Victoria Trott is a freelance travel writer who specializes in European travel, especially within France. A former resident of the Côte d’Azur, she is co-author of Frommer’s Provence & the Côte d’Azur with your Family and has updated many guidebooks on the region. In her latest article below, Victoria shares how travelers can enjoy Cannes, France, regardless of budget.
Every year the chic French Riviera town of Cannes basks in the glow of the renowned Festival de Cannes. However the truth is Cannes has year-round star quality. Put on the tourist map by English aristocrat Lord Brougham in 1834, what was originally a small fishing village has morphed into one of the world’s most glamorous destinations since its film festival was founded in 1946. Here’s my guide to following in the footsteps of the A-listers, whether you’re on a champagne or a shandy budget.
Where To Stay
Celebs tend to favor the Art Deco lines of Hotel Martinez or the Belle Époque grandeur of The Carlton, both on the seafront promenade known as La Croisette, but Cannes has accommodation to suit all tastes and budgets. Hotel 7Art is a contemporary boutique hotel a three-minute walk from the train station where double rooms start at €90, while four-star campsite Les Cigales, four miles west of the town but easily accessible by bus, has apartments, chalets and spaces for mobiles homes and tents.
Where To See Celebrities
It’s unlikely you’ll see any film stars outside of the film festival (unless you’re familiar with French actors), but that doesn’t stop you from following in their footsteps. The tourist office regularly organizes hourlong guided tours of the Palais des Festivals, where the major screenings take place; check out the handprints of your favorite celebs on the “walk of fame” outside. The town’s little tourist train, Le Petit Train du Cinéma, takes visitors on a narrated trip along the seafront and/or up to the old town – look out for the film-themed wall murals painted on the sides of buildings along the way.
Where To Eat
The best table in town is La Palme d’Or at Hotel Martinez, where the film festival jury holds its annual dinner, although the movers and shakers like to lunch seaside on sunny days, usually at The Carlton’s beach restaurant. For a similar experience that’s less heavy on the pocket, try family-friendly Blue Beach (T: +04 93 39 99 87, Boulevard du Midi) where fish is the specialty. Alternatively, buy some ham and cheese from Marché Forville, a covered market that’s open on Tuesday to Sunday mornings, before heading to the patisseries on nearby Rue Meynadier for take-out cakes; relax in a blue chair on the Croisette and admire the yachts in the bay while you munch.
Where To Top Up Your Tan
The rich and famous make a beeline for the stylish mattresses of the private beaches belonging to the five-star hotels on the Croisette: Zplage, owned by Hotel Martinez, is the biggest and most exclusive while hipsters head to the cool, turquoise surrounds of 3.14 Plage, although Plage Macé and Plage Zamenhof are run by the local council and sun beds can be rented for around €7 per day. But you don’t need to spend a penny to enjoy some sun-time on the sand – to the west of the port, Plage du Midi and Les Rochers (opposite Cannes La Bocca station) are arguably the nicest public beaches.
Where To Shop
If you’re looking for the latest catwalk fashions, head to the Croisette as this is where you’ll find the big-name designers while Rue Commandant André has several boutiques showcasing up-and-coming brands. Rue d’Antibes is lined with high-street names like Zara and Promod while quaint, cobbled Rue Saint-Antoine, leading up to the old town, has some small shops selling chunky ethnic jewelry. An arts and crafts market takes place on Allée de la Liberté on Saturdays and Sundays.
Where To Party
If your name is Cameron Diaz or Bono you’re likely to head to Le Bâoli, a super-exclusive club-restaurant with a tough door policy. Most of the private beaches on the Croisette have DJs and a club vibe in the evenings, especially Zanzibar Natural Beach (T: +04 97 06 36 40). A more affordable night out can be had at Sparkling Club or Morrison’s Irish Pub. Festival Plages Electroniques brings dance music outdoors every Thursday in July and August with tickets around €8.
Where To Recharge
The A-listers usually head to a spa such as Les Thermes Marins, where treatments are based around sea water, or the U Spa at the Majestic Barrière, whose therapists use luxurious Sisley products to calm their clients’ frazzled nerves. However, an inexpensive way to get away from it all is to take a 20-minute boat journey from the Vieux Port to Ile Saint-Honorat. This little island, one of the two Iles des Lérins, is home to a community of 25 Cistercian monks who make wine and honey. Find a secluded spot to sit quietly and take in the views of the mainland.
If you’re arriving by private jet you can fly directly to Cannes-Mandelieu Airport otherwise you’ll have to take a scheduled flight to Nice. If money is no object, hire a chauffeur-driven car or a taxi (around €70), but a ticket for the Cannes Xpress bus costs around €17. Travelers from London can take a train straight into the center of town in around eight hours: take Eurostar from London St Pancras then the TGV from Lille or Paris. A standard return fare starts at £119 from www.raileurope.co.uk.