Once a grand and glamorous resort at the beginning of the 20th century, Saint Raphael was sadly blitzed during the second World War. Many of the belle époque buildings were destroyed and so the atmosphere of the town is not exactly Saint Tropez.
The jet-setters loss is the family holidaymakers gain, as it is now far more affordable. It remains an important sailing centre and is also renowned for its diving schools. Saint Raphael hosts a daily food market, and arts & crafts stalls are on display during the summer. There are a number (36!) of small beaches in the area, and plenty of walking trails and other activities in the countryside behind the town.
History & Culture in Saint Raphael
St Raphael is situated in the Var department in the region called Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur. In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte and his forces arrived by ship from Egypt, prior to his coup d'état in Paris, and landed at a fishing village that was the commune of Frejus Saint-Raphaël.
The coastal rail link between Saint-Raphaël and Nice passes over a viaduct that sits right on the shoreline at Anthéor. These tracks were of strategic importance to forces during World War II for supplying materials to units in France. Three separate air raids by English air forces were carried out on the viaduct between September 1943 and February 1944, involving a total of thirty-one Lancaster bombers operating some seven hundred miles from base. All the raids failed in their objective and the rail link was not severed.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century the town developed into a seaside resort popular with artists, sportsmen and politician. Much of this was due to the influence of mayor Felix Martin and the writer Alphonse Karr, plus the beneficial climate.
Sights & Attractions in Saint Raphael
Saint Raphael is rich in history, dating back to its ancient past as a seaside resort for the Romans.You can learn all about the local area in the Museum of Prehistory and Underwater Archaeology, located in the San Rafeu church. In 1799 Napoleon Bonaparte and his forces arrived by ship from Egypt, and he also stopped here on his way into exile on the island of Elba- there's a small memorial in the port. A walk around the town will reveal some stunning buildings from the 18th and 19th centuries, one of the most spectacular being the Basilique Notre-Dame de la Victoire- a 'must see' if you are in St Raphael.
The neighbouring town of Frejus is renowned for it's Roman ruins and is well worth a visit.
Beaches in Saint Raphael
With numerous beaches along the St Raphael coast you will not be short of places to sunbathe, swim, snorkel and explore the rockpools and cliffs. The bay of St Raphael and the marine nature reserve of Agay also have a host of dive sites and there are various dive schools you can use as a great way to explore the area further.
Things to Do in Saint Raphael
With so many beautiful areas to visit along the coast, why not take advantage and take a boat trip? There are many available that can take you to St Tropez for the day, or perhaps the Island of Sainte-Marguerite, or even just a sight seeing trip along the coastal cliffs and caves.
With numerous beaches along the St raphael coast you will not be short of places to sunbathe, swim, snorkel and explore. The bay of St Raphael and the marine nature reserve of Agay also have a host of dive sites and there are various dive schools you can use as a great way to explore the area further!
Nightlife in Saint Raphael
Where to Stay in Saint Raphael
There are plenty of two and three star hotels in the town offering good value accommodation. There is a lovely boutique style hotel called La Villa Mauresque just outside the resort on the coast. Behind St Raphael are several campsites, catering for families and the budget traveller.
Sitting in the shadow of a grand mountain on a red rock coastline that contrasts vividly with the blue sea, Saint Raphael has been a seaside resort since ancient Roman times. Located halfway between Cannes and Saint Tropez, San-Raphael lies is on the main train line that runs along the Riviera from Italy to Marseilles, and also connect the South of France to Paris. It is also the train station you would have to stop at to get on one of the buses or boats that run to Saint Tropez. If driving, Saint Raphael is very accessible as it's just off the A8 motorway, while buses connect here for Nice, Saint Tropez and other Riviera towns.