Are you wanting to escape to a quiet village, but still be very close to a popular beach destination, like Saint Tropez, in south eastern France? Then you need to consider Gassin. This scenic village is situated in the middle of the Saint Tropez peninsula, perched high up on a rock, and is less than 4 km from the sea. It showcases old winding streets and ancient houses brimming with beautiful flowers; but it is really the specular panoramic views that make this place incredibly special. From this rocky summit, at an altitude of 200 meters, you will have magnificent views of the coastline of the Golfe de St. Tropez including the towns of La Croix Valmer, Grimaud, St. Maxime and Les Issambres and in the other direction, from the Iles D’Or over the Maures Mountains all the way to the snowy peaks of the Alps.
Gassin is known as Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (or the Most Beautiful Village in France). There are about 150 villages that hold this prestigious title, and Gassin is deservedly one of those. To be considered Les Plus Beaux Villages de France, the village needs to be a maximum population size of 2,000 inhabitants and have at least 2 monuments of historical significance, and yes of course, be beautiful. History tells us that Gassin became a fortified village at the end of the 15th century, but experienced most of its development in the second half of the 19th century when it more than doubled in size. Some of the significant monuments and points of interest in Gassin are:
- the Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption chapel, built at the end of the 11th century (rebuilt in 16th century), houses statues of the Madonna and Child and Christ (17th century) and an 18th century bell
- the Town Hall of Gassin, built in 1584
- the Romanesque chapel of Our Lady of Consolation is in the midst of a wooded area, served as parish until the mid-16th century
- the oldest art gallery in the area, Galerie deï Barri
- a botanical garden, L’Hardy-Denonain, showcases plants native to Provence, as well as black Lilies
- the smallest street in the world, the Androuno, measures only 29 centimeters wide at its narrowest level
When you immediately arrive to the village it starts with the main parking area, as this is a walkable village only. It is here you will find the magnificent sea views, and the best spot to watch the sunrise.
As up start to wander, you will notice that the names of the streets are symbols that reflect the history of this village. The Passage of the Watchtower, the door of Saracens, the Rue du Fort, the Passage of the Knights Templar are all references to village’s past. Meander through the maze of the winding streets, knowing you can never really get lost. I immediately fell in love with the many antique doors, built in serpentine or basalt from the local quarries. Along the terraced wall, the Promenade Dei Barri, is where you will find the villages’ main restaurants, all of which have large outdoor terraces to look over the panoramic views.
We made Gassin a quiet refuge, sandwiched between a week in Paris and week in Provence (Vaucluse region). Our 2-night stay afforded us the opportunity to do a full day at Saint Tropez as well as see Gassin. We stayed at La Maison de Village Gassin (or the Village House Gassin) which is a modern loft apartment that is above the only shop (an interior design store) in the village. Not only was this apartment outfitted with the latest interiors, it had the best terrace views, including watching the sunset.
From decades of travelling, this part of our itinerary, remains one of our favourites. It was perfect on all levels – the village itself, the apartment, the scenic views, the food, and the day trip to Saint Tropez. One of the best parts of traveling, is the memories we hold, and staying in Gassin is definitely one of those perfect memories.