Saint Tropez is a fantastic jumping-off point to discover a Provençal heartland of vineyards, rolling fields of lavender and, of course, some downright gorgeous medieval villages. Whether you want to meander along the stunning Var coastline or venture up into the wild hills, this region is home to some of the most beautiful villages on earth.
The area around Saint Tropez is both the French Riviera and Provence in one. The landscape, history and architecture combine in a most breathtaking way, something you’ll soon appreciate as you tour these top five villages from your base in Saint Tropez.
The medieval village a few kilometres back from the coast is a real treat of a different kind. Deeply picturesque and full of charm, the old village of Ramatuelle is a maze of cobbled streets and dark corners, with the obligatory number of boutiques, galleries and restaurants expected within such a short distance of St Tropez’s buzzing helicopters and giant superyachts.
Need to know: While old Ramatuelle feels light-years away from the champagne-spraying shenanigans found at the beach clubs, it’s not uncommon to see a celebrity or two wandering through the pretty lanes whilst hidden behind big sunglasses and a floppy sun hat.
The beautiful medieval village of Bormes-les-Mimosas was once just called boring old Bormes, before its stunning flower displays earned it its new, fancier title.
This is a lovely town where colourful explosions of flowers clamber all over ancient stone and charming restaurant terraces offer breathtaking views across the Mediterranean coast. Explore the galleries and boutiques in the narrow cobbled laneways and walk up to the medieval castle where you can picnic in the grounds under the pines (although entry to the castle is sadly forbidden). For those wishing to stretch their legs further, Bormes-les-Mimosas is in great hiking and biking country with the forested Maures hills offering lots of outdoor activities.
Need to know: If you want to escape the summertime heat and crowds, visit Bormes-les-Mimosas in January to March when the yellow mimosa flower is in full bloom, creating a rolling yellow carpet across the hills and coast of Provence. Follow the whole Route du Mimosa if you can, stopping at villages and local flower festivals as you go. The contrast of red rock, blue sea, and vivid sprays of yellow mimosa is simply unforgettable.
Perched on a hill and surrounded by the Maures hills, the medieval village of Grimaud is dominated by the ruins of its 11th-century castle. This is a wealthy town and it’s been lovingly restored, with lots of pastel-painted Provencal buildings, low doorways, and cobbled streets. Take a walk up to the castle ruins (outdoor theatre productions are held under the ramparts in the summer evenings), and be sure to take a look at the rather splendid old windmill. There is a ruined aqueduct 3 km from the village and some great hiking to be had in the surrounding forest, or you can visit one of the excellent local vineyards.
Need to know: For those a bit less spry or just feeling a bit weary of all the steep medieval village streets, Grimaud caters for you too. There’s actually a striking glass and iron lift running from the bottom of the village to the top.
Just over an hour’s drive from Saint Tropez into Provence backcountry, you’ll find the large medieval village of Cotignac. Built in the shadow of towering cliffs riddled with caves and holes, humans have been living here since prehistoric times. In later centuries, houses were built into the cliffs and a few of the lower ones are still in use today. Cotignac is a lovely and vibrant town, with plenty of cafes, markets, and a wonderful outdoor theatre at the base of the cliffs. You might find yourself wanting to stay a while, and you certainly wouldn’t be alone in doing so, Cotignac has a very healthy expat community in the summer months.
Need to know: There are two stone towers called ‘sentinelles’ standing guard on top of the cliffs. To reach them, there’s a trail that leaves town and circles around so you can stand on top of the cliffs looking down on the village. Other nearby attractions include a lovely waterfall about 3km away, while also strongly recommended is the 40km drive further inland to the magnificent Gorges du Verdon with its shockingly aquamarine water.
Bargeme is listed as one of the most beautiful villages in all of France, and is definitely worth the 85km drive into the hills to get there. The highest village in Provence, Bargeme is set on a ridge above a lonely valley with spectacular views of the craggy cliffs, rolling fields, and forests stretching all around. This medieval village feels positively ancient, with its castle lying in partial ruins since the Wars of Religion raged in the 1500s. The town is immaculately kept and has an active village life for the residents and farmers of the area. Bargeme is definitely one for the medieval enthusiasts, you can almost imagine the knights riding through its cobbled streets. Take your camera because, while the village is small, there are some blindingly good views and many an archway to capture the perfect shot of the ruined castle or the giant cliffs towering up behind the village.
Need to know: There is some great hiking in these parts, in fact, you can pick up the long-distance hiking trail GR49 only five minutes out of the village and hike the 10km to Jabron Village and then even further to the mighty and unmissable Gorges du Verdon. Or you could just jump in the car...
That’s our pick of five of the stunning villages within a fairly easy reach of Saint Tropez. If you want to read about the most beautiful villages to the east of Saint Tropez, along the Riviera, visit our top villages to visit from Cannes.