14 Top-Rated Day Trips from Cannes
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The area around Cannes boasts glamorous resort towns, spectacular scenery, lovely seaside villages, and quaint hilltop towns. Those who appreciate nature will enjoy the Estérel Mountains and the Iles de Lérins island group.
For those seeking a classic French Riviera experience, Saint-Tropez and Antibes are among the best places to visit. These glamorous holiday destinations delight with sandy beaches and a lively resort ambience, especially during summertime.
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 Biot, a charming medieval hilltop town. For more sightseeing ideas, read our list of the top day trips from Cannes.
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The tiny royal principality of Monaco offers an enormous amount of glamour considering it's only two square kilometers in size. Monaco boasts stunning coastal views and a sublime Mediterranean environment of palm trees, lush vegetation, and an abundance of colorful flowers.
The historic center of Monaco stands on a rocky promontory known as "Le Rocher" ("The Rock"). This dramatic location is actually a peninsula with sheer cliffs that drop off into the sea. The Rock contains Monaco-Ville, the Old Town of Monaco, which features atmospheric narrow streets, and the Palais du Prince, residence of H.S.H. Prince Albert II. One of Monaco's top tourist attractions, the Prince's Palace is open to the public for visits part of the year.
At the Monaco harbor, the scene of luxury yachts lives up to the town's reputation for extravagant wealth. The rich and famous are also drawn to Monaco's designer boutiques, upscale restaurants, and five-star hotels.
Despite the aura of exclusivity, Monaco appeals to tourists who simply appreciate the beauty and culture found here. For entertainment, the Opéra de Monte-Carlo offers a superb schedule of classic operas, concerts, and ballet performances.
The Musée Oceanographique awes visitors with its spectacular seaside location, outstanding aquariums, and interactive exhibits on marine science. Monaco's natural splendor is also found in the abundance of gorgeous gardens with mesmerizing views.
To discover these amazing sights, try an organized tour from Cannes, such as the Monaco and Eze Small-Group Day Trip, which includes a scenic drive along the Lower Corniche coastline.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Monaco
Before Saint-Tropez became a legendary beach resort, it was just a little fishing village with the slow pace of a small town in Provence. Impressionist painters discovered the alluring quality of Saint-Tropez in the 19th century. But it was Brigitte Bardot's appearance in Et Dieu Créa la Femme (filmed in Saint-Tropez) in 1955 that really put the village on the tourist map.
Today designer boutiques, fancy restaurants, and private beach clubs are de rigueur, as would be expected of an internationally renowned resort town. However, Saint-Tropez has several excellent public beaches, and the historic village has retained its old-world character, seen in the quaint cobblestone streets and squares shaded by leafy plane trees.
Humble fishing boats, as well as luxury yachts are docked in the Old Port (Vieux Port), which is animated by outdoor cafés and colorful street art. Locals and tourists alike shop at the traditional Provençal market, held daily at the Place aux Herbes near the harbor.
Tourists will also want to see the Impressionist and modern art collection at the Musée de l'Annonciade and visit the 17th-century citadel that now houses the Museum of Maritime History.
Saint-Tropez is an 85-kilometer drive from Cannes, but the most enjoyable way to arrive here from Cannes is by boat. The Ferry to Saint-Tropez from Cannes is a round-trip ferry boat service (about a 75-minute journey each way) that allows tourists to explore Saint-Tropez on their own for a full day.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Saint-Tropez
Read More: Things to See and Do in Saint-Tropez
This picture-perfect medieval "perched" village boasts exceptional views, thanks to its dramatic location on a hilltop more than 400 meters above the Mediterranean Sea. On a clear day, the town's vantage point offers a sweeping view of the French Riviera coastline from Nice to Monaco.
Within the once-fortified village, winding cobblestone streets delight visitors. The village brims with quaint alleyways, bougainvillea-trimmed courtyards, inviting boutiques, and small galleries that display paintings by local artists.
Nature lovers should visit the Jardin Exotique, a lush garden with a breathtaking panoramic outlook onto the Cap Ferrat coastline, while gourmands will want to dine at the Michelin-starred restaurant at La Chèvre d'Or hotel. Other top attractions include the Fragonard Perfume Museum and the spectacularly scenic Nietzsche Path, a hiking trail that traverses a steep hillside down to the beach.
Since Eze is most easily accessible by car, many travelers will have the best experience by taking an organized tour. A great choice is the Monaco and Eze Small-Group Day Trip, which picks tourists up at their hotel in Cannes and offers a relaxing guided tour by minivan.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Eze
4. 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 wonderful beaches, and its calm seas are ideal for water sports such as sailing, kayaking, and jet skiing. A traditional Provençal market is held weekly 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
5. Iles de Lérins
A short ferry ride from Cannes, the Iles de Lérins are found 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 trails, which indicate historical sites, as well as botanical features. The 17th-century Fort Royal now houses the Musée de la Mer (Maritime Museum). An observatory overlooking the Etang du Batéguier (lagoon) is a great place for bird-watching.
Appreciated for its serene natural environment, the Ile Saint-Honorat is home to a Cistercian monastery, the Abbaye de Lérins, which dates back to the Middle Ages. Today a community of 21 monks participate in a life of prayer and work at the Abbaye de Lérins. Tourists may visit the abbey's historic monuments and chapels. It is also possible to attend Mass or spend time in private prayer at the abbey church.
The ferry ride from Cannes to the Ile Sainte-Marguerite or the Ile Saint-Honorat takes just 15 minutes. Ferries to both islands depart and return several times a day throughout the year.
6. Antibes Juan-les-Pins
A popular summertime beach-vacation destination, Antibes offers the best of both worlds: a quaint historic center, along with miles and miles of sandy beaches. This busy resort town boasts 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. A tourist attraction in the Old Town is the Picasso Museum, which displays a renowned collection of Picasso's art in the medieval Château Grimaldi, a landmark in itself.
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.
For those who enjoy hiking, the 3.7-kilometer seafront walk along the Chemin des Douaniers offers a delightful way to experience the stunning coastal scenery. The trail begins at the Plage de la Garoupe and winds up at the Villa Eilenroc, an elegant Belle Epoque mansion with sweeping coastal views. The villa features lovely grounds that are open to the public. A highlight of the 11-hectare estate is a rose garden that includes hundreds of different varieties of fragrant blooms.
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.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Antibes Juan-les-Pins
An attractive port town near Cannes, Fréjus was built on the site of a Roman city that Julius Caesar founded in 49 BC. In fact, the remarkable Cathedral of Fréjus has a pre-Romanesque 5th-century baptistery that incorporates ancient Roman columns and is one of the earliest Christian churches in France.
At the Archaeology Museum, visitors can learn about the history of Fréjus during the Classical antiquity period. The museum's collection includes pieces found at archaeological digs in Fréjus, including statues, mosaics, and objects used in everyday life. The museum also presents a large-scale model depicting the ancient Roman city that once thrived here.
The town's most noteworthy archaeological sites include the 1st- to 2nd-century Arènes (Roman Amphitheater) on the rue Henri Vadon, which originally accommodated 10,000 spectators, and the 1st-century Théâtre Romain (Roman Theater) now an outdoor venue for Les Nuits Auréliennes, a summertime festival of amateur theater.
For those seeking the pleasure of sunshine and seaside, Fréjus offers a balmy climate, a bustling marina, and sandy beaches.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Fréjus
This sunny seaside resort extends over 36 kilometers of pristine coastline, nestled at the foot of the Estérel Mountains along a sheltered bay. Sun worshippers will appreciate the area's choice of 30 beaches, from sandy beaches, pebble beaches, and small quiet beaches in protected coves. Water sports enthusiasts will be impressed by the sailing opportunities at the Port de Santa Lucia, considered one of the best marinas of the Côte d'Azur.
During the Victorian era, Saint-Raphaël was an upscale holiday destination with grand Belle Epoque hotels and villas. Unfortunately, much of the town's stately architecture was destroyed in the blitz of the Second World War. However, there's still a charming old fishing port, appealing waterfront neighborhoods, and a vibrant commercial center.
While on vacation in Saint-Raphaël, tourists will find plenty of things to do, such as wandering the narrow shaded streets of the Vieille Ville (Old Town), shopping at the Provençal markets (Place Victor Hugo, Place de la République, and Place Giannetti), and strolling along the Santa Lucia marina or along the Vieux Port, the old fishing harbor. The Santa Lucia Port has many waterfront restaurants that serve gourmet cuisine.
Other must-see attractions include the 7th-century Romanesque church, the Roman Byzantine-style Basilique Notre-Dame de la Victoire, and the Prehistory and Archaeological Museum housed in a 12th-century Romanesque church that displays artifacts of the Paleolithic era and Iron Age, as well as treasures of the Roman Empire uncovered from shipwrecks. The museum also features splendid panoramic sea views from the building's tower.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Saint-Raphaël
Grasse is a quintessential Provençal hilltop town with superb views of the Provence countryside - the fields of orange blossoms, roses, jasmine, lavender, and violets that provide the essential oils to make exquisite fragrances. In fact, Grasse is world-renowned for its perfumes, introduced in the 16th century by Catherine de Medici.
The International Perfume Museum (2 Boulevard du Jeu de Ballon) educates visitors about the history of perfumes, soaps, and cosmetics. In addition, many perfume factories in Grasse, such as Fragonard, Molinard, and Galimard, offer guided tours and boutiques.
France's Ministry of Culture has labeled Grasse a Ville d'Art et d'Histoire (City of Art and History) because of its unique cultural heritage. The charming historic center of Grasse can only be explored by foot because of the narrow thoroughfares.
At the heart of the old town, the 13th-century Cathédrale Notre-Dame-du-Puy de Grasse has a simple facade inspired by the architecture of the Liguria region (near Genoa in Italy) and is filled with exceptional works of religious art, including pieces by the School of Louis Brea and Pierre-Paul Rubens.
Another must-see attraction is the Villa-Musée Jean-Honoré Fragonard, a stately 17th-century house where the celebrated Rococo painter Jean-Honoré Fragonard lived for a while. Fragonard painted entire walls of the staircase and salon with lavish paintings.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Grasse
Above the Golfe-Juan, about five kilometers from Cannes, and surrounded by fragrant orange groves, this little town once belonged to the monks of the Lérins Islands. The rich religious heritage is seen in the town's many historic chapels and churches.
The 12th-century Romanesque chapel of the Château de Vallauris (formerly the priory of the Abbey of Lérins) now houses the Musée National Picasso, Chapelle La Guerre et la Paix. In 1952, Pablo Picasso painted the vaulting of the chapel with his famous War and Peace, two immense works of art covering more than 100 square meters.
Another main attraction in Vallauris is the traditional decorative pottery. Vallauris' history of pottery making dates back to the Gallo-Roman and early Christian era. Today, many talented potters work in Vallauris. Artists' ateliers are often open for visits, arranged through the Tourist Office, and the Vallauris Institute of Arts offers week-long workshops focused on the art of creating contemporary ceramics.
The Renaissance-era wings of the Château de Vallauris (the same building where the Picasso Museum is located) house the Musée de la Céramique (Ceramics Museum), which educates visitors about how ceramics have been made and used in Vallauris throughout its history. The museum displays everything from ancient pottery to contemporary artisanal ceramics. A collection of paintings by Alberto Magnelli (an Italian modern artist) is also presented within the Château de Vallauris.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Vallauris
One of the most beautiful Côte d Azur resorts, Théoule-sur-Mer is tucked into a small sheltered bay between the Estérel Mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. This former fishing village is now a popular summertime destination less than 15 kilometers from Cannes. Adding to the charm is the enchanting location on the western part of the Golfe de la Napoule, which features red rock cliffs, quiet coves, and sandy beaches.
There are seven public beaches in Théoule-sur-Mer, all located within L'Estérel National Park; many are fine sandy beaches and some of the beaches have pebble shorelines and more rugged terrain. In typical French Riviera style, Théoule-sur-Mer also has private beaches with stylish waterfront restaurants.
Guests enjoy alfresco dining with splendid seaside views. Théoule-sur-Mer offers many leisure activities including hiking, 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.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Theoule-sur-Mer
The seaside community of Mandelieu-La Napoule enjoys an idyllic setting, at the foot of the Massif du Tanneron (five kilometers west of Cannes) with the verdant Estérel Mountains as a backdrop.
The town includes the quaint, old fishing village of La Napoule and the more modern beach resort of Mandelieu. Less crowded than Cannes, this area still exudes the vacation spirit of the French Riviera.
Sun worshippers flock to the seven pristine sandy beaches found along the three-kilometer coastline of Mandelieu-La Napoule. Water quality is posted daily to ensure the safety of bathers and swimmers.
Other things to do include nature walks by the seaside, hiking in the forest or by the coast, and golfing at one of the two 18-hole golf courses.
For gourmet dining, visitors should head to the port of La Napoule. The picturesque waterfront is lined with upscale restaurants and casual bistros.
During the tourist season, ferries travel regularly from Mandelieu-La Napoule to Cannes, Monaco, Saint-Tropez, and the Ile Sainte-Marguerite.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mandelieu-La-Napoule
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, this typical "village perché" features many pedestrian staircases 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 du Val de Pôme. The museum displays a comprehensive collection of Léger's works.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Biot
Surrounded by ancient ramparts, Mougins (about 10 kilometers from Cannes) overlooks the rolling hills of the Valmasque Forest, with panoramas that stretch all the way to Grasse, the Bay of Cannes, and the Lérins Islands.
This medieval perched village is unique because of its culture and cuisine. The artists Jean Cocteau, Joseph Fernand Henri Léger, and Pablo Picasso were drawn to the village's beauty and enchanting ambience. This artistic heritage lives on in a plethora of art galleries and studios.
A must-see stop for art lovers is the Musée d'Art Classique de Mougins, which displays a broad collection of antiquities, including Classical-era Greek and Roman statues, mosaics, pottery, and coins; and treasures from ancient Egyptian tombs. The museum also presents complementary modern drawings, paintings, and sculptures by famous artists, such as Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Salvador Dalí, Jean Cocteau, and Alexander Calder.
Gourmands will appreciate that Mougins has dozens of excellent restaurants. The town has been associated with exceptional gastronomy since 1912, when local chef Célestin Véran won the Équipages de la Flotte, a prestigious cooking contest.
Accommodation: Where to Stay in Mougins