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TRAVEL
Word of Mouth: Saint-Tropez
TRAVEL
Word of Mouth: Saint-Tropez
Yacht-spotting, beach clubs, markets and people-watching in our guide to the glamorous hub in the south of France
by David Graver
on 31 July 2013

A premier stop for the jet-set community, the south of France carries prestige grounded first and foremost in the region's historic beauty. Sun soaks the beaches. Sailboats ride sea breezes, drifting between yachts. Dancing, drinks and dinner occur among playful elegance. At the pinnacle of all of this rests Saint-Tropez. The Mediterranean hot spot is luxurious and extravagant, but as we found on a recent visit, not altogether out of reach. A quick train or car ride from the Aéroport Nice Côte d'Azur, Saint-Tropez thrums with life as an enduring gem and cultural capital lighting up the provençal French Riviera.

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While Auberge de l'Oumède can gracefully meet all your vacation needs in one stop, the vast richness of the Saint-Tropez area cultivates countless offerings. A city designed to cater to a myriad of desires, set among sprawling vineyards, rising terraced hills and a settled sea, there are secrets for a full experience that anyone can engage. In fact, Saint-Tropez is a place worthy of exploration for all travelers with cultural curiosity. Grab €6 espadrilles from the local Spar supermarket chain, snag a La Tarte Tropezienne pastry and indulge the best of the best.

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Kulte

The city has a wardrobe. You'll find no end to high fashion along the streets, beach clubs and nightclubs, but for affordable Saint-Tropez apparel, Kulte clothing carries T-shirts, swimsuits and totes. Branded with what has become an iconic anchor—symbolizing a city that was once a fishing village—their wares match the surroundings. Clean, classic cuts meet stylish comfort not found elsewhere at this price. Further, any Kulte item will make a good gift for friends and family at home.

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Plage de Pampelonne

Saint-Tropez's beach experience doesn't end with salty water and sandy sprawl. Although there are public beaches, an experience would be incomplete without a beach club booking. There is a range of options along the Plage de Pampelonne, each with its own inherent value. Regardless of which you choose, always call in advance. A reservation is the difference between getting turned way, sitting 10 rows back or being right atop the water. Every beach club consists of structured lounge chair seating with a parasol as an optional addition. (When the midday sun strikes, you'll be grateful that there is more than the water to keep you cool.) Tahiti Beach Club and neighbor Bora Bora Beach Club are exciting options with a larger population of younger guests. You can laze about or begin dancing at the adjoining bar by noon. If you wake early enough you can also book on the day, a rarity in the region.

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Famed Club 55 and its celebrity clientele sits further down the beach. It's advisable to book well in advance if you want the definitive luxury experience. Landing a space at Club 55 isn't a necessity, however. Book anywhere along Pampelonne and you can stroll over to 55's restaurant and bars to see what all the fuss is about. Their iced tea, served only at the restaurant bar, is one of the most refreshing beverage for miles.

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La Forge de Ramatuelle

Climb the mountains of Ramatuelle, the rural outskirts of Saint-Tropez, and you'll find a restaurant where the best view of the low-laying lands meets world-class food. La Forge de Ramatuelle, sloping along Rue Victor Léon, bears both a refined inside dining room as well as outside seating on their front terrace. The view is breathtaking, especially as the sun sets and the nighttime energy of the village begins to enrapture. With delicacy, thought and the best local ingredients paired with homemade pastas, the menu wows. Their wine selection is also excellent, though Aperol Spritzes dot most tables.

For lunch or a coffee, nothing feels quite as fancy as the boutique and restaurant at Christian Dior—found on Rue François Sibilli—with its glamorous clientele. But La Forge is a must. The venue matches a more delicate version of the Saint-Tropez experience and although you can run wild running up a tab, you can just as easily take in the environs with lighter fare.

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L'Esquinade

The global nightlife acclaim of Les Caves du Roy lends itself to long lines, a tricky door and expensive drinks. For those reasons, and many more, our favorite club is L'Esquinade. This underground dwelling delivers raucous DJs, a packed floor and hours of operation that allow a sunrise to factor into your night. Real celebration takes place here under strobing, colorful lights. That said, if the bar scene is more your style, Senequier's outside establishment touches the Saint-Tropez harbor. You can order a cocktail, wine or beer and with its historic terrace frequented by personalities, it is the perfect spot for both boat and people watching.

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Place des Lices Marché

On Tuesdays and Saturdays, from sunup to mid-afternoon, the Place des Lices at Saint-Tropez's city center turns into a lively open-air market. Place des Lices Marché is worth a wander, shaded and with surprises tucked in every corner. Locals meets tourists amid the bustle of the bazaar, which boasts everything from spices to antique treasures. You can eat, shop and scope out gifts all at once and, for a mere €2, you can own locally made soaps in every scent imaginable. There aren't many bargains to be had in this sparkling city, but if you're looking for one, this is the place to be.

Photos by Jeffrey Keefe

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