Cannes is the best known city on the French Riviera, famous thanks to the International Film Festival, when it is taken by storm by stars, journalists, photographers and onlookers, who clog the promenades, hotels and clubs in search of notoriety.
Those who choose this noisy and exclusive city do so in order to breathe and feel part of a majestic and elitist atmosphere: Cannes offers period palaces, fashionable restaurants, colossal yachts and many VIPs on holiday.
Amidst expensive hotels, elegant buildings and crowded beaches, you will be a little dazed by the bustling town. Although a stroll on the Croisette, the Côte d’Azur’s most exclusive promenade, is a must, Cannes also harbours a few peaceful corners that eschew opulence and flashiness.
The city of Cannes can easily be visited in a couple of days. Compared to the other cities on the Côte d’Azur, it has very few monuments and attractions to visit.
Here one seeks notoriety, nightlife and luxury shopping rather than history and culture.
The old medieval quarter of Cannes climbs up the hill with its steep, narrow streets. It is undoubtedly the most authentic part of the city and offers its visitors truly impressive views.
To climb to the top of Mont Chevalier, the highest point of the district, you can choose between an uphill but charming pedestrian path or a comfortable little train that leaves from the Croisette without any effort.
Awaiting you is a 22-metre-high medieval tower from which the entire city can be seen, and an ancient castle: according to legend, it was here, after his escape from Isle Marguerite, that the Man of the Iron Mask was imprisoned, a mysterious character halfway between reality and fiction, brought to the fore by Alexandre Dumas ‘ novel ‘The Vicomte de Bragelonne‘.
Also inside the castle is the Musée de la Castre: a small museum on the primitive arts of the Himalayas-Tibet, Oceania, America and Mediterranean antiques, musical instruments of the world (Africa, Asia, Oceania and America) and objects from the 19th century.
After admiring the sunset from above, with the magnificent view of the Croisette, we recommend you spend the evening in the narrow streets of Le Suquet: here you will find many small restaurants with lower prices and bistros where you can enjoy typical Provençal cuisine and fish dishes, such as the Auberge Provençale da Bouttau, one of the oldest in the district.
This two-kilometre-long promenade on the Cannes waterfront is one of the most elegant and exclusive places in Europe: it is the favourite catwalk for celebrities to be immortalised and for ordinary people to chase VIPs. Here you will find the shops of the most prestigious fashion brands and the city’s most luxurious hotels such as the Hotel Carlton and the Hotel Martinez, which have private beaches.
Of course, the atmosphere becomes buzzing and exciting especially during the Cannes Film Festival that takes place at the Palais de Festival, right on the Croisette: actors, directors and celebrities parade down the ever-present red carpet to the famous entrance steps. At this time, the prices of accommodation and living in Cannes skyrocket and one has to book well in advance.
At the foot of Le Suquet lies the old port of Cannes. You will not only find luxury yachts from all over the world, but also the most authentic fishing boats stationed mainly along the Quai St Pierre dating back to 1838, perfect for taking the most picturesque photographs.
Lovers of the nautical world should not miss the Yachting Festival: yachtsmen from all over the world gather at the Vieux Port to admire the most beautiful, powerful and well-equipped boats of the year and photograph Europe’s largest sailing vessels.
In the following map you can see the location of the main places of interest mentioned in this article
While the things to see in Cannes are certainly limited, you can indulge yourself with the many things to do to experience this city always on the move.
The city’s oldest market is a riot of colours and scents. In a beautiful 1930s structure, the Marché Forville is the ideal place to discover the flavours of the Côte d’Azur and Provence, with a lunchtime visit to sample local delicacies.
You can buy croissants, fragrant breads, tasty olives, herbs and small portions to take to the beach for a snack.
Petanque, or the game of boules, is an exquisitely Provençal activity. If you want to leave the hustle and bustle of the city behind you for a few minutes, head to the Place Etang to watch the locals try their hand at this game much loved by the French.
Enthusiasts from all over the world converge on Cannes to play until late into the night.
Not many people know that in the middle of the city streets one can find street art masterpieces dedicated to the world of cinema.
Thanks to a municipal project, several buildings in Cannes have been given a new lease of life through colour and imagination: a kind of itinerary has been created that winds its way around the city’s most original and least known corners. To learn more about the tour, ask for the free Murs Peints de Cannes map at the tourist office, located at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès.
These beautiful murals testify to the indissoluble link between the city of Cannes and the world of cinema. Below are the exact addresses of the most beautiful works:
Obviously the most exclusive, and for most of us unapproachable, brands can be found on the Croisette.
But those who want to shop at lower prices should go to Rue d’Antibes and Rue Meynadier: here you will find souvenir shops, clothing shops but above all local products such as perfumes, soaps, chocolate, truffles and essential oils.
Just 20 minutes by boat from Cannes is a tiny paradise of peace and silence, far from the annoying chatter of the Cannes beaches.
Among fragrant pine forests, pristine beaches and shady paths, you can regenerate at Îles de Lérins. But beware: camping, cycling and even smoking are prohibited. We advise you to bring your own food as the accommodation facilities are very few and luxurious.
A truly astounding event is the International Festival of Pyrotechnic Art: for six consecutive evenings, different teams compete with music, colour and crackling fireworks.
It is one of the most prestigious competitions in the world and attracts hundreds of people who flock to the Croisette to admire these incredible shows.
Cannes is not only cinema and international stars but also blue sea and beautiful beaches.
Obviously, the Croisette beach is almost cordoned off by hotels. The establishments there are, as you can imagine, expensive and super crowded.
We advise you to opt for the other free beaches: Gazagnaire, Port Canto, Boulevard de Midi and La Bocca, all equipped with public toilets and showers, perfectly maintained, with a clean sea despite the continuous passage of boats.
Located 27 km from Nice Airport, Cannes can be reached in less than 30 minutes, after hiring a car on site. Alternatively, you can use the 110 and 210 shuttles that connect the airport to Cannes in about 45 minutes (via the motorway): departures from the airport are guaranteed regularly at 08.00 and 09.00, then every half-hour until 19.00, and finally at 20.00, 20.45 and 21.55.
If you prefer to travel by train, the city of Cannes is served by the TGV, the Corail train and the express train, with connections to all French regions and the largest cities in Europe.
For example Toulon in 1 hour 15 minutes, Marseille in 2 hours, Aix en Provence in 3 hours 15 minutes, Lyon in 4 hours and Paris in 5 hours 15 minutes. On the other hand, with TER trains you can travel throughout the region as far as Ventimiglia, via Antibes, Biot, Cagnes-sur-mer, Nice and Villefranche sur Mer.
Cannes is connected to major European cities. The A8 La Provençale motorway starts in Aix en Provence, passes Cannes and leads to Italy.
Some examples of distances in kilometres Paris 950 km, Milan 320 km, Geneva 630 km, Barcelona 670 km, Rome 710 km, Monaco 810 km, Brussels 1220 km and Amsterdam 1400 km.
On the other hand, the Route Napoléon (N85), which starts at Golfe Juan and goes towards Grenoble, retraces the historical route taken by Napoleon on his return from Elba in 1815.
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Cannes is located in the heart of the French Riviera, 11 km from Antibes and 87 km from Saint-Tropez.