15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Cannes
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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.
Nestled in an enchanting corner of the 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.
For those with more time, Cannes is an excellent base for a vacation in the South of France. Discover the best places to visit in this fashionable resort town on the Côte d'Azur with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Cannes.
See also: Where to Stay in Cannes
1. Boulevard de la Croisette
One of the most fashionable streets on the French Riviera, this palm-lined boulevard is the center of tourist activity in Cannes. The Boulevard de la Croisette is lined with opulent villas, upscale boutiques and lavish Belle Epoque hotels, such as the legendary Carlton Cannes, a masterpiece of Art Nouveau architecture designed by Charles Dalmas.
The boulevard extends from the Palais des Festivals to the lovely La Roseraie (Rose Garden) at the Square du 8 Mai 1945. Along this two-kilometer stretch, the beachfront promenade is a great place for strolling, people-watching, and admiring the magnificent sea views. One thing to keep in mind: Many beaches along this stretch are private.
Beyond La Roseraie park is 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.
Another spot for water sports enthusiasts and sunbathers is the nearby Port Palm Beach. This quiet public beach on the western side of Pointe Croisette has a snack bar and restroom facilities.
2. Le Suquet (Old Town)
Perched on the slopes of Mont Chevalier above the bay, the Old Town (Le Suquet) represents the original fishing village. In a picturesque hillside setting, this area offers exceptional views, as well as old-world charm. This traffic-free quarter features narrow cobblestone alleyways, pedestrian staircases, and interesting historic remnants such as the city's ancient walls.
At the heart of Le Suquet, the 15th-century church, Eglise Notre-Dame d'Espérance, 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 Rue d'Antibes is lined with designer prêt-à-porter clothing boutiques, perfume stores, and jewelry shops. This fashionable street is also home to the outposts of two fancy Parisian-based pâtisserie establishments: Lenôtre (63 Rue d'Antibes) and Ladurée (79 Rue d'Antibes). Ladurée is famous for its colorful macarons, available in an assortment of flavors, as well as its refined ambience and enticing array of French cakes, cream puffs, and éclairs.
3. Festival de Cannes (Film Festival) in May
Of all the things to do on the French Riviera, the Festival de Cannes is the most exciting. This prestigious red-carpet event is definitely one of the biggest moments of the year in Cannes.
The festival draws movie stars and filmmakers from all over the world, as well as crowds of fans and journalists. Originally, the Festival de Cannes was established to rival the Venice Film Festival. Since its first edition in 1946, the festival has earned an international reputation for discovering, supporting, and promoting excellent films.
Address: Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, 1 Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes
Official site: https://www.festival-cannes.com/en/
4. Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
The Palais des Festivals et des Congrès is the venue for the Cannes Film Festival. Designed by the architects Bennett and Druet, the building was completed in 1982 and is used for events, conferences, music concerts, and festivals throughout the year.
The Palais des Festivals is an impressive complex of buildings, including numerous auditoriums with state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems. A modernization project was completed in 2015, which included enhancements to the famous entrance staircase and the seating of the Grand Auditorium Louis Lumiere. The foyer was also renovated; it is now brighter and more spacious.
Address: 1 Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes
5. Eglise Notre-Dame de l'Espérance
Built on the summit of Le Suquet, which dazzles with its dreamy views of the city, the Eglise Notre-Dame de l'Espérance is the most important church in Cannes. The late-Gothic edifice dates to the 16th century and has a notable 17th-century Madonna on the high altar.
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.
In July, the square in front of the church is illuminated and becomes a magical outdoor venue for Les Nuits Musicales du Suquet, a classical musical festival featuring one week of performances under the stars.
Address: 1 Place de la Castre, Cannes
6. Musée des Explorations du Monde
On a hill overlooking the Bay of Cannes, the Musée des Explorations du Monde in Le Suquet occupies a classified Historical Monument, a medieval castle that was formerly the monastery of Lérins monks, and a Romanesque chapel (the 13th-century Chapelle Sainte-Anne). Surrounded by a Mediterranean garden, the site boasts exceptional views of the coastline and sea.
The Musée des Explorations du Monde has a superb collection of antiquities from Mediterranean civilizations, pre-Columbian primitive art, and 19th-century Provençal 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. This vantage point offers breathtaking 360-degree panoramas of Cannes and its surroundings.
Address: Place de la Castre, Le Suquet, Cannes
7. Public Beaches in Cannes
Cannes is famous for its fine sandy beaches, with gorgeous 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, several beaches are open to the public, and these are some of the best beaches in the South of France. These include the Plage Macé and the Plage Zamenhof, located off the Boulevard de la Croisette. These beaches charge a small fee for use of the lounge chairs and parasols.
Also available for public use (and free of charge) are the Plage du Casino, a golden-sand beach along the Boulevard de la Croisette; Plage de la Bocca, a quiet beach with gorgeous views and golden sand; the Plage du Midi, a long sandy beach near the center of Cannes; and Plage du Mouré Rouge, a great beach for water sports (paddleboarding, windsurfing, and kayaking) near the fishing ports. The lesser-known Plage des Rochers is the best beach for snorkeling.
8. Exclusive Private Beach Clubs
Fashionable private beaches (that require entrance fees) along the Boulevard de la Croisette include the Croisette Beach, with a trendy "bistronomic" restaurant that serves Mediterranean cuisine prepared from local seasonal ingredients; and CBeach, which has a stylish restaurant, showers, and changing rooms.
Tucked away in a quiet environment near the Port Pierre Canto, the family-friendly private beach club at Bijou Plage has a gourmet restaurant that offers cuisine of the French and Italian Rivieras. The restaurant's beachfront terrace features amazing sea views. Sheltered within two coves, the sandy shoreline of Bijou Plage is lapped by gentle waves. The calm waters are safe for children to swim and splash around.
Maema Plage du Midi, on the Boulevard du Midi Jean Hibert, offers outdoor seaside dining with musical entertainment in the evenings. The beach is outfitted with sun beds and exotic bamboo sun umbrellas.
All the private beach clubs have excellent facilities, as well as lounge chairs and parasols available for rent, allowing sunbathers to enjoy a pampering and relaxing experience.
9. Vieux Port (Old 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), which 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, ancient alleyways lined with shady plane trees. Every Saturday and Sunday from 8am until 1pm, 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 III.
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.
Address: Parc Fiorentina - 67 Avenue de Vallauris, Cannes
12. Le Centre d'Art La Malmaison
Le Centre d'Art La Malmaison occupies the game room, tea room, and a pavilion of the former Grand Hôtel, built in 1863. These rooms were used for art exhibitions organized by Aimé Maeght in 1945 and were converted by the city of Cannes to a museum in 1983. Today, the building is a center dedicated to contemporary art.
The museum hosts temporary expositions presenting the work of famous 20th- and 21st-century artists, including Picasso, Matisse, and Ozenfant, who found inspiration on the Côte d'Azur. Other internationally renowned artists whose works have been featured in the museum's exhibitions are César, Miró, and Masson.
Address: 47 Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes
13. Parc Naturel Forestier de la Croix-des-Gardes
For stunning views of the Cannes coastline, La Croix-des-Gardes Nature Park is the place to go. This 80-hectare forest, classified as a Sensitive Nature Site (Espace Naturel Sensible), stands on a hillside above the Golfe de la Napoule. Within the park, five viewpoints afford 360-degree vistas of the bay, the sea, the Lérins Islands in the distance, and the Alpes d'Azur foothills.
Hiking trails within the Parc Naturel Forestier de la Croix-des-Gardes wind through the forest (the viewpoints are found along the way). There are also trails that traverse an arboretum, where over 40 varieties of mimosa flourish.
Sporty types will appreciate the park's 1.2-kilometer fitness trail that includes exercise equipment.
Address: Avenue de la Croix des Gardes (at Avenue Jean de Noailles), Cannes
14. Fireworks Festival in July and August
For several nights every summer in July and August, the Bay of Cannes lights up with its renowned Festival International d'Art Pyrotechnique (Fireworks Festival). This unique international event brings together the best fireworks designers from all over the world.
The festival began in 1967 and continues annually, drawing 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 Vestale d'Or prize at the end of the fireworks competition. The audience can vote during the competition for their favorite fireworks, and winners are awarded the Prix du Public (Public Prize) along with prizes to stay at luxury hotels. Fireworks programs begin at 11pm and are open to the public for free viewing.
Official site: http://www.festival-pyrotechnique-cannes.com/en
15. Les Nuits Musicales du Suquet (Music Festival) in July
Les Nuits Musicales du Suquet is an annual classical music festival that runs for one week in July. Taking advantage of the balmy Côte d'Azur weather, the open-air event is held outside in the courtyard of the Eglise Notre-Dame d'Espérance.
This world-class festival stages large symphonic concerts, as well as solo performances by violinists, pianists, and vocalists. The festival presents a varied program of classical music, with performances ranging from Chopin piano concertos to Mozart orchestra pieces.
Address: Parvis de L'Eglise Notre-Dame d'Espérance & 1 Place de la Castre (courtyard of the Musée de la Castre), Le Suquet, 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:
- The five-star Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes, opposite the Palais des Festivals, boasts Belle Epoque elegance and top-notch service. Amenities include a concierge, fitness center, spa, sauna, and private beach. This high-end resort hotel also has two fine-dining restaurants and two stylish yet casual restaurants. A breakfast buffet is available.
- One block off Boulevard de la Croisette, the boutique Five Seas Hotel Cannes features beautifully furnished rooms and a rooftop infinity pool. This five-star resort hotel also provides concierge services; an upscale spa with sauna and hammam; fitness center; private beach; and a breakfast buffet. Dining options are available on the rooftop terrace.
- Currently under renovation and set to reopen in 2023, the five-star Carlton Cannes, overlooks the beach on Boulevard de la Croisette. This historic hotel dates back to 1913 and is known as the "Grande Dame."
- About 300 meters from the beachfront Boulevard de la Croisette, the three-star Hôtel de Provence has balconies, a garden, and a rooftop terrace.
- The boutique four-star Hôtel America is one block off Boulevard de la Croisette and less than five minutes from the Palais des Festival and Rue d'Antibes shops.
- On the hill above the old town, a 15-minute walk to the center shops, restaurants, and beaches, the three-star Idéal Séjour hotel offers a beautiful garden; fresh baked croissants every morning; and creative, well-designed rooms with literary themes.
- With small rooms and excellent service, the three-star 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, the three-star ibis Cannes Centre hotel offers contemporary-style accommodations 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 covers the highlights of the French Riviera. You will 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 tour is limited to 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 the medieval perched hilltop village of Saint-Paul de Vence; 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.
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Cultured Cities and Charming Towns: The stylish city of Nice is about 30 minutes by train or 45 minutes by car. The regal city-state of Monaco is one hour away by train or car. To further discover the beauty and charm of the Côte d'Azur, travelers can take day trips from Cannes to see smaller seaside villages like Eze, Beaulieu-sur-Mer, Fréjus and Saint-Raphaël.
The Picturesque Provence Region: For those interested in experiencing the unspoiled nature and pastoral ambience of Provence, it's worth taking a trip to the dramatic Estérel Mountains (a 45-minute drive) for breathtaking views. There are also many attractions around Nice, including the traditional Provençal town of Grasse (the perfume capital of France) an hour drive north of Cannes.