14 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions & Things to Do in Cannes

Written by Lisa Alexander
Nov 17, 2020

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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.

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.

For more ideas on things to do and places to visit in this glamorous resort town on the Côte d'Azur, read our list of the top attractions in Cannes.

See also: Where to Stay in Cannes

Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.

1. Stroll along La Croisette

La Croisette
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 InterContinental 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: Most of the 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. Wander through Le Suquet (Old Town)

Le Suquet (Old Town)
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. This traffic-free, pedestrian-only quarter features 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. Catch a Film at the Festival de Cannes (Film Festival) in May

Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet
Cannes Film Festival Red Carpet

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

4. Palais des Festivals et des Congrès

Palais des Festivals et des Congrès
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès | Karlis Dambrans / photo modified

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

Notre-Dame de l'Espérance
Notre-Dame de l'Espérance | Tim Gage / photo modified

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 the 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 de la Castre

Musée de la Castre
Musée de la Castre

On a hill overlooking the Bay of Cannes, the Musée de la Castre occupies a classified historic monument, a medieval castle that was formerly the monastery of Lérins monks. Surrounded by a Mediterranean garden, the site boasts exceptional views of the coastline and sea.

The Castre Museum has a superb 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. This vantage point offers breathtaking 360-degree panoramas of Cannes and its surroundings.

Address: Le Suquet, Cannes

7. Find a Patch of Sand at a Public Beach in Cannes

Busy public beach in Cannes
Busy public beach 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 near the fishing ports. The lesser-known Plage des Rochers is the best beach for snorkeling.

8. Spend a Day at a Private Beach in Cannes

Private beach in Cannes
Private beach in Cannes

Fashionable private beaches (that require entrance fees) along the Boulevard de la Croisette include the Plage Croisette, with a fancy restaurant that serves Provençal cuisine; CBeach, which has a stylish restaurant, showers, and changing rooms; and Bâoli Beach, which boasts an exceptional gastronomic restaurant.

Tucked away in a quiet environment near the Port Canto, the private beach clubs near the Plage du Bijou offer excellent dining options and amazing sea views. Maema Plage du Midi, on the Boulevard du Midi Jean Hibert, offers outdoor dining with musical entertainment in the evenings.

All the private beaches have excellent facilities, as well as lounge chairs and parasols available for rent, allowing sunbathers to enjoy a pampering and relaxing experience.

9. Explore the Vieux Port (Old Port)

Vieux Port
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), 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 morning (except Mondays), the colorful Marché aux Fleurs (Flower Market) is held here.

10. La Californie

Eglise Russe
Eglise Russe | Fr Maxim Massalitin / photo modified

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 bis, Avenue de Vallauris, Cannes

12. Le Centre d'Art La Malmaison

Le Centre d'Art La Malmaison
Le Centre d'Art La Malmaison | dierk schaefer / photo modified

Le Centre d'Art La Malmaison occupies the game room and tea room of the 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 expositions presenting the work of 20th- and 21st-century artists who found inspiration from the Cote d'Azur, including Picasso, Matisse, and Ozenfant. Other internationally renowned artists featured in the museum's collections are César, Miró, and Masson.

Address: 47 Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes

13. Take in the Fireworks Festival in July and August

Fireworks in Cannes
Fireworks in Cannes

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. 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.

Address: Palais des Festivals et des Congrès, 1 Boulevard de la Croisette, Cannes

Official site: http://www.festival-pyrotechnique-cannes.com/en

14. Enjoy a Concert at Musical Nights of Le Suquet in July

The 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 event is held outside in the courtyard of the Eglise 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.

Address: Notre-Dame de l'Espérance, 1 Place 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:

  • 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.
  • 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 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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imageCultured 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.

imageThe 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.

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