When French actress Brigitte Bardot splashed around the turquoise waters of Pampelonne beach in the 1950s, the nearby fishing village of Saint-Tropez officially entered the limelight. Well-heeled holiday goers have been descending on this French Riviera playground ever since, and summer is the saison d’être. Three-mile-long Pampelonne is lined with some of the South of France’s best beach bars and beach clubs – each has its own distinct draw, from Champagne-fueled dance parties to chilled-out, celebrity-beloved retreats.
The scene looks a bit different this summer, though: In 2015, the village of Ramatuelle passed regulations in an effort to protect Pampelonne’s rare flora and sand dunes. The result was a reduction of the number of beach clubs from 27 to 23, effective this year. Some longtime favorites bid adieu, but plenty remain, including two debuts from Virtuoso hotels – the 91-room Hotel Byblos and 40-room La Réserve Ramatuelle are dipping their toes in the Pampelonne sand this season.
While many beach clubs require a reservation to step on their allotted patches of paradise (your Virtuoso travel advisor can make arrangements), these three happily invite French Riviera sun-seekers to belly up to their bars, sip rosé (the elixir of choice here) all day, and soak up the sophisticated yet relaxed vibes that have made Pampelonne and Saint-Tropez legendary the world over.
Byblos Beach at the Hotel Byblos
The Hotel Byblos has greeted A-list guests in Saint-Tropez for more than 50 years, but this summer marks its first time on Pampelonne. The effortlessly chic Byblos Beach, about three miles from the hotel (there’s a shuttle for guests), has a restaurant facing the sea and 100 beach loungers available for rent, but reservations for those are elusive – ask your travel advisor to book well in advance. Luckily, the 30-seat beach bar and lounge cater to more spontaneous plans. Order a local Côtes de Provence rosé or a specialty cocktail such as the Byblos Tropical, made with Leblon Cachaça, ginger ale, passion fruit, and mint. Lounge music thumps all day, and dancing is welcome anytime the Pampelonne spirit calls.
La Réserve à la Plage at La Réserve Ramatuelle
A longtime favorite hotel hideaway in Ramatuelle is now welcoming guests to its new 75-chair, Philippe Starck-designed beach club. Reservations are required for La Reserve à la Plage’s restaurant – featuring a Mediterranean-inspired menu from La Réserve chef Eric Canino – but Le Bar is an ideal end-of-the-day primer for a night out in Saint-Tropez. Order wine from a list of stellar rosés, including many from vineyards just a stone’s throw away from the beach, such as Minuty and Château Barbeyrolles. A DJ starts the party every day at 2 pm, and there’s often live music too.
Opened in 2018, Le 1051’s bohemian, all-natural vibe (think light wood and white parasols everywhere) helps it blend in well with its Pampelonne surroundings. The restaurant is family-friendly (a bonus for many), while the bar and beach club serve an array of refreshing specialty cocktails such as the Lavandula – made with gin, grapefruit juice, and homemade lavender syrup. Summer promises themed parties and yoga sessions on the beach, and the bar’s weekly Wednesday happy hour (5 to 7 pm) – featuring cocktails for nine euros each – is one of the best deals in town.