Seaside and tourist resort on the Mediterranean, beautifully situated at the foot of the Estérel, Saint-Raphaël is a highly-prized vacation destination.
It is divided into different zones of great diversity, the old town, the town centre, the ports, Valescure, Boulouris, Le Dramont, Agay, Anthéor, Le Trayas, which since the 19th century have attracted artists, writers and a well-off and elegant society.
But its biggest attraction is the sea and its beaches. Saint-Raphaël stretches over 36 kilometres of coast from the town centre to the edge of the Alpes-Maritimes and offers you thirty sand or shingle beaches. And there are all the pleasures that go with it – aquatic activities such as sailing, swimming, fishing and diving, hikes along the water, a marine archaeological museum...
The marina of Saint-Raphaël
Church Romanesque Saint-Carolyn
Saint-Raphaël, Basilica Notre-Dame de la Victoire
Casino in Saint-Raphaël
Golden island and its Tower Saracen, the port du Poussai
Port du Poussaï and its semaphore, Agay
Golden island and Tower Saracen in Saint-Raphaël
Beach and the Esterel massif
The monks of the Lérins Islands occupied the site until the 11th century when it was ceded to the bishops of Fréjus. Napoleon Bonaparte had his turn here in 1799 following his Egyptian campaign, successfully escaping pursuit by the English squadrons. An obelisk on the northeast corner of the port commemorates this event. In May 1814, tail between his legs, the dethroned emperor left from Saint-Raphaël to regain his little kingdom on the island of Elba.
Once a fishing port, with the arrival of the railway in the 19th century the town transformed itself into a vacation spot and many luxurious villas in Palladian style sprung up.
With its geography and history, Saint-Raphaël is interesting in many ways.
Let's take a virtual tour.
The Old Town
Take a stroll along the narrow old streets af the “village neighbourhood” that surrounds the San Rafeu church and its watch tower. Part of the 14th century ramparts can still be seen in the gardens of the archaeology museum. Every Thursday, the tourist office organises guided tours from the old town to the Quartier de la Marine.
The Romanesque church of San Rafeu, also called the Templars' Church because of its tower, was originally built on ancient foundations in the 6th century and many vestiges from the Carolingian period can be seen. A larger church encompassed it in the 11th century with more construction in the 12th century. It was around this church, fortified in the 14th century and enlarged in the 17th, that the village of Saint-Raphaël developed.
Its rectory today houses the Prehistory and Maritime Archaeology Museum with a remarkable collection of amphoras from antiquity, furnishings from undersea excavations and magnificent bas-reliefs from the Carolingian church. From the top of the tower you have a stunning view of the Estérel, the town and the whole bay all the way to Saint-Tropez.
The Notre-Dame-De-La-Victoire Basilica was built much later, between 1882 and 1889, in a Romano-Byzantine style.
But on the beautiful sunny days on the Med, who wants to be inside!
The Bonaparte Garden on the roof of the carpark is 20,000 square metres of landscaped space planted with palm trees and Mediterranean plants offering a playground for children and views over the old port and the bay.
The Promenade des Bains is a vast pedestrian zone leading to the nautical centre with the beaches of Veillat and Beaurivage on one side and the lush green lawns of a public garden on the other.
Saving the best for last, the marked Coastal Path leaves from the Port Santa-Lucia and takes you to the Baumette lighthouse, passing the beaches of Boulouris and Dramont, where the allied forces landed on August 15, 1944, the Ile d’Or, the little port of Poussaï, the Dramont semaphore and the bay of Agay. This 12-kilometre trail can be covered in approximately 4 hours 30 minutes.
The Corniche D’or is a route along the sea, winding through the Estérel to link Saint-Raphaël to Cannes. Open since 1903, it passes through breathtaking and dramatic landscapes hanging right over the sea, including the imposing Saint-Barthélemy rock.
In the area around Saint-Raphaël:
- Frèjus, one of the first centres of Christianity in France with a baptistry that dates from the 5th century, it also abounds in ancient Roman sights.
- Agay, nestling below the red cliffs of the Esterel with a long beach lined with shops and boutique. Ideal for swimming and fabulous photo ops.