Here's a find: A discreet and well-heeled stylish, new hotel in glitzy St.-Tropez.
ST.-TROPEZ, France — When I learned that the Cheval Blanc collection of hotels was owned by LVMH, my first thought was, "How have I never heard of them before?"
Because unlike most of the big-name labels under the ultra-luxe LVMH umbrella (including the titular Louis Vuitton and Moët Hennessy), Cheval Blanc keeps a low profile and does zero advertising. But they’ve hit their mark: With only a handful of maisons in St. Barts, Courchevel, and the Maldives, they’ve established themselves as a well-kept, insider secret of both the haut monde and paparazzi-shy celebrities.
That Cheval Blanc is deliberately low key, delivering luxury that’s hardly all up in your face, becomes clear the moment I pull up to the newly opened Cheval Blanc St.-Tropez on the outskirts of the old town and port.
From the outside, the tasteful, rosé-pink building looks like a well-tended private villa. Inside, the controlled interiors and light natural color palette are anything but ostentatious. But god is in the details, and I see hints of the divine in restrained pom-poms of white peonies, in contemporary objects d’art by lesser-known local artists, and in the notes of fig and freshly trimmed grass in the hotel’s custom fragrance designed by Guerlain nose Thierry Wasser. (The fragrance also scents in-room candles and Leonor Greyl haircare products.)
Thirty guest rooms and suites follow suit with an airy, understated vibe, as does the subterranean Guerlain spa with five treatment rooms and a hammam, complete with a snow shower, which is exactly what it sounds like. What makes Cheval Blanc St-Tropez extra special is the classic Riviera seaside patio shaded by umbrellas and pine trees and overlooking the yacht-sprinkled Gulf of Saint-Tropez. This dreamy patio is where the magic happens — and not just at the little pool and the slice of beach, but also at the wildly impressive three-Michelin-starred La Vague d'Or by chef Arnaud Donckele.
The hotel sits right outside the famed St.-Tropez port, which can only accommodate yachts up to 100 meters or less (sorry, oil sultans and Russian oligarchs). Though it’s only a ten-minute stroll away, when you need a lift into town, you should ride in style in Cheval Blanc’s signature deep-blue Bentley. It’s far from inconspicuous and one hell of a way to make a splash. And you’re in glitzy St.-Tropez. You should make an entrance.
Cheval Blanc St.-Tropez is set on the quiet stretch of beach adorably named Plage de la Bouillabaisse, a short walk from the heart of St.-Tropez and a ten-minutes drive from St.-Tropez’ most famous beach, Pampelonne.
Outside, it’s all retro Riviera, with white-railed terraces, mission-title clay roofs, and nautical flags aflutter in the Mediterranean breeze. Inside, star architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte takes inspiration from local mid-century ceramicist Roger Capron, creating a pared-back, modern vibe with plush graphic carpets, textured cream walls, and vast planes of oak with geometric cutouts.
This Place Is Perfect For
Popular with privacy-loving A-listers and billionaires, the maison’s clientele — much like the expert staff — are exclusively discreet, elegant, and very grown-up. (It’s not adults-only, and children are welcome.)
But Not So Perfect For
This isn’t one of those flashy see-and-be-seen scenes. And it’s as expensive as you’d expect it to be.
What’s on Site
A chic little pool and an equally charming beach with warm shallow waters make for a refreshing late summer dip. Downstairs is a well-appointed Guerlain spa (the only one in the South of France), with four treatment rooms and one double treatment room for couples, as well as a hammam and experience shower with a nice fountain and snow shower. The spa is also home to a little perfume cellar, where gilded bottles of exclusive Guerlain fragrances are stored and sold. A special fragrance consultation service can help you pick a new scent.
Food + Drink
Breakfast, which is included in the rate, is served on La Terrasse. I loved the cloud-like egg white omelet resplendent with edible flowers. Lunch is also on La Terrasse, and it’s always a good idea to order the catch of the day. In the evening, the same space is transformed into the three-starred La Vague d’Or, which offers a fish-heavy tasting menu as well as a la carte options. The well-appointed bar right off the lobby is a dreamy spot to watch the sun drip down the sky while sipping on Un Brin de Provence, made with freshly picked wild rosemary, juicy pink grapefruit, and jasmine.
Number of Rooms
Thirty rooms (in five categories) and suites (in six categories) all have terraces, and all but two have sea views.
WiFi is zippy and free. In-room mini-bars are well stocked with chips, nuts, and chocolate, as well as a Nespresso machine, teas, and standard alcoholic and non-alcoholic bevvies. Marble-and-matte-brass bathrooms come packed with generous portions of Leonor Greyl toiletries and include extra goodies like body scrubs, hair masks, and miniature candles. Bathrooms are equipped with state-of-the-art Toto toilets.
The small beach isn’t the best for swimming: It’s shallow and plagued with seaweed. That said, there are plenty more beaches to enjoy in the area.
The staff — who rock seriously cute uniforms (chic cropped linen culottes for the ladies and blue rowing-club blazers with white trim for the gents) — aren’t afraid to show their personality by sharing their stories and laughing at your jokes. Also, the vegetables are grown in a local plot just a few miles away and taste sun-kissed and garden-fresh.
As Cheval Blanc is located right outside the heart of St.-Tropez, the immediate surroundings are basically a parking lot and gas station. But as soon as you enter the property, you’re completely engulfed in the natural beauty of the beach and the coast.
What to Do Nearby
The nearby port of St.- Tropez is where lots of the popular restaurants are based. Try the boho-beach themed Le Petite Plage (love those sand floors) or Sénéquier (open since 1887) for a traditional tarte Tropézienne, a brioche-style cake with cream and jam filling.
Alongside one-off boutiques are all the big international French labels (Hermes, Dior, Chanel, etc.) and an ultra-chic Dior café, Dior Des Lices. Head to Place des Lices on Tuesday and Saturday mornings for a market where you can snag everything from cute leather bags to salty tapenade and lavender honey. It gets very busy, so go early. Pampelonne Beach, about ten minutes away by car, is an iconic trendy spot filled with exclusive, music-pumping beach clubs and beautiful people.
Good to Know
Only one main road leads in and out of St.-Tropez, so leave yourself extra time to get to the airport — especially in summer’s high season traffic.
Plan Your Trip
How to Get There
Nice, the closest international airport, is about one-and-a-half hours away by car. A train runs from Nice to nearby St. Raphael, from which you can get a taxi to St.-Tropez.
The hotel has two cars: a jeep-style Moke and a Bentley, which are designed to ferry guests short distances. It’s easy to walk into town, and taxis are easily available. If you’re exploring more of the Côte d'Azur, a car is a good idea, but it’s not necessary if you’re only staying in St.-Tropez.