Things to Do in Cannes
A 20-minute ferry ride across the waters of the Mediterranean Sea transports travelers from the high-class commotion of Cannes to the tranquil Île Sainte-Marguerite, a small island with more pine trees than people. Bring your walking shoes and your love for the great outdoors for the perfect day trip away from it all.
The beating heart of Cannes, La Croisette Boulevard (Boulevard de la Croisette) is an oceanfront promenade lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, and thronged with both vacationers and glamorous locals. Whether you’re stopping for lunch, dinner, or people-watching as you walk along, a stroll along this iconic street is a must-do for Cannes visitors.
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès was built in 1982 and houses year-round events in Cannes, most notably, the Cannes Film Festival. The prestigious film festival attracts movie stars and the media from around the world. The festival is one of the most prestigious international film events and overtakes the Cannes luxury establishments for two dizzying weeks in May.
The famed Palais provides 25,000 square meters for exhibitions as well as many rooms and 18 auditoriums equipped with state of the art sound and lighting. The original Palais was built in 1949, and a new one was built in 1982 in response to the growing popularity of the film festival and the need for business convention space. Now, the Palais is a contemporary building that plays hosts to a variety events besides the film festival, such as the international music trade show MIDEM and the International Television Programme Market.
With its dramatic limestone cliffs and azure waters, the Verdon Gorge (Gorges du Verdon) is one of the French Riviera's most delightful secrets. Escape the manicured glamour of St. Tropez and Cannes in favor of the canyon, which provides opportunities to swim, sail, sunbathe, and rock climb on routes that stretch as far as the eye can see.
Just along the coast from St. Tropez, Port Grimaud is a chic village purpose-built in the 1960s by architect François Spoerry. The town was designed to resemble a mini Venice with its network of canals and brightly painted buildings, and today it is a popular destination for visitors to the Côte d’Azur.
With a picturesque position on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, the Port of Cannes (Port de Cannes) is a gateway to the cinematic glamour of Cannes and to the rest of the beautiful French Riviera. Disemark here to explore the pretty town of Cannes itself or head to glitzy enclaves such as Monte Carlo, St-Tropez, and Eze.
Located in the south of France by the Loup River, the beautifully preserved village of Gourdon looks all the way out to the Cote d’Azur from its mountaintop peak. A place of refuge and defense during medieval times, the feudal village is surrounded by thick ramparts and has only one entrance, the Roman Gate, which leads onto Gourdon’s medieval stone house-lined main street, rue de Major. Here, look out for Maison d’Anglars at No. 17, which dates back to the 13th century.
Chateau de Gourdon, a historic monument since 1971, is a popular spot in Gourdon. The castle’s 17th-century gardens were designed by André Le Nôtre, who was also responsible for the Palace of Versailles’ famous gardens. At the top of the village sits a beautiful square revealing the huge church of St Pierre. For a perfect view of Gourdon’s golden-stoned ramparts, make sure to stop at the lookout point right before you enter the village.
Forty-five minutes from Antibes in France’s Alpes-Maritimes region, the scenic drive along the Gorges du Loup takes visitors up close to the Loup River (pronounced “Lou”) as it follows the deep canyon out to the Mediterranean Sea at Bouches-du-Loup. Cutting through the hills at the foot of medieval Gourdon village, the Gorges du Loup road is full of beautiful twists and carved-out tunnels.
Two and a half miles (4 km) into the narrowing gorge, keep an eye out for Cascade de Courmes. For a small fee, you can park your car and walk down the steps to the terrace, where the free-falling cascade descends 130 feet (40 meters) below. There are two other waterfalls to be visited at Gorges du Loup: Saut du Loup and Cascades des Demoiselles.
At the mouth of the canyon, the riverside village of Pont du Loup is a pretty spot to stop for a wander. And not far from the gorge, Tourrettes sur Loup is another popular village stop, famous for its thriving artists’ community and hiking trails around the town.
At Gorges du Loop, visitors can go rock climbing, bungee jumping, hiking and biking—or just enjoy the beautiful view and riverside drive.
For visitors to Nice, a stroll up to the top of Castle Hill offers extraordinary views of the city from the Old Town straight on to the airport. And with such beautiful weather being the norm, getting a bird's eye view of the Cote d'Azur can be addictive! For those who want to see even more from up high, Fort du Mont Alban is a must.
Built in the mid-1500s for military defense, Fort du Mont Alban is located close to Nice in Mont Boron Park, just outside of Col-de-Villefranche. Although it suffered some damage in WWII, the fort is in excellent condition and was declared a national monument in the early 20th century.
While tours of the fort are available only by appointment, the grounds are open to the public and free to enter. From the top there are sweeping views from Italy to Antibes – and after a rain, when the skies are clear, those with binoculars can even see Corsica!
Le Suquet is the old quarter of Cannes perched on a hill overlooking the radiant French Riviera. The hill became the property of the Iles de Lerins monks in the 11th century, and a castle constructed by them in 1088 still exists today. It is a popular area for people to climb the winding cobbled roads and enjoy the local cafes, restaurants, and shops, located mostly on Rue St Antoine. The atmosphere is more casual and medieval than the glamorous heart of Cannes.
A clock tower and church are situated in Le Suquet, overlooking the peninsula and Cannes itself. At the base of Le Suquet on Rue Dr. P. Gayagnaire is the charming Marche Forville, where a market takes place in the mornings and early afternoon.
More Things to Do in Cannes
High among the lavender hills between Avignon and Nice, the L’Occitane Factory is open for popular one-hour guided tours.
The site is located near the Provence hamlet of Manosque, and as you go through the factory, you’ll get to see production line rooms and learn how L’Occitane harvests and distills its organic ingredients from the area: lavender, olives, rosemary and almonds are all used in the creams and perfumes that make the brand famous worldwide.
On a tour of L’Occitane, you’ll learn about the history of the company. Once Olivier Baussan founded it in 1976, he started out making rosemary essential oil and selling it at local Provence markets. By 1981, Baussan had opened his first store in Provence, and today, there are over 2,000 L’Occitane stores in 90 countries around the world.
The factory also shows interactive exhibits and films that provide information about various L’Occitane projects, such as its sustainable development program in Burkina Faso, where it sources shea butter.
Set in Grasse, the International Perfume Museum (Musée International de la Parfumerie) extensively covers the famous French perfume industry, highlighting its significance through the ages. Exhibitions retrace the history of perfumes, soap and cosmetics over the course of thousands of years. Split into various sections, the museum covers the history of the industry, manufacturing and marketing.
The museum is situated in the former Hugues-Aîné perfumery of the 19th century. The building was reopened in 2008 after refurbishment and now invites visitors to explore the prosperous history of french parfumeries in the historic town of Grasse. The site is often visited on day trips out of Monaco.
Those looking for an outdoor experience on the Cote d'Azur will find what they're looking for in the Massif des Maures. This mountain range sits back from the coast and runs from east of Toulon to west of Cannes; the peninsula on which St-Tropez lies, roughly halfway between, is also a part of the Massif. Even casual hikers find its forests, vineyards, and rolling plains yielding wild orchids and strawberries a welcome change from the sometimes frenetic energy of the Riviera in high season.
The Massif des Maures roughly translates to “the Moorish Mountains,” and its highest point (2,559 feet; 780 meters) is called Le Signal de la Sauvette. While its steep contours and isolated pockets leave much of the mountain range pristine, the villages of La Garde Freinet and Collobrieres can show visitors what life is like here. They're known mostly for their cork tree harvests and a wide variety of food made from local chestnuts; autumn sees several festivals in the area celebrating these longtime traditions.
Situated in a medieval castle atop Le Suquet, the Castre Museum (Musée de la Castre) is home to a wide collection of antiquities, particularly from the Mediterranean and the Middle East. The chateau itself is a historical monument, and the collections housed within will be of particular interest to art lovers and ethnographers.
The art collections and objects from Oceania, the Himalayas and the Americas are presented in a suite of small rooms surrounded by gardens, a collection of Mediterranean antiquities and pre-Columbian ceramics. The 12th-century Saint Anne Chapel houses a remarkable collection of musical instruments from Asia, Africa, the America, and Oceania. A few rooms dedicated to 19th century Provencal paintings of Riviera landscapes open out onto the courtyard and a square tower displaying spectacular views.
Opio, just a half-hour's drive inland from Cannes, puts visitors in the middle of the many things to see and do in the Alpes-Maritimes department. From world-class golfing to a Club Med, Grasse perfume makers and of course the Cote d'Azur, there is something for everyone. And as usual when it comes to this region, there is plenty of history as well.
Traces of the Iron Age and the Roman era have been found in Opio; in addition, there are records of Opio being a part of Antibes and Grasse through the French Revolution. The only thing to see in the village, the 12th-century St-Trophisme Church, is an indication of its vast history. Yes, the village really is that small – just a few houses, really! But the larger surrounding area is where all the fun is.
While in the area, visitors particularly enjoy the many olive oil mills. There are tours, tastings, and of course shops with many olive oil products for sale. Outdoor activities are also popular, with hiking and horseback riding in the nearby countryside.
The Chapelle Bellini was well-known painter Emmanuel Bellini's studio, and houses an exhibition of some of his works. Built in the late 19th century by Comte Vitali, the chapel was part of the Villa Fiorentina and was once home to the Princess of Serbia. A Cannes native, Bellini later purchased the chapel and converted it in to his studio.
In Italian Baroque style, the chapel features a clock tower, an exterior embellished with "gingerbread" and statues, Comte Vitali’s coat of arms, and an inside gallery with a restored wooden staircase. It is a real artistic and architectural delight.
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