Cannes Itinerary: What To See & Do

We all know this “timeless” city in southern France for its links to celebrities and billionaires. Basking in the sun, this is a city that the rich and famous have been coming to for over 150 years. It simply sparkles with glamour, whilst the grandeur of the postcard-perfect coastline promenade of La Croisette and the Belle Epoque buildings reflect its aristocratic history. 

Cannes is full of luxurious hotels and restaurants, and the annual Cannes Film Festival is an unmissable event. But there’s more to Cannes than the red carpets and celebrities that attract many to this cosmopolitan place in France. Cannes mixes tradition and modernity to mesmerize many, from sheiks to the nouveau-riche, to come and see its beauty.

Today, Cannes is still home to the internationally wealthy who provide a ready and willing clientèle to the city’s numerous designer boutiques, swanky bars and lavish hotels. Cannes has plenty of gourmet restaurants with terraces spilling onto the street and swanky beach clubs serving delicious cocktails under the sun. In the summer, your can charter a yacht to the nearby Lérins Islands. No wonder Cannes has become the playground of the rich and famous.

Below is an itinerary written and verified by locals, and you can also check out our Cannes travel guide for more about Cannes.

First Day

Start your trip to Cannes by seeing the famous promenade. You can next go to enjoy the beach or see a modern art museum. Follow it by seeing the chic shopping streets and the romance of the old port. Lastly, have dinner or enjoy a game or two at the casino in the evening.

Walk the Promenade

A trip to Cannes is not complete without seeing the famous la Croisette boardwalk, of the Boulevard de la Croisette. It is a 3-kilometer promenade in the city center along the beachfront and is a prominent road in Cannes, lined with palm trees and flowers.

As a hub of activities, the boulevard is alive and busy. You’ll see gleaming hotels, upscale restaurants, haute-couture boutiques, etc. The boulevard is animated by the parades of million-dollar supercars and illuminated by beautiful lights for a wonderful evening stroll.

During summer, private beach concessionaires cover most of the long sandy coast and fill it with seaside restaurants, deckchairs, and jetties for water-sports like paragliding and water-skiing.

The Promenade de Croisette can be very busy during conferences. You might find it helpful to check what the scheduled events are by looking at our French Riviera events calendar.

Though access to the boulevard is free, as an upscale district, prices can be steep for accommodation, food, and shopping around la Croisette.

Relax on Cannes’ Beaches

Cannes beach is crowded in July & August
Cannes beach is much more pleasant in the off-season

If you’re looking forward to relaxing and sunbathing next to the sea, a beach in Cannes is the perfect spot to do so. Drenched in generous sunshine even in the off-season, Cannes has no shortage of beaches, the difference being that Cannes’ beaches are made of fine sand (whereas Nice’s are pebbles).

Nevertheless, if the thought of paying for beach access doesn’t sit comfortably with you, the public beaches on the western side of the Pointe Croisette are great, as are the public beaches of La Bocca, Plage Mace, Plage du Casino and Mourre Rouge. Full of young people and families, you won’t feel out of place and your children will be able to play beach games comfortably without worrying about bothering your beach neighbors.

Farther west still, you’ll find Midi Beach, a public beach west of the old Port. The beach extends over 700 meters. In the summer, many beach clubs set up lounges here. You can find public showers, plenty of shops, cafés, and kiosks for refreshments. There is also a play area for kids, making it a perfect place for families. The public beaches of Plage Laugier, Plage Mistral and Plage Madrigal are three more along the Boulevard du Midi.

French resorts have both private and public beaches, with the former setting you back around €20 per visit. Despite the cost, private beaches are less crowded and, therefore, a better place if what you are looking for is a peaceful day of reading and floating in the water. Check out L’Ecrin in Port Canto . There is also a succession of more urban private resorts on Boulevard Jean Hibert and on La Croisette.

Most beaches along the Promenade de la Croisette are private and owned by the exclusive hotels in the area, like Croisette beach and the chic Baoli beach. Head west to find public beaches.

Check out our guide to the best beaches on the French Riviera.

Art Museum

La Malmaison, Cannes (travel itinerary)

Once you’ve had your fill of tanning, go to Centre d’Art La Malmaison , which exhibits art three times every year. La Malmaison Museum houses the 1863-built Grand Hotel’s game room and tea room.

The rooms were used in 1945 for the organization of art exhibitions by Aimé Maeght, which were transformed into a museum in Cannes in 1983. This hotel-turned-museum gives tribute to notable painters such as Matisse, Ozenfant, and Picasso, a well-liked place for art enthusiasts. Exhibits also include works by 20th and 21st-century artists.

Opening Times: La Malmaison is open throughout the year except for May and June.

July to August: Monday to Sunday, 11am to 8pm (9pm on Friday)

September: Monday to Sunday, 10am to 7pm

October to April: Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 1pm and 2pm to 6pm.

Website: Malmaison Exhibit Schedule

Going (Window?) Shopping

Cannes is pure heaven if you want to shop and spend money! The most famous shopping districts in Cannes, on La Croisette and the entire city, on Rue d’Antibes and Rue Meynadier, are well known for their upmarket shops.

The main shopping stretch of Rue d’Antibes runs parallel with La Croisette, but a few blocks inland. It is a glamorous shopping street where you can find an array of designer label clothes and jewelry shops. In the high season, this street is busy, but there are always many coffee shops and wine bars to take a break at.

Rue Meynadier is located behind Rue d’Antibes’ main shopping street and has a selection of local shops and delicacies. Its houses date back to the 18th century and got refurbishments to become boutiques, with more affordable shops nearer to the port. It is pedestrianized and thus offers a more relaxed surrounding, and is particularly pleasant for shopping or watching in a window. This is the place to go for fashion at a lower cost… local shops often offer a more attractive, unique fashion twist but at a smaller cost.

Standard shopping hours are Monday to Saturday 10am to 12pm and (after closing for lunch) then 2:30pm to 7:30pm.

In high season, many shops do not close for lunch.

Sales tax varies between 5% for food and 19.6% on luxury goods.

Check out our guide to shopping on La Croisette (and nearby) in Cannes.

The Old Port

The Old Port is near Gare Maritime (the Marine Railway Station), which was built in 1957 and is also known as the Port of Cannes. At first, Cannes was a small fishing village. The Old Port and its Saint-Pierre Quay, which opened in 1838, was a typical location in the Cannes landscape.

Residents meet here to celebrate the summer. Located at the foot of the historic district, the port allows you to take photos all of the old town, with its colorful facades, its chateau and sometimes even old “pointus” (fishing boats with pointed bows) in the port. Grab a croissant and espresso at a cafe by the water, and spend some time taking photos.

West of the Palais des Festivals (which serves as the center of the Cannes Film Festival), this is the place to see fancy yachts that lines the port, and also a place to spot some locals playing a game of petanque. It is also the venue for the prestigious annual Cannes Yachting Festival. 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 you’ll find 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.

Dinner Theater at the Casino

Next up: a live show at the casino. The Casino Barriere Le Croisette building is spread over 3000 m2, making it the largest casino in the area.

At the entrance, you will be led to the Games Room through a giant aquarium, golden statues, and Greek-inspired carvings. Live concerts on the floor of the Slot Machines take place on Saturdays.

At Café Croisette you can see artists perform at the table or in the center of the restaurant on the dance floor. Discover French hits, pop, rock, magic, music, cabarets and shows at dinner. The thematic nights are accompanied by red decoration with props and light shows that take you into another world. Dress-up and enjoy a few cocktails, chill at the bar, and listen to live music. If you’re feeling lucky, you can join a table of roulette or you can try the slot machines.

Games: Black Jack, Traditional or Electronic Roulettte, Punto Banco, Slot Machines, Video Fruit Machines, Table Games, Poker. You must bring your passport to play.

Hours: Monday to Thursday, 10am to 3am; Friday to Sunday, 10am to 4am

Phone: +33492987850

Website: Official Casino Website

Events: Check their events schedule.

Dress Code: No shorts, sleeveless tops (for men), swimwear, flip-flops, etc.

The Best French Riviera Travel Guides

Second Day

Today you will discover the city’s old quarter is Le Suquet, famous for its winding cobbled lanes with charming restaurants, shops, and boutiques. It is on top of the hills past the port and dates back to the medieval ages. Locals call it Mont-Marte.

Before Cannes was discovered by the rich and famous it was a small fishing village that centered on Suquet Hill. Rising up from the port, fishermen and their families built their houses here and created a charming village full of higgledy-piggledy alleyways, staircases and winding streets. Today you can indulge in the local atmosphere here and if you visit in the early morning or later in the evening you get a real sense of the community that is as strong as it ever was.

The view of the port from the old town

The Le Suquet district, situated on the slopes of the Mont Chevalier, overlooks the bay and cars are not allowed. This area offers excellent views and the Old World charm in a picturesque hillside setting. Don’t miss its narrow old staircases, pleasant courtyards, interesting historical remains, ancient walls of the city.

The historic Church of Suquet and the Tour du Mont Chevalier watchtower of the 11th century dominates the skyline at the heart of Le Suquet. There is a beautiful panoramic view of the beach and the bay all the way to the Lérins Islands from the top of the watchtower.

Forville Market

Forville Market is a covered market near the famous La Croisette promenade, at the foot of the Old Town (Le Suquet). If you want to delve into the daily local life, a trip to this lively local market is a must-do. You may also want to take a quick look at the beautiful the Town Hall (Mairie de Cannes) which is a 2 minute walk farther, before going to this market.

You can find all the usual farmer’s market offerings, such as seasonal organic vegetables, fresh seafood, and handmade local delicacies. Cold meats are available, like tripe sausages, ham, and dried sausages. Many stalls sell Italian cuisine specialties, and you can find local specialties such as ravioli Nicois, Provencal pasta sauces, and freshly-made polenta.

Open Times: The market is open from Tuesdays to Sundays, from 7am to 1pm.
On Mondays an all-day flea-market is up instead of the food market with all sort of trinkets. The flea market is open on Mondays from 7am to 1pm.

Check out our guide to this market, and the best markets on the French Riviera, and our complete list of flea markets.

Our Lady of Hope

Eglise Notre-Dame de l’Espérance , built at the highest point of the old town (Le Suquet), is the most important church in Cannes. Sitting right next to the castle, this 16th-century church is in the Provençal Gothic style.

It contains a remarkable Madonna of the 17th century on the high altar. The peaceful interior and inspirational highs of its Gothic vaulting strike visitors when entering the church. The church has a Renaissance porch and a large organ, which was installed in 1857. There is also an ancient cemetery dating from the 16th century.

In July the square in front of the church is lit and becomes a magical outdoor venue for the Nuits Musicales du Suquet, a classical festival of music with a week’s showing under the stars.

Open Times: Daily from 9am to 5pm.

Guided tours every weekend. Permanence of the Curé is on Friday from 3pm to 5pm. Sunday Mass is at 11:30am.

Phone: +33497061670

A small downer: Unfortunately, some trees prevent a clear panoramic view. But we have an insider tip for you: Right next to the church is the entrance to the “Musée de la Castre”, which is located in a former castle. You can climb up the watchtower of the museum and have a magnificent view from above in all directions. It’s a very Instagrammable spot.

The Museum in the Castle

The Museé de la Castre is just a lovely 10-minute walk up a hill from Cannes, and right next to The Notre-Dame de l’Espérance. Within a quaint 11th century château, this is a small but curious historical and ethnographic museum housing a range of eclectic artifacts. The building was once the headquarters of the monks of Lérins. Now it holds 19th-century Riviera landscape art, musical instruments & ethnographical items in a medieval tower.

It houses a surprisingly varied collection of weaponry, paintings by local artists, ethnic artifacts, and ceramics with something of interest for everyone. Teens especially will love learning more about centuries-past warfare while adults might enjoy exploring the remarkable objects from various continents.

The castle gives a superb view of Cannes from the Tour du Suquet, the medieval watchtower. You may also catch a live music performance in its garden.

The outside of the museum is also worth a wander. Aside from the medieval castle, there is a tower (Tour du Suquet) and a chapel (Chapelle Sainte-Anne), both worth visiting. You can climb the former to enjoy panoramic views of Cannes, including the bay, the Croisette and the Lérins Islands and visit the latter to explore a wonderful collection of musical instruments from all around the world.

Opening Hours:
July to August: Daily 10am to 7pm
April to June, September: Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 1pm, and 2pm to 6pm
October to March: Tuesday to Sunday from 10am to 1pm, and 2pm to 5pm.

Cost: On the first Sunday of the month from November to March you can visit for free, otherwise it is €6 and €3 for under 25’s.

The Midi Beaches

The Midi beaches are all on the west side of the Old Port, beginning by a beautiful stretch of sand that curves into a rocky peninsula Plage de L’Abreuvoir. Named for the boulevard du Midi Jean Hibert, this cluster of beaches is on the other side of Cannes’ Old Port. It’s a busy commercial and residential area and these beaches are popular with locals.

Prices here are slightly cheaper than the Croisette beaches, both for renting lounge chairs and for dining. Don’t expect culinary experiments on the plate; the crowd here prefers basic French/Italian/Seafood dishes.

As you walk west past the beach-restaurants, you come to a long public stretch of sand with beach showers and little else but a beach volleyball court. There are snack stands every 100m or so where you can pick up sandwiches and drinks.
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