Antibes & Juan-les-Pins Travel Guide
As you drive in along the coast, the first view of Antibes takes your breath away. An imposing medieval fortress juts out into the deep blue Mediterannean against a spectacular backdrop of the snow-tipped Alps. In the past, the resort has attracted painters including Picasso, Monet and Renoir. Today, it is a mega-rich jet-set crowd who moor their yachts on what the locals call Millionaires’ Quay.
If you’re looking at a map, it’s hard to know where Antibes ends and Juan-les-Pins begins. These Riviera neighbors are lumped together in brochures, giving the impression that it’s all one big cohesive sprawl along the Cap d’Antibes peninsula between Cannes and Nice. It isn’t, of course – not when you’ve got ancient Antibes with its Greek origins and 16th-century ramparts sitting next door to the art deco elegance of beach-lined Juan-les-Pins. They couldn’t be more different, nor would you want one without the other.
Antibes is actually made up of three parts: the historic Antibes old town, the idyllic peninsula of Cap d’Antibes, and the beaches, Art Deco villas and nightlife of the ever-glamorous Juan-les-Pins. Many refer to the whole resort town as Antibes-Juan-les-Pins.
Antibes is a popular seaside town in the French Riviera, with beaches and natural bays. It’s known for its old town enclosed by 16th-century ramparts with the star-shaped Fort Carré overlooking luxury mega-yachts moored at the Port Vauban marina.
Cap d’Antibes is a forested peninsula is dotted with grand villas, and separates Antibes from Juan-les-Pins.
Juan-les-Pins is brashly commercial, in contrast to Antibes, which is all about highlighting its Provençal heritage. Still, it’s considered to be a chic resort with buzzing nightlife, albeit a smaller version of Miami.
Antibes is in the southeastern part of France, between Cannes and Nice, and has a population of around 75,000 citizens. Cannes is 10 kilometers away, while Nice is 25 kilometers. It has a Mediterranean climate of dry summers and mild, slightly wet winters.
The Antibes region has it all: landmarks full of historicity and modern combined with the upbeat nightclubs, beaches, and casinos.
It’s easy to see why artists like Monet, Bonnard, Chagall, and Picasso, not to mention writers like F. Scott Fitzgerald and Graham Greene, couldn’t get enough of Vieil Antibes (old Antibes).
Behind the promenade Amiral-de-Grasse and Vauban’s 17th-century sea walls lies a maze of shops, restaurants, and colorful, flower-laden fishermen’s cottages leading to the medieval Château Grimaldi , home of the Musée Picasso (and once Picasso himself). You’ll also find laid-back cafés and tiny restaurants where you can sit outside and watch the world go by.
The original name of the town, Antipolis, meant “the city across”, so named by the Greeks in the 4th century BC. Its name was a nod to its sister-city, Nice, since trade routes existed along its coast. The Phocaean Greeks founded an acropolis in the area in the 4th century BC.
Later, Antibes flourished under the Romans’ aristocratic rule, with an amphitheater, aqueducts, and baths. The early Christians established their bishopric here, the site of the region’s cathedral until the 13th century.
It was in the Middle Ages that the kings of France began fortifying this key port town, an effort that culminated in the recognizable star-shape ramparts designed by Vauban. The young general Napoléon once lived with his family in a humble house in the stronghold of the Old Town.
You can trace the Greek and Roman history through the castle and the church. There are still remains of aqueducts built by the Romans. Villas and townhouses from ancient times are excavated and show the luxurious life of its dwellers.
Vieil Antibes has a nearly Italianate feel, which is perhaps no great surprise considering that Antibes’ great fort marked the border between Italy and France right up to the 19th century.
With its broad stone ramparts scalloping in and out over the waves and backed by blunt medieval towers, it’s easy to understand why Antibes (pronounced “Awn-teeb“) inspired Picasso to paint on a panoramic scale.
Monet fell in love with the town, and his most famous paintings show the fortified Vieil Antibes against the sea. He arrived in January 1888 and expected to stay only a few days; three months later, he had shipped off 39 canvases to be exhibited in Paris at the gallery of Vincent van Gogh’s brother.
To see Antibes as Monet—and Picasso, Cross, Boudin, and Harpignies—once did, head to the tourist office for a pamphlet (available in English) on the Painters’ Trail (complete with map) or sign up for a guided walk along the trail.
Juan-les-Pins is a popular destination for jet-setters, and known for its sandy white beaches. Administratively part of greater-Antibes, Juan-les-Pins nevertheless has a much different vibe than its neighbor. Younger tourists prefer the upbeat vibes of Juan-les-Pins from the rest of Antibes. Juan-les-Pins has everything you’d want in a destination: beaches, night-clubs, casinos, festivals (like Jazz à Juan), and expensive boutiques.
Peace is something you won’t find a lot of in Juan-les-Pins, but perhaps that’s what makes it such a good neighbor for Antibes. Juan-les-Pins buzzes during the summer season, its long beaches and pontoons blazing with the colors of thousands of sun loungers and parasols. It gets noisier every July during Jazz à Juan, which is Europe’s oldest jazz festival. But even when music isn’t filling the summer air, the streets throng with people eating on the palm-shaded restaurant terraces until the early hours. It’s like a civilized version of Ibiza.
Juan-les-Pins is known to be a great place to go shopping, particularly along the coastal road which is lined with small boutiques. The town is a favorite for Parisians in the garment trade and you can usually find interesting deals on women’s clothes and accessories.
Enjoy an afternoon drink at the waterside terrace of the Art Deco Hotel Belles Rives , once a private villa rented by F Scott Fitzgerald. In the evening, have an Italian dinner with a fancy cocktail or chilled glass of rosé at sunset overlooking the sea. In late-night, you can exhaust your remaining energy dancing and partying until dawn.
Juan-les-Pins got its name from the many pine trees (pins in French) in the area. Hang on the promenades and picnic under the groves of pines that grow abundantly in the area. It’s a great place to people-watch during the summer.
It is one of the millionaire’s paradises in the French Riviera. It has the palatial villas of many extremely wealthy individuals and is home to the famous Hotel du Cap, Eden Roc . At its summit is the lighthouse, the Phare de la Garoupe. You can reach it via the stony road of Chemin du Calcaire, which is good for a half-day seaside stroll.
The Best Sights in Antibes-Juan-Les-Pins
Antibes-Juan-les-Pins has no shortage of beaches with its 25-kilometer coastline. There are 48 private and public beaches in all.
Unlike many other beaches along the south of France, many of the beaches in Antibes are sandy, not rocky. While you’ll find it hard to find any solitude here, especially in the peak summer season, it’s worth it to carve out your piece of sand and relax while you soak in the Mediterranean sun. Another alternative is to pay for access to a private beach — often hosted by a restaurant. You can rent a lounge chair and enjoy lunch while you relax.
There are several sandy beaches like La Gravette, Ponteil, and Salis where the water is shallow. Juan-les-Pins has public beaches, while Cap d’Antibes has private beaches and sometimes hidden resorts complete with umbrellas and parasols. They also have water activities like snorkeling and diving.
Make sure to check out our guide to the best beaches for more details.
Antibes Old Town
Be certain to spend some time strolling through the cobblestone streets of this historic and enchanting old town, admiring the beautiful facades inside the medieval walls. Stroll Promenade Amiral-de-Grasse along the crest of Vauban’s sea walls, and watch the sleek yachts purring out to sea.
Even more intoxicating, just off the waterfront, is the souklike maze of old streets, with its market filled with fresh fish and goat cheese, wild herbs, and exotic spices. Home to countless small shops and restaurants, this charming neighborhood offers twists and turns and hidden treasures like the ancient lavoir (public laundry fountain) in the Old Town where locals, such as Napoléon’s mother, washed their clothes before hanging them like garlands over the narrow streets.
Marche Provencal: Antibes’ Famous Open Market
This market is a covered iron-framed structure where you can find fresh Provencal products. Locals, as well as tourists, can enjoy buying tempting fruits and vegetables, cheeses, tapenades, herbs, olives, olive oils, and dried sausages. There is also a craft market in the summer. Shops and cafés are on one side. It’s easy to get carried away by the produce here: olives, cheese, tapenade, fresh fruit and veg, plus the wonderful charcuterie brought in by Corsican traders.
Antibes is home to one of the more evocative Picasso museums . Quite a few towns along the Côte d’Azur lay claim to being a former home of the great man (well, he did get around a bit), but few match the grandeur of Chateau Grimaldi. It’s a former Greek acropolis and then a Roman castrum. The chateau was, for a time, home to the Grimaldis, who served as governors in the town’s historic times. Picasso worked here in 1946 and it now houses one of the world’s largest collections of Picasso’s art. It has a collection of 24 paintings, 4 drawings, 32 lithographs, and 11 oils on papers. There are also 80 pieces of ceramics, two sculptures, and five tapestries.
The imposing 16th-century chateau fell into the artist’s hands for a mere six months in 1946, but he left behind a decent number of works in what became the first museum dedicated to the artist. It also houses his La Joie De Vivre, which he painted here. The joy captured in the painting is evident when you walk out into the sculpture-strewn garden and take in the sea view he woke up to every day.
At the tip of Cap d’Antibes, on a superb plot of 11 hectares, you will find ‘Villa Eilenroc’ . This Belle Epoque villa was built in 1867 by Charles Garnier (the architect of the Paris and Monte Carlo opera houses). For a long time, Villa Eilenroc belonged to an American couple, who restored the magnificence of the gardens, and in 1982, Hélène Beaumont willed property to the city of Antibes, provided that the gardens would be open to the public. The city began a large-scale restoration and added a public rose garden, creating an amazing collection with hundreds of varieties of roses. Guests of the city appreciated these efforts, and Antibes was anointed “the rose capital of France”. The gardens are located at a height of 30 meters above the sea and offer another beautiful view of the bay.
The 1st floor of the Villa Eilenroc is open on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm for an entrance fee of €2 (but closed from August 19 to September 21 and for special events, so check ahead). The reception salons retain the Louis Seize-Trianon feel of the noble facade. The Winter Salon still has its 1,001 Nights ceiling mural painted by Jean Dunand, the famed Art Deco designer; display cases are filled with memorabilia donated by Caroline Groult-Flaubert (Antibes resident and goddaughter of the great author); and the boudoir has boiseries (decorative wood features) from the Marquis de Sévigné‘s Paris mansion.
Port Vauban: Antibes’ Main Port
Port Vauban has the largest marina and yachting harbor in all the French Riviera and even in Europe. It can moor more than 2000 ships and crafts. The port can also accommodate crafts that are more than a hundred meters, so it’s a popular spot for the world’s billionaires to dock their superyachts.
Église de l’Immaculée Conception
The Church of Immaculate Conception , a Roman Catholic church, is a national monument. The other name for it is Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Platea d’Antibes. It has an ochre and classical russet Italian facade. Inside, there is both modern and Renaissance art, including a painting of the Virgin with the rosary and a life-size wood-carve depiction of Christ’s death.
Place Nationale: Antibes’ Main Square
This square has café terraces in summer and a Christmas market in winter. You can find and buy antiques, handicrafts, jewelry, and other trinkets on the stalls. At the center of the square is a 5-meter high column. It was a gift from Loius XVIII to the royalists of Antibes for not accepting Napoleon Bonaparte after his escape in Elba.
This park is at the center of a 12-acre olive grove. Its main entrance has an Italian Renaissance traditional design with ponds and fountains alongside the terrace. A typical Provencal garden shrub maze is a pleasant sight. You can also enjoy the sight of roses and palm groves.
This park is in the center of Juan-les-Pins. The pine grove gave the town its name. On the north is a playground for children. There are also benches good for sitting in the sunshine or under the shade of the pines. Overlooking the beaches there is a large structure that becomes an open-air theater for concerts. It is a venue for Jazz à Juan, and Jammin’Juan in the summer. Visitors can also see the handprint of jazz performers who played at the festival along the footpaths.
Le Fort Carré
Fort Carre is a masterpiece of military engineering. It has four pointed bastions and a circular keep at the center. The fort is a prominent feature in the skyline on the far side of the yacht harbor. The rampart walk gives a scenic view. In fact, Fort Carre is located on a cliff at an altitude of 26 meters above sea level, and this is the best place for a 360° panoramic view. Initially, the fort was built for strategic defense, but later it was used as a barracks and military training center. During the French Revolution, Napoleon was briefly imprisoned in this fort, and it also played an important role in 1860, when Nice was annexed to France.
Traveling to Antibes
By Air: The Nice airport is the nearest to Antibes. It is around 20 kilometers away. It takes about 20 to 40 minutes to reach Antibes.
By Car: Take the Motorway a8, “la Provencale, then the turn to Exit 44.
By Bus: Take the airport bus #250 from the bus center at Terminal 1 or in front of Terminal 2.
By Train: Take bus #23 at Terminal 1 of the bus center to the station Nice San Agustin. Then, ride at TER to Antibes-Juan-les-Pins.