10 Reasons Why You Should Visit Cannes at Least Once

Cannes is a glitzy destination along the Côte d'Azur in France
Cannes is a glitzy destination along the Côte d'Azur in France | © agefotostock / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Naomi Chadderton
25 July 2021

Perhaps most famous for hosting the glitzy Cannes Film Festival, Cannes, on the French Riviera, is a year-round hotspot loved by the rich and famous for its luxury hotels, gourmet dining and beach culture. You don’t have to own a swanky yacht to enjoy all it has to offer, though; if you want to make like the A-listers, head to Michelin-star restaurants or the Promenade de la Croisette. These are 10 reasons to pay Cannes a visit at least once in your life.

To go celebrity spotting at the Cannes Film Festival

Cinema
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ACTORS POSING FOR PHOTOGRAPHERS ON THE RED CARPET BEFORE GOING UP THE FAMOUS 24 STEPS (aerial view from a 6-meter mast). Cannes Film Festival, France.
© aerial-photos.com / Alamy Stock Photo

Cannes is renowned for its impressive portfolio of world-class festivals, and the Cannes Film Festival is the crème de la crème. The Promenade de la Croisette provides the iconic backdrop for daily film premieres and A-list parties, so head there to catch a glimpse of George and Amal Clooney, and the rest of the stars of world cinema. This annual event has been running since 1946, and takes place in the spring.

So you can kick back on beautiful beaches

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People in the sea on Midi Plage beach in Cannes, France
© Polly Thomas / Alamy Stock Photo
Cannes is home to a number of beautiful private and public beaches, so you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to a day by the sea. While the private sands by La Croisette are the most central and offer handy amenities, including toilets and lockers, they can come with a hefty price tag. If you’re looking for a more pocket-friendly jaunt, head to the Plage du Midi, on the other side of the port from Cannes centre, for huge stretches of public beach and far fewer people. It’s great if you’ve got kids in tow, too.

To say you’ve eaten at French Michelin-star restaurants

Restaurant, French, $$$
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Restaurant La Palme d'Or, Gourmetrestaurant, Cannes, Cote d'Azur, Provence, France
© Werner Dieterich / Alamy Stock Photo

Live like a well-to-do local on the French Riviera by eating like one. There are over 80 Michelin-star restaurants in the region: if you’re hoping to rub shoulders with Leonardo DiCaprio or Brad Pitt, head to the Art Deco Palme d’Or for its tasting menu, created with locally sourced ingredients and sustainable gastronomy. Meanwhile, La Villa Archange is the ideal place to pop the question: a private courtyard with candlelit tables sets the tone, while dishes including foie gras Bellini and cannon of lamb with truffle, thyme and lemon tapenade will seal the deal.

To feel like the rich and famous on La Croisette

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Intercontinental Carlton
Courtesy of Intercontinental Carlton / Expedia.com
With its five-star hotels, charming bistros and big-name boutiques, there are few city promenades more dazzling than La Croisette. Head there in the morning to avoid the crowds and searing midday sun, before stopping for lunch at the Intercontinental Carlton’s fairly priced beachside restaurant. It serves classic staples with a twist such as a smoked salmon club sandwich. La Croisette is perhaps even more spectacular at night when it twinkles with bright lights and the glamorous Cannois are out to play.

To sample local delights at Le Marché Forville food market

Market, French, Mediterranean
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Marché Forville, Cannes, France
James Fenn / | © Culture Trip
A gigantic indoor market for flowers, produce and fromages galore, Le Marché Forville is a Cannes institution. The market is a couple of blocks back from the port and has been around since 1934, serving up everything from fresh herbs to fish and plenty of local olive oil. Master pork butcher François Tomé is the man to visit for cold meats, including tripe sausages from Troyes, ham from Burgundy and dried sausage from Lyon. Pick up the makings of a picnic and head to the beach for an afternoon feast.

Because it boasts some of the best architecture in the world

Building, Swimming Pool, Architectural Landmark
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PALAIS BULLES (aerial view). Theoule-sur-Mer, Esterel Massif, Alpes-Maritimes, French Riviera, France.
© aerial-photos.com / Alamy Stock Photo
From the magical Château Thorenc, which was designed in the 1870s for the Duchess of Bedford, to the quirky Palais Bulles (a series of pink, circular buildings running into one another), Cannes is an architecture lover’s dream. The Intercontinental Carlton Hotel, designed by Charles Dalmas in 1911 and made famous in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1950s movie To Catch A Thief, is a must-visit if you’re interested in French Art Nouveau architecture.

It’s a short ferry ride away from the Lérins Islands

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Europe, France, Alpes-Maritimes, Cannes. Sailboat front of fort Sainte Marguerite Lerins islands.
© Norbert Scanella / Alamy Stock Photo

Just a 20-minute ferry ride from Cannes, the Lérins’ two tiny islands of Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat are perfect for a day-trip. Île Sainte-Marguerite has great picnic posts and boasts a maritime-themed museum and a 17th-century bastion, which once served as a remote holding cell for prisoners including the Man in the Iron Mask. Meanwhile, Île Saint-Honorat is best known for its Cistercian abbey, where two dozen monks still cultivate vineyards on the island. There’s no ferry between the two islands, so you’ll have to return to the mainland if you want to visit both.

To wander around Croix des Gardes

Park, Natural Feature, Botanical Garden
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Around 1km (0.6mi) north of La Croisette, there are more than 200 acres (80ha) of grassland and vegetation to explore at Cannes’ glorious national park, La Croix des Gardes. Take a picnic along to one of the several different viewpoints such as the Cross (La Croix) offering vistas of Cannes, the bay, the Lérins islands and the foothills of the Alps. This national park is where ex-Lord Chancellor Lord Brougham, the first British noble to end up in Cannes in 1834, built Villa Éléonore, which marked the first step in the city’s ascent to world-glam status.

It’s an art lover’s dream

Art Gallery
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Cannes’ art scene is rooted in painting, sculpture and photography, and it continues to thrive today. You could easily spend days perusing the independent art galleries the city has to offer, such as Galerie Arista, Galerie Neel and Galerie Sintitulo – but if time doesn’t permit, there are a few must-visits. The Centre d’Art La Malmaison hosts a rotation of exhibitions from popular 20th- and 21st-century artists, while those interested in Post-Impressionist art should head to Galerie Hurtebize.

For a unique history lesson

Building, Museum
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JCTP0068-View from Old Town Le Suquet-Cannes-France-Fenn--52
James Fenn / | © Culture Trip
Learning about Cannes’ culture from a medieval tower sounds pretty cool, right? The Castre Museum, on the Suquet hill, holds a brilliant collection of artefacts, including instruments and art dating back to the 19th century. You’ll learn all about Cannes in its former glory as a not-so glamorous tiny fishing village, before it started attracting tourists at the beginning of the 1900s. In nearby Grasse, the Provence Art and History Museum also tells the story of this city’s colourful history.

This is an updated version of an article originally by Alex Ledsom.

These recommendations were updated on July 25, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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