadel

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence

(View to the Gulf of Saint-Tropez from the Citadelle)

The citadel was constructed in 1592 and the keep was added in 1602. The locals resisted against the troops of the Fronde with success. In 1873, the citadel was disarmed and housed a marine museum. The citadel offers a panoramic view to the village and the Gulf of Saint-Tropez.

The Port

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence

In 1789, there were 80 boats in Saint-Tropez. In 1860, the most beautiful merchant navy (a three-masted ship of 740 tons) named La Reine des Anges (The Queens of Angels), visited the port. Before 1914, Saint-Tropez ranked the 17th merchant port in France where three-masted ships and Italian brigs came to get their supplies. The naval shipyards built tartans and three-masted ships of 1,000 to 1,200 tons. Nowadays, locals and tourists stroll along the quay in front of the café Sénèque. Elderly shares moments together on the benches at the far end of the quay, near the lighthouse.

Church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence

Right in the town centre, the 18th century Italian baroque church houses the bust of Saint-Tropez, which is surrounded by his old rifles. A campanile crowns the bell tower. The façade facing the statue of Saint-Tropez is impressive.

Other Sites

GuillaumeTower (SuffrenTower) and Jarlier Tower (originally called “the common area”). The platform of Jarlier Tower was used for threshing wheat and other agricultural activities. The tower is in the form of a bow.

Rue Gambetta. The street is lined with hôtel particuliers (townhouses of noblemen) that once belonged to big sailor and merchant families and were constructed during the 18th century, the golden age of the town.

Byblos Hotel. It was constructed in the early 1960’s by Lebanese hotelier Jean Prosper Gay-Para. A gathering place for the jet set and international stars.

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence

Place des Lices. There are plenty of cafés and historical buildings. A petanque playground for both locals and visitors.

La Madrague. The house of Brigitte Bardot. It is situated by the seaside near the gulf.


La Bravade

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence, bravade

On 16 May, the mayor of Saint-Tropez and the mayor of Pisa hand over the pike to the town Captain elected on Easter Monday. Sailors make gunfire with their rifles while the musketeers, standing in circle, fire off their muskets. The priest blesses the weapons. The guardians of the Saint-Tropez statue take the statue with them during the procession, which is accompanied by the sound of bells, fifes, tambourines, bugles and drums, amid the cloud of smoke resulting from the gunfire. The following day is the mass of the musketeers. This time they carry a cold weapon to which attached a small bunch of blessed flowers.

La Bravade: History

In 68 AD, Torpes the Knight from Pisa, steward of the Roman Emperor Nero, converted to Christianity. Nero was furious about it and ordered his decapitation. His head was thrown into the river Arno and was picked up by some Christians. The head is now in Pisa. His body, however, was put between a rooster and a dog in a small old boat, which drifted at the mercy of the waves. It was finally washed up to the shore of d’Héraclée (former name of Saint-Tropez; Saint-Tropez is derived from Torpes). The legend lives on.

Sailing Race: Les Voiles

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence, sailing, les voiles

La Nioulargue or Les Voiles gather sea admirers and prestigious classic sailing boats (swans, ketches and galleys) of the 1920’s. Since the first race in 1981, more than 250 competitors – some have participated in the America’s Cup, come every October to join the event. The boats start at the Portalet Tower in order to circumvent the shoal marked by the buoy of Nioulargue (“the nest at sea” in the provençal language) before returning to the port.


The commune has several beaches along the 12km coastline. To the west bordering the town of Gassin is La Bouillabaisse. In the old village lie La Ponche and La Fontanette. After the sailor cemetery is Les Graniers. At the bay of Canebiers is the long beach that bears the same name. In the further east is La Moutte and Les Salins.

A promenade along the beaches from Saint-Tropez to the beach of Tahiti (12.5km) will take about 3.5 hours. Another 10km from the Gulf of Pampelonne till the Cap Camarat.

La Ponche (“point” in the provençal language) was a former fishing port:

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence

Le sentier des douaniers (the customs’ path) runs along the coastline of the Var department close to the shore. Constructed under the wish of Minister Fouché during the First Empire, the path was intended to facilitate the patrol of the armed customs, who were responsible for the suppression of salt, tobacco and weapons traffickings.

Château Borelli, an architecture in oriental style, was constructed between 1895 to 1900 by the Marseille legal expert Philippe Octave Borelli (1849-1911, who knew very well Egypt). The château offers one of the most beautiful views to the bay of Canoubiers. The Borelli family stayed there until 1928. This historical building is located at the heart of the Domaine des Parcs.


There are two famous local delicacies not to be missed:

Olive oil from Saint-Tropez AOC (appellation d’origine contrôlée).

Tarte tropézienne. It is a pastry made of a brioche that is cut widthways, separated by a layer of cream (a mixture of pastry cream and buttercream), and topped with sugar grains. The recipe was created by pastry chef Alexandre Micka from Poland. He came to Saint-Tropez in the early 1950’s. The recipe remains a secret and is a trademark.

Saint Tropez, tourism, provence, tarte tropezienne


In 1892, Paul Signac, founder of the Mediterranean School, discovered Saint-Tropez and settled there. Matisse, Bonnard, Marquet also stayed temporarily.

Painters, writers, politicians and artists, French or foreign, who belonged to the New Waves, lived temporarily in Saint-Tropez or its environ: Johnny Hallyday (Villa Lorada in Ramatuelle), Jean-Paul Sartre, Boris Vian, Françoise Sagan, Colette (La Treille Muscate), Brigitte Bardot (La Madrague), Paul Vialar (La Ponche), Paul Poiret (Villa Treizaine), as well as painter Émile Gaud.

Maison des Papillons – Musée Dany Lartigue (the son of Jacques Henri Lartigue) houses 35,000 specimens that represent 4,500 butterfly species.

Saint-Tropez in Numbers

The commune was created in 1793 under the name of d’Héraclée. It was renamed Saint-Tropez in 1801.

Area: 11.18km2
Number of inhabitants: 4,499
Density: 402 inhabitants/km2
Highest Temperature: 27.3°C in August
Lowest Temperature: 6°C in December
Hours of Sunshine: 2,750 hours/year

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Saint Tropez, tourism, provence

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