Cannes has a reputation for being expensive and, while that may be partly true, you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the South of France. Many of the best things in this city – the beach, the views, the weather and the architecture – can all be enjoyed for free. Here’s a list of the best attractions to experience in Cannes free of charge.
Marché Forville (Forville Market) is one of the highlights of Cannes. It’s open daily (except Mondays, when the antique market is in the same location) 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. While you might choose to buy a picnic or some lunch, it isn’t necessary to buy a thing and the samples are free. For more information visit our ultimate guide to Marché Forville.
Walk the most famous street in Cannes: La Croisette is where everyone hangs out or passes through on their way to have an apéro or dinner. It’s a mile long and lined with beaches, ice cream stalls and some of the most iconic hotels in the world (like the Carlton). Pull up one of the chairs along the route and take in the atmosphere.
Many of the beaches in or near Cannes are free (although there are some – attached to the big hotels – which are private). Palm Beach, which overlooks the Island of Sainte-Marguerite, is particularly popular and is situated at the easternmost of the Croisette. 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 side of Cannes.
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.
La Croix-des-Gardes is a national park of more than 200 acres, bordering the coastline to the west of Cannes. The grounds were originally laid out by an English couple who were forced to stop over in Cannes while on their way to Nice one night because of illness. They fell in love with the place and bought some land to build a château. There are five routes to follow, lovely gardens and a natural hiking ground. One of the highlights is the huge cross at the top of the hill overlooking the town.
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) that was built in the 12th century by the Lérins monks. Make a stop in at the church (Église Notre-Dame-d’Espérance) and walk the winding cobbled streets that have been home to local fisherman throughout the centuries. Cannes itself doesn’t have much in the way of museums and historic monuments, but these are charming.
The French may call window shopping ‘licking the windows’ (lécher les vitrines), but there’s no need to actually do anything other than look. Either walk down the rue Meynadier to gaze at the beautiful 18th-century houses that have been transformed into small boutiques or head to the rue d’Antibes for high-end gazing. Some of the most expensive shops in Cannes are concentrated in this small area, along with all the best designer stores and some lovely chocolatiers.