You don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the south of France. Many of the best things (the beach, the views, the weather, the architecture and the people) can all be enjoyed for free. Here’s a list of the best free things to do in Cannes.
The Forville market is one of the highlights of Cannes. It’s open daily (except Mondays, when the antiques market is there) and you can wander around the stalls, trying tempting things to eat and drink. It has everything: fresh fish, seafood, delicious meats, seasonal fruit and vegetables and the local chickpea pancake, socca.
Opening hours: Tues–Sun, 7am to 1pm. Closed Mondays.
Walk the most famous street in Cannes; it’s where everyone hangs out or passes through on their way to the have an apéro or dinner. It’s a mile long and full of beaches, ice cream stalls, and some of the most iconic hotels in the world (like the Carlton); a great place to pull up at one of the chairs and take in the atmosphere.
The public beaches
Many of the beaches in or near Cannes are free (although there are some — attached to the big hotels — which are private). People love Palm Beach which overlooks the Island of Sainte Marguerite. It’s good for kids as it has a gentle slope into the sea and is a great place to take in a more natural element of Cannes.
Many French museums open their doors for free on the first Sunday of every month. Cannes has a couple of interesting and different museums. If you have a car, head to the International Perfume Museum, (“Musée de Grasse“) in the countryside to the north of Cannes, or to the Picasso Museum in Antibes. Both are well worth a visit, particularly when they don’t cost anything!
Take a picnic and hike through the 136 acres of public forest/woodland for free. It’s a beautiful place that borders on the seaside with amazing views over the bay or inland. Hike to the monumentally big cross that sits on the hill overlooking the entire grounds.
The old neighbourhood of Le Suquet
Le Suquet was an old Roman camp, and the original site of Cannes. It’s a lovely old neighbourhood to walk around — visit the old castle, now an art museum (Musée de la Castre), stop in at the old church (Eglise Notre-Dame d’Espérance) and walk the winding cobbled streets that have been home to local fisherman throughout the centuries.
Whether it’s during the Cannes Film Festival, or in summer at one of the high-end hotels or maybe by the old port, Cannes is a perfect place to spot celebrities. 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.
Hotel Intercontinental Carlton, 58 Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes +33 (0)4 93 06 40 06
Window shopping in rue Meynadier/rue d’Antibes
The French call window shopping, “licking the windows” (lécher les vitrines) but there’s no need to actually do anything but look. Either walk through the rue Meynadier to gaze at the beautiful 18th-century houses that are now small boutiques or head to the rue d’Antibes for high-end gazing.