Cannes is one of the many beautiful places along the French Rivera, famous for being the home to the Annual Cannes Film Festival. On our recent trip to Cannes I had mixed emotions. At first it was so wonderful to be by the coast I was so happy to be there, then after a little bit of wandering I felt it didn’t have all the charm I had expected it to, and by the time I left I had found some things I loved about Cannes. So I put together a mini guide to Cannes to help you plan your trip so you can make up your own mind ;)
Language: French (but there is a lot more Italian presence and restaurants here than in other parts of France)
Currency: Euro (EUR)
On Arrival: Arriving in Cannes was very easy. We took a 5 hour train from Paris which was very scenic, and the train station in Cannes is right in the main part of Cannes. So from here, you can either walk to your accommodation or if it’s further away take a taxi. We book our Europe trains online through Trainline.
Getting Around: Cannes is a very walk-able place. It’s fairly flat (except for Le Suquet, otherwise known as the old quarter, which is a little hill) and not that big, with the main attractions being the Promenade de la Croisette (walkway along the beach), the main shopping street of Rue D’Antibes and the old quarter Le Suquet. Otherwise, you can hire bicycles throughout Cannes (Velo Bleu), get a taxi or bus. You can also hire a car, but it’s not really necessary to have a car to explore Cannes, more the surrounding French Rivera. Another great alternative is to take a boat trip to explore the nearby islands or the coast.
When To Go: We went to Cannes in the last week of May, and we had a mixture of cold/rainy weather and crisp blue warm days. It was about a week after the Cannes Film Festival. If you do want to be in Cannes during the film festival, you will need to book up to a year in advance and expect to pay high prices, so if this isn’t your thing parts of May would be best avoided. Summer is peak season, therefore prices are higher and crowds are thicker. For good weather, May (after the Cannes Film Festival, June and early Autumn (September and October) would be our picks.
See + Do
Cannes is much smaller than I had imagined, but there are still some great things to see and do. In a way, it’s almost a blessing that there’s not 1000 things to do, so you can take in the beach and atmosphere and relax.
Walking along the Promenade de la Croisette is a great way to relax and get some sea breeze. You can swim at the public or paid beaches along here, or have a drink or some lunch at one of the beach restaurants (although prices are pretty high). The other side of the road is lined with shops and hotels.
If you’re looking for a little more history you can take Rue Saint Antoine up through the old quarter that is Le Suquet. At the top of the hill you will find a great lookout, a church (Notre-Dame de l’Esperance) and Musee de la Castre.
It is also in the old quarter where you will find a great local market, Marche Forville. This is definitely worth a visit. You can get fresh produce and some food to eat right away… we had some fried zucchini flowers, yum!
Another great spot to walk is around the old port (Vieux Port). Here you will see lot’s of boats, it’s right next to the area where the Cannes film festival is held and there are some restaurants.
If you’re up for a bit of shopping than La Croisette and Rue D’Antibes are the main shopping streets.
Another great and popular thing to do in Cannes is actually not in Cannes… but to go to the Iles des Lerins, a group of Islands off Cannes. Ile Sainte Honorat is about a 20 minute boat ride and Ile Sainte Marguerite is about a 15 minute boat ride from Cannes.
Eat + Drink
We had a lovely dinner here of traditional french food. Located on the port, there’s a lovely atmosphere. They have set menu options, 3 courses for 24 Euro or 3 courses for 29 Euro, as well as a la carte. Make sure to book in advance even if just by a couple of days.
This was a big undercover market in the old quarter with a great atmosphere and fresh produce. Here you can find fruit and vegetables, cheese, condiments, flowers and even ready to eat food. A great place to pack a picnic if you are heading to the islands for the day.
Philcat is a little kiosk at the Old Port that sells sandwiches and gets great reviews. We didn’t get a chance to try this one, but it would be great for a simple lunch or to pack for a picnic.
Jean-Luc Pele is a boulangerie and patisserie in Cannes with a few stores. We had some pastries that were good but not standout, but the macaroons were pretty delicious.
I really wanted to have a lunch on the beach during our time in Cannes, but I just couldn’t find a good enough option to justify the high prices. An alternate option would be to have a drink at the beach restaurants instead to soak up the atmosphere.
Cannes is home to some beautiful luxury hotels but here are our tops picks:
Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic – Great location, private beach, well reviewed.
Five Seas Hotel – Great location, private beach and Michelin starred restaurant.
InterContinental Carlton Cannes – Iconic hotel, great location and beautiful albeit expensive beach club.
Le Grand Hotel – Great location, only 45 rooms, modern rooms.
Another great alternative is booking your own apartment through Airbnb. Sign up here and get $45 off your first stay.
We had a great time in Cannes, although it isn’t our favourite pick along the French Rivera. Worth a visit if you have the time, but if you are only seeing one place on the French Rivera, I would choose another location. You can see most of the sights in Cannes in a half day/day, and then add on a half-day/day for the islands. It is very easy to get to, right on the train line with the train station in the centre of Cannes.