St. Tropez’s Beach Clubs (2020)
St. Tropez’s beach is one of the most famous in the world, and certainly the most posh beach party scene on the French Riviera. There are yachts. And stars. And lots and lots of beaches with tanned bodies sprawled about them dressed in little more than a squirt of SPF 4. The dreamy coastline near St. Tropez’s is filled with so many stunning beaches that choosing which one to visit can be a tricky affair.
Located a 15-minute drive outside of the village of Saint-Tropez, Plage Pampelonne is the stretch of beach that has some public space and a lot of private beach clubs / restaurants. Knowing which is the trendiest this year, getting reservations for the right table, and how to dress for them, is a major preoccupation for many jet-set. Here’s your guide to navigating the beach clubs of St. Tropez:
How St. Tropez became THE beach destination
In the beginning there was Chez Camille, a bouillabaisse restaurant that since 1912 has sat on the water at one end of Pampelonne. Patrice de Colmont’s father camped on the beach nearby in 1948, then bought a fisherman’s house on the sand. When travelers passed, he and his wife would offer them hospitality. In 1955, Brigitte Bardot and her husband, director Roger Vadim, were shooting And God Created Woman on the beach, and mistook the Colmonts’ cabana for a bistro. The crew boss asked Madame Colmont if she would cook for the troupe. When filming ended, Bardot and Vadim stayed—and Club 55 was born, as an invitation-only restaurant for “the people we like,” says Patrice, who was eight-years-old at the time.
Yet despite its well-earned hedonistic reputation, St-Tropez possesses a certain mystique that has lingered here since long before a pouty young ingénue named Brigitte Bardot came along in the mid-1950s and splashed the whole town with limelight. Saint-Tropez was already popular at the beginning of the 20th century, when it attracted Colette, Matisse, and the Prince of Wales, but it is the beach clubs that bring today’s equivalent of royalty: P. Diddy, Claudia Schiffer, Leonardo DiCaprio, and every major supermodel.
With an eclectic mix of frolicking children, cigar-chomping moguls, designer-clad women, topless girls, and tattooed boys, the beach clubs seem intent on proving that you can never be too rich, too chic, too tan, too lifted, too bejeweled, or too old a man with too young a girl.
La Voile Rouge is the infamous beach club where topless sunbathing first took off. The raucous parties there —where disco pumps into the afternoon, and almost as much champagne is poured over half-naked women as is swilled by them— were decidedly hedonistic. So much so, in fact, that a group of Tropeziéns lobbied to have it shut down, and succeeded. Of course, the hedonism has since dispersed to other beach clubs, not dissipated.
A guide to Plage Pampelonne: Saint Tropez’s Famous beaches
Saint Tropez is the place to go if you like to experience the m’as-tu vu (that is, see and be seen, or literally “have you seen me”) beach vibe. So after breakfast, hop in your rental and drive to the famous beach club area named Plage de Pampelonne , which is about 15 minutes from St. Tropez. In reality this beach belongs to the closest village of Ramatuelle rather than to Saint Tropez itself, which is around six kilometres away.
This is where you will find some of the south of Europe’s most infamous beach clubs (see the list below). The famous and infamous have tanned their body parts along the sandy stretch of Pampelonne beach, where umbrella-covered clubs line up like obedient clones. The sea and surf are more than inviting, and the lure of tripping over the outstretched feet a famous person is irresistible. You can hire a sun lounger and parasol on the beach, or dine in the restaurant, there is no pressure to do both. Some of the beach clubs are set back from the beach and have a pool for guests to enjoy, although the sea is never far away.
This wide sand beach is nearly three miles long and has around forty private beach clubs with restaurants, bars, and sun loungers, and numerous public beaches, along with a distinctly noticeable nude beach. Public stretches are packed, but also available. There are lifeguards on duty all along this long stretch of sand. During the busy summer months the water can become rather crowded as yachts moor off the coast and ferry in their guests to the prestigious beach clubs for lunch.
You’ll want to be comfortably seated by 2pm, though as that’s when the clubs generally get going with live music and a dancing staff, eager to pour you drinks and serve you lobster. The most famous beach clubs get booked up, so reserve ahead.
Wherever you end up for lunch, the day’s goal will be to walk to the end of Pampelonne, which takes about 1 hour. So, once you’re properly satiated and lubricated, head south and walk past some of the famous clubs, then grab a taxi back to the car.
Or, once you’ve had your fill of thumping DJ-spun music and 20-euro glasses of rosé wine, take a hike. Literally. The Sentier du Littoral (coastal path) follows the perimeter of the St-Tropez peninsula, from the ramparts at the far end of the port to the top of Pampelonne beach (or do it backwards). The footpath meanders past the town’s cemetery (killer views, no pun intended), hidden villas, and several tempting crystalline swimming holes. Once at Pampelonne, take the Rue de Tahiti two miles back to town.
Adult-Focused St. Tropez Beach Clubs
Beautiful women, boats, music… these are the key features of the most glamorous of the Pampelonne beach clubs, where guests often arrive by helicopter and enjoy sunbathing topless. Here are the best beach clubs in St. Tropez:
Orange beach umbrellas contrasting with the colors of the sea, a restaurant serving freshly-caught fish and sushi, the loveliest shop on the beach. It’s worth a visit at least once, more peaceful in the morning, it starts getting crowded around lunchtime and reaches its peak at aperitivo time.
Club 55 is the most famous beach club on Pampelonne Beach. It was used in a scene of the famous Bridgette Bardot film ‘And then God Created Woman’, and it has been wildly popular with the jet set ever since. It’s a classic, as beautiful as a vintage postcard. Sunbathe on large airbeds on the sand and sip Champagne at the always crowded restaurant.
Despite it’s rustic simplicity, it is quite splendidly expensive, and the food isn’t that much chop compared to what you can get elsewhere, but none of the A-listers who come here seem to really care. It’s picture perfect for lunch with light blue table clothes, fresh flowers, and large baskets of vegetables. Don’t forget to visit the boutique.
The most popular club, you have to book at least one week in advance, it’s always packed. But it’s worth the effort: a harmonious mix of white and light-blue evoking the carefree ease of summertime. One of the coast’s must-sees, even you’re not the fashionable beach club type.
The original luxury St Tropez beach club, this venue combines music, dining, entertainment, fashion, film, and art in an understated, luxurious vibe. Nikki Beach is for those who want to be part of the glamour and glitz of life on the Cote d’Azur. It’s achingly stylish, with the requisite plush daybeds and pool, but it also loves a party, with big-name DJ’s spinning chilled day beats and dance music throughout the summer months. Its extensive menu includes sushi, salads, freshly-caught seafood, and rotisserie chicken.
This beautiful St. Tropez beach club has a chilled-out yet sophisticated vibe, with cocktails, sunbeds and colorful dishes. Light and tasty creations with a distinctive Mediterranean accent, all made from top quality produce and created by the Byblos executive chef, Rocco Séminara.
This is where to go for sun & dancing, but in a more relaxed Caribbean style. You can taste selections of sushi and sashimi and check out their small, super chic department store with four shops for him and her.
One of the most eco-friendly St. Tropez beach clubs, here you can relax in a Mediterranean atmosphere, indulge in the Shisha or cocktail bar, and buy St Tropez fashions in its very own boutique. Designed by Philipp Plein, this beach club is a rhapsody in white, where privacy is protected, but with great music and dancing at sunset.
Set in the relaxed vibe of a cabana, the menu includes tapas for sharing, grilled fish and fresh local produce, with events throughout the season including live concerts, DJ sets, sand golf, and photographic exhibitions.
Family-Friendly St. Tropez Beach Clubs
In addition to the best-known clubs, here is a list of more family-friendly beach clubs:
Two neighboring family-oriented beach clubs (Restaurant Tiki Beach and the more casual Tiki Club) attached to a rustic villa-style hotel (Tiki Hutte), campground (Kon Tiki), and affordable, slightly-inland thai restaurant (Tiki Thai). A great option for kids. Orange umbrellas and strategic position in the middle of the Pampelonne coastline, where the water is wonderfully clean and clear. If you drive a Tesla, there’s a charger on the property.
Small beach club almost at the end of the Pampelonne beach, with a chill vibe and music that doesn’t get as loud as the other beach clubs. Has live music every night in July and August.
An Asian-chic atmosphere with wooden interiors. Excellent fusion cuisine combining Oriental flavors and French dishes.
White, in all its nuances: relaxation, a beautiful beach, gourmet cuisine based on top-quality local ingredients and regional flavors by chef Eric Santalucia, trained at Alain Ducasse. The restaurant is set in the back, and does not have a sea view, but the setting is still very picturesque. Pick up a bohemian sun cover-up or some jewelry at the boutique.
Food & Wine
A small glossary that will allow you to enjoy the St. Tropez beach clubs to their fullest:
Moules Frites: mussels with a side of skinny french fries
À la Piscine: Champagne served on the rocks
Granadine: alcohol-free drink with strawberry or sour black cherry syrup diluted with water and ice
Caffè Gourmet: a taste of a selection of desserts by the chef (there are always macarons included)
Tarte Tropézienne: a brioche filled with a mix of vanilla and lemon cream
There are water sports aplenty to enjoy on Pampelonne. Jet skiing, windsurfing, paddle boarding are all available at kiosks dotted all the way along the beach.
When to go & Things to Note
Many people don’t realize that the inviting-looking Pampelonne beach at Saint-Tropez is mostly shared by private beach clubs that charge substantial amounts. At the famous celebrity haunt, Club 55, two sun-loungers and an umbrella will run you from €50 to €100 a day, depending on time of year and proximity to the water’s edge. The more famous the club, the more expensive the sun lounger hire.
Remember to book your sun lounger in advance during July and August. Lunch and dinner reservations are also recommended during the summer period.
During the summer months of July and August, the public beach can become busy and crowded. Your beach towel may overlap that of your neighbor’s but if you are prepared to walk, you should be able to find a more spacious plot.
If you prefer your beach time to be a bit more tranquil then consider visiting in low season, towards the end of September when the sun is still warming every inch of body and soul, when the beach chairs are half occupied, and you can enjoy this long white sandy beach at its best.
Facilities are excellent, with public toilets, showers and three first aid stations with life guards on duty from mid-June to mid-September.
practical information: Getting There
While it is possible to walk to, Plage de Pampelonne is about six kilometers (a 15 to 30 minute drive depending on traffic) from town by car and the narrow windy roads aren’t pedestrian friendly. If you decide to take the coastal walk, bring appropriate shoes and know that it’ll take you more than two hours each way.
Where to Park
It’s cash-only when it comes to parking, and there isn’t anywhere to park that won’t cost you money. Parking (a 4€ to 5€ fee) is available in one of the six access points. The beaches are all located along Pampelonne, so park at the northern end of the long beach. Then, it’s an easy walk or quick taxi ride to Tahiti Beach, one of the Riviera’s most famous beach clubs. Adorned with bright orange and white-striped umbrellas and a private dock, this is where your adventure will begin. Enjoy the people watching as guests arrive on foot but also via the sea.
Don’t have a car?
A taxi from the town centre to Pampelonne will cost about 30€. There are infrequent buses from the town center, and you can learn more about the buses here. You can hire a scooter for about €50 per day; it’s well worth it considering St Tropez taxis (all big black Mercedes) are €70 each way during high season and €30 during low season – ouch! If you’re not keen on a scooter your best bet is to use Uber (approx €10 each way), however these can also be hard to find at the best of times and almost non-existent out of peak season.