Cannes in One Day: Itinerary
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.
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 in a mesmerizing way that entices many, from sheiks to the nouveau-riche, to come and see its beauty.
Cannes has an abundance 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 a one-day itinerary written and verified by locals, and you can also check out our Cannes travel guide for more about Cannes.
Croisette & Lunch on the Beach
The first thing you’ll want to do when visiting Cannes is to take in the famous La Croisette, the seaside walking promenade lined with beach restaurants on one side, and designer boutiques and 5-star hotels on the other. The two-kilometer stretch of golden sand and boardwalk known as the Promenade de la Croisette is lined with palms and follows the whole curve of its picturesque beach. Here, Belle Époque façades shine bright white in the summer light, as ladies of a certain age dangle designer leashes attached to miniature poodles. It’s the glamorous spot to see and be seen.
If you’re looking forward to relaxing next to the sea, a sandy private beach in Cannes is the perfect spot to do so. The beaches along the Croisette of Cannes are not dissimilar to Saint-Tropez’s famous beach clubs — but these are open in the winter and have the advantage of being across the street from high-end shopping and hotels. Cannes is the best place on the French Riviera for private beaches (aside from Ramatuelle in the summer, if you want a scene).
Most of the beach along the Promenade de la Croisette is divided up into private beaches with loungers and restaurants. Many are owned by the exclusive hotels in the area, like Miramar Plage , Carlton Beach Club , and La Plage du Martinez . Walk down the beach in this area and pick the spot that appeals to you the most. Our favorites are: La Plage du Festival and Odine Plage .
Going (Window?) Shopping
Once you’ve had your fill, turn around and take in the street-side of La Croisette. On the other side, across from the beach, is the main shopping promenade, with its glamorous haute-couture boutiques. The strip is unabashedly glamorous but it is also relaxed enough to stroll in airy linen beach clothes. The designer swag is not within reach of most mortals, but walking is free and the people-watching and luxury-lust is unmatched. All the chicest and most opulent shops and boutiques have a presence in Cannes, making shopping (and window shopping) a favorite activity.
If you’re hungry for a refuel (or a Café Crème), set back beyond a cluster of palm trees and rosebushes you’ll find the gleaming white temples to Celine and Giorgio Armani, complete with a casual café out front. How does vegetarian lasagna with parmesan fondue and basilic cream sound? It may put you in the mood to splurge on something to act like you belong there. Diamond-encrusted Rolex, anyone?
Continuing inland, the main shopping stretch of Rue d’Antibes runs parallel with La Croisette, but a few blocks north. Here, you can find an array of designer-label clothes, indie designers, 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.
Check out our guide to shopping on La Croisette (and nearby) in Cannes to complete this section of your itinerary.
The Old Port
The Old Port is near Gare Maritime (the Marine Railway Station), and Saint-Pierre Quay, which opened in 1838. Located at the foot of the historic district, the port is surrounded by colorful facades, a chateau, and old “pointus” (fishing boats with pointed bows). Grab a croissant and espresso at a café by the water, and spend some time taking photos.
In the small square on the Vieux (old) Port you’ll find an art and antiques market on weekends (until 5:30pm). In the mornings the colorful Marché aux Fleurs (flower market) is held here. The indoor Marché Forville is also only a block away, if you want to pick up a bag of locally-grown olives or some cheese. Afterward, grab a coffee in its café-lined square.
The Old Town
Next, you will discover the city’s old quarter –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 Mont Chevalier with its historic Church of Suquet and the 11th century Tour du Mont Chevalier watchtower. Rising up from the port, the hill overlooks the bay and cars are not allowed. 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. Don’t miss its narrow old staircases, pleasant courtyards, interesting historical remains, and little local shops. This area offers excellent views and the Old World charm in a picturesque hillside setting. 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.
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.
The Museum in the Castle
The Museé de la Castre is just a lovely 10-minute walk up a hill from the old port, 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. 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.
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.
If you have time for dinner, head back to the beach or indulge in a prix-fixe menu and a bottle of Krug Clos du Mesnil Blanc de Blancs at a 5-star hotel’s restaurant.