Once, long ago, a simple fishing village. Now, a top resort on the Mediterranean, a charming city with elegant streets, chic cafes, luxury hotels, and white yachts lined up in the harbor. Cannes, a kind of Cinderella of the French Riviera, a destination I’ve had for a long time on my bucket list.
Before arriving there, I had the impression that it was bigger, referring to both the surface and the population. But I realized that it fits perfectly in the expression strong essences are kept in small bottles and can be explored even in only one day. That doesn’t mean it’s boring, but for a traveler who wants to see as many places as possible in a short time, one day is a compromise option to taste a little from the flavor of Cannes.
The main reason that makes tourists around the world want to discover it is the famous Cannes International Film Festival. The big event that is held every year in May. Except for that period, Cannes is not very crowded, although it has much more than the grandiose ceremony to offer. After about two days of exploring it, I’ve made a long list of activities and places that I hope you’ll be happy to find, do or see.
15 reasons to visit and love Cannes
1. Promenade de la Croisette
Let’s begin with the main boulevard, 3 km long, parallel to the beach with the same name. The Croisette Promenade has two walking directions, separated by a patch full of exotic vegetation. Ingredients that made me feel like I’m walking on Ocean Drive in Miami. However, the difference is given by the architecture of the hotels. Here, you won’t find Art Deco, but you’ll be delighted by Art Nouveau.
A very good example is the Carlton Hotel, famous for the elegance and refinement of its exterior facades, but also for its over 100 years of existence and for being the number one choice for celebrities who come to visit Cannes.
The promenade is the perfect place to walk and see the people in Cannes. From young lovers, who come here in their holidays, businessmen and street animators to international celebrities, locals, most of them after their first youth, with an exaggerated bronze and accompanied by gorgeous small puppies, dressed in luxurious clothes to match their owners.
2. The beautiful beaches and the turquoise Mediterranean sea
Generally, the beaches are private and belong to the hotels or clubs in the area. The price for a day at the beach, along with the rental of a hammock, starts at 30 euros. But if you visit Cannes on a low budget, you don’t have to feel discouraged. There are also public beaches, but they are a bit more crowded and more distant from the central area. Cannes is a very sought-after destination for perfect tanning spots, and this is because, in the hot summer months, the sun stays up for 12 hours per day. Time enough to get the desired color for your skin. Waves in green-blue shades in combination with the yellow-colored sunbeds and umbrellas offer a nice vibe, as you can see in the pictures.
3. Stylish streets
Like most resorts on the Cote d’Azur, the streets of Cannes are a delight. Charming balconies filled with flowers, pastel colors, fine architecture of buildings and the cubic stone form beautiful decors. The most charming neighborhood is the one that bears the scent of the past, Suquet, the old part of the city, with crooked streets and hutched houses on the hill. It is the place where the monks lived starting with the 12th century, later occupied by fishermen, in a time when Cannes had nothing to do with luxury.
Here, you can admire two of the oldest and most representative buildings of the city: Castre Museum, but also the old church Église Notre-Dame d’Espérance. Moreover, here you can enjoy the most beautiful panorama of Cannes from the top.
Even if it’s best known for beautiful beaches and the International Film Festival, Cannes is a rich destination both in culture and history. The most appreciated and visited museums are the Museum of Art and History, the Navy Museum, the International Photography Museum, and Villa Domergue. The most famous one, however, is the Castre Museum and its extensive collection of antiquities, located on the Le Suquet hill. Even the famous Hotel Carlton has an impressive collection of paintings that can be visited. They belong to Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and Chagall. Therefore, museums are definitely part of Cannes tourist attractions.
5. Cannes Film Festival
We have established from the beginning the greatness of the event that is being watched by a whole world in May of each year. It is for this reason that the building where the festival takes place doesn’t seem to make justice to the event and that something Belle Epoque style would be more appropriate than a modernist one. But that’s just my opinion, obviously purely subjective.
Initially, the film festival was hosted by another building which today is the JW Marriot Hotel. Same building where the Eurovision was held in 1959 and 1961. If you arrive in Cannes in May, you have the chance to step on the famous red carpet on the 22 steps of the main entrance to the Palace. A fun fact worth mentioning is that during the festival, the 60-meter long carpet is changed three times a day to look impeccable at all times.
6. Shopping sessions on Rue d’Antibes
The second most transited artery of the city after the Croisette Promenade is Rue d’Antibes, the commercial street of the city. Here, the architecture of the buildings is so beautiful and well preserved that you have the feeling that you are on a movie set. The discordant note is made by the cars, the commercials, and the shops. Another difference is that here you can find some more accessible brands like H & M and Zara. In contrast with Promenade de la Croisette. Rue d’Antibes used to be the former road connecting Toulon and Antibes.
7. Chemin des Etoiles, the alley of cinema stars
No, we are not on Walk of Fame, the famous alley on which the Hollywood stars have their names graven next to a star in Los Angeles. We are on Chemin des Etoiles, the place nearby the Palace where the International Film Festival. Here, over 150 of the best-known movie stars have left their mark as some kind of signature. I thought you might want to add it to the list of things to see in Cannes.
8. Vieux Port or the Old Port
Also nearby the Palace, you can find Vieux Port or the Old Port in translation. Here, you will want to come and admire the interesting mix of small boats for fishing and the luxury yachts. Many of which are departed far in the sea to host luxurious parties with champagne and caviar. Also, here you should come if you wish to go on a trip of a few hours to the nearby islands. Thanks to the proximity to the Palace in which the International Film Festival takes places, but also to the Le Suquet neighborhood, the port is very much transited by tourists and locals. Therefore, it is part of the list of the main attractions of Cannes.
9. The markets full of flavors and colors
For an authentic gastronomic journey, you cannot visit Cannes without visiting one of the markets. If you walk through the city, it will be difficult to distinguish locals from tourists. But here you will definitely have the opportunity to do that. The most famous market is Marché Forville. However, there are others just as charming. Prices are higher than those you’re used when buying vegetables in general. You’ll see some examples in the photos below.
10. The fascinating architecture of the buildings
Lovers of beauty and especially of the architecture will enjoy the charming ornamented facades, wrought-iron balconies wrought and decorated with intricate patterns, the perfect symmetry, the pastel colors, the elegance and the refinement that make up every house, villa or hotel. While la Croisette is lined with Belle Epoque style buildings, once you are away from the boulevard and head to the neighborhoods of the houses and the sumptuous villas of the locals, you will notice a mix of baroque, rococo, art-deco and even exotic and modern, sometimes even neoclassical, with its imposing columns.
11. The nearby islands
The entertainment is not delimited by the continental portion of the city. Just 15 minutes by boat, you can discover a group of 4 emerald islands, Îles de Lérins. Two of them are not inhabited, but the other two definitely are. The largest of them is Île Sainte-Marguerite and hosts spectacular beaches, the Maritime Museum, pedestrianized circuits, and a very perfumed eucalyptus forest. The waters around the island are crystalline and shelter numerous marine life. Therefore, it is suitable for snorkeling lovers and other water sports.
The smallest, St. Honorat Island was occupied in the 5th century by the monks, so this island is less modernized. The religious past is also noticeable by a large number of such edifices located on its territory. If you get to St. Honorat Island, don’t forget to taste the local liquor produced from herbs, but also wine, lavender oil, and honey. A roundtrip ferry ticket to St. Honored costs about 14 €.
12. Sensational sunsets
What would be a seaside resort without some gorgeous sunsets? Even though I spent only two nights here, I was able to enjoy an almost entirely clear sky and some very colorful and romantic sunsets.
13.Lush vegetation and flowers that give life to the city
In addition to the city’s bohemian architecture and relaxing atmosphere, Cannes receives another plus for its large number of flowers that embellish the entire landscape. But also for the exotic plants, palm trees, and citrus that you can admire everywhere in the city. On each street, pink lawns and purple glycines bring exactly the needed color tones. Especially during the warm season.
14. Statuettes and monuments full of significance
While strolling the streets of Cannes, you will see various monuments dedicated to the important events in the cultural and historical life of the city. Of these, two of them got my attention. The first one is dedicated to the person responsible for today’s flourishing tourism in Cannes, a sort of pioneer. It’s Lord Brougham, the former Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, who had been in Cannes by chance in 1834 when he couldn’t go to Italy. The place where he had planned to spend his vacation because of cholera going on there. On an unforgettable vacation in Cannes, he fell in love with the charming fishing village. So, he decided to build a villa here, Villa Eleonore. Thus, several British Aristocrats were influenced to do the same, which gradually led to the total transformation of the settlement near the Mediterranean.
The second is a sculpture of an angel carrying a palm tree, a symbol of peace given by the Russian people to the French, in 2014. The statue is located in front of Carlton Hotel on Promenade de la Croisette.
15. The unforgettable holiday atmosphere
The last reason is the extremely positive vibe of the city that I felt from the first moments. Here, everything seems like an endless holiday, in which the world is joyful and happy. The terraces are full of people who are having fun, eating delicious food, and simply enjoying their life. Undoubtedly, there are many places where to go out in Cannes.