Gassin, perched high up on a rock, is a commune in the Var department in the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region in south eastern France. It is situated in the centre of the St. Tropez peninsula, less than 4 km from the sea and the port of St. Tropez. It is known as ‘the most beautiful village of France’ and has an unrivalled panoramic view of the Golfe de St. Tropez, the Iles d’Or and the surrounding hills. From the rocky summit at an altitude of 200 metres, you can see the coastline including the towns of La Croix Valmer, Grimaud, St. Maxime and Les Issambres and in the other direction, the Maures Mountains and the snowy peaks of the Alps. The village has a maze of winding streets and ancient houses and approximately 3,000 people live in Gassin all year round, however significantly more come for the duration of the summer months to enjoy the Côte d’Azur lifestyle for which the area is enviably famous.
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Gassin is believed to be one of the oldest villages in the South of France with the first written evidence dating back to 1234. Roman occupation brought security and prosperity to the region by agricultural development. The original name of Garcin dates back to earlier times to the 10th century. The Knights Templar are thought to have built the castle on the rock and you can see traces of the Templiers on the ancient walls in some of the streets and doors. Once a Moorish stronghold, the town is surrounded by the remains of 13th century ramparts. Together with the neighbouring village of Ramatuelle, the villages were originally created to allow the local people to escape the pirates who cruised the Mediterranean waters.
Gassin is an old village steeped in history and its cobbled streets and romantic atmosphere are a life apart from the bustle of the coastal resorts. In the 19th century the main industry was cork making and silk worms were also raised here before being sent to nearby Cogolin for various craft works. The other main trade was charcoal making by local people called ‘bousquetiers’.
The Galerie deï Barri was founded in 1969 and specialises in European and North American contemporary figurative art. The gallery exhibits a choice of internationally renowned artists as well as young emerging talents.
Walking along the medieval terrace, the Promenade deï Barri, enjoy a drink or a delicious meal in the tranquil setting of the Place deï Barri in one of a few first class restaurants with stunning views over the vineyards.
Gassin village has a beautiful old church constructed in 1582 called La Chapelle Notre-Dame de Compassion. A stone slab in the church which bears a drawing of a ship corresponds to Roman archaeological finds from the 1st century. Wandering around the ancient streets is interesting, one of which, called l’Androuno, is claimed to be the narrowest street in the world.
There are numerous beaches close to Gassin where all major water sports can be enjoyed including Gigaro, Debarquement, Pampelonne and Escalet. Port Gassin is growing and emulating other ports like Port Grimaud and the marina of Cogolin which are popular with visitors wanting to sail. Some parts of the coast have been put under conservation restrictions to preserve the flora and fauna of the area which makes for interesting walks and cycle rides.
Gassin has an 18 hole golf course at the fabulous Gassin Golf and Country Club and there is also a popular Polo Club, the Haras de Gassin, where horse riding instruction is undertaken.
Before leaving the area, take a tour of one of the 10 wine producing domaines including Minuty, Bertaud, Belieu and Pampelonne – and sample the wines which are also featured on local menus.
Accommodation & Restaurants
There are several luxury villas and apartments for rent in Gassin but during the summer months, accommodation is much sought after. The 5 star Hotel le Mas de Chastelas is a former 18th century mansion, set in a large garden with an outdoor swimming pool. It has an excellent restaurant serving traditional French cuisine which can be eaten in the dining room or by the pool.
A number of highly recommended restaurants such as Le Vieux Gassin, Le Carpaccio, Le Pescadou and La Verdoyante offer excellent food in very pretty surroundings. Renowned for its famous visitors and chic style, Gassin offers quality and great hospitality in a delightfully romantic hilltop setting.
By car: Gassin lies 2 kms from route D559 which links Hyeres (41km) and Sainte-Maxime (12 km). Nearest motorway: A8 junction 36. Take the D558 via La Garde Freinet and Grimaud or the new road from Le Muy via the D25. Once on the coast road there might be considerable traffic near St. Maxime, in high summer it is preferable to use the D558.
By rail: Nearest station is St. Raphael 37km
By air: Nearest airport is Toulon/Hyères (37km); Nice (71km); Marseille (113km); Avignon (155km)