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Discover the allure of the French Riviera with our guide to the best things to do in Cannes. Maximize your time in this city with insider tips.
Nestled along the stunning French Riviera, Cannes is a city that exudes glamor, luxury, and sophistication. From its crystal-clear waters and golden beaches to its world-renowned film festival, there’s an array of things to do in Cannes that cater to every traveler’s taste. Our ultimate guide will unveil the hidden gems of the city and help you make the most of your visit, ensuring a truly unforgettable time on the French Riviera.
What Should Be in Your List of Things to Do in Cannes?
Cannes is a vibrant and bustling destination, offering a plethora of activities to choose from. With so much going on, it can be overwhelming to decide where to start. Make sure not to miss the lively festivals that grace the city, showcasing art, music, and film. Don’t forget to explore nearby islands that await your discovery. And of course, indulge in mouthwatering local cuisine that ranges from fresh seafood to delectable Provençal dishes. To make your job easier, we’ve curated a list of must-do things in Cannes, ensuring you don’t miss out on the best experiences this captivating city has to offer.
Wake Up and Smell the Croissants
Bonjour, mes amis! Are you ready to indulge in the best breakfast and brunch spots that Cannes has to offer? From crispy croissants to creamy cappuccinos, get ready to awaken your senses with these options.
Experience the epitome of French elegance at the Five Seas Hotel’s rooftop restaurant- Le Roof, where you can savor a sumptuous brunch by the pool while taking in the breathtaking views of Cannes’ rooftops and the charming Le Suquet neighborhood. Choose from a delicious buffet or à la carte options and relish the delicate flavors to your liking. Brunch is served on Saturdays and Sundays from 12:00 pm to 3:00 pm. But beware, tables at this popular spot fill up fast, especially during major events. Be sure to reserve your spot well in advance.
And if you’re looking for a more casual experience, Ladurée Cannes is the perfect spot for sweet treats. As one of the original macaron makers and famous for their delectable desserts, this Parisian chain does not disappoint. The Cannes location lives up to its Parisian counterparts with its delightful selection of macarons and pastries. While Ladurée is known for their high-end pâtisserie, it’s also a perfect spot for a refined cup of tea or gourmet coffee with a side of decadent chocolate. Enjoy the atmosphere of this elegant establishment as you indulge in a sweet treat or sip on a hot beverage.
Stroll along the Boulevard de la Croisette
After your breakfast, immerse yourself in luxury along Boulevard de la Croisette. As the pride and joy of Cannes, this iconic promenade stretches for two kilometers along the sparkling Mediterranean sea and is lined with palm trees, luxurious hotels, and designer boutiques. Rub shoulders with Hollywood celebrities, fashion icons, and wealthy socialites as you stroll along this promenade.
And while you’re here, don’t forget to take in the fascinating history of Boulevard de la Croisette. During World War II, it was used as a runway for British and American airplanes. In the 1950s, it became the site of the first ever Cannes Film Festival, which has since become one of the most prestigious events in the film industry.
If you’re looking for outdoor activities, the boulevard has plenty to offer too. Take a dip in the azure waters of the Mediterranean, rent a bike and pedal your way down the promenade, or try your hand at water sports like jet skiing and parasailing.
Experience the Excitement of the Festival de Cannes
The French Riviera is famous for many things, but nothing quite compares to the excitement of the Cannes Film Festival. This glamorous red-carpet event, held in May, is the highlight of the year in Cannes.
Celebrities, filmmakers, journalists, and fans from all corners of the globe flock to the festival. Originally established in 1946 to rival the Venice Film Festival, the Festival de Cannes has earned an international reputation for discovering, supporting, and promoting excellent films.
Although the festival takes place all over town, in every theater, 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 amazing films.
Enjoy Movies and More at Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
Even if you’re not a film festival enthusiast, you can still indulge in some movie magic at Palais des Festivals et des Congrès. This convention center, located on La Croisette, is home to the famous Cannes Film Festival and features conference rooms, meeting rooms, and auditoriums. Inside the complex, you’ll find Cinema Le Majestic, a state-of-the-art theater with three screens and seating for almost 1,000 people.
Catch a new release or a classic film and immerse yourself in the thrill of cinema. For an even more unique experience, take a guided tour with a professional screenwriter to learn about the history and culture of Cannes’ movie industry, and even some juicy gossip. And don’t forget to strike a pose on the red carpet – it’s a must-do activity in Cannes and a fun way to get a behind-the-scenes look at the iconic Palais des Festivals.
Explore Le Suquet – The Old Town
Le Suquet is the perfect place to go if you’re looking for a break from the glitz and glamor of the Boulevard de la Croisette. This quaint neighborhood has a rich history dating back to the 11th century, when Cannes was a small fishing village and Le Suquet was the only inhabited area. During the 19th century the neighborhood became a hub for the perfume industry, with many of the world’s top perfumers setting up shop there.
Today, with its narrow cobblestone streets, vibrant marketplaces, and old buildings, Le Suquet is a must-visit for any traveler looking to experience the authentic charm of Cannes. The neighborhood’s historic buildings were constructed in the 16th century, and their colorful facades and lovely balconies are a photographer’s dream come true.
Discover Cultural Gems in Musée de la Castre
If you’re eager to immerse yourself in the history and culture of Cannes, the Musée des explorations du monde is an absolute must-visit. Housed in a magnificent 12th-century castle in Le Suquet neighborhood, the Musée des explorations du monde boasts an impressive collection of art and artifacts from around the world. From ancient Mediterranean civilizations to African tribal art, the museum offers a fascinating glimpse into the cultural diversity of the region.
The museum itself also has a rich history that’s worth exploring. The castle was originally built by the monks of Lérins to protect the island from pirate attacks. Also, during the 19th century, it was the site of a famous astronomical observatory, where some of the world’s top astronomers studied the stars.
One of the highlights of the museum is its stunning views. As you climb to the top of the castle’s tower, you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views of Cannes and the Mediterranean Sea. It’s the perfect place to snap some Insta-worthy shots and take in the beauty of the Riviera.
Step Back in Time in Notre-Dame d’Espérance
While you’re still in Le Suquet, make sure to visit Notre-Dame d’Espérance, one of the many must-see attractions of Cannes. Here, you’ll find the awe-inspiring church – a true masterpiece of Gothic architecture. As you step inside this centuries-old church, you’ll be transported back in time to a world of stained glass, stone arches, and ornate carvings.
The church is known for its impressive collection of artworks, including a masterful Renaissance painting of the Virgin Mary and child by the Italian artist Andrea del Sarto, and a magnificent Gothic altarpiece created by French painter Louis Bréa in the late 15th and early 16th centuries.
As you explore the church, you’ll also discover its fascinating history as a place of great significance for the community, having hosted religious ceremonies and festivals for centuries. In fact, one of the most interesting things about Notre-Dame d’Espérance is its association with the Cannes Film Festival. Every year, the festival’s opening ceremony is held at the nearby Palais des Festivals, and a procession of celebrities makes their way to the church to attend a special mass. It’s a beautiful tradition that celebrates the intersection of art and faith, and it’s just one of the many reasons why Notre-Dame d’Espérance is such an important landmark in Cannes.
Discover Cannes’ Scenic Wilderness at La Croix-des-Gardes Nature Park
La Croix-des-Gardes Nature Park is the perfect destination to escape the hustle and bustle of Cannes. This beautiful natural oasis offers breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding mountains, making it a favorite spot for locals and visitors alike.
The park is home to a diverse range of flora and fauna, including wild olive trees, Aleppo pines, and the iconic Côte d’Azur cypress trees. You might even spot some of the park’s resident animals, such as the European green toad or the Hermann’s tortoise.
There are plenty of trails to explore in the park, ranging from easy strolls to more challenging hikes, so be sure to bring your walking shoes. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can even try your hand at rock climbing on the park’s rugged cliffs.
Don’t Miss the Cannes Yacht Festival
Get your sea legs ready for the Cannes Yacht Festival. Held annually in September, it is a highlight on the international yachting circuit, featuring some of the most luxurious and expensive boats from around Europe.
For those seeking a truly unique experience, you can charter a yacht for a day and explore Cannes from the water. There are several companies offering this service, allowing you to see the city from a different perspective and enjoy stunning views of the coastline.
The festival draws an international crowd, with shipbuilders showcasing their grand designs. Approximately 50% of attendees come from overseas, making it a vibrant and diverse event. The festival is held in two locations: Le Vieux Port (Old Port) and Port Pierre Canto.
Find Tranquility and Beauty in the Lérins Islands
For those seeking a true seafaring adventure, or at the very least a brief boat ride away, the Lérins Islands make for an ideal destination. Just off the coast of Cannes, these two picturesque islands offer a unique escape from the hustle and bustle of the mainland.
First up is Île Sainte-Marguerite, the larger of the two islands, where you can explore the stunning Fort Royal archaeology museum and its interesting history as a former prison. You can also take a stroll through the island’s scenic nature reserve and spot some of the rare bird species that call it home.
Next, hop on over to Île Saint-Honorat, where you’ll find the peaceful and serene Lérins Abbey. This medieval monastery is still home to a community of Cistercian monks who produce their own wine and liqueur, which you can sample at the onsite gift shop. You can also enjoy a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, snorkeling, and even scuba diving to explore the islands’ underwater treasures.
Time for Some Fun Under the Sun
It’s time to hit the beach, and Cannes has some of the best public beaches on the French Riviera. Our first recommendation is Plage de la Croisette, the city’s most famous beach that stretches along the Boulevard de la Croisette. This beach is a hub of activity, with everything from beach volleyball to jet skiing available for the more active beachgoers. And if you just want to relax and soak up the sun, you can rent a lounge chair and umbrella and take in the glamorous scene – this is the place to see and be seen, after all!
If you’re looking for something a little more secluded, head over to Plage du Midi. This beach is located further away from the city center, which means it’s often less crowded and more peaceful. It’s also an ideal place for a romantic sunset stroll along the coastline. Plus, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes nearby to satisfy your hunger and thirst after a long day of beach bumming.
Last but not least, we can’t forget about Plage de Gazagnaire. This small but charming beach is located in a residential area and offers a quieter and more laid-back vibe compared to the other public beaches in Cannes. It’s the perfect spot for families with young children, as the water is shallow and calm. And if you’re a fan of snorkeling or diving, you’ll love the shimmering waters that are teeming with marine life.
Wine, Dine, and Unwind
Indulging in the local cuisine is an essential part of any trip to Cannes. Start your evening off the French way with an apéro, the French tradition of pre-dinner drinks and snacks. A popular spot for apéro in Cannes is Le Petit Majestic, a cozy bar where locals and visitors gather to enjoy aperitifs and people-watching on the outdoor terrace.
If you’re looking for a more upscale dining experience, several of Cannes’ famous hotels offer exceptional restaurants. The Michelin-starred Palme d’Or at Hotel Martinez is a must-visit for foodies, serving up innovative French cuisine. For a more casual but still stylish option, try the terrace Restaurant Riviera at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes, which offers classic French dishes that are sure to satisfy even the most discerning foodie.
Where to Stay in Cannes
Revel in the epitome of luxury and find respite in the glamorous embrace of Cannes, where you can rest in exquisite accommodations that exude opulence and grandeur.
One iconic option is the InterContinental Carlton Cannes, a historic hotel that has played host to countless celebrities and film stars over the years. Rumor has it that Grace Kelly herself fell in love with the hotel during the filming of “To Catch a Thief,” and even had her wedding reception there when she married Prince Rainier of Monaco. With its ornate Belle Époque architecture, private beach, and opulent suites, it’s no wonder that the Carlton remains a top choice for A-listers and high rollers.
Another popular choice is the Hotel Martinez, a grand Art Deco hotel that has been a fixture of the Cannes skyline since the 1920s. In addition to its sophisticated amenities, it boasts a palm-lined swimming pool and a swanky rooftop bar that offers panoramic views of the city and the sea. And if you’re lucky, you might even catch a glimpse of one of Martinez’s most famous guests: Brigitte Bardot, who famously stayed at the hotel during the Cannes Film Festival in 1953.
For a more modern take on luxury, check out the Five Seas Hotel, a sleek and stylish boutique hotel located just steps from the Palais des Festivals. With its contemporary design, state-of-the-art spa, and gourmet restaurant, the Five Seas offers a fresh and trendy alternative to the traditional Cannes hotel scene. Plus, with only 45 rooms, you’ll feel like you have your own private oasis in the heart of the city.
How to Get Around Between Things to Do in Cannes
Whether you’re exploring the vibrant nightlife or soaking up the sun on the beautiful beaches, there’s no shortage of things to do in Cannes. Remember in a town where importance is often placed on class and elegance, a stylish black car service is an ideal way to make an impact for a special occasion. And when you’re ready to elevate your experience to the next level, turn to Blacklane’s chauffeur service in Cannes. With English-speaking chauffeurs who prioritize your comfort and safety, you’ll have peace of mind knowing you’re in good hands.