12 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Cannes
Basking in the sun of the French Riviera, Cannes sparkles with glamour and exclusivity. This legendary seaside resort has all the glitz and allure of the Côte d'Azur: private beaches, marinas filled with luxury yachts, stylish boulevards, elegant Belle Epoque hotels, and fashionable restaurants. In an enchanting setting on Golfe de la Napoule bay, Cannes is blessed with a balmy Mediterranean climate. The weather is mild year-round and perfect for sunbathing by the beach from May through October. Leafy palm trees grace the streets of Cannes, and subtropical flowers flourish throughout the city, giving visitors the impression of being in paradise. The prestigious Film Festival of Cannes has been an important event since it began in 1946. Drawing famous movie stars from around the world, this annual red-carpet gala has earned an international reputation for promoting the art of filmmaking.
See also: Where to Stay in Cannes
1 Boulevard de la Croisette
One of the most fashionable streets on the French Riviera, this elegant palm-lined boulevard is the center of tourist activity in Cannes. The Boulevard de la Croisette is lined by elegant Belle Epoque hotels, such as the historic InterContinental Carlton Cannes-a wonderful example of grand French Art Nouveau architecture designed by Charles Dalmas. Visitors will also be awestruck by the beautiful villas and upscale boutiques. The boulevard extends from the new Palais des Festivals along the rade de Cannes with its splendid sandy beach. A beachfront promenade offers splendid people-watching as well as magnificent views of the gulf and the Lérins Islands in the distance of the Mediterranean Sea. The Boulevard de la Croisette ends at a yacht harbor, where the pirate ship Neptune is docked. This impressive ship was built as the backdrop for an adventure film. At the eastern section of the boulevard is the lovely Parc de la Roseraie and the idyllic Port Pierre Canto with its rows of luxury yachts docked at the harbor. Also within walking distance is another harbor, the Port de la Pointe Croisette, the departure point for regattas organized by the Yacht Club of Cannes. Water sport enthusiasts will want to continue towards the nearby Port Palm Beach where there is a sailing school.
2 Le Suquet (Old Town)
Perched on the slopes of Mont Chevalier above the bay, the Le Suquet district represents the original fishing village. In a picturesque hillside setting, this area offers exceptional views as well as Old World charm. Le Suquet has retained some of the ambience of centuries ago. Tourists are delighted by the traffic-free quarter with its narrow old staircases, pleasant courtyards, and interesting historic remnants, such as the city's ancient walls. At the heart of Le Suquet, the old church, Eglise du Suquet, and the 11th-century Tour du Mont Chevalier watchtower dominate the skyline. From the top of the watchtower, there is a wonderful panoramic outlook onto the beach and the bay all the way out to the Lérins Islands. Another joy of visiting Le Suquet is wandering the quaint old streets. One of the old town's main shopping streets is the Rue Meynadier. This bustling pedestrian street is renowned for its specialty gourmet boutiques. Another important commercial street a few blocks away at the edge of Le Suquet is the Rue d'Antibes. A shopping destination for French Riviera fashions, the street is lined with designer prêt-à-porter clothing boutiques.
3 Festival de Cannes (Film Festival) in May
One of the most glamorous events on the French Riviera, the Film Festival brings to Cannes the glitter of celebrity. This red-carpet event is definitely one of the biggest moments of the year in Cannes and one of the city's top tourist attractions. The festival draws movie stars and filmmakers from all over the world as well as crowds of fans and journalists. Originally this film festival was established to rival the Venice Film Festival. The Festival de Cannes has earned an international reputation for discovering, supporting, and promoting excellent films.
Address: Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, 1 boulevard La Croisette, Cannes
4 Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès is the venue of the Riviera's most glamorous red-carpet affair, the Cannes Film Festival. Designed by the architects Bennett and Druet, the building was completed in 1982 and is used for events, conferences and festivals year round. In addition to the film festival, the building also hosts the G20 Summit, the international music trade show MIDEM, and the MIPTV (International Television Programme Market) events. The Palais des Festivals has 25,000 square meters of space for exhibitions as well as numerous rooms and auditoriums equipped with sophisticated sound and lighting systems. The impressive complex of buildings features state-of-the-art technical apparatus, including sound studios, simultaneous translation arrangements, audio-visual equipment, and large projectors. There is also a restaurant on site. Since 2009, the building has been continually modernized.
Address: 1 boulevard La Croisette, Cannes
5 Notre-Dame de l'Espérance
The most important church in Cannes, the Notre-Dame de l'Espérance was built in the 16th century and has a notable 17th-century Madonna on the high altar. There is also a wooden statue of Saint Anne that dates back to the 1500s. When entering the church, visitors are struck by the peaceful interior and the inspiring heights of its Gothic vaulting. The church also features a mix of architectural styles including a Renaissance porch, plus an organ that was installed in 1857 and has been recently renovated. There is also an old cemetery that dates back to the 16th century. During the Second World War, the church was temporarily used as a hospital. Today, the church is still a place of religious worship and is also the venue for the Suquet musical festival in July, a popular summertime event.
Address: 1 Place de la Castre, Cannes
6 Musée de la Castre
On a hill overlooking the Bay of Cannes, the Musée de la Castre occupies a former medieval monastery that is now classified as a historic monument. Surrounded by a Mediterranean garden, the site boasts exceptional views of the coastline and sea. The Castre Museum has an excellent collection of Mediterranean antiquities, pre-Columbian primitive art, and 19th-century Provencal landscape paintings. Several small rooms feature exotic art objects from Oceania and the Himalayas. There is also an extensive collection of musical instruments from around the world. Visitors can climb to the top of the building's 12th-century tower to take in the breathtaking 360-degree panorama of Cannes and its surroundings. The museum's interior courtyard also provides a pleasant place to relax and enjoy the natural setting.
Hours: Open Tuesday through Sunday 10am-1pm and 2-5pm except on national holidays; Monday through Sunday 10am-7pm in July and August
Admission: Adults €6, youth (under 25 years) €3, groups of ten people €3 per person, free on the first Sunday of every month and for children and youth under 18 years
Guided tours: €9,20 (in English) June 15 - September 15 on Fridays at 2:30pm
Address: Le Suquet, Cannes
7 Public Beaches
Cannes is famous for its fine sandy beaches with beautiful views and calm Mediterranean waters ideal for bathing. Including the nearby îles de Lérin and Estérel coastline, there are seven kilometers of beach property in Cannes. With so many options, there is something for every visitor. While many of the beaches in Cannes are private property owned by hotels, there are several beaches open to the public. These include the Macé Beach and the Zamenhof Beach, located off the Boulevard de la Croisette. These beaches charge a small fee (€4 - €7) for use of the lounge chairs and parasols. Hours are from 8:30am-6:30pm during the tourist season. Also available for public use (and free of charge) are the Plage de la Casino along the Boulevard de la Croisette, La Bocca Beach, a gorgeous beach with golden sand, and Mouré Rouge Beach near the fishing ports.
8 Private Beaches
As an exclusive seaside resort town, Cannes also has upscale private beaches that require entrance fees of €12 to €18. The most well-known is Midi Plage, a beautiful private beach with a gourmet restaurant at the water's edge. The restaurant serves regional specialties such as bouillabaisse and grilled fish on a lovely terrace. Midi Plage also offers a pleasant sandy beach with reclining lounge chairs and beach umbrellas. Other private beaches in Cannes include the Belle Plage and Royal Plage, both off the Boulevard de la Croisette.
9 Vieux Port
Emblematic of Cannes' Mediterranean scenery, the Vieux Port (Old Port) lies below the historic Le Suquet quarter. The Vieux Port, also known as Port Cannes I, is located near the Gare Maritime (Marine Railway Station) that was built in 1957. Besides its use as a dock for yachts and other sailboats, the Vieux Port is the launching point for the Royal Regatta. North of the port are the picturesque Allées de la Liberté, narrow ancient alleys lined with shady plane trees. In the mornings the colorful Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market) is held here.
10 La Californie
This lovely district of Cannes exemplifies glamorous French Riviera scenery. Gorgeous vacation villas are surrounded by lush gardens and palm trees. This charming area is a wonderful place for a relaxing afternoon stroll. Drawn by its beauty, Picasso lived in this neighborhood for a short while. It's easy to understand how the exquisite buildings and vibrant landscape would inspire an artist. Also worth a visit in this neighborhood is the Eglise Russe (Russian Church) on the Boulevard Alexandre.
11 Chapelle Bellini
Built in 1894 by the Count Vitali, the Chapelle Bellini was once part of a Florentine-style villa and is set in a beautiful park. Identified by the arms of the Count, the chapel features an Italian Baroque design with an impressive clock tower and an interesting wooden staircase inside. The chapel was bought by the artist Emmanuel Bellini in 1953 and then used as his atelier. The Bellini Chapel is now a museum dedicated to the artist's works shown in his own studio space.
Hours: Open Monday through Friday from 2pm-5pm
Admission: Free entry
Address: Parc Fiorentina - 67 bis, Avenue de Vallauris, Cannes
12 La Malmaison Museum
Housed in the Grand Hôtel built in 1863, Le Malmaison was converted to a museum in 1970. This small museum invites visitors on a wonderful discovery of contemporary art. The museum features temporary exhibits as well as grand expositions on an annual basis. Highlights include the exhibitions dedicated to Picasso, César, and Miró.
Address: 47 La Croisette, Cannes
Where to Stay in Cannes for Sightseeing
Belle Epoque hotels and villas line the beachfront Boulevard de la Croisette, and smaller hotels dot the streets on the hillside above, off the fashionable shopping street of Rue d'Antibes. Larger hotels have their own sections of the beach, but there is plenty of public sand and sea within an easy walk of any of these highly-rated hotels in Cannes:
- Luxury Hotels: With the Belle Epoch elegance and service that made Cannes hotels famous, Hotel Barriere Le Majestic Cannes is opposite Le Palais Des Festival. One block off Boulevard de la Croisette, the boutique Five Seas Hotel has beautifully furnished rooms and a rooftop infinity pool. The somewhat old-fashioned rooms at InterContinental Carlton Cannes, overlooking the beach on Boulevard de la Croisette, add to its atmosphere of classic grand hotel.
- Mid-Range Hotels: About 300 meters from the beachfront Boulevard de la Croisette, Hotel de Provence has balconies, a garden, and a rooftop terrace. The boutique Hotel America is one block off Boulevard de la Croisette and less than five minutes from Le Palais Des Festival and Rue d'Antibes shops. Cozy and intimate, the Hotel Festival sits between Boulevard de la Croisette beaches and Rue d'Antibes shopping and has a Jacuzzi and sauna.
- Budget Hotels: On the hill above the old town, a 15-minute walk to the center shops, restaurants, and beaches, Ideal Sejour Hotel offers a beautiful garden; fresh baked croissants every morning; and creative, well-designed rooms with literary themes. With small rooms and excellent service, Hotel des Congres et Festivals is a short block off Rue d'Antibes, close to both the beach and train station. Also a short walk to the beach and train station, Hotel Ibis Cannes Centre offers small, plain rooms a block off Rue d'Antibes.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Cannes
An organized day trip tour is a great way to see the highlights around Cannes without the hassle of driving and navigating along the narrow streets. Instead, you can soak up the spectacular scenery while you listen to interesting tips and stories from your experienced guide. These tours include convenient pickup and drop-off at centrally located Cannes hotels. Below are some fun day trip tours that guarantee the lowest price:
- Monaco and Eze Day Trip: The Monaco and Eze Small Group Day Trip from Cannes blends the best of the French Riviera, with plenty of village charm and fast-paced fun. A professional guide will pick you up from your hotel in an air-conditioned minivan to visit the medieval hilltop village of Eze, where you can tour a perfumery. After strolling around this delightful village, you head to Monte Carlo for a spin on the Formula One Grand Prix circuit and a palace visit. This full-day adventure is a small-group tour for a maximum of eight people.
- Provence Countryside Day Trip: If you want to focus on the quaint villages of Provence, the Provence Countryside Small-Group Day Trip from Cannes is an excellent choice. Highlights of this tour include a visit to St. Paul de Vence, with its galleries and picturesque public squares; the hilltop town of Gourdon; a perfumery tour in Grasse; and a drive along the scenic Loup Gorges, past other quaint villages. This full-day tour is also limited to small groups to maximize personal attention.
Festivals and Events
Festival d'Art Pyrotechnique (Fireworks Festival) in July and August
For several nights every summer in July and August, the Bay of Cannes lights up with its renowned Fireworks Festival. This unique international event brings together the best fireworks designers from all over the world. The festival began in 1967 and draws thousands of spectators along the beaches of Cannes. Each night of the festival offers excitement and an array of dazzling fireworks. The top pyrotechnic team receives the Vestal Prize at the end of the fireworks competition. Other prizes include the Jury Prize awarded for imagination and creativity. The audience can vote during the competition for their favorite fireworks and the winner is awarded the Prix du Public (Audience's Prize). Fireworks programs begin at 11pm and are open to the public for free viewing.
Address: 1 Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes
Nuits Musicales du Suquet (Musical Nights of Le Suquet) - Last Week of July
The Nuits Musicales du Suquet is an annual classical music festival that runs at the end of July. Taking advantage of the balmy Côte d'Azur weather, the event is held outside in the courtyard of the Church of Notre Dame d'Espérance. This world-class festival includes both large symphonic concerts and smaller solo performances by violinists, pianists, and vocalists. The repertoire features a varied list of classical musical pieces from Mozart to Chopin.
Hours: Concerts begin at 9:15pm
Admission: Adults €24 - €36, youth (under 25 years) €12, children under 10 years €10
Address: Le Suquet, Cannes