Hotel Byblos – Lebanese billionaire Jean-Prosper Gay-Para opened his storied hotel just as Saint-Tropez was hitting the high-society radar in 1967, and it’s been making noise ever since. Composed of terra-cotta buildings with brightly painted shutters encircling a pool, it has the feel of a humble (though luxurious) Provencal village. But just a few steps from your cream-colored room, other personalities emerge: There’s the infinitely romantic Alain Ducasse restaurant (choose a wrought-iron table outside); the Sisley spa, with a room transported from a 17th-century palace in Beirut; and of course, Les Caves du Roy, one of the hottest clubs in town.
Hotel de Paris Saint-Tropez – Interior designer Sybille de Margerie recast this icon on the Traverse de la Gendarmerie to reflect the flamboyance of the ’60s and 70s. Inside the 52 rooms and 38 suites, you’ll find mid-century furnishings, plush throw pillows and mosaic-tiled bathrooms with rain showers. Repeat guests know to take lunch in the rooftop lounge, Les Toits, where swimsuits are acceptable attire; the glass pool is suspended over the atrium lobby, affording spectacular views from below and Riviera vistas from above. The concierge can secure you an impossible-to-find pair of loungers at most of the top beach clubs and will shuttle you there gratis.
Hotel Le Yaca – Le Yaca prides itself on its location, secreted away in the maze of lanes far from the crowds. The 18th-century former townhouse at the bottom of the Citadel shows its age proudly with heavy exposed beams, wrought-iron balustrades and terra-cotta floor tiles. Its enchanting garden and pool have made Le Yaca a great hideaway for paparazzi-allergic guests from Greta Garbo to Jean Paul Gaultier. If you like your nights on the Riviera quiet, then this is the retreat for you.
Explore – Ruled by the Moors during the 9th and 10th centuries, Ramatuelle lies just south of the official borders of Saint-Tropez. It’s where all the best beaches are, and it’s only a few miles away. Sainte-Maxime, across the bay, is protected from those famous mistral winds, turning it into a sunny haven for families (there’s a water park here) and adventurers looking to scuba and windsurf off the sugar-sand beaches. The fortified village of Grimaud, built by the Grimaldis, is renowned for its 11th-century castle and gallery nights that pack the streets on Thursdays from July through September. Nearby, the affordable inland town of Gassin, where Mission: Impossible’s Emma-nuelle Beart was born, is known for its winding streets, wineries and ancient houses, all kept intact.
Rent a Riva – The slim-lined mahogany Aquarama-Riva’s most celebrated runabout design-was in production for just 35 years beginning in 1962, but it’s still the stuff’ of legend. The Ferrari of the boat world has secured its place in popular culture, starring in films like Golden Eye and Ocean’s Twelve and luxury ad campaigns with Charlize Theron and Jude Law. They’re hard to come by, but boy do they turn heads whenever they glide into a slip. While the new-model Rivarama has modern appeal, it’s hard to beat the old-school original, which is easily the sexiest thing on water. Check boatbook-ings.com and suncap.fr for a selection of Aquaramas available for captained charters by the day or week. Prices start at around R27 000 per day.
The Citadel – Make the steep hike up the wooded hill to this 17th-century castle overlooking town-it’s worth it. The fort, built to stave off the feisty Spaniards, is almost as impressive as the unobstructed views, but the star might be the award-winning museum in the dungeon, which opened in 2013. The Museum of Maritime History chronicles man’s relationship with the sea with interactive exhibits, waterlogged maps and other intriguing ephemera from the area’s 500-year-old maritime past.
La Tarte Tropezienne – Bardot played her part in this one, too. When the French beauty was first filming in town, she fell in love with a fluffy little brioche pastry made by baker Alexandre Micka, which he’d split in half and fill with two types of sweet cream. After becoming a regular, she begged him to give her favourite treat a name. Now you find Tarte Tropeziennes all over the world, but to sample the best version fresh, hit the counter at Aux Deux Freres, at 3 Rue des Commercants.