Cannes has some wonderful architecture, from the historic structures of Le Suquet to the more modern opulence of the buildings on La Croisette. Make sure you visit Musée de la Castre, an old fortress, and Notre-Dame D’Espérance, a stunning church, both in Le Suquet. For grander buildings, walk along to the Malmaison, now the museum of contemporary art, or the InterContinental Carlton Hotel. Both are great examples of Belle Époque architecture (the period between the Franco-Prussian War in 1870 and World War I in 1914).
The Lérins Islands
Just off the coast of Cannes, a short ferry ride away, there is a group of four islands, two of which are big enough to visit. Sainte-Marguerite is the biggest and offers great picnic spots, while the island of Saint-Honorat has an old fortress that looms over the edge of the sea. Saint-Honorat also has an old abbey, where monks still take a vow of silence and have been harvesting grapes and producing wine for centuries. Wander around the abbey, have lunch and sample the wine.
The national park
Cannes boasts a glorious park, La Croix-des-Gardes, with over 200 acres of lush grassland and vegetation to explore. The land was bought by Lord Brougham, an Englishman credited with establishing Cannes as a popular holiday destination, and is where he laid out his grand home, Château Eléonore, after he fell in love with the area in the 1830s. You can now hike around the grounds and see for yourself why he admired the place so much. Take a picnic and enjoy the change of pace from the usual Cannes activities.
There are a number of beautiful sculptures and statues in Cannes, notably Atlante, the mermaid girl who watches over the coastline and serves as a reminder to be protective of the sea. The city also has some wonderful museums, like the Malmaison (full of interesting exhibitions of modern art), as well as a number of independent art galleries such as Galerie Neel and Galerie du Carlton, which is actually inside the Carlton Hotel.
The Marché Forville food market
Cannes has some lovely food markets, including the Marché Forville. It’s open for antiques on Mondays, but every other day it’s a great place to buy seasonal fruit and vegetables grown by local farmers. Many stalls also sell cooked meats, seafood and other homemade delicacies. The Forville Market is the best place to find socca, a local delicacy in Cannes. This chickpea pancake is fried over very high heat and served much like a crepe in a paper wrapper.
The restaurants and bars
The French Riviera is known for its love of food and Cannes has a great selection of seafood restaurants, trendy bars and wonderful cafés. The city also has several outlets of high-end Parisian pâtisseries selling homemade, state-of-the-art chocolate creations, macarons and desserts.
The cooking courses
Cannes and its surroundings offer many culinary experiences where you can learn to prepare Mediterranean food and other dishes like a local. Lots of the cookery courses are a slight drive out of town, like the chocolate workshop with Patrice Arbona in nearby Vence. In the small town of La Colle-sur-Loup, you can learn to cook in the Provençal countryside with Notes de Cuisine. Alternatively, stay in town and take a course with La Serviette Blanche, which runs cooking classes in chefs’ homes, masterclasses in making desserts and tours around the local markets.
The colourful history
Arriving in the 18th century for winter, visitors from abroad came to Cannes for the marvellous weather and amazing scenery, and there are plenty of interesting stories regarding the people who have made the town their home. English Chancellor Lord Brougham was forced to stop in the little village of Le Suquet (before it became the bigger town of Cannes) on his way to Italy in the 1830s because of a cholera outbreak. Brougham loved Cannes so much that he bought extensive land and built Château Eléonore here, named in honour of his daughter. Others followed suit: Russian dukes partied; a future King of England met his mistress; and British Prime Minister Gladstone recuperated from an illness.
Cannes is full of beautiful beaches. If you don’t want to pay to hang out at the beach, you could instead choose to make your way to a public one. Plage de la Bocca, Plage du Midi and Palm Beach are particularly popular beaches in Cannes – the latter is on the headland in Cannes and very family friendly. For a more exclusive experience, visit Plage du Goéland, where you can hire a sun-lounger (from which you will be waited on), reserve a table for lunch and store your valuables in a locker. Check out their Facebook page for up-to-date details on opening hours and menus.
Cannes is perhaps best known for its festivals. Aside from the annual advertising festival, Cannes Lions, which is legendary in its own right, there are two shows that are open to everyone. The Cannes Film Festival attracts everyone who is anyone in film to its annual event and, even if you can’t get a ticket, it’s a great time to celebrity-spot. The Yachting Festival takes place every year in September when the latest grand yachts are paraded out to the public. Both are very chic events and a great reason to visit Cannes.
Whether your a foodie, a beach goer or one for culture, make sure you check out these 20 unmissable things to do while in Cannes.