Saint-Tropez, situated at the entrance to the lovely gulf, formerly called Gulf of Grimaud, is the capital of this little Saracen kingdom, of which nearly every village, built on the summit of a peak in order to secure it from attack, is still full of Moorish houses with arcades, narrow windows, wherein tall palm trees have grown up and are now higher than the roofs.
Guy de Maupassant
This was how Guy de Maupassant described, way back in 1887, this little fishing village hoisted to fame by Signac, Matisse and Colette. Picasso, inspired by the magic of the site, painted “L’odalisque” here and Françoise Sagan and Brigitte Bardot turned it into the meeting place of the stars! Not forgetting the actor Louis de Funès and his Gendarme de Saint-Tropez – the film that won worldwide acclaim!
But Saint-Tropez has so much more to offer than the usual clichés: an incredible quality of light, a unique bay and a charming village brimming with treasures just longing to be discovered!
At sunrise, when the waters in the bay are still and quiet, the harbour offers a delightful show of colourful frontages and pretty café terraces. This is the perfect time for savouring a coffee at Sénéquier in the footsteps of Errol Flynn and Paul Eluard, while admiring the little boats and large yachts moored at the quayside.
Every May, locals pay tribute to the saint in the street parade known as the Défilé des Bravades. As you stroll around the old town, guided by the bell tower standing proudly over the rooftops, you will come to Notre-Dame de l’Assomption church. This Italian Baroque-style church harbours the bust of Saint-Tropez!
These charming, winding lanes will lead you on to Place des Lices, where you can sit down at the “Café des Arts” to enjoy one of the memorable boules games forming part of everyday life in the village. And not only the locals play – celebrities love joining in too!
Don’t miss a visit to the Musée de l’Annonciade museum to understand how Saint-Tropez rose to fame from the 19th century onwards. It was actually Signac the master of the Pointillist movement who fell in love with the site, attracting the era’s most talented artists in his wake. The museum is also home to works by Matisse, Braque, Van Dongen, Camoin and Maillol.
If you want to enjoy the very best views over the bay, you’ll need to take a little exercise and climb all the way up to the early 17th century citadel overlooking the town and sea!
Don’t miss: the Saint Tropez Museum of Maritime History located in the dungeon in the heart of the citadel! Embark on a journey over the course of which you’ll meet famous characters such as the Bailli de Suffren, General Allard and Hyppolite Bouchard, a hero of the Argentinian independence movement, as well as a host of other lesser-known men and women who battled sea storms aboard trading vessels. At the foot of the citadel lies a moving naval cemetery, caressed by the waves…
FROM L’ODALISQUE TO AND GOD CREATED WOMAN
In 1951, Picasso spent the summer in Saint Tropez with his mistress, a young Geneviève Laporte, of whom he created a number of portraits and nudes. His famous ‘L’Odalisque’ drawing featured a naked Geneviève and stood out from all of his other sketches.
Its style is different. It does not resemble any other portrait by the artist: no torn, distorted or deconstructed faces here, Geneviève’s face appears calm and well-balanced. The lines hint at a sensual, timid and pure rhythm. In Saint Tropez, Picasso was reborn. In 1956, ‘And God Created Woman’ was filmed in Saint Tropez, featuring the very first naked scenes by Brigitte Bardot, captured by her husband Roger Vadim. The film was a box office sensation, especially in the United States, and the little village of Saint Tropez was transformed into an international success story.
Saint-Tropez’s natural beauties can best be explored by walking down from “tour du Portalet”, then heading along the sea front to the mythical Pampelonne beach, via Canebiers bay and the famous Madrague, forever associated with Brigitte Bardot who, having just celebrated her 80th birthday, is as loyal as ever to Saint-Tropez!