A quieter, quieter neighbor to Monaco and Cannes, Saint-Tropez has more of a traditional village feel. It’s easy to get off the beaten track and find yourself exploring a maze of alleyways or sitting in one of the square’s haunts sipping a long coffee with the locals.
The French Riviera town has been attracting the rich and famous since the 19th century but remains truly unspoiled – locals go about their daily lives, shopping in a butcher’s shop between Chanel and Dior boutiques.
Hotel Byblos is located just off Place des Lices, which hosts a Saturday market during the summer months. It’s only a short walk to the harbor where superyachts rub shoulders with fishing boats – and the market sometimes moves there.
Why come here?
In the mid-1960s, Lebanese billionaire Jean-Prosper Gay-Para began building Byblos, focusing on designing a luxury hotel that looked like a village within a village. Architects Christian Auvrignon, Philippe Monnin and Philippe Siccardon worked with Gay-Para to realize his dream of creating a bridge between the Côte d’Azur and the Middle East, by building a Provençal-style village made up of narrow houses of different shapes and of various sizes. To complete the look, an ancient olive tree was imported from Lebanon and planted in the grounds; it still stands today.
Rumor has it that Gay-Para built Byblos to impress French actress Brigitte Bardot, with whom he fell head over heels in love. She rebuffed his advances, not even making an appearance at the glitzy opening night attended by a host of international royalty, movie stars, singers, rock icons and writers.
Although distinctly French, nodding to the life of Saint-Tropez as a traditional fishing village, Byblos’ strong Greek influence is evident in both color (all creams, blues and earth terracotta) and through the art and ceramics that adorn the hotel’s walls, floors and swimming pool.
The family-run property is one of around 30 in France to have achieved “palace” status, a prestigious award given to hotels that show consistent levels of excellence.
Rooms and suites
The Byblos Hotel has 87 rooms including 47 suites. If you have the cash to burn, the crown jewel is the Missoni Suite. For its 50th anniversary, the hotel collaborated with the Italian fashion house to transform its famous bar into an ultra-luxury suite.
Generally, the bedrooms are a soothing celebration of muted tones and a lesson in restraint; the bathrooms are huge and mosaic; the beds are about the most comfortable I’ve tried – no squeaky backs in the morning here.
Spacious and comfortable, the rooms all have different views of the surroundings or the gardens. If you’re a fan of an early-morning party (staying indoors is the new outing, right?), be sure to ask for one away from the central area as the bar and club can get a bit noisy when the coolest cats come down to party. All night long.
Eat and drink
In January 2021, Italian Chef Nicola Canuti joined Byblos to lead the hotel’s food offering as Executive Chef. Canuti cut his teeth under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse before heading to Asia to work in a series of luxury hotels. Just before joining the hotel, he taught at the highest level at the legendary Paul Bocuse Institute in France.
Canuti has developed a garden a few doors down from the hotel that supplies the kitchen with a range of familiar and unusual ingredients (ask nicely and you might get a guided tour here). Particular attention is paid to herbs, which come in garnishes, infusions in oil or cream, or made into infusions.
Geoffrey Turpin, the hotel’s dedicated pastry chef, works alongside Canuti. Its Michelin background is evident in the staggering execution of every treat — from the elegant, perfectly flaky viennoiserie to the decadent (and quite intoxicating) rum baba breakfast served at the hotel’s flagship restaurant, Arcadia.
Arcadia’s menu is haute-Mediterranean, showcasing the best the region has to offer – bluefin tuna tartare with new season olive oil, sea salt and pickled vegetables; gazpacho of peas with mint, lobster and crème fraîche; beautiful and delicate little stuffed vegetables garnished with veal jus and truffles; fresh fish, grilled and filleted, at the table. Don’t miss the region’s favorite sweet treat, Tropézienne Byblos, which has had a five-star makeover.
Cucina is the Italian restaurant in Byblos chaired by Alain Ducasse. Here, a wood-fired oven takes pride of place among the outdoor tables – small pizzas to start are in order. There is the Puglia burrata, the vitello tonato, so many classics upscale. The star of the show is a deep, rich hug in a bowl – paccheri with confit beef cheek, guanciale and pearl onions.
What to do
The hotel is home to the legendary Caves de Roy (Les Caves Royales) which has been the hottest nightspot in Saint-Tropez, and indeed the Riviera since 1967, with queues of cool young people lining the street to enter. It was completely renovated in 2017, restoring some of the original ’60s features. Connoisseurs rate it alongside some of the most infamous nightclubs like Studio 54, Pacha and Le Palace; if you’re lucky you might even see the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio hanging around here buying rounds of bubbly for all.
For daytime getaways (or chasing cobwebs from the night before), a short shuttle ride to Pampelonne Beach is the hotel’s beach bar and restaurant, Byblos Beach. It sits right on the sand next to the sparkling sea; remarkably, this is entirely temporary, with local legislation requiring all structures on the beach to be removed for the winter season to prevent coastal erosion. You’d never guess, while sipping chilled rosé and munching on delicious Mediterranean treats (sourced as much as possible locally).
A must-order here is the amberjack ceviche, leche de tigre – thin, refreshing slices of citrus-flavored dried amberjack with a light coconut dressing infused with Thai flavors; and don’t miss Le Tout Chocolat – a tribute to all things chocolate. Deckchairs are also available, making Byblos Beach a great place for a siesta in the sun after lunch.
For the oenophiles among you, the hotel has partnered with Domaine Ott, a fabulous local vineyard producing remarkable wines; being the south of France, the emphasis is on rosé – their vines grow right down to the beach, giving an exquisite brackish note. Byblos has land dedicated to the production of its own rosé, available at the hotel bar and at Byblos beach.
For a bit of relaxation, Byblos has a fabulous Sisley spa with a steam room and a rather wacky shower that plays nightclub music with flashing disco lights. Not necessarily your thing? Me neither, but it takes everything.
Rooms at the Byblos Hotel start from £400 per night; byblos.com