Cannes is quite a small town, but it is a town of many faces. The city center is composed of three very different landscapes – the prestigious seaside promenade, La Croisette , the lively town center overflowing with boutiques, and the picturesque old port and Suquet hill which make up the old town. In the same style as Le Suquet, but 2 miles (4 kilometers) or so north of the town, Le Cannet is a delightful little village of narrow, winding streets and old houses belonging to the town's suburbs. Bordering the town to the east is La Californie-Super Cannes, a lush, green haven sheltering luxury villas. On the western side, the suburbs engulf Cannes La Bocca and heading south, you'll reach two green gems afloat in the sea – less than a mile from Cannes' shores, Iles Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat attract thousands of visitors every year.
La Croisette and La Pointe-Croisette
A visit to Cannes is not complete without a stroll along La Croisette , a splendid promenade that stretches the whole length of Cannes' coastline. The atmosphere of this fabulous walkway changes with each passing hour. One minute you'll be surrounded by crowds of tourists, the next you'll meet a local walking his or her dog, while other times you'll pass wealthy, elegantly-dressed residents, or even eccentrics and street artists vying for the attention of passers-by… but before 10a, when the town is still quiet, the atmosphere will take you back to the belle epoque. Beneath the promenade, many sandy beaches stretch out to sea. Most of them are private, which means you have to pay to gain access, but your money will buy you the comfort of a sun bed, parasol, and drinks at the bar. The commercial side of La Croisette is largely devoted to illustrious fashion boutiques where the big names in haute couture and jewelery (such as Christian Lacroix , Hermès , Chanel , etc.) rub shoulders with the countless sun-drenched cafe terraces. Also in this area is the Musee de la Malmaison , a former lavish casino and now a museum showing temporary exhibitions of modern art, looking out over the sea. This is also the site of Cannes' most prestigious and palatial hotels, including the famous: Hôtel Carlton and Hôtel Martinez , home to many film stars during the International Film Festival . During the festival, fans of the silver screen can see the stars and directors making their mark on the famous steps of the Palais des Festivals at the end of La Croisette.
Le Centre-ville (Town Center)
The long shopping street known as Rue d'Antibes, running parallel to the shore-hugging Boulevard de la Croisette, marks the very heart of the town center as Cannes' commercial hub. Fashion boutiques abound, and there's something to suit all tastes and budgets, although most of the big-name labels are located on La Croisette. You'll find almost all the essentials here: food, the train station, libraries etc. and it's a great place to shop. Make sure you visit the Galerie du Gray d'Albion , a beautiful shopping arcade which juts out onto La Croisette.
Le Vieux Port & Le Suquet (The Old Port & The Hill)
Far from the opulence and modernity of Cannes, the old port and adjoining Suquet district are the most picturesque parts of town, taking you back in time. It's easy to lose your way among the elaborate labyrinth of back streets, quaint passageways and pretty little squares, but they are refreshingly cool retreats in the summer heat. Climb the streets to reach the top of the Suquet hill, from where you can take in an unrivaled panorama of Cannes and the surrounding area. It makes for an especially romantic view as dusk falls and the town begins to light up beneath you. Just behind this point is one of Cannes' few museums, the Musee de la Castre , sheltered in a 12th-century castle which once belonged to the monks of the Lerins islands just offshore. It houses a beautiful collection of objects of Mediterranean origin, with an emphasis on ethnography and archeology, as well as many musical instruments from all over the world. Also on Le Suquet is the Eglise Notre-Dame d'Esperance , which dates back to the 17th Century. The church is especially renowned for its naïve-style thanksgiving plaques created by locals (who were not necessarily artistic) as a tribute to the Virgin Mary, who answered their prayers. As for the old port, its moorings are only occupied by yachts and small fishing boats. But Cannes is a master at harmonizing contrasts: old lives beside new, luxury mingles with rustic, and the town and countryside happily complement one another here.
Let the long, wide Boulevard Carnot lead you to the peaceful and pleasant suburb of Cannet with its picturesque architecture, where the tiny old town resembles a little inland village. The district boasts many art and crafts galleries, a chapel decorated by Tobiasse–a celebrated painter from Israel who lives on the Côte d'Azur, as well as a bunch of great little restaurants. California & Super-Cannes
Situated on a small hill, the California district is blessed with many beautiful green areas. The Mediterranean flora is in bloom all year long, featuring aloes, mimosas, pine and cork-oak trees, and the area actually owes its name, California, to this vegetation which evokes western America. The town's most beautiful houses and hotels were built here during the belle epoque, and although little of them remain today, this is still a high-class area. The villas are sumptuously luxurious, lavishly brimming with wealth and finery, although it's often difficult to catch a glimpse of them as they are usually hidden amongst extensive grounds.
Situated just to the west of Cannes, close to the motorway and the Cannes-Mandelieu airport, the Cannes-La Bocca district doesn't have much to offer the tourist. That said, it does have a large number of superstores selling sports gear, furniture and the like.
Îles de Lerins (The Lerins Islands)
These two sparkling emeralds set off the coast of Cannes go by the names of Sainte-Marguerite and Saint-Honorat . Far from the hustle and bustle of the town, the islands seem to look on Cannes with an assured and peaceful air. Adventuring into the natural beauty of the islands is a very popular pursuit during the summer months. To get there, take one of the boats which depart near the Palais des Festivals. It was on the island of Sainte-Marguerite that the “Man in the Iron Mask”, made famous by Alexandre Dumas, was kept for eleven years, (although the mask was in fact made of velvet). In addition to the vegetation, the monastery on Saint-Honorat is well worth a visit.
Cannes is one of the most cosmopolitan towns you're ever likely to visit. In fact you'll be hard pressed to find a genuine native, as many a visitor to the Côte d'Azur, following the footsteps of 19th-century politician Lord Brougham, has chosen to make it his or her home. It comes as no surprise then that a culinary journey through Cannes is a voyage in itself. Discover and savor the Italian, Creole, Armenian, American, Greek and Mexican variations found here; but if you prefer rustic French fare, there's plenty to choose from whatever your appetite. Whether you yearn for the traditional gastronomic delights at the colorful local brasserie, the delicatessen counters selling fine ice creams, pastries and cakes, or the cafes and tea rooms for quenching your thirst, there is something to suit all tastes, guaranteed.
La Croisette/ La Pointe Croisette
To begin with the town's finest, Cannes has several restaurants which lay claim to this accolade: La Villa des Lys and La Palme d'Or , At this level of excellence, it is difficult to recommend one over the other, but one way of deciding is to choose which palatial hotel you'd prefer to dine in, as these renowned restaurants reside in the Majestic and the Martinez.
Amid the Neo-Etruscan decor at the Villa des Lys , young chef Bruno Oger, quite the modern-day Merlin, will enchant your taste buds. You only have to utter the magic words – braised sea bass with crushed black olive and golden fennel risotto, or leg of pork with sage and mild spices–and you'll be won over.
The internationally renowned Palme d'Or hardly needs an introduction. Masterchef Christian Willer runs the kitchens with inspired expertise, taking local products and imaginatively transforming them into the likes of cold, fresh bean soup with truffles, Saint Pierre fish with tomatoes, olives and zucchini flowers, and spicy shrimp to name but a few. Even though these ingredients are widely used in the region, they are seldom prepared with such refinement.
Poisson Grille and Comptoir de la mer offer the finest fresh seafood, Vesuvio offers excellent Italian fare, and the Restaurant Armenien is a highly original spot right in the middle of La Croisette. Farfalla has a delightful terrace where you can soak up the wonderful atmosphere, and Festival will welcome you for breakfast, lunch, and dinner at all hours, but its real specialty is afternoon tea and cakes on the beautiful terrace, courtesy of its fabulous pâtissier (pastry chef).
Centre-ville (Town Center)
The luxuriously modern Hôtel Gray d'Albion also offers a first class dining experience in the Royal Gray . Michel Bigot recently took over from Jacques Chibois as chef here, to the same delicious level of success. Only the best produce is used in truly intuitive combinations of flavors. Try the warm salad of lobster with crepes sprinkled with parsley, creamy wild mushroom soup or fried escalope of foie gras. The decor exudes the atmosphere of a super-stylish brasserie.
Coquille offers first-rate seafood, and Bec Fin is a place where quality is the byword in terms of the cooking, the price and the service.
Morrison's is attractively decorated and serves some of the best beers in Cannes. This bar attracts a largely foreign clientele and the atmosphere is genuinely warm and friendly. Caffe Roma which also offers some great Italian dishes, is a delight in summer or winter–if you're lucky enough to find a seat that is. And if a cup of tea is your preferred tipple, you must try Rohr – a real classic, while the Haagen Dazs cafe will entice any Swiss chocolate lover with its pancakes, or its cookie or pecan flavored ice creams.
If you prefer the finer things in life, head for Pause Caviar , while the Comtesse du Barry offers a superb compromise between luxury and simplicity. Finally for a good wine to wash down all these delights, stop off at Nicolas before you head home to eat.
A few kilometers from Cannes, dedicated gourmets should not miss Verge's famous restaurant, Le Moulin de Mougins , but for a more low-key food affair, the following eateries are guaranteed to tantalize your taste buds.
At Chez Freddy , Spain takes pride of place, although the restaurant also prepares good Provençal dishes. Piazza offers authentic Italian cooking a little more varied than the run of the mill spaghetti and tomato sauce.
Russian dishes are the order of the day at Saint Petersbourg , or you might like to try the tasty Swiss specialties served at Canna Suisse , all at very reasonable prices.
Another great choice for traditional French cuisine is the Auberge Provençale which specializes in authentic, age-old recipes. If your favorite is fish you are in luck, because like most port towns, Cannes has a very wide choice of fish and seafood restaurants. Head for the famous Mal Assis ,
For those who prefer to eat in rather than out, you'll have no trouble finding some really excellent delicatessens and caterers. A firm favorite is Aux Bons Raviolis – where you can buy what is arguably the best fresh pasta in Cannes.
Taking this route will reveal Cannes in all of its different guises. For a piece of Cannes, the city of sun, stroll along La Croisette while admiring the magnificent shoreline. Upon arriving at Le Suquet, climb the hill into the old town to experience its historical heritage, then circle back to the starting point via Rue d'Antibes to uncover the stylish side of the town with its countless fashion boutiques.
Start your walk at the seafront on Boulevard de La Croisette by the Pierre Canto port and the adjoining garden. After crossing over, stroll alongside the beautiful sandy beaches and admire the impressive palatial hotels — Martinez , Carlton , and Majestic — those legendary names which conjure up all the splendor of this magical town during the International Film Festival , a major event in Cannes' calendar that attracts the biggest names in the acting world.
For a delicious meal of local favorites, stop in the Pavillon Croisette for lunch or dinner. There is also a Havana room for cigar lovers. If you prefer seafood, Comptoir de la Mer is a great option.
The Palais des Festivals
The end of La Croisette will deliver you to the Palais des Festivals (where you will also find the office du tourisme – the Tourist Information Office). If you look down you'll see the famous palace steps, climbed every evening of the Festival by sumptuously dressed celebs to the cheers of the crowds. You can also see plaques bearing the hand prints of your favorite stars, including Sharon Stone and Harrison Ford, and directors like Martin Scorcese and Stephen Segal. Just behind the Palais lies the old port. Wander along until you reach Quai St-Pierre, where little streets and stairways lead you to Place de la Castre at the top of Le Suquet hill. On the summit, you can visit the Musee de la Castre , a museum founded in 1877 housed in the old castle and dedicated to ancient civilizations, presenting a beautiful collection of 19th-century paintings of the town, as well as the Notre Dame d'Esperance church in Provençal Gothic style, dating from the 12th and 16th Centuries. Take a moment to enjoy the unobstructed panorama over the town and the stunning coastline.
Meander back down the hill again towards Place de la Castre, taking in the small streets of old Cannes, especially Rue du Suquet which is dotted with great little restaurants and cafes. The window-shopping begins soon after you emerge at Rue Meynardier, which runs into the delightful Rue d'Antibes, the main shopping street. After all that, you'll certainly deserve a rest, so why not head for one of the cafe terraces overlooking the sea for some refreshment and relaxation. To get there, rejoin La Croisette by taking one of the streets perpendicular to Rue d'Antibes towards the sea. If you've worked up an appetite after all this walking, make a reservation at the Palais Oriental for dinner. This restaurant serves Moroccan specialties, and oriental dancers provide entertain at night and during the day on Sundays. For more traditional fare, reserve a table at Chez Panisse .
Saint Marguerite Island
You can reach the two islands, Ile Sainte Marguerite and Ile Saint Honorat , which light up the sea just less than a mile southeast of La Croisette by the various shuttle boats that leave from the old port. The crossing takes no more than 20 minutes and some shuttles will also take you between the two islands. But whether you take the shuttle or sail over in your own boat, the waters around the islands are beautiful for swimming and diving.
Ile de Sainte-Marguerite is home to a 170-hectare forest, scattered with pathways and picnic areas. Two-hour tours of the island are available to enhance your appreciation of the natural beauty, the astounding flora and fauna, and the history of the island. At the Fort Royal, built between 1624-1627 and later transformed by architect Vauban, you can deepen your knowledge of such heritage by visiting the Musee de la Mer (Maritime Museum). It was created in 1975 to exhibit archaeological collections from land and sea, and the visit begins by entering the old state prisons, which were still in use until the end of the 19th Century. It was here that the famous “Man in the Iron Mask” was imprisoned, a name that you may recognize from the film starring Leonardo Di Caprio, not to mention the novel by Alexandre Dumas. Next, the Roman water tanks and the interior of the fort will enlighten you as seafarers traveled in antiquity, what type of cargo the ships carried, and how drinking water was brought to the island.
Saint-Honorat, the smaller of the two islands, belongs to a Cistercian monastic order, and you can visit the fortified monastery which was built in the 11th Century. The present-day monastery stands in the center of the island, where a community of 30 monks live a peaceful but hard-working life. From the fruits of their labor, products such as home-made honey, liqueurs and wines, are available to buy. You can also visit the church itself and a museum displaying paintings and relics as well as documents charting the history of the monastery. Seven chapels border the island, some of which have been rebuilt from medieval ruins, but entrance is forbidden. The most famous – Saint-Trinite – can be found in the far southwest corner of the island.
Allo Taxi Cannes (+33 8 90 71 22 27 / http://www.taxicannes.fr/htgb/frameset1.htm)
Au Depart de Cannes (+33 4 92 98 71 30 / http://www.trans-cote-azur.com/fr/idl_cannes.html)
Cruise to Island Ste Marguerite (http://www.partner.viator.com/en/1771/tours/Cannes/Cruise-to-Island-Ste-Marguerite/d786-2502LERINS)
Cruise to Corniche d'Or (http://www.partner.viator.com/en/1771/tours/Cannes/Cruise-to-Corniche-dOr/d786-2502CORN)