Cannes garners quite a reputation on the international level thanks to the annual film festival, a lengthy event that focuses on far more than movies. If you’re one of the lucky few to have snagged tickets (or have a famous friend) to the 68th Festival de Cannes (May 13-24, 2015), you’ll have access to red carpet and star-studded events held on yachts, the beach and the famous La Croisette—an almost two mile long promenade wrapping its way around the bay filled with designer shops, high-end hotels and even more exclusive nightclubs and restaurants.
For those who aren’t part of the jetset crowd coming into Cannes for the festival, you can spot the stars walking the red carpet from afar, and perhaps even brush elbows while dining and drinking around town.
If glitz and glamour aren’t your things, Cannes has plenty of art, nature and beachside attractions to woo travelers to the French Riviera anytime of year.
Whichever category you fit into, you are sure to find something to satisfy your needs in our checklist of Cannes attractions.
Super hip Baôli is one of the most popular summer nightlife venues in the area. Set on the end of the Croisette on the Port Canto, Baôli has made a name for itself as the place where stars flock to for fabulous Mediterranean and Asian fare served in a restaurant that more resembles a lounge than a sit-down eatery. Come midnight, the party ensues as the restaurant transforms into a nightclub and bottle service begins, an extensive cocktail list is spread on tables and DJs take over the floor.
Located inside one of the top hotels on the Croisette, the five-star Hôtel Le Majestic Cannes, La Petite Maison de Nicole is the perfect spot for dinner and people watching. Enjoy Provençal-style cuisine served on white tablecloths on the charming outdoor terrace. Inside, the restaurant is drenched in white, from the candlesticks and chandeliers to the long curtains grazing the floor. The regional cuisine is the real star here with fresh tomatoes acting as a centerpiece on each table.
Photo via Nikki Beach
Miami hot spot Nikki Beach operates two pop-ups during the Cannes Film Festival at the icFREN_-ceqha">InterContinental Carlton Cannes on the Croisette. Inside the hotel lobby you’ll find Nikki Beach Le Petit Bar, a low-key cocktail lounge great for taking a breather from the more high-energy Nikki Beach La Plage, known for pricy cocktails and bottle service served under a white tent on the beach. Of course, this spot is quite exclusive and getting past the person manning the red velvet rope may be tricky, but it’s worth a shot for a seat with the “It” crowd.
Just 15 minutes by ferry from Cannes are two islands filled with history and intrigue. The Île Sainte-Marguerite dates back to the sixth century B.C. and is the home of Fort Royal, where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned in the late 1600s. Monks inhabited the smaller Lérins island of Saint-Honorat in the fourth century and a wine-producing monastery still occupies the island. Appealing to the hippy in all of us, Saint-Honorat also offers grounds for meditation.
While you’re in town, explore the more local side of the city and swing by the Monday marché brocante, or antiques market, in Le Suquet. Located in the Old Town near the port, just a few minutes walk from the Palais des Festivals, the flea market consists of stalls that showcase silverware, jewelry and all sorts of other knick-knacks you probably don’t need, but are fun to look at. If you miss the antiques market Monday, stop by the open-air Forville Market any time the rest of the week for local fruits, vegetables and flowers sold in the square.
Photo via Semec Perreard
While visiting the market in Le Suquet, explore the rest of the Old Town by climbing the cobblestone paths and steps leading to a lookout point over Cannes and La Croisette. You’ll pass typical French shops and eventually reach the Musée de la Castre, a museum housed in a medieval château with a collection of 19th century paintings, musical instruments from around the globe and Mediterranean antiquities. The real draw here, though, is the Tour Carrée, a 12th century tower of 109 steps topped off with a 360-degree view of Cannes.
If you don’t have time to visit the Picasso Museum in nearby Antibes, you can still catch some of Picasso’s work, along with a selection of pieces from classic and contemporary artists who were inspired by the Côte d’Azur, at La Malmaison. The grand hotel-turned-art space on the Croisette hosts new exhibitions each year, but one thing that stays the same is the showcase of work by painters from the 20th century onward, from Miro to Matisse.
If dress codes aren’t your style, veer off the Croisette and onto the pedestrian-friendly Rue du Suquet for a more laid-back scene at Charly’s Bar. A waterfall runs down the back wall of the cave-like space and former sheepfold, making this Old Town pub chicer than a lot of the other smaller spots in town. The bar is teeming with bottle service, shots and a motley crowd dancing to a mix of music from the 1960s onward—a nice change from the electro thumping tunes Cannes clubs seem to love. For an even more casual vibe, pull up a seat on the outdoor terrace and mingle with the locals.
For those who couldn’t find a way into the Festival de Cannes, don’t worry, there’s another spot just next door where non-festival folk can watch stellar films. The Cinéma de la Plage screens Cannes classics as well as Out of Competition films at the outdoor theater on the beach each night of the festival.
is a freelance writer covering all things travel from her home base in Nice, France.