Beautiful local sights and attractions
Discover a selection of the most beautiful places and attractions in Sainte-Maxime
Sainte-Maxime was founded around the year 1000 by monks from the Lérins Islands who built a monastery that they named after one of their saints. Fishi...Read More
The number of permanent residents of Sainte-Maxime is 14.500 in 2017...Read More
Sainte-Maxime has a Mediterranean climate, with the following average temperatures per month: January 10 February 10 March 12 April 14 May 17 Ju...Read More
SAINTE -MAXIME - TYPICALLY PROVENÇAL ...
Discover the magic of Provence in the town of Sainte-Maxime; with its unique colours, flavours and scents. Relax on a beach listening to the waves, wander in the colourful markets and enjoy a leisurely meal of excellent fish or a platter of local charcuterie - with a glass of French wine... Sainte-Maxime is a delightful town, situated in the French Riviera about 130 kilometres east of Marseille and 90 kilometres west of Nice. Although it has been popular with tourists since the 1930s, it has somehow managed to remain like a serene backwater where the residents still go about their daily business and visitors happily mingle into the queues for baguettes and croissants straight from the oven in the boulangerie or for the lovely fresh fruit and vegetables piled high on the market stalls. Sainte-Maxime sits on the northern shores of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez in southern France and is sheltered from the blustery winds of the Mistral by the mountains of the Massif des Maures that lie like a protective chain just to the north of the town. In AD 900 monks from the Lérins Islands near Cannes were searching for somewhere to establish a community and decided that the area was perfect. They built a monastery and spent their days fishing in the sea. Slowly, over the years a small fishing village developed near the monastery and became known as Sainte-Maxime. In the previous century (the 9th), Maxime had been the daughter of the wealthy Count of Grasse who had rejected all her family's wealth and had moved away to Callian where she founded a convent. A painting can be seen in the town's church which shows Maxime refusing a casket of gold.
The monastery and village flourished and in 1520 the monks constructed the Tour Carrée which can be seen standing protectively in front of the town. The monks were keen to protect their monastery and the town from Saracen raiders and the tower offers excellent views of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez. Today it is open to the public as it is a small museum of local history. As the town grew so did its trade and the villagers produced olive oil and wine as well as cutting timber and cork from the forests Massif des Maures. Strong trading links were established with Marseille and coastal towns in Italy and the goods were loaded on small sailing vessels called tartanes in the harbour and shipped along the coastline. By the early 20th century, the town with its Provençal charm, unspoilt countryside, clear Mediterranean waters and lovely climate, had begun to attract artists, writers and poets. During the World War II, one of the town's main beaches became the focus for Operation Dragoon which was launched on 15 August 1944 with the aim of invading and liberating Southern France. There was house-to-house fighting and eventually the Germans surrendered. Monuments to the American troops who fought in the operation can be seen by the harbour pier and La Garonnette beach. Later, as Saint-Tropez became famous, the whole area became popular with tourists but for some reason, Sainte-Maxime was passed by and even today has retained its delightful charm and remains unpretentious. Today there are hotels in the town and a number of attractive holiday villas and town houses to rent. The Old Town with its recently renovated cobbled streets is situated opposite the harbour and has a number of shops, cafés and restaurants.
The pier of Leon Condroyer has several shops plus an upmarket restaurant and is the place to join boat trips to Saint-Tropez, Port Grimaud and Les Issambres. The boat trip to Saint-Tropez is really frequent as it leaves every 15 minutes in the season. Sainte-Maxime has ten kilometres of beautiful coastline and there is an attractive promenade for some of it. The promenade is named Promenade Aymerie Simon-Lorière and is shaded in part by palm trees, pines and large cacti. It offers access to the town's beaches and also the Blue Flag beach where a lifeguard is on duty each day. There are also small gift shops and cafés with tables outside that are ideal for relaxing with a French coffee in the warm sunshine. To the west of the town is the beach of La Croisette which has a sailing school. The beaches to the east of the town include the Plage de la Nartelle which stretches for two kilometres and still has a couple of old wartime Sherman tanks on display. La Garronette (also known locally as Val d'Esquieries) is another popular beach and both of these beaches have water skiing and jet ski facilities. The third beach has the strange name of La Plage des Elephants. This beach was named after the blue elephant Babar that was featured in a series of children's stories written by Jean de Brunhoff and his wife Cécile, who lived in the town. Jean was inspired by the beach and wrote The Travels of Babar in 1937 which became much-loved by children across the world. If you prefer quieter beaches, there is Pointe des Sardinaux to discover. This pretty wooded headland is situated midway between La Nartelle and the town and has several small coves and a picnic area inland, under the trees, which is popular with local families.
If you enjoy snorkelling, it is an excellent spot with lovely clear water and plenty of sea life including tiny crabs, shrimps and sea urchins (best to wear plastic beach shoes!). There is little shade in the coves so it it well worth taking plenty of sun screen too. As well as tempting beaches for relaxing and the lovely blue waters of the Med that are perfect for a swim, there are plenty of other things to enjoy in and around Sainte-Maxime. Close to the promenade there is an area where boules is played and there is the chance to play a game or two by day or night as there are floodlights. Part of the Old Port has been extended and there are plenty of visiting yachts moored next to the local fishing boats. It is fun to take a stroll past the sleek yachts and maybe day dream a little or sit and watch the world go by! Sainte-Maxime is the ideal choice for golfers as there are eight different courses within thirty minutes’ drive of the town. For those who enjoy rambling and cycling, the Massif des Maures offers plenty of good routes with some pretty little villages to explore too. There is a good selection of restaurants to suit all budgets in the town and most serve Provençal dishes prepared using fresh local produce and of course, plenty of good fish. Café Maxime is situated right by the promenade and has a good reputation for its generously-sized salads and platters of charcuterie that are perfect for sharing. Café de France is situated on the edge of the Old Town overlooking the coast and is the oldest café as it first opened when Sainte-Maxime was just a fishing village. On its walls there are some marvellous old photographs of the fisherman and their boats as well the daily catch being unloaded and the nets laboriously mended.
The café has an outdoor terrace and has a set menu of a tasty two-course lunch at a good price. In the evening, there are regular performances by a local jazz band. Le Bistrot de Louis is situated in Place Colbert and is perfect for fish lovers as there is a really good fish soup on the menu and plenty of freshly caught fish – simply prepared and cooked and served with a wedge of fresh lemon so that the excellent flavour can be really appreciated. In the heart of the Old Town, just off Rue d'Alsace, there is a distinctive medieval archway and just next door to it, a small bistro called Le Porche which is well known for its delicious traditional dishes. Part of the fun of visiting France is to take a wander in a local market and Sainte-Maxime has an indoor market that has stalls filled with delicious local cheeses, fruit and vegetables, but those 'in the know' head to the back stalls of the market where there is a really excellent oyster bar. The indoor market is open daily throughout the year both in the early morning and late afternoon. The Fishermen's stall in the port is bustling with activity early each morning as the fishermen sell their catch to eager housewives. The Patio Fleuri market in Avenue George Pompidou is open every Monday morning (Fridays too in the summer season) and sells all types of delicious local produce as does the Provençal market in the Old Town which is held every Thursday morning. Both are well stocked with Provençal products such as local cheeses, olives and fresh lavender
Souvenirs and gifts
If you are looking for souvenirs and gifts to take home, the evening market which is held in the heart of the Old Town is great fun to visit with numerous stalls selling all types of arts and crafts including bags and jewellery. There is a lively Brocante (flea market) held on the promenade every Wednesday and there is usually a fascinating collection of knick-knacks including old pottery, copper work, old pieces of embroidery and lace and some interesting old prints – it really is a great way to find an unusual gift or souvenir to treasure! Sainte-Maxime really is a fun place to spend a holiday, where you can be as active as you want or do as little as you like. One thing is for sure, taking a stroll in the harbour in the moonlight and looking across to the twinkling lights of Saint-Tropez across the gulf is very special and just one of the happy memories you will be packing in your suitcase to take home....