The Top 30 Unmissable Things to Do in Cannes, France

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Alex Ledsom

A trip to the French Riviera wouldn’t be complete without visiting Cannes. While many visit for the annual Cannes Film Festival, there’s plenty to see in this Mediterranean town beyond A-list actors. Explore the quaint old quarter of Le Suquet, admire the view from the church of Notre-Dame d’Esperance or indulge in retail therapy on the Rue d’Antibes. Check out Culture Trip’s guide for the things to do in Cannes.

1. Stroll along La Croisette

Building, Park

View of Mountains in the distance from La Croisette, Cannes, France
Jannis Lucas / Unsplash
Like the Promenade des Anglais in neighbouring Nice, La Croisette is one of the most iconic streets in France – it certainly dominates Cannes, running the length of the seafront for 1.6km (1mi). Dotted with designer boutiques, palm trees and casinos, it’s here that you’ll find the smartest hotels, many of which have their own private beaches. If you don’t mind paying for a sun lounger, you can enjoy waiter service on the beach as you look out over the Bay of Cannes – otherwise, pick one of the public benches lining La Croisette and turn your gaze the other way to watch the chic residents of Cannes strut around town. Any good walking tour is bound to feature a guided stroll along La Croisette.

2. Spend a morning on Palm Beach

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Busy beach in Cannes, France
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There are lots of charming public beaches in Cannes, where it doesn’t cost a thing to spend the day on one of the world’s most admired coastlines. If you’re looking for a quiet beach, you could do much worse than Palm Beach, which is at the tip of the headland and slightly away from the madness of La Croisette. It’s ideal for families and windsurfers because it’s quite shallow near the shoreline. Join an e-bike tour of the city to discover Palm Beach with a guide.

3. Go sailing around the French Riviera

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Birds eye view of boats sailing in the crystal clear waters of the French Riviera, near Cannes
Vlad Hilitanu / Unsplash

Cannes is the perfect jumping-off point for exploring the Cote d’Azur by boat. There are a wide array of vessels to hire for the day – from small motorboats to glamorous 12m (40ft) catamarans – many of which come with a skipper to take charge of the helm. If you’d rather spend more time at sea than on the land, you could also book a multi-day sailing holiday. Check out the full range of Cannes sailing tours with Culture Trip.

4. Sample the finest local produce at Marché Forville


Think you know your cheese? Familiar with your fruits de mer? With such a large offering at the Marché Forville, even the most accomplished foodie will learn something here. Inside it might look like a nondescript sports hall, but the buzz is distinctly French as locals browse for their favourite food among the dozens of stalls. Come along on any morning (except Monday) to try some local olives and neck a few oysters, or pick up some paella for lunch.

5. Get lost in Le Suquet


Le Suquet, Cannes, France
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Le Suquet, a Roman settlement above the city, is the oldest area in Cannes. The neighbourhood is a delight to stroll around, and the pastel-coloured buildings give a sense of what Cannes was like in the 18th and 19th centuries (before the hordes of holidaymakers arrived). Explore the steep, cobbled streets in search of subterranean bars, family-run restaurants and great views of the Bay of Cannes.

6. Musée de la Castre

Building, Museum

The Musée de la Castre is located within a medieval castle that was once home to the monks of Lérins. Positioned high above the city, it provides amazing views of Cannes and beyond. In the 19th century, the museum was bequeathed an eclectic art collection by a local resident, which includes medieval artefacts, Asian instruments and unusual paintings. Climb all 109 steps to the top of the medieval tower for a commanding 360-degree view of Cannes.

7. Make a day trip to Île Sainte-Marguerite

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Île Sainte-Marguerite, Cannes, France
jacques dufrenoy / Unsplash
Île Sainte-Marguerite, the largest Lérins island, just north of Saint-Honorat, is reached by a ferry service (the two smallest can only be reached by private boat). The sleepy island was famously home to a prison that housed the Man in the Iron Mask, a prisoner whom King Louis XIV wanted to remain unidentified for his 11-year confinement. Take a walk around the battlements and the museum at Fort Royal, to the north of the island. Check out the remains of a cannonball kiln (four à boulets), to the east. You can book your ferry in advance via our link below.

8. Take a trip to the Musée Picasso


The Old Town of Antibes is a memorable place full of small streets and lots of character. At its heart, you’ll find the Picasso Museum, which is housed in the Château Grimaldi. Named after the family who arrived in the 14th century and built a castle on the foundations of the ancient Greek town, Antipolis, it later became the property of the town. They invited Picasso to stay for six months in 1946 and when he left, he bequeathed 23 paintings and 44 drawings to the town. It’s a great opportunity to see some fantastic artwork in a spectacular location. Note that it is closed on Mondays.

Visit the Cannes Yachting Festival

In September, the Cannes Yachting Festival provides a chance to admire the latest boats and luxury yachts on sale. If you can’t afford the down payment on a vessel, don’t worry – put on your least crumpled clothes and play out your tycoon fantasies by visiting all the sleekest sailing machines. This is the place for shipbuilders to show off their grands designs, so the festival attracts an international crowd, with about 50 percent of the attendees coming from overseas. It takes place in two locations: Le Vieux Port (Old Port) and Port Pierre Canto.

Walk around La Croix-des-Gardes

When the small village of Cannes was first becoming popular with British holidaymakers in the 19th century, one man built a sizeable château to the west of the village and laid out extensive gardens. These have now become a wide public space of trails and hikes – the Parc Naturel Forestier de la Croix-des-Gardes – which culminate in a giant polished-steel cross at the highest point. The park is a great place for a walk and a picnic.

Stay at the Hotel Barrière Le Majestic

While the Carlton Hotel might be the most well-known place to stay in Cannes among out-of-towners, the Hotel Barrière Le Majestic is just as iconic among the locals. The hotel is right on La Croisette and has its own private beach. It also hosts lots of events (particularly in the summer months), like funky club nights, and is a good place to watch the Bastille Day fireworks in July. Fans of Robert De Niro may recognise the hotel entrance from the 1998 thriller Ronin.

Admire La Mairie de Cannes (Town Hall)

Construction of the grand town hall, designed by Cannes architect Louis Hourlier, was completed in 1877 – it took just three years to build. A few years later, in 1880, Hourlier’s bandstand was erected just over the street in Allée de la Liberté Charles de Gaulle – the slanted shape improves its acoustics. Looking out over Le Vieux Port (Old Port), La Mairie de Cannes is a splendid example of early French Third Republic architecture, complete with an ornate clock face housed under a mansard roof. Later in life, Hourlier had time to enjoy his creations up close – he became a town councillor in 1895.

People-watch in Le Vieux Port

A picturesque mix of traditional charm and immense wealth, Le Vieux Port (Old Port) is where the stern medieval architecture of Le Suquet towers over (and perhaps looks down upon) the glamorous rows of yachts lined up in the port. Pick one of the cool bars that line the water’s edge to watch the huge ships glide in and out of town, and perhaps you’ll see the gilded few who get ferried to and from the biggest yachts. It’s an Instagram favourite at sunrise or sunset, when the magical colours of the portside buildings take on a new lease of life.

Enjoy the view from Notre-Dame d’Espérance

Built in the 14th and 15th centuries, this gothic church in Le Suquet, at the top of a hill above Cannes, offers wonderful views over the town. You just have to scale dozens of steps to get there. The bell tower is a nice complement to its neighbour, the Musée de la Castre, which was built a couple of centuries before. If you visit in July, keep an eye out for the Musical Nights of Le Suquet, a one-week festival that takes place every year.

Explore Île Saint-Honorat

Venture across to the second largest of the four Lérins Islands, just a short boat ride south from Cannes. It’s home to an abbey, founded by a hermit in 410CE, when monks owned most of Cannes. Today, the monks in residence still make wine under a vow of silence. Spend an afternoon exploring the abbey itself as well as the rest of the car-free island, including the pretty port and towering fortified monastery, which appears to rise straight out of the sea. It’s well worth a visit to see the quieter side of Cannes.

Peruse artwork at the Centre d’Art La Malmaison

The Centre d’Art La Malmaison is housed in what was once part of the 19th-century Grand Hotel on La Croisette. The hotel was demolished in 1958 – except for the games room, which now houses lots of artwork from the 20th and 21st centuries. With its grand, balconied facade and palm trees outside, it’s a brilliant modern art museum inside and out, with fantastic temporary exhibitions. La Malmaison is a must-see.

Shop along the Rue d’Antibes

Cannes is well known for its shopping and, along with some of the other towns on the French Riviera, or in the South of France (Aix-en-Provence springs to mind), it has some of the chicest shops and boutiques in the country. Rue d’Antibes is a particularly wonderful place to window-shop and watch the super rich in action. Even if shopping isn’t your jam, the architecture is well worth admiring – many of the buildings are decorated with sculptures by Pellegrini.

Sunbathe on Plage du Midi

On the other side of town, away from La Croisette, is another unmissable and popular beach, Plage du Midi. There are no sunloungers for rent, though, so join the locals and pop down a towel wherever you can find a spot (as with all public beaches on the French Riviera, just watch your valuables). There are plenty of restaurants and ice-cream stalls around for refreshments.

Peace and quiet at the Lérins Abbey

The Lérins Abbey is well off the beaten track – in fact, you’ll have to take a boat out from Cannes’ port to reach it. The abbey is on the island of Saint-Honorat and was built in the 5th century. Monks have been here ever since, harvesting grapes, presiding over their wine exports and taking a vow of silence. There’s a restaurant here and you can even choose to stay on retreat, during which you can take time out to walk the calm coastline.

Discover cutting edge artworks at Galerie Neel

Established by Sabrina and Franck Neel in 1992, the small but well-known Galerie Neel plays host to a variety of artists, painters and sculptors. Having spent many years in New York, Los Angeles and Japan, the Neels returned to France to showcase the best in contemporary art. This intimate gallery has featured artists such as Cécile Desserle, who uses charcoal and make-up brushes to produce vibrant and sensual modern portraits. Galerie Neel has also recently begun using LED lighting for displays, for aesthetic and presentation purposes.

Play pétanque on La Croisette

La Croisette is Cannes’ most famous street and, like the Promenade des Anglais in Nice, it is rarely quiet and certainly not hidden. However, most people bypass the little space along the walk where people play pétanque, the French national past-time. Buy an ice cream and relax in the shade watching locals, who are often taking the game very seriously. It’s the perfect pit-stop.

Browse modern art at Galerie Hurtebize

The Hurtebize gallery in Cannes specialises in Post-Impressionist and Modern art. While purchasing one of these paintings might be out of reach for most, it shouldn’t stop you from admiring the wonderful work, which includes the likes of Renoir.

Admire the quirky design of the Palais Bulles

In neighbouring Théoule-sur-Mer, high in the hills overlooking the bay, is the quirky Palais Bulles (Bubble House). It was designed for French fashion designer Pierre Cardin and, while it’s private property, it’s an amazing architectural sight to behold. Each building is circular, pink and linked to the next, surrounding two pools and a lush garden.

Wander the gardens of the Villa Domergue

If you are keen to venture a little out of the centre of Cannes, then you could choose to head to the Villa Domergue, designed by the man of the same name, who was a keen portrait painter of women. The villa was built in 1934 and the family left it to the city of Cannes in 1973. There is usually a little art in situ and statues in the gardens and, with its calm atmosphere, it’s a great place to relax before heading back out into the bustle of the city.

Eat truffles at the Marché de la Truffe, Bastide Saint-Antoine

Just outside of Cannes, in the nearby town of Grasse, is the Bastide Saint-Antoine. Housed in what was originally a 17th-century Provençal country home, there is now a restaurant and hotel led by the Michelin-starred chef, Jacques Chibois – there is even a truffle market here each January. It doesn’t come cheap but this is a very exclusive corner of the world, where you’ll feel wonderfully hidden away from it all.

Enjoy contemporary art at Galerie Vieceli

Located on the rue d’Antibes, this gallery forms an important part of Cannes’s cultural centre, situated around the Promenade de la Croisette. Permanent exhibitions feature artists such as Alain Geneau, whose work on flowers demonstrates an acute emotional control of shape, Yves Aubry, known for his use of vibrant colours and Christian Jequel, a painter inspired by the scenes of everyday life. It was founded in 2005 and another one opened on the same street in 2015.

Catch a movie at the Cannes Film Festival

Of course, Cannes is home to the world’s most illustrious international film festival – the Cannes Film Festival – which celebrates both art-house and mainstream cinema. Cannes comes alive every May when the most celebrated names in the film world descend on the city. Although the festival takes place all over town, in every theatre, cinema and hotel, the main concentration is on the city’s most swanky street, La Croisette. Look out for world-famous actors, ultra-rich yacht-owners and some excellent films.

Don your best outfit outside the Palais hoping to get in

If you’re attending the Cannes Film Festival, then the Palais is the place to be. This is where all the major screenings take place, with a total of 18 auditoriums. The classic images of stars photographed before their movie screenings during the film festival are taken on its famous red steps, outside the Lumière Theatre. The red carpet gets so dirty that it is changed three times a day (in contrast, the Debussy theatre has a blue carpet). Badge holders attending the festival get penalised for not turning up and leaving auditorium seats empty, so unused tickets will be brought back if they can’t be used, and re-offered to the public. It isn’t unheard of for particularly well-dressed visitors to be given one of these coveted tickets. For men, this means a tux. For women, a glamorous gown.

Take in the history at the Hotel Intercontinental Carlton

The film festival is a busy time for Cannes and you need to be prepared to deal with the crowds. The best way to do this is to embrace the hustle and bustle and see who you can spot around town doing their fruit shopping in the market or while having dinner on a terrace. Head to the Hotel Carlton, where Alfred Hitchcock filmed To Catch A Thief in the 1950s, and wander the lobby to take it all in. If you’re lucky you might be able to secure a table in the restaurant (but be prepared to spend a lot of cash) or try a cocktail at the bar. Dress to impress or you won’t stand a chance of getting in.

Get cultural at Espace Miramar

Espace Miramar is an exhibition space dedicated to photography and the visual arts. Located on the ground floor of an old hotel (the Palais Miramar Hotel, which was built in 1929), Miramar gets involved during the Cannes film festival, screening movies in its large auditorium. Six times a year, it holds major exhibitions centred around moving image throughout the ages.

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