Popular Cannes Shore Excursions
The elegant Boulevard de la Croisette pumps with enthusiasm. If Cannes has a stage, this is it: a two-mile strip with grand hotels like the Majestic, the Carlton and the Martinez. During the film festival, when the jet set descends, the royal suite in the Majestic goes for 40,000 euros a night. Sublime, sandy beaches are attached to the hotels, but you must pay admission. Prices are listed at access points on the promenade. A small slice of public beach is located behind the Palais des Festivals. All manner of luxury brands call La Croisette home -- Cartier, Fendi, Escada, Jean Paul Gaultier, Ferragamo, Dolce & Gabbana, and Vuitton, among others. If you see a "Cannes Prestige" sign in the window, it signifies the promise of over-the-top service and at least one English-speaking sales associate.
Just walk uphill, and you'll reach Le Suquet, the town's historic center. The maze of about 10 narrow streets and alleyways, most of them pedestrian-only, overlooks the west end of the old port. Follow rue Saint-Antoine uphill for the best views in town. Among the sights: St. Anne's chapel, dating to the 12th century; Notre-Dame d'Esperance, a gothic church built in the 17th century; and the Castre Museum. The museum, closed Mondays, is housed in the remains of a medieval castle and features Oriental art and antiquities as well as a collection of 19th-century paintings of Cannes and the French Riviera. At the foot of Le Suquet, the famous Forville market offers a gourmet pilgrimage through the flavors of southern France. The covered market, built in 1870, is open from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day except Monday when it converts to an antiques market.
Cannes evolved into an internationally known resort and film capital in large measure because of Lord Henry Peter Brougham, a Grand Chancellor of England who became smitten with the tiny Riviera outpost in 1834. Brougham became a poster boy for his adopted home, leading its development and talking it up among the English aristocracy. No visit to Cannes would be complete without a look at the statue of Brougham in the Allees de la Liberte square, which is also home to a flower market, and nearby, a flea market selling everything from sterling silver and antique linens to inexpensive jewelry and movie posters.
Cannes is also a shopper's paradise. La Croisette and rue d'Antibes are where you will find the luxury boutiques and art galleries. The six-block-long rue Meynadier, which runs parallel to the port just a few streets uphill, is a colorful pedestrian-only zone with shops selling hats, clothing, wine and cheese, roasted chicken and local products like handcrafted shoes and the ubiquitous lavender sachets. Most stores accept major credit cards. (General opening hours are Monday to Saturday from 9 a.m. to noon and 2 p.m. to 7 p.m.)
The Lerins Islands, just off the Cannes coast, offer a great getaway -- and an opportunity to experience something wildly different than its glitzy neighbor. It is said that the forest of green oaks and eucalyptus on the two islands, Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat, are among the oldest in Europe. Marguerite, two miles long, is the larger of the islands and is best known as the prison of the Man in the Iron Mask. There is a nature trail, a fortress, a prison and a marine museum, which opens daily at 10:30 a.m. Honorat has been the site of a monastery since the 5th century, and the monks there welcome visitors. A shop at the monastery sells wine, honey and a liqueur called Lerina -- all produced in-house. Water taxis depart for the islands from the tender dock multiple times a day year-round.
From Cannes, you can rent a car and sample nearby coastal towns like Antibes and Cap d'Antibes, as well as inland villages like Grasse and Saint Paul de Vence, in a day's time because everything is within an hour's drive. Closest to Cannes, roughly five miles away, is Antibes, known for its renovated Picasso Museum. (Place Mariejol; +33 (0)4 92 90 54 28; open Tuesday to Sunday from 10 a.m., but hours may vary.) Cap d'Antibes, adjacent to Antibes, is a lush peninsula with luxury mansions, sparkling hotels and botanical gardens. Grasse, less than 15 miles from Cannes is famous for its leather goods and perfume industry. France's three largest, oldest and most prominent perfumeries still produce their fragrances there. The factories are open to visitors. Lastly, Saint Paul de Vence is a small, tucked-away 16th-century village that has long been a refuge for artists, art collectors and art lovers.