What is the first thing which comes to mind when I say Cannes? Of course, the Cannes Festival where all the movie stars walk the red carpet. So apart from this attraction, is Cannes worth visiting? Yes, it is because even though cinema is a highlight of Cannes, this article will show you that there are plenty more interesting things to see and experience in this glamorous city on the French Riviera.
Where is Cannes?
Cannes is in the south east of France along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. Located in the Provence-Côte d’Azur region, the city of Cannes is also part of the famous French Rivera.
What to do in Cannes?
Thousands of people flock to Cannes for the annual film festival held in May. If you want to see some celebrities, this is the best time of the year for you to visit. To be honest, this isn’t my cup of tea. I prefer to discover more authentic places like the area of Suquet or the fabulous view from La Croix des Gardes.
1. The Wall Frescoes in Cannes (Les Fresques Murales de Cannes)
Although the movie festival is held just once a year in Cannes, you can enjoy street art inspired by the movie industry all year round. Since 2002, Cannes has invested in renovating different areas by creating frescoes relating to the seventh art. You will find frescoes of famous actors like John Wayne, James Dean, André Bourvil and plenty of others.
2. The Suquet Area of Cannes
The Suquet area is the oldest part of Cannes with cobbled streets and medieval buildings. This charming area will transport you to another place in time. The Suquet is the birthplace of Cannes and is the best place to imagine how the city used to be. Here, you will find ramparts, museums, La Tour Carrée and churches. This area is also a good place to enjoy a glass of wine and some food.
3. The Old Harbour, Cannes
At the bottom of the Suquet area is Cannes Harbour. The oldest part of the harbour is the Quai Saint-Pierre. The best thing to do here is to walk around the harbour. If you are an early bird, you will see the fisherman returning with their daily catch and you can buy the fish next to their boats. This is the freshest fish you will experience. During your walk, you will also have the opportunity to see the old town and fantastic big yachts.
4. Cannes Beaches
Similar to Nice, Cannes also has some great beaches. If you want more information about Nice, you can read our article about 21 Reasons to Visit Nice.
There is plenty of choice when it comes to beaches in Cannes and the city offers 7 km of attractive sandy beaches. You can either enjoy the sandy beach for free on public beaches or opt for a private one, which offers plenty of facilities. Many prestigious hotels have private beaches in Cannes.
Best Public Beaches in Cannes:
Public beaches are free. However, some make a small charge for sunbeds. La Plage du Casino, La Plage du Midi and La Plage Bocca are the main public beaches and are located on the Boulevard de la Croisette. If you want snorkelling, head to La Plage des Rochers.
Plage de la Bocca is very popular with locals and tourists. The beach has the same name of a less fancy area of Cannes. This beach has a relaxed feel to it and is popular with families. Be aware that the beach is close to the airport, so expect to see some planes overhead during the day.
Plage du Midi is the perfect place to relax after your walk to the Croix des Gardes. The beach is on the border of the Suquet area and has a friendly vibe.
Best Private Beaches in Cannes:
Private beaches are the best choice for comfort and facilities, but you need to pay an entrance fee. Some have amazing restaurants and others have more casual restaurants. The Royal Plage, Plage Croisette, Bijou Plage or Cbeach are private beaches and the entrance fee varies.
Carlton Beach is one of the most prestigious beaches in Cannes. The beach is part of the famous Carlton hotel. On the beach, you will receive a 5-star service just like inside the hotel. Everything is available to you to ensure that you have a great time and relax.
For the same service as the Carlton, you can head to the beaches of other big hotels like the Martinez or the Marriott. Long Beach is the private beach of the Marriott. The advantage of this beach is that is right in the centre of Cannes, which makes it easy to access.
5. The Lérins Islands (Îles de Lérins)
Maybe the best experience in Cannes, when I was sailing, was dropping anchor between the two biggest islands of the Lérins Islands. It was an amazing place to be, especially before the first tourist ferry and after the last one. At these times, the islands were empty except for the monks! The Lérins islands are a group of four islands; the largest two islands are Sainte-Margerite and Saint-Honorat. Les Îles Lérins are definitely worth a visit. Take a picnic with you and enjoy walking or swimming here.
6. Shopping in Cannes
The main shopping street in Cannes is the Rue d’Antibes which is parallel to La Croisette. La Croisette has a 3 km stretch of high-end boutiques but this is reserved to an elite few unless you just received a nice bonus from your boss! Rue d’Antibes offers more reasonably priced shopping but is still a relatively expensive place to shop.
If you want cheaper options, you can try La Bocca which is a shopping mall where you will find everything under one roof with easy parking. If you are serious about shopping, you will be happy to know that Cannes also hosts a shopping festival every year! To get an idea about what locals buy for their dinner, you could visit the Marché Forville.
7. La Croisette
Everybody walks along the Croisette. It is one of the most famous places on the French Rivera. If you visit Cannes, you will definitely walk along the Croisette. The Croisette is located between the Mediterranean Sea and the strip of famous hotels, stretching a length of approximately 3 km. As you walk, you will enjoy views of the famous private beaches and jetsetters partying on the beach. On the the other side are magnificent buildings which house the most prestigious hotels of the French Rivera like the Carlton, Majestic or Martinez.
8. Walk to the Croix des Gardes
If you want to get away from the busy Croisette, we recommend you explore the natural park of the Croix des Gardes. Just 5 minutes away from the busy centre of Cannes, you will find a tranquil place with amazing view to the Estérel and Cannes. At the top, you will come face-to-face with a big cross made by Jean-Yves Lechevallier (La Croix des Gardes). In the natural park, you will be able to enjoy nature and the mimosa trees which flower in February.
9. Water Sports
As you can imagine, you will be able to do any water sport you desire in Cannes. Cannes has a long stretch of coast and sandy beaches, so it is easy to enjoy water sports and it is very pleasant to be on the Mediterranean Sea.
10. Forville Market (Marché Forville)
I’m a foodie and I really enjoy discovering new flavours. For this reason, I love visiting local markets where the real food is. The Forville market is the perfect place for that. Make sure you arrive early because the market stalls start to close at 13:00, so if you want to eat something it’s best to visit around 11:30.
11. Drive on the Corniche d’Or
The Corniche d’Or is a scenic route between St Raphael and Cannes. This coastal road is extremely picturesque and is the most beautiful road in France. You will find plenty of reasons to stop and admire the view from the road. Alternatively, park the car and go and swim in one of the many coves.
12. Cannes Food Specialties
In Cannes, you will experience Provençale food and one good example is the Pissaladière:
Pissaladière is dough topped with onion, garlic and anchovies. The original one was made with a paste of mixed fish, but now most of them are made with just anchovies.
Ratatouille is a vegetable dish made of tomatoes, courgettes, aubergines, garlic and onion. The French eat it as a side dish. My preferred mix is ratatouille, sausage and rice.
Beignets de Fleur de Courgette are made as the name suggests with courgette flowers. The flowers are seasoned and then fried.
13. Visit the Grasse Parfurmery
Cannes and, more particularly Grasse, has a worldwide reputation as perfume-makers. When you visit Cannes, it is a great opportunity to learn about perfume. The Fragonard Perfumery can be visited. During your walking tour of the perfumery, you will see and experience all the processes involved in making perfume and, of course, have the opportunity to buy some!
14. Cannes with Kids
Of course, the beaches of Cannes offer families many timeless and free activities. Your kids will spend many happy hours playing in the sand.
Other great activities for kids include boat rides. There are plenty of different boat rides available from Cannes, some with swimming or a short tour. If you want to combine two activities in one, you can take the ferry to the Lérins islands. This will allow you to take a boat ride and you visit the islands.
One new trendy experience your kids may love is Geocaching which is like hunting for secret treasure. You start your day with your smartphone and with the help of an app, you need to find the treasure somewhere. It isn’t real treasure but a plastic box where you sign and date a logbook. For more information about Geocaching, check out this website: geocaching.com
15. Notre Dame d’Espérence
There is nothing fancy about the Notre Dame d’Espérence church but it is an experience to visit it. You will start climbing from the Croisette and, the more you progress on your journey, the more you will be transported back in time. It is a nice walk to do and will give you some great views. The church is simple but beautiful and was finished in 1641.
16. Centre d’Art La Malmaison
Situated on the Croisette, the Centre d’Art La Malmaison is a small museum which offers some great exhibitions. The museum is located on the ground floor of La Malmaison. The exhibitions change every year and have hosted some of the most famous artists like Picasso and Matisse.
17. Musée de la Castre
The Musée de la Castre is a museum situated in the Suquet area which offers an impressive collection of art from Tibet, Oceania, the Americas and the Mediterranean. After your visit, you can climb the medieval tower and enjoy one of the most impressive panoramic view of Cannes. Be warned that there are 109 steps to reach the top!
18. La Californie Area of Cannes
La Californie is one of the most exclusive areas of Cannes. Here, you will find amazing villas. This stylish area is the perfect place to spend some time to relax and explore. It was the home of famous people like Picasso. The beauty of the area made it the perfect neighbourhood to inspire artists.
19. La Chapelle Bellini
La Chapelle Bellini was bought by the artist Emmanuel Bellini who used it as a workplace. Today, the La Chapelle Bellini is a museum showing the work of Bellini. The Chapelle is only open during the afternoons from 14:00-17:00.
20. Cannes Festivals
The annual Cannes Film Festival is famous worldwide. During the festival time, the town is very busy, and the hotels are full. The festival brings a lot of people to Cannes as fans arrive from around the globe. It is a great place to be if you are a film fanatic. You may or may not see famous people as they usually try to stay away from the hordes of tourists and attend private parties to finish the day. However, you never know, you may be lucky and see your favourite film star!
The Cannes Film Festival isn’t the only festival held in Cannes so the best tip we can give you is to check before planning your trip to Cannes to see if there is a festival. If this is the case, it will be difficult to find hotel rooms or a place to dine out. The restaurants and hotels are often booked one year in advance and is the same for restaurants, so plan ahead!
21. Nuits Musicales du Suquet
For classical music lovers, there is a magical festival each year in July in front of the Notre Dame d’Espérence church. You can enjoy open-air evenings of classical music on warm summer nights under the stars. Some of the most prestigious classical musicians in the world come here to play in front of audiences.
Is Cannes Worth Visiting?
Cannes benefits from a wonderful location in the south of France along the French Riviera. In addition to good weather, the scenery along this stretch of France is stunning. The city of Cannes itself is a glamorous place with fantastic beaches and many things to see and do. Added to that, Cannes plays host to many international festivals. So, is Cannes worth visiting? In our opinion, yes, it is a great place to spend a few days whilst exploring the Côte d’Azur and the French Riviera.