Mick and Bianca Jagger married here, partied here…
For a slice of the Riviera’s golden era, where silver trays heaving with prawns and Champagne swing past sunbathers and evenings – a poolside vignette of lobster and live jazz – are dressed in Valentino and Louis Vuitton. Hotel Byblos and Saint Tropez’ star-studded chapters are closely intertwined – Mick and Bianca Jagger married here, Cher, Grace Jones and every celebrity worth their dime partied in its legendary nightclub, Les Caves Du Roy, and the Hotel Byblos itself was built on unrequited love for Brigitte Bardot.
Byblos is one of those rare breeds of hotel where the nightclub is actually really quite good. It dines off its glamorous past (quite rightly), and remains an ever-present option for honeymooners – should after dinner martinis lead to a few more, and a spontaneous spin on the dance floor. Despite this party reputation, the setting is remarkably calm – a hedonist’s oasis of poolside olives and tapenade, where the water feature’s trickle is occasionally interrupted by the odd ‘pop’ of a dusty vintage bottle.
Set the scene
Infatuated by Brigitte Bardot (who put Saint Tropez on the map with her role in the 1956 film, And God Created Woman’, Lebanese billionaire, Gay-Para, essentially built Byblos to impress the actress. While Byblos didn’t win over Brigitte, it soon became a magnet for Europe’s glitterati who flocked here for a rosé-fuelled summer and lavish three-day pool parties.
The hotel sprawls out across a sloping Provencal fishing village in Saint Tropez’ centre and threads the Lebanese Port town of Byblos’ Greek mythology into this perfectly French picture with Moorish tiles, elaborate bannister carvings and labyrinthine corridors showcasing Roger Capron ceramics. Everything at Byblos twists towards the pool area – a terracotta sun trap where bronzed bodies lie still, stirring only for lunch or a cocktail order, then eventually returning here for sunset card games in the bar, with its pretty Cote d’Azur views.
Byblos recently joined the peacocking Pampelonne crowds with its own beach club, where hearty octopus salads and seafood linguine are served under a shady cabana overlooking the sea, and where guests can be whisked to in an air-conditioned 15-minutes via a swishy Mercedes transfer.
Brightly painted, shuttered rooms (over half of which are suites) continue this hybrid and overtly hedonistic theme, with Middle Eastern fabrics strewn over enormous beds with flamboyant French headboards, wood panelling and the gold-handled sliding doors of hotel lore, and lavish marble bathrooms with Byblos’ own rose-hued brand of products to lather on during a long soak. Several rooms have been designed to fold out like origami for any sprogs in tow or are connected, and it’s worth asking for a balcony with a pool view (a superb perch for people watching). While a consistent design thread is easily discernible, every room is different – the recently revamped rooms and suites, such as Suites du Roy (a stellar choice for honeymooners) being notably more contemporary in style. For the blow-the-budget, Mick and Bianca-style stay, opt for the Missoni Home suite, animated by the brand’s signature zigzag fabric.
Food and drink
Wining and dining is a Saint Tropez sport, and one that Hotel Byblos excels in. At the helm of its kitchens, Chef Nichola Canuti has taken a locavore approach, ensuring menus are fresh and 2022-worthy, while preserving a certain French classicism the punters all come for. At poolside Arcadia, polished Mediterranean-inspired plates such as veal foie gras, wood-fired Anjou pigeon and red tuna tartare and caviar are garnished with herbs and vegetables plucked from Byblos’ extensive vegetable gardens, where a kaleidoscopic array of vegetables, fruits and edible flowers are sustainably grown on a large 300m2 plot. The form here seems to be Champagne and oysters before even contemplating various Provençal -style starters.
At the marginally more relaxed Italian-themed Cucina Byblos (overseen by Alain Ducasse), which can be accessed at the bottom of the Byblos slope, from Avenue du Foch, convivial tables tuck into wood-fired truffle pizzas and Negronis under tastefully strewn fairy lights. Come 10pm a live DJ lifts the scene to party levels, limbering up the crowds for a night beneath les Caves du Roy’s giant disco ball. Honeymooners can dip in and out of Byblos’ endless party – which somehow goes undetected for the more zen-focused guests. Needless to say, both holier-than-though and slightly-overdid-it crowds are catered to at Byblos’ breakfasts – a chic feast of perfectly-formed chocolate croissants, yoghurt and every nut imaginable lathered in local honey, Nutella crepes or egg-white omelettes and spinach, smoked salmon and capers… Your day can start with a green juice or a full bells-and-whistles Moet et Chandon breakfast. No guessing which one the Jaggers opted for.
In the same fashion as rock stars toured with their families, Byblos’ polished party scene rather unexpectedly seems to absorb children into the picture with connecting rooms and smart highchairs. During our stay, multi-generational families emerged at breakfast in Dolce & Gabbana style, and tots quickly beelined for the pool with goggles and armbands. Saying this, by 7pm, there appears an unwritten rule that children have already been fed, watered and passed to a nanny or generous grandparents, who still dine off their Cher and Jack Nicholson les Caves du Roy tales from the 80s.
As with most hedonism-inclined hotels, the spa is superb. Of the six treatment rooms, the standout Lebanese room was built from stone transported from a 17th-century Beirut palace, or there’s the couple’s suite, fashioned from Jerusalem stone and mashrabiya (elaborate Islamic-style lattice work panelling).
Following an 85 minute-long Phyto-Aromic Sisley facial, where skin is allegedly remodelled and rejuvenated, or a Rhassoul and karité butter wrap in the hammam (the treatment menu is inspired from multiple cultures and healing traditions), couples can wind down in a sun-trap courtyard – a calm, Middle Eastern-inspired scene of photogenic tiles, banana leaves and the shoulder-lowering trickle of a fountain. We love the Ibiza lounge spa music in lieu of some banal rolling-wave or oriental-instrument Spotify soundtrack.
Fittingly, this Saint Tropez legend sits right in the heart of the led-astray fishing village, a mere boules’ throw away from swishy Avenue Foch, with its pastel-fronted designer boutiques, and the Places des Lices, of petanque lore, which springs to life with a weekly market of local food stalls, sundresses and trinkets. The old town and harbour, where the fabled and red-lacquered Les Sénéquier faces a regular line-up of flashy superyachts), is a mere ten-minute stroll away. Rondini is a Saint Tropez institution for top-drawer leather sandals that allegedly outlive their owners, and it’s obligatory to try at least one tart tropeziénne (the local cake made from light brioche, cream and orange blossom flavours).
Doubles from £408