Cannes is the most glamorous of all the towns on the coast and is renowned worldwide for its annual Film Festival.
In 1834, Lord Brougham, the former English Chancellor of the Exchequer discovered the then small fishermen’s port of Cannes. At the time Cannes was nothing more than a few village houses set around what is now known as the old port. Lord Brougham, who was intending to travel to Nice , liked Cannes so much that he decided to stay. He built a villa for himself and invited many of his aristocratic friends to come and visit him. Many of them also decided to build homes in Cannes and within a few years, the town had become a playground for the rich. Hotels and restaurants followed and Cannes became a holiday destination for many of the world’s royalty. By the turn of the century, Cannes had grown to almost half its current size. Elaborate and luxurious hotels were built on the Croisette, Cannes’ seafront promenade. The most famous of these being the Carlton which was built in 1912. Its white facade is seen on televisions around the world during the film festival in May and is as much a symbol of Cannes as the Eiffel Tower is of Paris .
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Culturally, Cannes is not as interesting as Nice or Antibes but makes up for this by the enormous number of festivals and conventions which take place all year round. The film festival is the most well known but many other industry events keep the town’s hotels and restaurants full 365 days a year. The Palais des Festivals with its famous red carpeted steps, is also home to the tourist office and one of the busiest casinos in the world. The immaculate Croisette is maintained by 130 gardeners and has retained its elegance despite the hordes of tourists that traipse up and down it every year. Fast food restaurants and souvenir shops have not been allowed to spoil the glamour and the Croisette is still lined with palatial hotels and designer boutiques. The hotels all have their own immaculate private beaches which are open to anyone prepared to pay. There are also two public beaches in Cannes but they are small and crowded and it’s better to go to the Plages du Midi west of the old town towards La Napoule. The Rue d’Antibes runs parallel to the Croisette and is Cannes’ main shopping street. Like the Croisette, the Rue d’Antibes is full of luxurious shops but there is also plenty for those with a more modest agenda.
The area around the old port is the most interesting part of Cannes. The fishermen in their little wooden boats still go about their business despite being overshadowed by some enormous private yachts. The old town, known as Le Suquet, rises steeply from the port, crowned by an 11th century tower. The Rue Saint Antoine leads up to the top of Le Suquet and is lined with restaurants. It’s well worth not giving into the temptation to dive into one of the many excellent establishments as the views from the top of the street in the Place de la Castre are breathtaking. From here, one truly appreciates the glorious setting of Cannes surrounded by its luxurious residential suburbs with names like La Californie and Super Cannes. The square is an excellent vantage point to watch the fireworks which take place in July and August and is also the setting for numerous musical events that take place in the summer. Sauntering back down towards the port, spend some time exploring the narrow streets filled with many interesting little shops.
Walking back towards the Croisette, one finds the Allées de la Liberté, the setting for Cannes’ weekly antiques market. Walk north through this beautiful square shaded by plane trees to the Rue Félix Faure, one of the best places in Cannes to eat. All the restaurants here specialise in fish and one of the most respected is Astoux et Brun. Cannes’ daily market takes place in an unusual pink building just behind the town hall. This is the place to come for meat, fish, herbs and vegetables of outstanding quality. The other essential visit for any food lover while in Cannes is the Rue Meynadier. A long narrow street full of bakers, cheese shops and every type of pasta imaginable.
Cannes Office de Tourisme
CANNES OFFICE DE TOURISME ****
SEMEC Palais des Festivals – 1, La Croisette – BP 272,
Tél : +33 (0)492998422
Copyright Rosemary Bailey 2006 – 2011
Copyright Images : Informationfrance 2011