As well as its annual film festival, the city of Cannes on the south east coast of France is best known for its beaches, casinos and sailing scene. Newcomers, get your bearings by strolling La Croisette, a 2km boulevard that borders the shore from Casino Barrière Le Croisette near the Old Port in the west to Verdun Square near Port Pierre Canto in the east. The thoroughfare is lined with boutiques and restaurants – but beneath the suncream, poker chips and Moët, there’s more to discover. Here are five reasons to visit…
The contemporary art gallery La Malmaison is slapbang in the middle of La Croisette, on the site of a former 19th century hotel. While the hotel is no more, its games and tea room survived, and today it’s used to display 20th and 21st century sculptures and photography. Galerie Hurtebize Cannes, Vieceli de Cannes and JP Art Galerie are nearby. Just to the north of Avenue Bachaga Said Boualam – but still within walking distance of the centre – you can browse etchings, lithographs, sculptures and ceramics by the likes of Picasso, Chagall, Miro and Dali in Galerie MC, which takes its name from owner Michelle Champetier. Galerie Arista in the west meanwhile displays contemporary works by Banksy among other artists.
As well as the remains of the aforementioned hotel that is now part of La Malmaison, visitors can’t miss InterContinental Carlton Hotel, two streets away. Built during the Belle Epoque era in 1911 by the local architect Charles Dalmas, it features wrought iron and stone Juliet balconies and is bookended by two domes.
The colour of crème brûlée, Marie de Cannes by the Old Port is just as grand. Completed in 1877, the town hall features columns, statues and an ornate clock on its terracotta tiled roof.
Palais Bulles meanwhile, in the suburb of Theoule-sur-Mer to the south of the Bay of Cannes, is a more modern affair. Designed in the 80s by the architect Antti Lovag, it is the private home of the French fashion designer Pierre Cardin. The name – which translates as bubble palace – is fitting, as it is a series of interconnected pink domes pock-marked with round skylights like octopus’ tentacles.
For a taste of Cannes before the super yachts and film festival, stroll around the old neighbourhood of Le Suquet, with its pastel buildings, cobbled streets and restaurants popular with locals. Seek out the covered Forville Market at the southern end of the district, which sells olives, cheese and oil most days and bric-a-brac on Mondays. While you’re in the area, you may also want to visit the Victor Tuby Museum, which is housed in a 14th century oil mill. The eponymous sculptor and biologist transformed the mill into a workshop, but today it’s a museum about the region of Provence, with costume exhibits and antique furniture.
Back near the Old Port, Castre Museum is set within a former castle and monastery. It now houses a collection of medieval artifacts and paintings. Climb the tower’s 109 steps, then pop next door to a gothic stone church, which has similar sea views.
Think of Cannes and hiking isn’t the first activity that springs to mind, but like Hong Kong and Los Angeles, it has its fair share of woodland trails. The city stretches from the airport in the west to Vallon de Mauvarre river in the east, and within that space you can hike in La Croix des Gardes, a 80-hectare acre forest north of Midi beach, which is named after the cross that stands at its highest point. Keen walkers can also follow a trail along the Canal de Siagne, which begins close to the derelict Super Cannes observatory.
If a yacht or sailing tour doesn’t appeal, then hire a kayak from Go Kayak Cannes on La Croisette Cape and paddle to Iles de Lerins, 1.2km away. SeaFirst also hosts tours from the cape to the island, in addition to the next cape along – Cap d’Antibes – and beyond, around Nice. Cannes Stand Up Paddle meanwhile rents out paddleboards, while Easy Dive School runs daily diving sessions from April to November and weekend dives the rest of the year.
Plongee Club de Cannes Diving School is at the other end of La Croisette, in the Old Port. Join a snorkelling tour, or swim at Midi beach, a 700m arc of sand just beyond the marina. You can also swim at Croisette beach in the centre of town, which is flanked by Le Petit Train and a rose garden and skatepark in 8 May 1945 Square.
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