The famous city of Cannes on the French Riviera is a wonderful and fairly exquisite French resort which hosts multiple festivals including the famous Film Festival with its reputation extending worldwide.

Although the glamour comes mostly from its association with the film industry, Cannes also has something to offer to tourists looking to explore its heritage and scenic landscapes.

Read more below about what you could do in Cannes for a day when visiting the French Riviera.

Overview

Cannes pronounced /kæn, kɑːn/ is a city located on the well known French Riviera. It is a commune located in the Alpes-Maritimes department, and host city of the annual Cannes Film Festival, Midem, and Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

The city is known for its association with the rich and famous, its luxury hotels and restaurants, and for several conferences.

Whilst it originally started as a Ligurian settlement in 2 B.C., it is unknown where the name Cannes comes from. Historians suspect it may have to do with the name “canna”, which is reed in English as the area may have been a swampland in the past.

Nowadays Cannes is a city of just under 80 000 people and is an important cultural and economic hub in the South of France.

Travel to and Around Cannes

The city itself is accessible by all means of transportation and flights to this destination tend to be fairly accessible especially out of season. If you are looking for suitable flight options, make sure to check out this article with top tips on how to find cheap flights.

The local airport Nice Côte d’Azur Airport (NCE), is conveniently situated 26 kilometres away from Cannes. CannesExpress operate a regular door-to-door airport shuttle service between Nice Airport and hotels/accommodations in Cannes. The smaller Cannes – Mandelieu Airport (CEQ) is also nearby.

Once you arrive at the airport you are presented with a few convenient ways to make your way into the city. You can choose to head to your accommodation either by renting a car or simply hopping on public transport to Nice train station and getting a train.

We travelled from Nice to Cannes by train. Trains are almost every half and hour and are very accessible. You can check times and prices here. Once you are in Cannes you will find that the train station is conveniently situated at the forefront of most touristic areas.

Although there is public transport in the form of buses mostly, we found that for exploring this city you can simply walk around. You also have options of using the pink electric bus, tourist train or hop on hop off bus.

Accommodation

In general, there are plenty of hotels and accommodation options, many of which are pricey and looking very posh. We would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates.

We visited Nice with friends and chose to stay there instead of Cannes, so an apartment through Airbnb was a better option for us on this occasion.

Sure, like we say in our article on how to plan a holiday, do account for the overall cost as you have to factor in breakfast.

Things to do in Cannes

Cannes itself isn’t a large city and so it may feel a day can be enough to explore this movie star city. Below we suggest a few things worth considering for your trip there.

Explore the Old Town

Le Suquet is Cannes’ old town quarter and the original site of the city. The largest part of le Suquet is pedestrianised so you can enjoy the small shops, colourful buildings and narrow streets.

There are lots of restaurants and cafes around, so just pick your spot and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.

With its medieval buildings and a castle on top of the hill, it offers an incredible contrast to the glamor of the modern part of the city.

Climb up to the Château de la Castre

This is pretty much the castle hill where the old Roman fort used to be. You could enter the castle tower which has been converted to a museum showcasing landscape art, musical instruments and ethnographical items.

We didn’t enter the museum however, we did take some time to gaze at the wonderful views from the viewing point.

Below the viewing point you will also see the Cannes sign visible from the whole bay area. Many tourists choose to take their photos with the sign as well.

Visit Church of Our Lady of Hope

Church of Our Lady of Hope (Église Notre-Dame-d’Espérance) is a hilltop Gothic-style stone church completed in the 1600s overseeing the bay area. You can enjoy some nice panoramic views of Cannes from there.

The interior of the church has its own character and you can even find an old cemetery which dates back to the 16th century. Definitely a church worth visiting whilst in the city.

Check out Forville Market

Pay a visit to the famous market Marché Forville where you can find fresh local produce and flowers. Make sure you visit before lunchtime as most of the market stalls disappear after lunch.

Here they also sell fresh fish, seafood and oysters.

Stroll on the Promenade de Croisette

The Promenade de la Croisette is the waterfront avenue with palm trees. La Croisette is known for picturesque beaches, restaurants, cafés, boutiques and luxury hotels.

Whilst you are on the promenade why not go on the Croisette beach and put your feet in the sand? Unlike Monaco and Nice, the beach here is really smooth almost like in Punta Cana.

Walk the Red Carpet at Palace of Festivals

By the title you guessed it. This is where the famous Cannes Film Festival happens and where all the movie stars come. The building itself looks modern yet slightly dated but definitely worth a photo.

Here you will also see Casino Barriere Le Croisette. The building is situated by the Marina opening to a beautiful view towards the main boulevard and overseeing the old town in the background.

Admire the Yachts at the Port of Cannes

Port of Cannes is a modern and fully-equipped port that welcomes yachts to its marinas in the heart of the French Riviera. We really enjoyed walking by the port and admiring the beautiful yachts.

We thought we will see a lot of big and expensive yachts in Monaco, however we felt there were more and nicer boats in Cannes, so definitely pay a visit to the port.


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Take a Ferry to St. Marguerite Island

This is one of the famous landmarks in the area. We didn’t have the time to go to the island but did see it from afar from the castle hill.

This is where it took the Man in the Iron Mask 11 years to leave the tiny, forested St Marguerite Island. The mysterious individual was believed to be of noble blood, but his identity has never been proven. His cell can be visited in the Fort of St Marguerite, now renamed the Musée de la Mer (Museum of the Sea).

This museum also houses discoveries from shipwrecks off the island, including Roman (1st century BC) and Saracen (10th century AD) ceramics.

Shop on Antibes Street and Meynadier Street

Have a walk on this almost Oxford Street in London look-a-like shopping street. Here you will find all your favourite brands and more. During our visit, the streets were busy and all shops had outside pop-up stalls.

For more local flavours, souvenirs and crafts try Meynadier Street. This street is really cute with colourful buildings, local shops and lots of tourists.

Anything from pastry shops to clothing stores, you will see them all.

Food and Drink Highlights

As you would imagine, local delicates are dishes with seafood and fish. Here, the Italian influence is a little less strong like in the likes of Nice and Monaco.

Try Local Seafood at Rendez-Vous

Restaurant Le Rendez-vous specialises in seafood platters, grilled fish & pasta dishes, in a stylish art deco setting with a covered terrace. They also offer set menus which are a convenient way to try their food. This is exactly what we opted for.

Hristina had the mussels and I had oysters as a starter. They came beautifully presented and the oysters came on a boat like platter which was filled with ice. Very nice presentation indeed.

For mains I had the salmon steak with mash potatoes and an almost ratatouille like garnish. Hristina had the seafood risotto which was creamy and full of seafood.

Overall the food was delicious, presentation was amazing and the service was great. Would recommend!

Indulge Yourself at La Tarte Tropézienne

We wanted to try this Tropezienne Tarte and although it originates from St. Tropez, most of the French Riviera resorts have adopted it.

If you’ve ever had a Victoria Sponge Cake it’s pretty much that with some sugar crystals sprinkled on top. Goes very well with your favourite hot beverage.

Additionally we tried the triple chocolates mousse cake which, as a self prescribed chocoholic, I must say was divine. The Noisette and Raspberry cakes were equally good however, it didn’t match the triple chocolates cake.

Final Thoughts

Cannes is a great contender for a day trip if you find yourself on the French Riviera. It offers everything you would expect from a trip to France and more. It’s great for families, couples or solo travellers.

It is definitely more on the higher end of one’s budget, however we think it will be worth it. We suggest you couple this amazing destination with other local favourites such as Monaco or Nice.

Looking at our experience, we think Cannes is a great option for anyone looking to explore the French Riviera. You’ll be stunned by the views from the Castle Hill and be amazed by the truly blue French coast and lush yellow sands.

Ready to book? Below are some recommendations to get your trip started:


  • Accommodation – would recommend booking your accommodation through an aggregator such as Booking.com or Agoda to get the best rates. We also use TripAdvisor to read reviews.

  • Transport – consider Rentalcars.com for car renting or if you rely on public transport, you can use Omio for trains, coaches, ferries, airport transfers and even flights.

  • Activities – a great option is GetYourGuide or Viator for tours, excursions, experiences and tickets to many tourist attractions.

  • Luggage storage – if you need to store your bags whilst exploring the destination, you can use Radical Storage to find your closest luggage storage and enjoy your journey until the very end.


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Paul Nabosnyi

I am Paul and together with my wife, Hristina, we love travelling. I am originally from Romania. I am an IT sales professional. We enjoy city breaks and long haul destinations. We also like cooking and my passion is baking! In order to burn the calories from all that eating (hehe) we also cycle.

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