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France – Saint Tropez & It’s Rich Artistic Past

Traveling to France? Saint Tropez is a MUST place to visit when heading to the Cote D’Azur.

In Saint Tropez the sun shines brighter & the blue seas shimmer with the colorful bobbing yachts & sailboats of the rich & famous. Don’t miss the action!

The History of France’s Saint Tropez & the Cote D’Azur

Saint Tropez and the surrounding Cote D’Azur beaches became famous when the first railway reached Nice in 1864. From this time on, elegant hotels, casinos and other attractions were built to entice the sun-worshippers from all over Europe.

This beautiful part of France has since attracted crowds from all walks of life. From the Impressionists, such as Monet, Signac, Renoir, Picasso and Van Gogh, to royalty like Queen Victoria and Tsar Alexander II.

After the World War One, the Americans discovered the Cote D’Azur and writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Henry James also made this region their summer haunt. During this same period Coco Chanel was sunbathing on the Cote D’Azur beaches, making suntans fashionable in Paris.

However the real fame came to Saint Tropez when Bridgette Bardot starred in a movie located in Saint Tropez in the 1950s. From that point on, Saint Tropez was on the international travel map….

Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot in France - Saint Tropez, August, 1968
Alain Delon and Brigitte Bardot in Saint Tropez, August, 1968 Photo by Jean-Pierre Bonotte

Saint Tropez & the Rich & Famous

Today, this lovely coastal town, once a small fishing village, continues to be a popular destination of the rich & famous and international jet-setters.

Saint Tropez is the summer retreat for celebrities like Bono, Elton John, Leonardo DiCaprio, Kate Moss & Naomi Campbell, to name a few. They have recently been spotted either sailing the seas in their expensive boats, strolling the bougainvillea embellished streets, dancing in the legendary nightclubs or sipping a cocktails in a trendy bar …. Keep your eyes peeled in Saint Tropez…. you never know who you may bump into…

Saint Tropez marina - travel French Riviera
France – Saint Tropez Port photo by Xiquinho Silva on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Saint Tropez & Cote D’Azur a Magnet to Artists

In the 1870’s the Impressionists were centralized in the Parisian capital, discussing art in the cafes and nightclubs of Montmartre and planning their next exhibition.

However, towards the end of the 19th century, the impressionists started to scatter and go their separate ways. Their fascination with light and bright colours brought many of them south, away from the greyness of Paris & towards the seaside villages of Cote d’Azur & rustic Provence.

The post-impressionist painter Paul Signac, came to the beautiful fishing village of Saint Tropez and made this town his home. In Saint-Tropez, Signac built a large painting studio. It is during this period that he painted some of his most colorful and famous neoimpressionism paintings of Saint Tropez’s port, beaches and breathtaking seascapes.

Paul Signac painting - Pointillism art
France-Saint Tropez port painted by Paul Signac [Public Domain]

However Saint Tropez is enjoyed by everyone! You don’t need to be rich & famous to love this beautiful village

5 Top Tourist Attractions in Saint-Tropez

The Vieux Port (Old Port)

The charming Vieux Port is the heart of Saint-Tropez. This is where the old fishing village once came to life. Today though, you will not find fishing boats but rather the mega-luxury yachts and sailboats of the rich & famous.

Surrounding the port are pastel colored buildings and chic cafés with outdoor terraces. Stop by in one of these cafes and order a cocktail, soak up the sun and enjoy people-watching… you may see a celeb or two!

On the wide sidewalk at the water’s edge, artists sell colorful paintings depicting scenes of Saint-Tropez.

French Riviera marina - Travel info guide
France – Saint Tropez – Vieux Port photo by Krzysztof Belczyński on Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Another attraction near the harbor is the Place aux Herbes, the ancient market square. Here in the morning hours stands a colorful market full of fresh fruit & vegetables & colorful fragrant flower stalls. Also in the mornings is the nearby Halle aux Poissons, (the daily fish market). Here you will find the freshest seafood. Still hungry? Not a problem! This area is brimming with gourmet food shops.

Walk to the Môle Jean-Réveille promenade for fabulous views of the old port.

La Ponche: The Old Town

The Old Town of Saint-Tropez is called “La Ponche”. It is next to the Vieux Port. La Ponche is the historical center and most beautiful part of Saint Tropez. Walk through the winding, narrow cobbled stone lanes lined with upmarket boutique shops, chic cafes and stylish restaurants. Don’t forget to visit the lovely 18th-century church called  Eglise de Notre-Dame de l’Assomption (26 Rue Gambetta).

Musée de l’Annonciade

If you are an art lover, don’t miss the fabulous Musee de l’Annonciade located in a former chapel and only a few minutes from the Saint Tropez Port.

This small museum houses an impressive collection of Impressionism artworks and is a reminder of the town’s rich artistic past. Here you will see paintings of Paul Signac, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Pierre Bonnard, Edouard Vuillard, Raoul Dufy and others! For more information, press here.

Musée de l'Annonciade - travel tip or advice
Musée de l’Annonciade photo by j-r w on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Scenic Seaside Path (Sentier du Littoral)

If you love walking and beautiful scenery, don’t miss this gorgeous coastal path called Sentier du Littoral. It starts just outside the old quarter of La Ponche and runs along the peninsula of Saint Tropez. This walk is wonderful and will lead you to beautiful beaches of fine white sand and other places that are otherwise accessible only by boat.

It isn’t a difficult walk but make sure you wear good walking shoes as some stretches of the path are rugged. If you have the energy, walk the entire 16 kilometers. However, you can also choose to do only sections of this beautiful trail.

In the summer months, I recommend that you start early as this trail gets busy. Also make sure to wear you bathers so that you can take a dip in one of the small beaches you pass on the way.

Sentier du Littoral - coastal walking trails
Sentier du Littoral photo by akunamatata on Flickr (CC BY-ND 2.0)

Citadelle de Saint-Tropez – Musee d’histoire maritime

It is a 15 minute upward hike to the Citadel but don’t let that deter you! Once you reach the top, you can visit the small maritime museum and enjoy incredible views below.

The entry fee into the maritime museum is only 3 euros. The museum is really interesting. It is big enough to learn something and small enough to stay engaged. It is also interactive which makes it enjoyable for both adults and kids alike.

Don’t forget to walk outside and savour those magnificent views of the harbour, the old town and the sparkling blue seas beyond.

Looking for a great day trip to St. Tropez from Nice? Check out these wonderful options below:

For the links below, I receive a small commission when you purchase. You don’t pay more when you buy through my site.

France, Saint Tropez - view of the gulf from above
Saint Tropez – View of the gulf from above
Photo by Laurent Dechoux on Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

For more French Riviera Travel Tips in the footsteps of the Impressionists, check out the articles below