Beach Town Escape: Saint-Tropez

Colorful walkways enhance the town's energy.
The sun-drenched patio at Hotel Byblos.

Ritz and Glitz on the Riviera

From Brigitte Bardot to Jay-Z and Beyoncé, the global A-list has been flooding this French port for decades.

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By Seth Sherwood
 
From Brigitte Bardot to Jay-Z and Beyoncé, the global A-list has been flooding this French port for decades, transforming the rustic Mediterranean fishing village into the world’s summer glam session par excellence.
 
When to Go
Saint-Tropez is most electric from mid-July through August, when you have the best chance of rubbing elbows with characters more often seen on TMZ.com or in shareholder reports. June is popular but not overwhelmed. By mid-September, you almost have the place to yourself.
 
Stay
For all-around indulgence, the mythic hillside Hôtel Byblos delivers, with 91 rooms and suites clustered in red, yellow, and terra-cotta cottages surrounding a pool. Rivea, a new Italian-Mediterranean restaurant from superchef Alain Ducasse, serves everything from orecchiette with lobster to a massive côte de bœuf for two. At party time descend into Les Caves du Roy, where neon palm trees flash and fireworks shoot from jeroboams of Champagne.
 
Dine and Drink
Niched in a picturesque lane, La Part des Anges is an unpretentious neo-bistro with outdoor tables and a menu encompassing everything from spaghetti with local mussels to foie gras with truffles. Christophe Leroy, a locally famous caterer and restaurateur, is behind La Table du Marché, a convivial, easygoing spot with a 19-euro two-course lunch menu that changes daily. Even more revered is Arnaud Donckele, who received his third Michelin star in 2013, making him the only chef in the region to hold the guide’s highest honor. His seaside restaurant, La Vague d’Or, excels at unexpected and nuanced takes on seafood. Outfitted in minimalist decor, harborside Le Girelier specializes in bouillabaisse, grilled sardines, shellfish platters, and other Riviera classics.
 
Shop
Seeking a Kalashnikov-shaped lamp from Philippe Starck or a crystal foosball table? Luxury Stuff & Toys is a gallery, concept store, and funhouse in one. Follow the sound of hammers to Rondini, where cobblers have been handcrafting strappy leather sandals—the classic Saint-Tropez look—since the 1920s. Chic Mediterranean housewares, from bed linens to Champagne buckets, await at La Maison des Lices.
 
Beach Town Tips
  • Sun-Baked Smorgasbord: The peninsula around Saint-Tropez enfolds more than two dozen private beach clubs, each with its own personality. Most offer similar amenities—restaurants, bars, beachwear boutiques—and require guests to rent sun loungers.
  • Best Beach for People-watching: Like a Playboy Mansion pool party, the scene around the piscine at Nikki Beach is a music-blasting, Cristal-drenched spectacle of flesh and excess.
  • Best Beach for Families: Next door, the vibe shifts from crazy to lazy along the laid-back shores of Plage des Jumeaux. Sporting playful decorative touches by famed French graffiti artist André, the beach club offers a swing and slide for kids and CasaCri, an acclaimed outdoor Italian restaurant, for their parents.
  • Don’t Miss: The coastal walk to the cimetière marin, or seaside cemetery. Follow rue Cavaillon under the hilltop citadel to find this placid and moving spot, which features a World War I monument.
  • Barefoot Factor: Rocks are rarely unmanageable, but the Mediterranean sand gets scorching hot. Bring footwear.


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Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, March 2013.