Recently, I had the pleasure of traveling to St. Maxime and St. Tropez along the French Riviera, a.k.a. la Côte d’Azur. I’ve never been to the French Riviera, so this was quite a learning experience for me! I expected beautiful beaches, warm weather, and a laid back atmosphere, and that’s exactly what I got.
I flew into Nice Airport in the afternoon and drove along the A8 to St. Maxime, where I was staying for six days. The home I was staying in was at the top of a hill overlooking the Mediterranean. From my bedroom window, I could see St. Tropez on the other side of the Gulf of St. Tropez, as well as the city of St. Maxime below. The weather was dry, warm, and breezy, which makes for great weather to sit outside and read a good book. It was everything I could have asked for and more; perfection.
During my visit, I decided to do a bit of exploring around St. Maxime. I went into the old town center (the oldest part of St. Maxime) around 11am and found an outdoor market full of produce, spices, cheeses, meats and so much more!
From there, I walked toward the old church, passing shops and cafés along the way. The St. Maxime church is a small, stone church honoring the namesake of the town. In one of the alcoves, there stands a display of St. Maxime herself adorned with a crown of jewels, and a large painting depicting her turning away the riches of her royal family to live a life of poverty. There is a beautiful stained glass over the main alter which tells the same story. At noon, you will hear the church bells play a melody for a minute or so. Don’t worry if you aren’t at the church when it happens. You’ll hear it no matter where you are in St. Maxime.
The next day was spent in St. Tropez. In the morning, I took a taxi boat (Les Bateaux Verts) from St. Maxime to the crowded docks of St. Tropez. Most of the day was spent walking around and window shopping. I didn’t have much of a plan for the day except to explore. All the shops and restaurants are ULTRA expensive and the weather was REALLY hot, so I didn’t spend much time in St. Tropez. I did get some great photos though!
St. Maxime is more family friendly compared to the high-end, pricey St. Tropez. Both are wonderful in their own way, but I’d recommend staying in St. Maxime and taking Les Bateaux Verts to St. Tropez for some day trips. A 13,50€ ticket gets you to and from St. Tropez, and you can leave anytime (a boat leaves every 20 minutes). St. Tropez is very expensive (you’ll figure this out quickly when you see the Dior, Oscar de la Renta, and Gucci store fronts), so plan accordingly. Maybe set a budget so you aren’t tempted to spend 900€ on a purse.
It’s hard to plan a day in either town because there isn’t much to do unless you own a boat or like going to the beach for an entire day. You will quickly realize when you arrive that you are meant to relax and just enjoy being in the moment. If you are an adventurer like me, I’d recommend starting your day at the outdoor markets (they close around noon for lunchtime), then get lost in the many back roads and alleys of St. Maxime and St. Tropez. The city is very safe (just be cautious of pickpockets), so you don’t have to worry about meeting a Wayne family type of end in a back alley.
My Tips for Visiting St. Maxime/ St. Tropez
- Don’t speak French? Don’t worry! Just about everyone I talked to in town spoke English. I would start conversations in French, but when I started looking confused, they switched to English. If you are uncomfortable speaking French with them, just ask if they can speak English. Worst case scenario, you mime your way through a conversation.
- The air in St. Tropez is dry and can get very hot during mid-afternoon (at least in the summer months). Make sure to drink plenty of water and bring a bottle of water with you everywhere (a giant 1.5 liter bottle of water cost about 0,75€. Just bring a backpack or a large bag so you can carry it around with you while you explore). It might also be wise to plan some indoor activities or pool/beach time during the hottest part of the day.
- I’m told there is great nightlife like clubs and bars in St. Tropez, but I haven’t experienced it for myself. If you’re into that, enjoy!
- If you’re looking to meet some new people, go to the closest café! Especially in the morning, many people will be drinking their morning coffee at the zinc bar. If you want to sit down at a table in a café you have to pay extra (you are basically renting the table). Instead, people drink at the zinc bar for free. It’s like any other bar you’d find in your local pub, but there are no chairs to sit on.
- TRY THE TARTE TROPÉZIENNE! They are a local specialty and worth every carb and calorie. Sweet brioche buns filled with pastry cream and topped with crushed sugar. It’s as good as it sounds.
- St. Tropez can get expensive. If you aren’t looking to spend 30€+ per person for one meal, go to the local supermarket. Ready-to-eat sandwiches, snacks, drinks, and dessert could cost you 10€ per person, or less! Then you can sit along the docks, at the park, or on the water and eat while you take in the views.
Some extra photos:
Until my next adventure,