We have saved the best for last on our trip to the South of France, where we allowed ourselves the luxury of some personal time travel. It has been an unbelievable 14 years since we last strolled down those narrow streets of the “Le Suquet” in Cannes and watched the impressive sailing yachts in the harbour. Back then we were simply students on a language trip, today we came back as travel bloggers. We were especially looking forward to being back in Cannes and reminiscing on old times!
First of all: Cannes has preserved their maritime charm very well. The little town on the famous Côte d’Azur is just as beautiful as we remember it. In this blog article, we’ll tell you which highlights you should not miss on a trip to Cannes. We will also show you impressions of our trip to the beautiful island of Sainte-Marguerite.
1. Cannes on the Côte d’Azur: What to Expect
When you think Cannes, you think sea breezes, holiday vibes and of course the famous Annual Film Festival. In addition to Nice and Saint Tropez, Cannes is one of the most popular destinations along the fashionable Côte d’Azur. With a population of 70,000 inhabitants, Cannes is definitely the busiest destination on our road trip through the South of France.
The fact that Cannes is not exactly cheap, is one that should be well known. If you admire the many sailing yachts in the harbour, then it quickly becomes clear that there is a high proportion of celebrities and/or millionaires here on the Côte d’Azur. Interesting side fact: We have never seen so many helicopters as we did in Cannes, this was surprising for a city. In Cannes, the transport company Uber even offers helicopter rides, which is just next level transport!
Anyway, the good news is that as travellers we can say it was certainly not exceptionally more expensive to visit in comparison to our other destinations in the South of France. So don’t worry: with a bit of planning, a city trip to Cannes will not eat a hole in your purse! As long as you stay away from the expensive hotels and luxury boutiques along the Croisette.
2. Sights and activities in Cannes
In order to get around and see the most important sights and highlights in Cannes, it’s best to spend a whole day wandering. Cannes should definitely not be reduced to classic sights. In our opinion, what makes this city much more special is its lively Mediterranean flair.
Our tip: Start your visit as early as possible in the morning at the Marché Forville, the most famous weekly market in Cannes. We are one of those people who can never get enough of the hustle and bustle of the market. If you share the same love and fascination for markets as we do, then a visit to the Marché Forville is a must!
In the surprisingly extensive market hall, all sorts of delicacies from all over Provence are on offer here, including fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, olives, cheese and the list keeps going. Would you like to try a specialty of the region? Then we have a recommendation for you: Socca – a kind of pancake made from chickpea flour, which is baked in a wood oven and then sprinkled with pepper. Look for the red sign saying “Socca’nnes”. You will find the stand in the corridor of the market opposite the Spar grocery store.
Opening hours: every day except Monday from 7am to 1pm
Address: 6 Rue du Marché Forville, 06400 Cannes
The old town of Cannes by the name of “Le Suquet” is a street-like labyrinth. The bad news: souvenir shops and tour groups are in abundance here. Le Suquet is rather touristic. The good news: If you take a few turns down quieter alleys, you can quickly avoid that scene. There are also alleys where you find you’re the only ones there. Le Suquet is built on a hill. So you will have to overcome some altitude and stairs. But we promise you: It’s worth it!
View from the Église Notre Dame d’Esperance
Since we already touched on the topic of uphill: one particular walk that we highly recommend, is the one on the top of the hill to Église Notre Dame d’Esperance. Perched high above the old town, the 16th-century church is one of Cannes’ postcard icons. From here you can enjoy a magnificent view over the bay of Cannes. The square in front of the church is very busy, but we really liked the holiday flair up here.
A small downer: Unfortunately, some trees prevent a clear panoramic view. But we have an insider tip for you: Right next to the church is the entrance to the “Musée de la Castre”, which is located in a former castle. The museum displays all sorts of art objects and antiques, but the best is outside the walls of the museum: you can climb the tower of the museum and have a magnificent view from above in all directions. For us, who wanted to take nice pictures in peace, this was clearly the best spot for it.
Opening hours Musée de la Castre: can be found on the official Cannes website (unfortunately only in French)
Admission Musée de la Castre: 6 Euros for adults; and free for students + those under 26 (with ID)
Palais des Festivals & Walk of Fame
Cannes would not be Cannes without the Annual Film Festival. Every May, film celebrities from all over the world meet on the Côte d’Azur. Since it is unlikely that you are there at exactly the same time as the film festival in Cannes, we have a small consolation: you can still visit the site of the world-famous spectacle, but from the outside. Plus, the red carpet in front of the Palais des Festivals can be seen all year round and therefore also a very popular photo spot.
In front of the Palais des Festivals you can admire a mini “Walk of Fame”. Some French and international celebrities have planted their handprints and autographs here.
Beaches in Cannes
Those after luxury will find what they are looking for at the “Croisette”. Along the famous beach esplanade are the city’s most expensive hotels and upmarket boutiques. We personally prefer the side of the Boulevard de la Croisette, which faces the sea. It is approximately a 3 km stretch of beach houses, beach cafes, restaurants and some beach clubs.
“See and be seen” is the motto – so do not be surprised if you suddenly come across a luxury ride with a booming engine. The same motto applies to the beach clubs: petite model sizes and six-packs are very disproportionately represented here.
It is more comfortable on the other side of the bay on the beach called Gazagnaire. This public beach is relatively narrow and quite close to the road, but good for swimming.
We rented a kayak at the northern end of the beach at Cannes Jeunesse and paddled out to sea. Compared to our quiet tours at the Pont du Gard and in Roquebrune-sur-Argens, the trip on the open sea was quite an adventurous experience. A two-seater kayak costs 18 Euros per hour.
West of the Croisette there are also some great beaches. There is a beach called “Rochers de la Bocca”, which is especially beautiful. The main draws of this beach are its impressive rock formations, which give this place a rather wild and natural impression.
3. Excursion to the island of Sainte-Marguerite
A few hundred metres off the Cannes mainland, a tiny group of islands called the “Îles de Lérins” juts out of the water. Sainte-Marguerite, the largest of the four islands, is a popular tourist destination during the summer season. The rugged, natural bays magically attract visitors.
Have you ever read a novel and then visited the novel’s location? Yes/No? Let’s just say that it’s a pretty cool and surreal experience. To top it off, we even had the Crime Book author – Christine Cazon personally accompany us! And guess where? To the island of Sainte-Marguerite!! This is where the location of her novel “Stormy Côte d’Azur” is set. It was not stormy on the day of our visit (peak summer warm to be precise), but it was a very special experience to walk in the footsteps of the characters in the novel.
What you can experience on the island of Sainte-Marguerite
Many come to Sainte-Marguerite for an afternoon swim. The coves, cliffs and Azure-Blue waters are a dream and if you look around properly, you will still find some quiet spots in amongst the shade of the pines. Small warning: Dozens of boats traffic the coast during high season. Sainte-Marguerite is unfortunately not a secret.
If you are more into sightseeing, then take a short walk to Fort Royal (Admission: 6 Euros). You can reach it after about 10 minutes walk from the boat dock. Part of the fort served as a state prison for centuries. For 11 years, the mysterious “man with the iron mask” was imprisoned here. You can still visit the cell today because the oldest part of the site is now host to a museum. Archeological finds are exhibited here amongst others. If you go through the premises of these temporary exhibitions, you will come to a great panoramic terrace.
Arrival to Sainte-Marguerite
The crossing from Cannes to the island of Sainte-Marguerite takes about 15 to 20 minutes. We ourselves went with the boat company “Trans Côte d’Azur” on the way. The boats operate every 1 to 2 hours throughout the year, with the interval being increased in high season. The boats leave from Port de Cannes (Port de Cannes, quai Laubeuf 06400 Cannes).
On Sainte-Marguerite itself there is no car traffic or public buses. It does not need it considering the size of the island. So you simply get around by foot.
Here you can book your ticket for the boat trip in advance: Ticket Sainte-Marguerite (return)
4. Restaurant and Café Tips for Cannes
With the large restaurant scene in Cannes one can feel a little overwhelmed quite quickly. So in this chapter, we’ll share with you the places we dined at as well some tips that Christine Cazon very kindly shared with us (cheers for that!).
Lunch with sea view? Yes, please! The Riviera Beach is a Beach Club, Bar and Restaurant all in one (Address: Boulevard du Midi Jean Hibert). It is located directly on the beach and is very comfortably furnished – a nice place to relax. The price level is as expected, not exactly low, but for Cannes and especially its location, it was within reason. With the main courses averaging around 20 Euros, they serve predominantly fish and meat – but they do have a great salad variety.
We also visited the centrally located brasserie called Le Petit Paris (Address: 3 Rue des Belges). Despite ongoing traffic you can sit outside quite comfortably. The menu is typical French, in other words – mainly fish and meat. On the day of our visit, however, there was even a vegan dish on the menu! The three-course menu costs 32 Euros, main dishes alone average at around 20 to 30 Euros.
We were recommended the restaurant Tredici from quite a few people, but unfortunately we didn’t end up visiting. It’s run by a bunch of young people and we’re pretty sure it’s great. The Tredici is located right in the Suquet, in the old town of Cannes (Address: 13 Rue Louis Perrissol). The menu features Italian-inspired dishes. You should definitely stop by there, if you are in Cannes!
If you are looking for a great café then Fleur & Chloé might be for you (Address: 14 Avenue de Lyon). This “Salon de thé” is located outside the city centre very close to our hotel (more on that). The interior is minimalistic and pure, but very comfortable. The Fleur & Chloé is known for its delicious pâtisserie, but there is also a small lunch menu.
Finally, a tip if you want to dine classy in the historic centre: The Relais des Semailles serves upscale cuisine in the middle of the Suquet (Address: 9-11 Rue Saint-Antoine). The ambiance in this restaurant is definitely something special. A dinner menu (3 courses) costs 33 Euros.
5. Our Hotel Tip for Cannes
We stayed at the Hotel Oxford, which is outside the old town. The hotel is housed in a historic, charming villa. The rooms are tiny, but we did not mind it personally. There is a bonus for free parking. The only downside it that it takes half an hour to get to the old town by foot. Conclusion: definitely great value for money and is an affordable alternative to the hotels along the Croisette.
Here you can book the hotel: Hotel Oxford
For this blog article we have collaborated with the French National Tourist Board (Atout France). As part of the nature campaign #gesichterfrankreichs we were allowed to travel for two weeks through the South of France – including Cannes on the Côte d’Azur. Of course, this cooperation does not influence our opinions.
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will get a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A million thanks from the both of us!
Have you ever been to Cannes or the Côte d’Azur? If you have any more tips or questions, please leave us a comment!