CANNES - Insight Guides: Explore Nice & the French Riviera (Insight Explore Guides) (2015)

Insight Guides: Explore Nice & the French Riviera (Insight Explore Guides) (2015)



The grand hotels and luxury shops of La Croisette make Cannes a magnet for hedonists and the jet set, but a walk around town also reveals a lively food market and picturesque old quarter.

DISTANCE: 4.5km (2.75 miles)

TIME: Two or three hours

START: Palais des Festivals

END: Vieux Port

POINTS TO NOTE: Park in the car park near Marché Forville or the one under the Palais des Festivals. From the train station, turn right on rue Jean Jaurès and descend rue Jean de Riouffé to the Palais des Festivals. If you do not want to shop or visit the museum, then this is also a good walk to do in the evening, when boulevard de la Croisette is colourfully illuminated and the people-watching is as good as by day.


Mural celebrating French filmmaker Jacques Tati

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications

For a town now inextricably associated with film-festival glamour, Cannes had modest origins as a dependency of the monks of Lérins. It remains a town of intriguing contrasts, where show-off La Croisette contrasts with villagey Le Suquet where locals of all ages play boules under the trees in front of the town hall.


View from La Croisette

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications


Begin at the Palais des Festivals 1 [map], which occupies centre stage on the seafront between the Old Port and La Croisette. Although the 1980s building, nicknamed ‘the bunker’, is uninspiring, it plays a leading role in the drama of the annual two-week Film Festival. Be sure to re-enact the famous climb up the red-carpeted stairs - a photo opportunity not to be missed - and follow the trail of handprints left by actors and directors in the terracotta esplanade below. Despite its 18 auditoria used for a panoply of music industry, advertising and property fairs, luxury tourism and shopping conventions, rock concerts and gala spectacles, there are plans afoot for an expansion and modernisation. The building also contains the Croisette Casino ( and the Tourist Office (for more information, click here). Cross the street to spy on the action from Caffé Roma, see 1, before heading eastwards along boulevard de la Croisette.




Cannes’ palm-tree-lined seafront boulevard is a mix of glitz and grandeur, with ritzy hotels, luxury boutiques and a constant parade of open-topped cars. In summer the long sandy beach is almost entirely taken up by private beach concessions, with restaurants, deckchairs and jetties for parascending and water-skiing; although, there is a small, busy public section between the Majestic jetty and the Palais des Festivals (if you do not want to pay for a private beach, head to the Plage du Midi at La Bocca, west of Port Vieux, or the Plage du Mourré Rouge on the eastern side of town). Even in winter you will see leathery-skinned ladies bronzing in bikinis, at the same time as others promenade in fur coats up above.

Nonstop designer labels and jewellers at the start of La Croisette provide great window-shopping. At no. 10, the first of Cannes’ triumvirate of grand palace hotels is the Majestic, which opened in 1926; it keeps up to date with trendy DJs at its fashionable beach restaurant. Stretching between no. 17 and rue d’Antibes, the Gray d’Albion shopping mall offers evening wear, haute jewellery and kids’ designer togs.

Detour up rue du Commandant André, where the quadrangle formed with rue des Frères Pradignac and rue du Dr Monod is a focus for nightlife. Many bars, such as For You, see 2, open only in the evening, but Provençal restaurant La Mère Besson, see 3, is a prized address at lunch as well.

The Dawn of Cannes

In 1834, when an outbreak of cholera prevented British Lord Chancellor Henry Brougham from getting to Italy, he backtracked to the small fishing village of Cannes, where he put up at the simple Hôtel de la Poste (today indicated by a plaque at 4 rue du Port). He liked it so much he stayed, buying a plot of land and building the neoclassical Villa Eléonore on what is now avenue Dr Picard. Cannes’ future as an aristocratic winter destination was made. To see some of the villas of the early settlers, explore La Croix des Gardes district west of Le Suquet; the Villa Rothschild (1 avenue Jean de Noailles), set in lovely gardens, is now the municipal library, and Château de la Tour (10 avenue Font-de-Veyre) a comfortable hotel.


Hôtel Carlton

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications

Grands Hôtels

Back on La Croisette, La Malmaison 2 [map] (no. 47; tel: 04 97 06 44 90; July-Aug daily 11am-8pm and until 9pm on Fri, Sept daily 10am-7pm, Oct-Apr Tue-Sun 10am-1pm and 2-6pm; charge) is the former tearoom of the original 19th-century Grand Hôtel, which was replaced by a tower in the 1960s; it is now used for art exhibitions. While the official Film Festival each May is strictly reserved for film industry professionals and the press, there are opportunities to see films during the festival. The Cinéma de la Plage holds free screenings on the beach, while tickets for the Quinzaine des Réalisateurs ( go on sale at La Malmaison, with screenings in various cinemas around town.

Further along, limos pull up at Hôtel Palais Princesse Stéphanie, site of the original Palais des Festivals and still a favourite for festival press conferences.

At no. 58, the Carlton Intercontinental, opened in 1912, accommodates the Film Festival jury. The cupolas at either end of its façade were supposedly modelled on the voluptuous breasts of celebrated courtesan La Belle Otero. At no. 73, the Art Deco Martinez was France’s largest hotel when it opened in 1929 with 476 master bedrooms and 56 bedrooms for clients’ personal staff.


From here La Croisette continues past sun-seeking apartment blocks to Port Canto marina and Pointe de la Croisette. It is more interesting, though, to retrace your steps and take rue Pasteur to rue d’Antibes 3 [map]. The street, which follows the former royal carriage route between Toulon and Antibes, is almost entirely dedicated to shopping, mixing mainstream fashion chains with younger, cutting-edge designers. Look up to see fine late 19th-century sculptures, rotundas and wrought-iron decoration, along with remnants of old shopfronts, some of which were once aimed at Cannes’ British residents.

Rue du Bivouac Napoléon

Turn left down rue des Belges and right into rue du Bivouac Napoléon, where Napoleon camped out on 1 March 1815, having landed at Golfe-Juan after his escape from exile on Elba. The street today has some relaxed cafés and the Cannes English Bookshop at no. 11, a useful source of holiday reading.


Marché Forville

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications


At the end of rue du Bivouac Napoléon, place General Charles de Gaulle opens onto the Allées de la Liberté 4 [map], with its vintage bandstand, pétanque pitches and morning flower market (Tue-Sun). On the northern side, rue Félix Faure is lined with bars and brasseries, notably seafood institution Astoux et Brun, see 4, and a marble statue of Lord Henry Brougham stands on a plinth above a very British-looking lion. On the opposite side is the Vieux Port (Old Port), where a few fishing boats sit somewhat incongruously among the luxury yachts.


Opposite the pompous 19th-century Hôtel de Ville (Town Hall), take rue Louis Blanc to Marché Forville 5 [map] (Tue-Sun 7am-1pm), an animated covered market. In summer it is a feast of tomatoes, aubergines, green figs and piles of garlic, and you can sample tapenades and olive oils, although you have to arrive early to find what is left of the local catch.

Running parallel, rue Meynadier is busy with inexpensive clothes and beach gear stores at its eastern end plus some simple restaurants, including Aux Bons Enfants, for more information, click here, nearer the market.


At its western end rue Meynadier climbs into rue St-Antoine, start of the picturesque Old Town. Before the arrival of the British in the 19th century, Le Suquet was pretty much all there was of Cannes: a few narrow streets and stepped alleyways of tall, yellow and pink houses that still wind up the hill to the fortress constructed by the monks of Lérins. The district is lively at night, when visitors flock to the bars and restaurants on rue St-Antoine and its continuation rue du Suquet.


Eating out in Le Suquet

Sylvaine Poitau/Apa Publications

Notre-Dame de l’Espérance

At place du Suquet turn left up rue Coste-Corail, and then take the traverse de l’Église. This brings you out at the big 17th-century church Notre-Dame de l’Espérance 6 [map], a late example of Provençal Gothic, with a plain, almost unadorned stone façade; the adjoining clock tower is a local landmark. In front, the square is used for concerts in Les Nuits Musicales du Suquet (for more information, click here). Continue round the side of the church to shady place de la Castre, which offers a fine view from its fortified wall.

Musée de la Castre

Entered through a pretty garden at the end of the square, the cool, whitewashed rooms of the former castle of the monks of the Iles de Lérins now contain the Musée de la Castre 7 [map] (tel: 04 93 38 55 26; Apr-June and Sept Tue-Sun 10am-1pm and 2-6pm, July-Aug daily 10am-7pm (Wed until 9pm), Oct-Mar Tue-Sun 10am-1pm and 2-5pm; charge). The ethnographic collection, donated by Dutchman Baron Lycklama in 1877, still has the atmosphere of a cabinet of curiosities, with an eclectic array of masks, headdresses and ceremonial daggers from Tibet, Nepal and Ladakh, bone carvings from Alaska, animal-shaped jugs from Latin America and archaeological finds from Egypt, Cyprus and Mesopotamia. Musical instruments are displayed in the chapel, while three rooms contain paintings by Orientalist and Provençal painters. In the courtyard is the Tour du Suquet, an 11th-century watchtower with a panoramic view.

Return to the square; a right turn at the end of rue Perissol will take you into rue Mont Chevalier, which leads back to the Vieux Port. If you wish, you can catch a boat from here to Île St-Honorat to see the monastery where the order of monks who founded the castle live (; they are noted for producing good wine and honey.

Food and Drink


1 square Merimée; tel: 04 93 38 05 04; daily L and D; €€

The terrace at this big café is popular day and night for an espresso, cocktails, pasta or simply the ringside view of comings and goings from the Palais des Festivals.


6 rue des Frères Pradignac; daily 6pm-2.30am

Known for its cocktails and good dance music, this is a fashionable, buzzy place to start a night out. There are regular DJ sets and also a selection of yummy tapas if you fancy a nibble.


13 rue des Frères Pradignac; tel: 04 93 39 59 24; Mon-Sat L and D; €€

Remaining resolutely traditional amid a cluster of trendy lounge bars, the Mother Besson has been serving up Provençal specialities for over half a century.


27 avenue Félix Faure; tel: 04 93 39 21 87;; daily L and D; €€

This eternally popular seafood brasserie behind the port is a magnet as much for the superb people-watching as for its big platters of shellfish and it serves food throughout the day. Takeaway dishes are also available.