Cannes – the city of stars, glamour and luxury tourism. Along with the likes of Saint-Tropez, Nice and Monaco, Cannes is a favourite jet set for those looking for a holiday à la mode. Yachts, luxury cars, haute couture shops and private white-sand beaches contribute to the savoir-faire that is so characteristic of the elegant resorts of the South of France. Despite its rather small size compared to the other popular coastal destinations in the French Riviera, Cannes gains worldwide visibility through major global events each year. A mecca of international cinema, the read carpet of the Cannes Film Festival attracts famous movie stars and faces from all over the world each second half of May. The Cannes Yachting Festival, which kicked off earlier this week, displays the biggest boat trade show in the world in the prestigious Cannes Vieux Port and Port Pierre Canto. And it doesn’t stop there. In March each year, thousands of experts from the international real estate market gather at MIPIM for a four-day networking event. Phew!
But there’s so much more behind the yachts and celebrity spotting. Cannes has that je ne sais quoi, a Mediterranean fishing village past that can still be felt in the historic streets. I thought I’d include a list of my favourite places in Cannes that don’t necessarily have to do with the luxurious and often out-of-budget character of the area. Let’s get ready and explore this charming French city, shall we?
La Croisette and its glorious beaches
Cannes is relatively close to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport, just a 40-minute train ride from Gare de Nice Saint-Augustin to Gare de Cannes. This was our first stop on our road trip around the French Riviera, followed by marvellous Nice and Monaco. With unmistakably fresh air and warm Mediterranean climate, there is a reason Cannes is loved by so many.
The glamour and wealth of the city is everywhere from the glorious white-sand beaches to the palace hotels, casinos and haute-couture boutiques dotted along Boulevard de La Croisette. Palm trees run along the 3km long curved promenade, once walked down by iconic stars from the 1960s such as Brigitte Bardot, Sophia Loren and Grace Kelly. Still a major attraction up to this day, it’s now home to luxury shops such as Dior, Chanel, Yves-Saint-Laurent or Cartier directly facing the turquoise Mediterranean sea.
Beaches are divided in sections offering public and private areas, the latter being exclusive to guests of the luxury hotels along La Croisette. Unlike public beaches (Plage du Midi), which are free and only offer minimal services (bins, occasional lifeguard), private beaches such as Carlton Beach (part of the magnificent Carlton Hotel) offer a variety of paid services including lockers, sun loungers, waiters, lifeguards and showers.
Don’t miss the opportunity to grab a cocktail and enjoy the view overlooking the Mediterranean sea. Sam and I treated ourselves to some lovely drinks at Le 72 Croisette, an outdoor terrace fondly known as The Gutter Bar by attendees of the Cannes Lions festival. The place often becomes so crowded during the event that tables go all the way to the street (or the gutter)! Hotels often have their own bars here too – watch out for Le Bar L’Amiral at Hotel Martinez (next door to Le 72 Croisette) and Carlton Bar at Carlton Hotel.
Le 72 Croisette | 72 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France
Le Suquet, Cannes’ old quarter
Sitting on the top of a hill overlooking La Croisette, the medieval district of Le Suquet offers a completely different perspective of Cannes and the glamour of the marina below. Up the winding, narrow cobbled streets and past the yellow pastel houses and local restaurants, the oldest buildings in the quarter are a reminiscent of the history of this beautiful part of Côte d’Azur. There lies the Chateau et Musée de la Castre, a 12th Century castle of the Lérins monks turned into an art gallery in 1952, featuring collections of ancient artifacts and ceramics recovered from previous occupants of the region.
The gothic Église Notre-Dame d’Espérance (Church of Our Lady of Hope) stands tall at the very top of the hill. The 17th Century church features a renaissance style porch and a square shaped romanesque bell tower with 109 steps, offering incredible panoramic views of the city and bay of Cannes. Gothic inspirited architecture is also present at Église Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Voyage, Cannes’ central Church dating back to the 19th Century located at the bottom of the hill, where an old chapel from the 16th Century used to sit.
Socca at Marché Forville
It’s safe to say Sam and I love a good market (just look at our guides to Oxford, Madeira, and Porto!). Naturally, we couldn’t resist adding this early 20th century marché in the heart of Cannes to our list. One of the most important markets in the area, Marché Forville offers everything from fresh fish and produce (cheese, cured meat) to seasonal fruit, veggies, antiques and local delicacies. Open every morning from 7.30am to 1pm except Mondays, the large covered market is a supplier of choice to many of the restaurants in the region and often includes stalls with homemade dishes. Check out the Socca’nnes stall for a delicious Socca, a pancake-esque delicacy along the French Riviera made from chickpea flour and cooked in an pizza-type oven. Soft in the middle and crunchy on the outside, it’s usually eaten with hands. Yum!
Marché Forville | 5-, 11 Rue du Marché Forville, 06400 Cannes, France
My all-time favourite ice cream places in Cannes has to be Glacier Vilfeu, located between Marché Forville and Palais des Festivals, just opposite Église Notre-Dame de Bon Voyage. It has this quirky American diner feel to it which kept reminding me of Grease. I was expecting John Travolta to jump behind the counter and ask for my ice cream flavour of choice! The best part is they have so many flavours and desserts that you’ll find it hard to resist ordering all of them! Ice creams, sundaes, shakes, sorbets, lollypops…the list is never ending.
More delicious ice cream can be found at Amorino, a short walk from Palais des Festivals.
Glacier Vilfeu | 14 Rue Bivouac Napoléon, 06400 Cannes, France
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
The Palais des Festivals is perhaps the most famous building in Cannes. Hosting big events from the world’s largest cinema festival (Cannes Film Festival) to the biggest advertising and creative communications event (Cannes Lions), the red carpet has been an iconic attraction of this building since December 1982. On this occasion, no red carpet was needed for us to walk up the stairs and feel the glamour of the city and La Croisette while soaking up the views of the Mediterranean.
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès | 1 Boulevard de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France
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