10 Top-Rated Day Trips from Cannes
The area around Cannes boasts spectacular natural scenery and several picturesque villages that are well worth visiting. Those who appreciate nature will enjoy the Estérel Mountains, while the Iles de Lérins island group is another beautiful Mediterranean destination with interesting historical monuments. For those seeking a classic French Riviera experience, Antibes delights tourists with its sandy beaches and a lively resort ambience, especially in summer.
Beyond the most visited attractions are alluring off-the-beaten-path sights. The lesser-known beach resorts of Fréjus, Saint-Raphaël, Théoule-sur-Mer, and Mandelieu-La-Napoule offer a slow-paced and relaxing vacation experience. Only 18 kilometers from Cannes, the town of Grasse has a mild climate year-round and is famous for its perfumes. Other gems are the little village of Vallauris with its wonderful Picasso Museum inside the former chapel of a 12th-century monastic abbey and the ancient "village perché" of Biot, a charming medieval hilltop village.
1 Estérel Mountains
The dramatic Estérel Mountains rise immediately behind the Côte d'Azur coastline between Saint-Raphaël and Cannes, bordered by two valleys. Formed of ancient volcanic rock, the Estérel Mountains are characterized by the distinctive reddish and earthy hues of the landscape. Spectacular gorges and steep cliffs plunge directly into the sea. The rugged hillsides and jagged peaks are overgrown with typical Mediterranean shrubbery and shaded by acacia, eucalyptus, and palm trees.
The highest peak of the Estérel Mountains is Mont Vinaigre, which reaches 618 meters. From Fréjus to Mont Vinaigre, the drive on the N7 includes 11 kilometers of a narrow forest road. At the summit of Mont Vinaigre, a breathtaking panoramic view awaits. The Corniche de l'Estérel is another picturesque road (N98) that winds its way along the rocky coast between Saint-Raphaël and Cannes. The drive goes through the resort of Boulouris and passes by the impressive Cap du Dramont lighthouse. An excellent place to stop is at the coastal village of Agay at the foot of the Rocheuse du Rastel (hillside) in a protected bay. This sunny village has a wonderful beach, and its calm seas are ideal for watersports such as sailing, kayaking, and jet skiing. Every Thursday morning, a traditional Provençal market is held at Place Giannetti, the town square near the waterfront.
Another gorgeous sight in the Estérel Mountains is the Pic de l'Ours, which can be approached from the village of Agay. The mostly single-lane road leads inland (for about 30 minutes) and encircles the Pic de l'Ours mountain peak, which reaches 496 meters. At the summit, near the Col Notre-Dame, there is a magnificent sweeping view of the rocky coastline.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Cannes
2 Iles de Lérins
The Iles de Lérins are a short ferry ride (available several times a day) from Cannes between the Golfe de la Napoule and the Golfe Juan. This group of islands was a center of ecclesiastical teachings and monastic life in the 5th and 6th centuries. In 660, the monastery assumed the Rule of Saint-Benedict. Later, the islands were attacked by the Saracens and then by pirates from Genoa. The Ile Sainte-Marguerite is the largest island of the Lérins and is covered with lush eucalyptus trees and pine woods. The island has a 17th-century fort that was once a prison.
Ile Saint-Honorat boasts monastery buildings associated with Saint Honoratus, the Bishop of Arles (who died in 429). In the southern part of Saint-Honorat Island, by the sea, stands the impressive Château Saint-Honorat, built in the 11th century as a refuge against pirates. Its immense walls and crenelated ramparts were designed for defense. There are exquisite cloisters on the ground and first floors as well as extensive sea views from most rooms. Seven chapels were once scattered about the island; the only two remaining are the early Christian Chapelle Saint-Sauveur and the early medieval Chapelle de la Trinité.
A delightful vacation destination, Antibes is a busy resort town with many cultural and natural attractions. With its views of the Mediterranean Sea and charming cobblestone streets, the Old Town is a pleasant place to wander and discover the boutiques, cafés, and restaurants. Antibes also encompasses the coastline of Cap d'Antibes and Juan les Pins, two areas that have several public beaches with beautiful sandy shores surrounded by shady pine trees. Another top tourist attraction is the Picasso Museum, which displays a renowned collection of Picasso's art in the medieval Château Grimaldi, a landmark in itself. For those who enjoy hiking, the five-kilometer seafront walk along the Chemin des Douaniers offers a delightful way to experience the stunning coastal scenery. Those who appreciate history can visit the Archaeology Museum in the Bastion Saint-André to take in the captivating history and see fascinating ancient artifacts. Music lovers will want to attend the legendary Jazz à Juan festival held annually in July at a spectacular outdoor theater by the sea. This jazz festival draws exceptional talent including world-famous musicians.
An interesting port town near Cannes, Fréjus boasts a lovely marina, sandy beaches, and a stunning Romanesque cathedral. The Cathedral of Fréjus, built in the 11th-12th centuries, is now surrounded by other buildings. Only the doorway is visible from the outside. The cathedral features a distinctive rectangular and octagonal spire, a beacon in the town's skyline. Visitors enter the cathedral through the impressive lobby, where Renaissance doors created in 1530 are stored (shown on guided tours). The cathedral has a 16th-century wooden crucifix and a 15th-century altarpiece by Jacques Durandi. The pre-Romanesque Baptistery dates from the 4th or 5th century, while the cloister features delicate pillars and exceptional 14th-15th century ceiling paintings of the Apocalypse. Another attraction here is the Archaeology Museum with Greek and Roman artifacts, including an ancient mosaic floor. To discover more of the town's ancient history, tourists can visit the 1st-2nd century Arènes (Roman Amphitheater) on the rue Henri Vadon. This enormous amphitheater accommodated 10,000 spectators. On the N7 Road are remains of the Roman aqueduct that brought water from the Estérel Mountains. Nearby is the Théâtre Romain (1st century Roman theater) now the venue for Les Nuits Auréliennes, a summertime outdoor festival of amateur theater.
This sun-soaked seaside resort extends over 36 kilometers of pristine coastline between the Estérel Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. Visitors are awestruck by the beauty of the coves and inlets that have been carved out of the rock by turquoise waves. Since the Victorian era, Saint-Raphaël has been a popular tourist destination with many luxury hotels. The city of 36,000 inhabitants bustles with a thriving commercial center including the old fishing port. The Quarter de la Marine and each of the city's other picturesque waterfront neighborhoods has its own unique character. Tourists enjoy wandering the charming shaded streets of the Old Town, admiring the 7th-century Romanesque church and the Roman Byzantine style Basilique Notre-Dame de la Victoire, and shopping at the traditional Provençal market in the town square. Another attraction is the Archaeological Museum in the church presbytery, which features Roman-era artifacts and splendid panoramic views from the watchtower. For relaxation, tourists stroll along the scenic Santa Lucia port and sunbathe on the beautiful beaches. Saint-Raphaël is part of the protected maritime zone of Cap Roux. Along the coastline, there are six public beaches with lifeguards on duty. Swimming is possible in designated areas.
A traditional Provençal town at heart, Grasse is a patchwork of charming pedestrian streets and elegant squares. The Old Town can only be toured by foot because of the narrow thoroughfares. Tourists may begin a walking tour at the Office du Tourisme on the Place de la Foux. The tourist office provides a map to find historical landmarks and offers guided tours. Grasse is world renowned for its perfumes, introduced in the 16th century by Catherine de Medici. Surrounding the town, the fields of orange blossoms, roses, jasmine, lavender, and violets provide the essential oils to make exquisite fragrances. The Perfume Museum is housed in the former Hugues-Aîné Perfumery on the Place du Cours, which has spectacular views of the valley. At this museum, visitors discover the history of perfumes, soap, and cosmetics. Most of the perfume factories, such as Fragonard, Molinard, and Galimard, offer guided tours and boutiques. Another must-see site is the Villa Musée Fragonard, a lovely 17th-century house that was the birthplace of Rococo painter Jean Honoré Fragonard. The museum displays a collection of Fragonard's works.
Above the Golfe-Juan about five kilometers from Cannes, this little town delights visitors with its colorful potteries and fragrant orange groves. The village once belonged to the monks of the Lérins Islands, and the medieval Romanesque chapel (in the Abbey of Lérins) now houses the Musée National Picasso de Vallauris (Picasso Museum). In 1952, Picasso painted the vaulting of the chapel with his famous La Guerre et La Paix (War and Peace), two immense works of art covering more than 100 square meters. The museum also houses other works by Picasso including ceramics, linocuts, and photographs. In the Place de l'Eglise, where there is a weekly fruit and vegetable market, stands Picasso's sculpture Man with a Sheep.
The other main attraction in Vallauris is the traditional decorative pottery. Vallauris has a history of pottery making that dates back to the Gallo-Roman and early Christian era. Today, about 100 potters work in Vallauris. Many workshops are open for visits, arranged through the tourist office, and the town's School of Fine Arts offers pottery classes. The Ceramics Museum, in the Abbey of Lérins, displays ceramics from different historical periods. The Madoura workshop near Avenue Clémenceau still produces pottery based on Picasso's designs.
One of the most beautiful villages on the Côte d Azur, the resort of Théoule-sur-Mer lies between the Estérel Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. The village enjoys a wonderful location on the western part of the Golfe de la Napoule, with its picturesque shoreline. There are seven public beaches in Théoule-sur-Mer; many are fine sandy beaches and some of the beaches have more rugged terrain. In typical French Riviera style, there are private beaches with restaurants along the waterfront. Guests enjoy alfresco dining with splendid seaside views. Théoule-sur-Mer offers many leisure activities including tennis, golfing, horseback riding, sailing, and snorkeling. A perfect destination for a summer holiday, Theoule-sur-Mer is a wonderful place to relax and enjoy the slow pace of Provence by the sea.
The picturesque twin villages of Mandelieu-La Napoule lie five kilometers west of Cannes at the foot of the Massif du Tanneron along the Mediterranean Sea. With the verdant Estérel Mountains in the background and serene blue waters surrounding the villages, the setting is idyllic and peaceful. Mandelieu-La Napoule is a less crowded destination that still has the spirit of the Côte d'Azur. The city is committed to preserving its natural heritage and supports a sustainable approach to development along the coastline. Seven pristine public beaches are in the vicinity, some with fine sand and others with red rocks. Water quality is posted daily to ensure the safety of bathers and swimmers. Nautical sports and maritime excursions are popular. From here, ferries travel regularly to the Lérins island, Monaco, Saint-Tropez, and Cannes. Visitors may also enjoy nature walks along the coastline, hiking in the forest or seaside trails, and golfing at one of the three courses.
This quaint medieval hilltop village enchants visitors with its narrow cobblestone streets, quiet alleyways, and pleasant little squares. Built on the slopes of a steep hill (a typical "village perché"), Biot has many charming stepped pathways that lead up to viewpoints and reward visitors with lovely panoramas. Biot has an interesting history and played an important role in the Crusades during the 12th century. The Eglise Sainte Marie Madeleine was built on the ruins of a 12th-century Romanesque church and was largely rebuilt in the 15th century. Inside, there is a beautiful altarpiece, the Madonna with Rosary by Louis Bréa in the 16th century. The village is well known for its arts and crafts, including ceramics, glass blowing, weaving, and silk-screen printing. Biot also has an excellent museum, the Musée National Fernand Léger on the Chemin Val-de-Pome. The museum displays a comprehensive collection of Léger's works.