Saint-Raphaël is the seaside resort that lie furthest to the east in the department of the Var, at the border of the department of the Alpes-Maritimes. Saint-Raphaël merges into Fréjus, only separated by the Pédégal river. Saint-Raphaël is particularly popular with Dutch, Belgian, German and English tourists, but the French tourists like to come there too. Saint-Raphaël has everything to offer to ensure a wonderful holiday, a wonderful climate, beautiful sandy beaches and breathtaking nature, a nice marina and also a lively center full of restaurants, cafes and boutiques. From Saint-Raphaël you can easily drive to Cannes or Saint-Tropez, both about 45 km away.
Discover a selection of the most beautiful places and attractions in Saint-Raphaël
There are already traces of Roman domination in the area of Saint-Raphaël from the year 49 BC, with the foundation of the Forum Julii, and characterised by farms with vineyards and olive cultivation. Because of its location near the sea there was also maritime trade, which is confirmed by the discovery of several Gallo-Roman wrecks, and the remains of an ancient Roman lighthouse. From the 4th century dates a mausoleum with stone walls, built under the supervision of the church. The name of Saint-Raphael is first seen from ecclesiastical documents that date from the 11th century and relate to the construction of the church, which also features an image of the archangel Raphael. The archangel Raphael was chosen by the village inhabitants in 1690 for the coat of arms of the village. In the 18th century, the city developed into a port with the main income of fishing. Napoleon acts twice in the history of Saint-Raphaël, in 1799 he landed there after the end of the Egyptian campaign, and in 1814 he left Saint-Raphaël for Elba. In later times the city became popular with writers and artists, including Victor Hugo, Alexander Dumas and Guy de Maupassant who lived there for a short or longer period. The coast near Saint-Raphaël was on 15 August 1944 the landing site of Operation Dragoon, in which 30,000 soldiers took part. Today Saint-Raphaël is a tourist attraction.
The number of permanent residents of Saint-Raphael was 36.000 in 2015.
Saint-Raphaël has a Mediterranean climate, with the following average temperatures per month: January 10 February 10 March 12 April 14 May 17 June 21 July 25 August 25 September 22 October 18 November 14 December 11
Situated on the beautiful Côte d'Azur, at the foot of the characteristic red rocks and the sharp reliefs of the foothills of le Massif d'Estérel, Saint-Raphaël is one of the most prized beach resorts the French Riviera. With 36 kilometres of beautiful coastline and 30 different sand and shingle beaches plus a plethora of water sports, Saint-Raphaël is perfect for those who want to simply relax and enjoy a leisurely pace of life in a refined setting... It is thought that the Ancient Greeks may have been the first to settle in the area and certainly, the Romans used it as a pleasing summer resort! The first proper community was established in the area by the monks of the Lérins Island who built a fishing port there, but during the 11th century, it came under the control of the monks at nearby Fréjus. Napoleon settled there in 1799 after his successful Egyptian campaign, but in 1814, he left Saint-Raphaël as the dethroned Emperor for exile on the island of Elba. Saint-Raphaël remained little changed until the arrival of the railways in the 19th century when it was one of the first places to become a very popular holiday destination for the affluent aristocracy from England and other more northern European countries. They built luxury villas and stayed for the winter as they found that the climate is milder in the Côte d’Azur. The Old Town is a maze of narrow flower-filled streets built around the Church of San Rafeu (also known as Templars' Church) and its distinctive watch tower. The church was built on the site of a much older building in the 6th century.
A larger church was built around the original building in the 11th century and this was extended further 100 years later as the community grew. In the 14th century, defensive ramparts were added. The church was extended a second time during the 19th century. In the church rectory, the Marine Archaeological Museum is housed with its collection of ancient amphorae and Roman anchors as well as Palaeolithic tools – and offers free entrance! The museum also has a unique display of pioneering diving equipment with information about the history of diving from Roman times until Jacques Cousteau. Interestingly, there are many shipwrecks located right along the south coast of France. It is well worth climbing the 128 steep steps up the church tower as there is a great view to enjoy of the bay stretching as far as Saint-Tropez in the distance – be sure to time your visit though as the church bell is very loud!. Not far from the church stands the Byzantine style basilica that was built in the 19th century. The basilica is quite plan inside but has impressive stained-glass windows and hosts regular music and light shows during the winter months. There are coffee shops and little shops scattered throughout the Old Town and there is a daily fruit and vegetable market. There is an interesting guided tour of the Old Town every Thursday morning, which is organised by the Tourist Office. The Promenade de Bains is a large pedestrian area that leads to the nautical centre and is perfect for a stroll at any time of the day. On one side of the promenade are the beaches of Veillat and Beau-Rivage and on the other side, the lush public gardens. The harbour of Saint-Raphaël is pretty and has beaches on either side of it, with a number of coffee shops for a leisurely coffee.
The beaches to the east of the harbour are packed by elegant Regency hotels, small shops and several street cafés. Just to the south of the harbour is the Bonaparte Garden – a beautiful 20,000 sq metre landscaped garden that has been created on top of a car park! The stylish garden is in a Mediterranean style with palm trees, colourful plants and herbs. For children there is a large play area and there is often a photographic exhibition in the garden. There are good views of the harbour and bay. Bonaparte Garden is the perfect place to watch the sun set and often offers evening musical entertainment – check the advertising posters for the actual programm. The marked coastal path leads from the old harbour to the beaches and Baumette lighthouse – a distance of 12 kilometres. The route is interesting as it passes the small port of Santa-Lucia, Boulouris and Dramont beaches, the small harbour at PoussaÏ and the Bay of Agay. Interestingly, it was at Dramont Beach that the allied forces landed on 15 August 1944. 20,000 American soldiers serving with the 36th Texas Infantry Division landed there as part of 'Operation Dragoon' - the Allied invasion. The Bay of Agay is picturesque and perfect for those who enjoy water sports as it is possible to hire kayaks to paddle into Calanque du Petit Caneiret – a dramatic steep-sided creek. For those who enjoy really good walking, the route of Corniche d'Or was opened in 1903 and links Saint-Raphaël with Cannes. This route passes through breath-taking scenery and the Saint-Barthélemy Rock. Looking out to sea from Saint-Raphaël, there is a small islet facing Dramont Beach.
This is the Île d'Or, a small rocky islet that was virtually unknown until 1887 when it was bought by a local architect for the sum of 280 francs. Within a few years, it had passed to Dr Auguste Lutaud – some say as a wager in a game of cards. The doctor proclaimed himself 'Auguste the First', Sovereign of the island.This is the Île d'Or, a small rocky islet that was virtually unknown until 1887 when it was bought by a local architect for the sum of 280 francs. Within a few years, it had passed to Dr Auguste Lutaud – some say as a wager in a game of cards. The doctor proclaimed himself 'Auguste the First', Sovereign of the island. He had the distinctive tower that can be clearly seen, built in local red rocks and the islet soon became popular for large parties. Today, it is privately owned and looks particularly special at sunset. Nearby, there is a watch tower on Cap Dramont that is still used for observation today. A tower was originally built there in the 16th century to help protect the coastline and the current one was built in 1860. For those who enjoy water sports, there are plenty of opportunities in Saint-Raphaël! There are five harbours/marinas in the town, two sailing schools and six diving clubs – with courses available for all ages and abilities. Other sports include four golf courses in the surrounding area and six tennis clubs. For those who enjoy a more leisurely approach, the interesting town of Fréjus (just three kilometres away) has impressive Roman monuments and good beaches. There are a number of colourful local markets to enjoy including in Boularis on Monday mornings and Agay on Wednesdays. The Massif de L'Estérel makes an impressive backdrop to the town and along the coast there are several stunning looking bays and coves with pinky red rocks and lush greenery.
Inland, the massif covers 32,000 hectares with 13,000 of these classified and protected. The Massif de L'Estérel is situated on an extinct volcano and the landscape is absolutely superb. Reaching the summit is well worth doing as there are fabulous views to be enjoyed of the coast. It is an area that is remarkably quiet and tranquil and there is a variety of walking trails that average two-four hours in duration that really are worth doing. The plant and wild life are impressive, and it is not unusual to suddenly come across a family of wild boar or see magnificent birds of prey. The area is perfect for mountain biking too and there are opportunities for kayaking and rock climbing. If you prefer to enjoy a leisurely drive, this is perfect too and the scenic roads are popular with motorcyclists as well. There are plenty of places to enjoy a good meal in Saint-Raphaël. La Colle Canthe is situated in Port Santa-Lucia and has a good reputation for its fresh fish and seafood – including oysters, but be warned, the food is fantastic but the portions very generous! L'Annexe and La Table are two restaurants situated next door to each other and owned by the same person. They offer delicious Provençal dishes – both meat and fish – and L'Annexe has a good selection of vegetarian dishes including pasta. There are good local wines featured on the wine list too. Chez Gaston is another popular restaurant in the town that offers guests a great variety of traditional French dishes – with some irresistible desserts like chocolate fondant too! Saint-Raphaël has a busy calendar of cultural events throughout the year as it hosts a variety of conferences and conventions in its congress centre.
Throughout the year there are a number of events connected with jousting. Les Joutes Raphaëloises is the local jousting club that organises jousting tournaments and training sessions. Its members are very dynamic, and it is regarded as the top jousting club in France. As well as these great events, there are traditional celebrations that begin with the Carnival week and followed with celebrations for various Saints including the “Festival de la Sainte-Baume” and the “Festival de Saint Pierre” and “Celebration Saint-Honorat”. Saint-Raphaël also takes part in the Provençal Mimosa Week and hosts its own popular Jazz Festival. The Jazz Festival takes place in Esplanade Delayen and is a 4-day event that usually comprises of 50 different concerts. With so much to see and do and the beautiful climate of the Cote d'Azur all year through...it is hard to resist the chance to relax in beautiful Saint-
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