Ever since Brigitte Bardot put St Tropez on the map back in 1956, it has been an in-demand destination among the world’s most glamorous travellers. The original JetSet, who followed in the actress's wake, may be no more, but the town’s incredible ability to continually add to its A-list allure ensures there’s always a reason for today's SuperyachtSet to return.
Long before St Tropez transformed into one of the most sought-after places to visit on a South of France yacht charter, its charms seduced a string of famous creatives. Writer Guy du Maupassant mused about the ‘lovely, modest little town’ and painters such as Signac, Matisse and Picasso were drawn to its luminous daylight and craggy coastline.
Then Bardot showed up in 1956 to film And God Created Woman and, almost overnight, the peaceful fishing village morphed into a sizzling JetSet favourite.
Fast forward to today and St Tropez still hasn’t fallen out of favour among well-heeled globetrotters, despite stiff competition from the likes of Mykonos and Ibiza. Rather, the resort has upped its game with a new breed of beach clubs, a fast-evolving gourmet food scene and extravagant-as-ever night spots.
The eclectic shopping
Much of St Tropez’s appeal lies in its combination of quaint old-world charm and modern glamour and shoppers can easily experience this mix, with both Provençal market stalls trading local produce and the hottest high-end labels selling their latest collections fresh from the catwalks.
Luxury fashion boutiques abound along the narrow streets and narrower alleyways of the old village. For big-name labels, stick to the triangle between Place des Lices, Rue Gambetta and Rue Allard where, unlike anywhere else on earth, shoppers can step out of the likes of Dolce & Gabbana and Louis Vuitton and into a grocery store just across the street.
The town also has its own fashion speciality: the Tropezienne sandal. The Rondini family has been hand-making the shoe behind their shop at 16 Rue Clemenceau for over 90 years. Likewise, La Chemise Tropezienne is very much a St Tropez institution after selling beautifully made shirts that double as great beach cover-ups at 35 Rue Gambetta since the 1960s.
Meanwhile, old pétanque players in the Place du Lices are interrupted on Tuesday and Saturday mornings by the popular outdoor market that fills the square. Locals and visitors alike flock here for its fresh French produce, home-grown olive oil, lavender-scented soap and good quality homeware and accessories.
The iconic beach clubs
A day at the beach in St Tropez revolves around the beach club. Fuelling the town’s fame since 1956, the three-mile-long Pampelonne Beach is where the crème de la crème is based and this includes a string of attractive new openings mixed among some well-established locales.
The very best come with their own private jetty. This means superyacht-goers can anchor off the coast of the French Riviera and arrive by tender, turning heads as they step ashore. And with a varied selection of venues, there is a beach club to suit every mood.
Le Club 55 is probably the classiest and most discreet, not to mention the most renowned. A simple fishing hut in the early 1950s, it was adopted as a canteen by the film crew shooting And God Created Woman. Morphing into the legendary address it is today, the club has never lost its ability to woo the rich and famous.
Fuelling the town’s fame since 1955, the three-mile-long Baie de Pampelonne is where the crème de la crème of beach clubs is based
Nikki Beach is one of the youngest St Tropez beach clubs and a go-to hangout for the cool cats in town. Bringing a little slice of Miami to the Côte d'Azur, the club is spread over a series of split-level decking areas which surround a huge swimming pool. Beautiful guests lounge on luxurious white sunbeds, sipping champagne and listening to laid-back beats.
The latest offering, however, is Shellona. Although a Saint Barths-born brand, the French venue is more typical of Mykonos or Ibiza, with its simple nomadic architecture of teak floors and canvas cabanas. There’s also a boho-chic dining scene serving up Greek specialities. The in-crowd come here for a lively lunch and stay for the late-night sunset session.
Elsewhere, Bagatelle Beach indulges its well-heeled clientele with stylish waterfront dining and sunset parties. The grown-up dining scene at Tahiti Beach, St Tropez's oldest beach club, attracts a more mature crowd, while neighbouring venue La Plage des Juneau is a favourite among families.
The world-class cuisine
An exciting culinary movement is currently taking place in St Tropez, providing yet another reason to return to this Mediterranean hotspot on a private yacht charter. There are some long-running classics worth re-discovering too.
Leading the way is super-chef Arnaud Donckele at La Vague d’Or, a gastronomic temple with three Michelin stars at the La Residence de la Pinede. Expect Mediterranean ingredients and flavours with an unusual twist as well as exceptional service.
Another significant contender on the scene is Rivea. The brainchild of chef Alain Ducasse, the restaurant has been making a name for itself at the illustrious Hotel Byblos since 2002. Diners can feast on fare majoring in Mediterranean simplicity under a candlelit canopy of lanterns.
Leading the way is super-chef Arnaud Donckele at La Vague d’Or, a gastronomic temple with three Michelin stars
Book a table at Au Caprice des Deux for robust country cooking with a contemporary edge. Tucked away down a little side street in the old village, the eatery has been run by brother and sister team Sonia and Stéphane since 1994, but notching up a variety of awards over the past few years, it's currently at the top of its game.
Another old-timer that continues to draw in the crowds is Le Girelier. Situated on Quai Jean-Jaures waterfront, the seafood establishment, which is now in its seventh decade, gets top marks for location as well as its highly-acclaimed bouillabaisse, fresher-than-fresh fish and seafood cooked a la plancha.
The mind-blowing nightlife
St Tropez has some of the best-celebrated nightspots in Europe, and with iconic venues reinventing themselves, world-famous DJs topping bills and spray parties still a common occurrence, its reputation as a place of unbridled pleasures shows no sign of slacking.
After 50 years as the most prestigious nightclub in France, Les Caves du Roy has lost none of its panache. A sanctuary of modern music in Hotel Byblos, its orient-meets-Med glitz never fails to draw in the A-listers. VIP booths ensure a paparazzi-free, private environment and champagne is drunk by the bottle.
VIP Room starts the night as Le GIONA, a restaurant serving up an Italian-Mediterranean fusion. It then morphs into what Karl Lagerfeld dubbed as ‘the best club in the world’. As international DJs take to the decks, clubbers take to the dance floor amidst a riot of mirrors, glass and colour-changing lights.
After 55 years of hotshot service, Papagayo has recently metamorphosed into Gaio, a restaurant and club concept with a Japanese-Peruvian menu created by Madrid chef Luis Arevalo. The venue is still a magnet for the stars and a famous face is sure to be spotted among the patrons who arrive for dinner and stay on for nightclub shenanigans until the early hours of the morning.
The old-world charm
Despite the designer boutiques, glitzy beach clubs, world-class restaurants and wild nightlife, St Tropez still seduces with its quaint beauty. Yet, this dimension of the town is often overlooked.
Hard for yacht-goers to ignore is the port, which has barely changed since Brigitte Bardot first arrived. The only difference is the fleet of superyachts lined up opposite the old fishermen’s houses. For a prime spot on a French Riviera yacht charter, this is the place to berth.
The first stop for those stepping ashore should be at one of the waterfront cafés. A long-time favourite is Senequier, unmissable along Quai Jean Jaures due to its bright red chairs and triangular tables. Order a coffee and croissant and indulge in a spot of people watching.
St Tropez's picturesque old port has barely changed since Brigitte Bardot arrived in town
Don’t miss the tiny fishing market resplendent in mosaics and marble hidden behind Porte de la Poissinnerie and take time out to explore the Ponche quarters, where fishermen and artists once inhabited pastel-coloured houses along narrow cobbled streets. In the heart of town, the parish church, home to a bust of St Tropez himself, is worth a visit too.
At the top of the village, a wood-covered hill leads to the 16th-century Citadel, built to both defend the coast and keep watch over the Tropeziens who, in the view of the French, were a sullen and troublesome lot. From outside, the views across the village and out to sea are splendid while, inside, there is now a museum dedicated to St Tropez’s maritime history.
Whether you’re looking for gourmet dining, a night of hedonistic pleasures or daytime bliss at a chic beach club, St Tropez offers a pick of enduring JetSet hotspots, reinvented classics and hip new hangouts.
The glamour and joie de vivre the resort is renowned for lives on, fuelled by the latest round of new offerings. But hiding behind this brilliance is an enchanting old town to explore, and don’t forget the scenic surroundings of the woody peninsula and the spectacular sea views.
There has certainly been no better time to visit St Tropez on a luxury yacht charter.