Cannes, in the beautiful French Riviera is probably the second most famous city in France, second only to Paris. Cannes has garnered much of its worldwide celebrity due to the Cannes Film Festival that takes place each year. It’s also famous for the over the top luxury and beauty that can be found there. This includes luxury hotels, restaurants and shops that are all world famous. This means Cannes is expensive. Almost prohibitively. But even mere mortals like you and I can afford it, if we play it smart. These Cannes travel tips will tell you what to do that’s cheap, fun, and even a little luxurious.
Cannes Travel Tips
WHEN TO GO?
Generally speaking, the best time for Cannes Travel is in the fall. This way you miss the huge crowds that congregate for the International Film Festival in May and all the people that come after for the summer seasons. You will also miss the inflated pricing aimed at the likes of Brangelina. Coming in the fall is great because there is still lots to do, including Cannes’ sandy beaches without worrying about uncooperative weather. The temperature in Cannes doesn’t start falling until about November.
However, if you really want to save money, there’s no better time to visit Cannes than during the winter months. Fortunately, there is still plenty to do in Cannes even when the temperature falls from summer heights.
WHERE TO STAY?
I stayed at the Novotel Cannes Montfleury. When I traveled to Cannes, I did not know about websites like Airbnb or Homeaway. The hotel was good, it had a swimming pool, was about 10 minutes walking from downtown and had a gorgeous view. That being said, it was not cheap. We were there in August which is full tourist season and we paid top rates. Now that I am a little wiser, I would rent a flat from one of the above sites. This way I could save money on meals, have a washer and dryer, and most likely stay closer to town for less money. Right now there is a listing for a 3 bedroom, 3 bath for just $220 USD with a view from the port. No hotel can beat that. You can also stay in nearby Nice, which is significantly cheaper and take the train to Cannes whenever you want to check it out. Nice, which is significantly cheaper and take the train to Cannes whenever you want to check it out. to Cannes whenever you want to check it out. It’s about a 30 minute ride and it will cost you around $11 USD.
THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN CANNES
Marché Forville: The old market is open daily starting at noon. It is covered, so you don’t have to worry if it rains. The market is one of my favorite places in the city. It is much less touristy than most other spots. There you can find anything from local cheeses, to antiques (books, flatware, coins, stamps), flowers, and the best of Provence’s products. On Sundays, you can get a feel for how the Cannois truly live. Do not miss this lovely spot. It is located near the old port and the Mairie. You cannot miss its pink exterior and you will be thrilled when you find that special trinket to take home. ****Grab a bite here too. You can get quite an inexpensive lunch and most vendors will let you taste before you buy 😀
Boulevard La Croisette: Most likely, everything you know about Cannes is situated on this major strip. There’s lots more to see in the city, but definitely take a few strolls down the Boulevard. It houses the city’s most luxurious hotels, clubs, gorgeous beaches, and the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès – home to the famous Cannes Film Festival. Make sure to check out the carousel (usually bedecked in movie paraphanelia), the Parc de la Roseraie, and the various ports. Did I mention the biggest names in fashion? Yeah…they even have a Giuseppe Zanotti store (he’s my favorite shoe guy). Some other big names make Boulevard La Croisette their home including:
- Louis Vuitton
Musée de la Castre & Le Suquet: To retain my girlish figure when I go on France trips, I make sure to do tons of stairs. Luckily, Cannes has no lack of these and they lead to the Le Suquet area of Cannes. This is the old quarter which was once where the fishermen lived. Homes here are old and gorgeous. The streets go back 400 years. There are shops, restaurants, and tons of things to do here. At night, many restaurants offer live jazz. My favorite spot here is the Castre Museum. It is housed in an 11th Century chateau and its collection was put together by a 19th century aristocrat. There are some great pieces there from antiquity. It also houses the Tour du Suquet (Suquet Tower) which was erected in 1385 so the city could keep a look out for the Saracens this means a fabulous view of the city and ocean. If you’re into music, check out the adjacent Chapel of St. Anne and its musical instrument collection. Entrance costs 6€ and it is free the 1 st Sunday of each month from November to March for those under 18, and students up to 26 years.
The Musee d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence: Cannes is home to a number of remarkable museums. The Musee d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence is one exceptional example, and while it is not “in Cannes” it is quite close and worth the visit.. As an 18th century mansion it practically qualifies as a piece of art itself. But inside you can find all kinds of pieces including artifacts that date back to prehistoric times. Located at 2 rue Mirabeau, Grasse. Entry is FREE. To get there from Cannes, take the Grasse SNCF train and then shuttle towards Grasse Bus Station – get off at Thouron.
Catch a Petanque Match: The goal of Petanque is to throw hollow metal balls as close as possible to a small wooden ball called a cochonnet (“piglet”). The game is similar to Italian Bocce or Colombian Tejo (except Colombians use explosives in theris). Petanque is quite popular in Cannes and there are tons of courts where the locals play. This is serious business (saw a couple of older gentlemen get in a fight one night over a game). Go, watch, and be respectful. You’ll have a blast & for the most part, it’s free to watch. The games are played in “Boulodromes”, there’s a short list below:
- Boulodrome de l’Etangl Place de l’Etang
- Boulodrome Louis Braille: Rue Louis Braille
- Espace Troncy- Boulodrome Jean Béraudo: 150 avenue Michel Jourdan
- Boulodrome des Allées: Allée de la Liberté Charles de Gaulle
- Boulodrome Henri Bergia: Place Henri Bergia
- Boulodrome Mont Chevalier: Square Musso Rue Saint Dizier
Go to the Beach: The water in Cannes are some of my favorites (seconded only by Croatia). Unlike Nice, they are sandy and have a high salt concentration. This makes them easy to swim in AND sparkle as if they had dropped diamonds in the water. Sadly, Cannes’ beaches are expensive and crowded. If you’re staying at a hotel, they will charge you around 25€ per person per seat on the beach. On a good note, you get a beach chair, umbrella, and table service. On a negative note, there’s no space to play ball, and the food and wine will cost you. To avoid going broke for just going to the beach hit up one of the public beaches or take the train to a nearby town. The beaches there will be much less crowded and everything will cost significantly less. On a positive note, dogs are allowed in beaches, so don’t be afraid to bring fido if he’she is with you. If you do decide to explore the beaches in Cannes, know that they are divided into five zones:
- Gazagnaire: This section runs along Boulevard Eugene Gazagnaire by the Pointe Croisette. The two beaches at this location are public: Gazagnaire and Mouré Rouge (free). This is the beach where the locals go.
- Port Canto: This Port boasts of both public and private beaches to the east and west. The private beaches area little less expensive than those at La Croisette and their public beach, Plage Zamenhoff is superb.
- La Croisette: This is where those with money go. The beach is gorgeous, but super crowded. There’s one municipal beach here, Plage Macé. It is almost impossible to get a seat here during the day or at night while the Cannes Film Festival is going on.
- Boulevard de Midi: If you can’t afford (or don’t want to waste money at La Croisette), this may be the beach for you. There are both private and public beaches here, but the private beaches are more moderately priced than those at La Croisette.
- La Bocca: Really nice sand, both private and public beaches.
The Grand Villas of Cannes: Despite its modern feel (Cannes has become a real tech sector as of late), there is still plenty of living history to be taken in at Cannes. This includes grand villas that date back to the 19th century. Wealthy residents from that time period built large estates that were influenced by everything from Roman villas to castles from medieval times. Just walk around the city and enjoy.
St. Marguerite Island: History and film buffs will both know this island as the home to the infamous man in the iron mask for over 11 years. No one knows how the many found his way to this small, island that’s covered in forest. Of course the legend is that he was a man of noble blood. Even though you probably won’t solve the mystery while in Cannes, you can still pay a visit to his cell, found inside the fort where he was held. Today the fort is now known as the Museum of the See and you can find much more than that cell inside. It also houses remnants of shipwrecks that go back as far as the first century BC.
BEST VALUE RESTAURANTS IN CANNES
I will start off by letting you know I did not eat at the best restaurants in Cannes. They are just too damn expensive. You may think that a 30€ meal is not cheap…and it isn’t…but this is Cannes, where a cocktail at the Martinez will cost you 30€ . So keep in mind that value in Cannes is relative.
Restaurant Le Cosi: Stumbled upon this restaurant by luck on one of our walks on the Suquet hill. The food was spectacular AND affordable. The restaurant offers a few different tasting menus with options starting at 32€. Located at 10 Rue Du Suquet 33-0-4-93-66-79
Brouette de Grand-Mere: Great value for the money. Their prix fixe was under €40 and the food was delicious AND it came with a half bottle of wine. The food is classic French comfort food and you will leave with a happy tummy. Located at 9 bis rue d’Oran +33 4 93 39 12 10
L’Antidote Christophe Ferre: 21€ for three amazing courses. That’s high way robbery in Cannes. It’s like they are paying you to go there. It’s also not in the main strip, so there are less tourists. This place is a win. So stop thinking about it and go! Located at 60 Boulevard d’Alsace 04 93 43 32 19
L’Assiette d’Provencal: This restaurant offers two prix fixe menus, one at €24 and one at €29 fpr 3 courses. It is right across from the harbor and has great views. It’s also a good location if you like to people watch. This is a pretty touristy area, so be ready for them. It is a great deal for Cannes. Located at 9 Quai Saint-Pierre +33 4 93 38 52 14
Hotel Le Splendid: One of the best deals in town is their 5€ Club Sandwich (at any other hotel it will cost you 20€). Located at 4-6 Rue Félix Faure +33 4 97 06 22 22
Al-Charq: Really tasty Lebanese food at great prices. It’s right behind the Martinez and has outdoor seating so you can people watch. 20 Rue Rouaze +33 4 93 94 01 76
Le Dauphin: Don’t be put off by the Disney-esque logo. This restaurant is conveniently located, nicely priced, and serves tasty food. Try the carpaccio de boeuf and the Lasagna. 1 rue Bivouac Napoleon 06400 Cannes +33 4 93 39 22 73
HOW TO GET TO CANNES?
BY AIR: You will most likely arrive at Nice airport. Most hotels will have a shuttle service (ours did). If you are staying elsewhere, you can take a shuttle bus, train, or taxi. If you are coming in during beach season, I would recommend that you book your transportation from the airport ahead of time.
BY TRAIN: I’m a huge fan of the SNCF, that’s France’s train system. I always recommend that people skip the car rental and just take the trains. They are comfortable, the views are usually spectacular, and you remove the stress of driving. Plus, most of the trains have a bar car where you can pick up a bottle of wine and some snacks (if you’re hungry after your flight). The train runs from the St. Augustine Gare in Nice to Cannes. The trains usually leave every half hour and take about 30 minutes to get you to Cannes. A first class ticket will cost you €13-16 (trust me, first class is worth it here). There is one catch: The gare in Nice is a half mile away from the airport. Just take the local bus (#23 – Gare SNCF Saint-Augustine). If you’re already in France, just take the SNCF into the Cannes station.
BY CAR: If you are insane and you are driving (there’s basically one road and it is sloooooow), take the A8 and get off at the Cannes/Grasse exit. You’ll end up on Boulevard Carnot (lots of traffic lights). There are short cuts, but on your first day in the city, I would not recommend them.
If you need other Cannes travel tips or have specific questions about the city, just leave a comment. I check these weekly and will get back to you as soon as I can.