Cannes France…is there any place on Earth that screams glamour more than this city on the French Riviera? With its luxury shops, palatial hotels, and gourmet restaurants, not to mention golden beaches filled with bikini-clad sunbathers, playboys cruising about in luxury cars, and of course the annual film festival, the place is something of a magnet for the rich and famous. There are plenty of things to do in Cannes, but you don’t need to stay in the city itself and pay its high prices to get a slice of the glamour, one day in Cannes is possible.
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Things to do in Cannes
If you have the money to spare and want to stay in town you can enjoy all its offerings and still use it as a home-base for lots of interesting day trips. But let’s start with the things to do in Cannes and then move on to the day trips.
Get a taste of Cannes luxury at ZPlage
Want to be glamorous and do a little celebrity watching at the same time? You can feel like a Hollywood star, at least for a few hours, by heading to the famed restaurant/bar ZPlage at the Hôtel Martinez. It may be pricey, but this is a favorite haunt of the rich and famous when they visit Cannes, and lunch or a drink here is an unforgettable experience. Enjoy the luxurious surroundings as you sip on a freshly made cocktail and look out across the sea.
Location: 73 Boulevard de la Croisette
Explore the Port of Cannes
Take a stroll down to the picturesque Vieux Port (Old Port) of Cannes to see a mix of small fishing boats and luxury yachts and explore the nearby streets, which are great for shopping as well as finding somewhere for a drink or bite to eat.
From the port, you can also catch a boat out to the Lerins Islands. These comprise four islands, two of which are uninhabited, located just off the coast of Cannes. One of them, Ile St Marguerite, is where the famous Man in the Iron Mask was held for 11 years. Meanwhile, the only inhabitants of Ile St Honorat are a group of Cistercian monks, who have called the island home continuously since AD410.
Visitors can explore the monks’ stark medieval church and see the ruins of the 11th-century monastery on the sea’s edge.
Relax on the Beach
There’s no shortage of sandy beaches in Cannes. Unfortunately though for day visitors many of these are owned by hotels and reserved exclusively for their guests. However, Plage du Gray d’Albion, situated just 200 meters from La Croisette, is one of the exceptions. Although also owned by a hotel, this beach is open to the public, but you’ll need to pay for a lounger and parasol. Still, there’s nothing like chilling out on a beautiful beach in one of the most glamorous cities in the world.
Location: 38 Rue des Serbes
Cannes Farmers Markets
There is nothing like a French farmer’s market and Cannes has 2: Marché Forville and Marché Gambetta, both closed on Mondays. There you will find the usual suspects of fresh fruits and vegetables along with a plethora of seafood. Marché Forville is an indoor market which is nice during the heat of the summer. If you do plan on shopping (and I highly recommend you do) then make sure you check out my French market etiquette tips so you don’t look like a dumb tourist 🙂
Locations: Marché Forville: 6 Rue du Marché Forville. Marché Gambetta: 3 Place Gambetta.
Musée de la Castre
The museum is inside a medieval chateau (built by Lérins monks) in the Le Suquet district. Like one of my favorite museums in Phoenix, it has musical instruments, although they have other items as well including 19th-century paintings and a collection of masks from around the world. Even if you aren’t interested in the museum’s content, it is totally worth the walk uphill as the views of the city are gorgeous. In the courtyard, there’s a tower where you can look out and see a 360-degree view of the surroundings including the Lérins Islands. During the warm summer, it is a great place to get out of the heat!
Location: 6 Rue de la Castre
Located next door to the Musée de la Castre, this church built in the 14th and 15th centuries in a Gothic-style also offers mega views of the city and port.
Location: 1 Rue de la Castre
La Croix-des-Gardes Nature Park and Forest
Located inside Cannes, this large park has nice walking trails and picnic spots with fantastic views including fabulous panoramic views of Cannes its nearby bays and islands. The hike to the top to get to those views is pretty rigorous but so worth it! The trails are primarily used for hiking, walking, biking, and nature trips and are accessible year-round and most are kid-friendly!
Location: 166 Boulevard Leader
Movie Magic – Cannes Film Festival
Of course, the first thing you think about when someone mentions Cannes is the film festival. Running from mid to late May, tickets for the festival itself, held at the Palais des Festivals, are pretty hard to come by and usually only reserved for industry insiders. But you can still get your hands on free tickets to screenings for selected individual films, usually after they have already been shown for the first time.
Head to the Cannes Cinephilesticket booth outside the Palais des Festivals to see what’s available. Alternatively, celebrity spotting at the Palais is a favorite pass time during the festival season. You can watch the film stars make their way down the red carpet. Get there early as crowds can build up quickly. Meanwhile, if you’re not in town for the festival, a trip to the Palais des Festivals to see where the magic takes place is still worth it, even if just for the good photo op.
Location: 1 Boulevard de la Croisette
Easily accessed by boat from Cannes, the Lerins Islands are stunning. Though there are four islands (Saint-Honorat, Sainte-Marguerite, Îlot Saint-Ferréol and Îlot de la Tradelière) only the two largest are usually the ones visitors travel to. The ferry will take you to Île de Saint-Honorat, famous for the Lerins monastery. The complex was built in the 5th century and has been occupied by monks since. Part of their livelihood is based on managing the complex and the gardens. After visiting the religious grounds, enjoy the scenery for a well-deserved lunch, either at the local restaurant or with a homemade picnic.
Board another ferry for a short ride towards Île Sainte-Marguerite and learn about the fortress history at the Musée de la Mer, more especially about its famous “guest,” the Man in the Iron Mask. The identity of the jailed man was never released, and many theories were discussed across the centuries to discover his name – without any luck. Alexander Dumas mentioned the character of the Man in his D’Artagnan books in the 19th century.
While on either island, walk around to explore the scenic landscape or go for a refreshing dip into the Mediterranean Sea. The visit to both islands is best done on a full-day visit for a more relaxed pace.
Contributed by Patricia from Ze Wandering Frogs.
Day Trips from Cannes
After you have had your fill of luxury you may want to get out and explore the rest of the Côte d’Azur. Discover the Mediterranean shore and the region beyond with a wide variety of day trips. You might also consider nearby Nice, as it makes for a much more affordable base, as well as being a beautiful and cultured city in its own right. Any of the following suggestions will work as either day trips from Cannes or day trips from Nice. I have asked a few francophiles to share their favorites! And let’s start with Nice
Nice is one of the best day trips to take from Cannes. This vibrant city on the French Riviera has a beautiful old town with winding streets and colorful baroque architecture, pretty beaches, and a good combination of cultural attractions and picturesque sites perfect for a day trip out of Cannes.
The list of best things to do in Nice includes a stroll through the Promenade des Anglais, the Old Port, and the Bay of Angels’ views from Castle Hill. People more interested in a cultural visit will find fascinating museums like the Matisse Museum and Chagall Museum. In the same neighborhood, the Cimiez Monastery and the surrounding gardens are beautiful to see too.
Finally, a trip to Nice is an excellent opportunity to taste some regional dishes, like the Niçoise salad, socca, ratatouille or mussels with cream sauce.
Nice sits on the eastern side of the French Riviera, 33km east of Cannes. There are many regional trains and a few TGV trains connecting these two cities, and the journey takes from 29 min to 41 min depending on the type of train. If you have a car, the drive to Nice only takes 30 minutes, even if you will want to stop several times for some pictures.
Distance from Cannes: 1 hour.
Contributed by Elisa from France Bucket List. [P.S. Elisa was also our local expert on the 19th arrondissement!]
Aix en Provence
Aix-en-Provence is one of the prettiest towns in the South of France and it makes a wonderful day trip from Nice. In fact, Aix actually used to be the capital of Provence so it’s one of the larger cities to visit. There’s more than enough to fill an entire day within Aix and even leave you wanting more.
There are several quaint squares to wander through hosting different markets every day. The best days to visit or either Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday when they have the textile market along Cours Mirabeau (one of the main streets). Aix-en-Provence is also very special because it was the artistic muse of 19th-century Post-Impressionist painter, Paul Cézanne. You’re able to tour his home, studio, and admire his artwork. Plus, you can even visit his favourite subjects for his paintings: Mont Saint Victoire and Bibémus Quarry just outside the city. There’s also no shortage of unique museums and cafes in Aix-en-Provence. But, above anything, you have to try the local candy, Calisson. It’s made using only three ingredients: ground almonds, candied fruit, and sugar.
The easiest way to get to Aix from Nice is to drive. It takes about an hour and a half. There are quite a few toll roads on the way, although some are avoidable for a bit of a longer route.
Distance from Cannes: 1 hour.
Contributed by Meghan Emcee from Afternoon Tea Reads.
Palais des Papes, Europe’s largest gothic palace, is the main reason to visit Avignon. The impressive structure is a remnant of the city’s historic importance. For nearly 70 years during the 1300s it was the seat of the Catholic pope, chosen over Rome partly due to its more central location within Christendom. Next to the palace is the cathedral Notre-Dame des Doms and Jardin des Doms. Viewpoints in the gardens are the best places to view the bridge made famous by the French children’s song ‘Sur le point d’Avignon’. The song describes folk dancing on the bridge and tourists often re-enact the song on what is left of the bridge. Today only four arches out of the original 22 remain.
Avignon is surrounded by a 4.3km, 8 metre high city wall. It is the longest continuous wall in the world after the Great Wall of China. Walkways along the wall can be accessed from the Saint Anne stairs behind the palace, or the Rocher des Doms.
Spring and autumn is the best time to visit. These seasons see fewer crowds than the busy summer months when both Parisian and international travellers descend on the city. Summers can be hot, particularly July and August. However, visiting in July has the added benefit of coinciding with the annual theatre festival. During the festival traditional theatre, dance, music and other cultural events can be seen at the town’s historic monuments.
From Cannes, it takes 2 hours 45 minute by car or c3 hours on the train, but the sight of the enormous Palais des Papes will make the travel time worth it.
Distance from Cannes: 2 hours 45 minutes. Distance from Nice: 2 hours 40 minutes.
Contributed by Kristin from Adventures with Ensuite.
The Estérel massif is a mountain range on the French Riviera. It’s 10km wide and 15km long, covering part of the Alpes- Maritime region. The area is famous for its red rocks, which gleam under the sun, (especially at sunrise or sunset), and the huge forests which cover most of the range. If you have a vehicle or are motorhoming in France, drive along the ‘Corniche de l’Estérel’- the coast road between Cannes and St Raphael. This road perfectly highlights the contrast of the red rocks against the blue of the Mediterranean Sea.
Within the Estérel massif are several towns and villages and some beautiful beaches and coves, along with plenty of watersports and outdoor activities you can choose from. But, to really get away from the bustle of Cannes, the best option for quiet and nature is to hike.
One of the most popular hikes is Cap Roux but be warned this is a long hike (about 4 hours one way) and is more suited for experienced hikers. An easier option is Cap du Dramont near Saint-Raphaël. It takes about 90 minutes each way and gives you beautiful views of Ile d’Or and the Mediterranean. Even shorter is the hike up Mont Vinaigre which, despite being one of the highest points in the Esterel mountains (641m), is fairly easy, even with small children. The round route takes about 2 hours and offers beautiful views of the whole Esterel massif.
Distance from Cannes: 35 minutes. Distance from Nice: 50 minutes.
Contributed by Kat from Wandering Bird.
Located 45kms away from the glamorous Cannes is this humble and picturesque little village called Eze. Perched on a hilltop, overlooking the Mediterranean sea, Eze is a hidden gem in the region of French Riviera. A contrasting lifestyle and architecture, Eze is small and not too crowded like Cannes, Antibes, or Nice.
While exploring Eze Village may not necessarily be a day-long affair, there are quite a few things to do in Eze to keep you occupied all day long. Explore the honey-coloured houses in Eze Village as you walk up to Jardin Botanique d’ Eze. As the most visited attraction in Eze, Jardin Botanique d’Eze won’t disappoint you. The three-tier garden houses exotic alpine plants, succulents, and cactuses, plus postcard-perfect views of the azure Mediterranean coast. Alternatively, hike down the hill to enjoy the waters of Eze Sur Mer beach.
If you prefer sunny days and beach time, summer is the best time to explore Eze. It is also pleasant to explore during spring and autumn.
If you are driving, Cannes to Eze is only 45kms and can be reached by 50 minutes. There are also direct train connections from Cannes to Eze, with hourly service every day. The journey takes 50 minutes. Alternatively, there are coastal buses that run from Cannes to Nice. From Nice to Eze, you can take bus 82 or 112 that takes you to Eze Village.
Distance from Cannes: 1 hour. Distance from Nice: 30 minutes.
Contributed by Anuradha from Country Hopping Couple.
Gordes is a village of fabulous beauty in the south of France. It is an excellent destination for a day trip from Cannes, as the drive to the village of Gordes is just 2 hours and 20 minutes. One day is enough to visit this wonderful place in Provence. This village is included in the list of the most beautiful villages in France. There is no list of attractions because the entire Gordes village is an attraction with its unique architecture and atmosphere. It is located on a cliff in the Vaucluse mountains, which offers postcard views – as beautiful as those often associated with the word “Provence.”
Stroll the narrow cobbled streets of Gordes, gaze at the panoramas, dine in a typical restaurant, and visit local artists’ galleries and workshops. As for souvenirs in Gordes, you can buy lavender soap, T-shirts with lavender twigs, lavender sachets, paintings, Provence style interior items, handicrafts of local artisans. There are few shops in the village, but there are enough of them to choose something cute for yourself or as a gift. By the way, the choice there is even more impressive than in the larger cities because there are truly unique items.
The best time to visit Gordes village is from April to October. In July, you can combine a trip to Gordes with a visit to the lavender fields located nearby.
Distance from Cannes: 2 hours and 25 minutes. Distance from Nice: 2 hours and 40 minutes.
Contributed by Sasha from The Alternative Travel Guide.
For a little different day trip from Cannes, head to the perfume capital – Grasse. It’s right there where the perfume-making industry was born and spread its fragrances to the whole world.
Grasse’s position as the cradle of perfume making is also well depicted in the movie Perfume: the Story of a Murderer. The film is set in Grasse, even though most scenes were shot in Spain.
To learn everything there is about perfumes, visit the Fragonard perfumery – the two-story building even features the Museum of Perfumes (Musée International de la Parfumerie – 4€ for entry). It covers not just the history of making perfumes but also explains in detail the individual techniques of the extraction of essences, as well as the whole production process that happens after the formula has been mixed: unique designs of perfume bottles and packaging, marketing, celebrity involvement.
In all of the local perfume factories – Fragonard, Molinard, Galimard – you can buy perfumes, handmade soap, and other cosmetic products as a fragrant souvenir to bring back home.
But Grasse won’t disappoint also those who come looking for the charm usually found in small medieval French villages. In Grasse too you can stroll through narrow winding alleys tiled in stone. Galleries abound too since Grasse has always been a popular town among artists.
Grasse is located very close to Cannes – it takes only 30 minutes by train/car. Grasse belongs to popular Nice day trip locations too.
Distance from Cannes: 20 minutes. Distance from Nice: 40 minutes.
Contributed by Veronika from Travel Geekery.
When one thinks of Summer in Provence, lavenders come straight to mind. Visiting these fields of purple flowers are one of the best day trips you can do from Cannes, especially during the warmer seasons. Featuring vivid colors and distinct aromas, there’s nothing quite like seeing an endless horizon of these stunning lavender fields. Your senses are sure to be overwhelmed by their captivating sight and aromatic smell. They are a symbolic representation of the South of France as the warmth of the Summer hits the air and the cold breeze completely drifts away.
There are many places to see lavender fields in France, but the most famous ones near Cannes can be found in Plateau de Valensole and Plateau de Calern. Among the two plateaus, Plateau de Calern (GR51) is a much closer drive at approximately 1 hour. It is just off the village of Grasse, the perfume capital of the world. The lavender fields in Calern are wilder than the flowers you can find in the world-famous Plateau de Valensole. It is also less visited for those who prefer a more offbeat destination.
On the other hand, from Cannes, Plateau de Valensole is about a 2-hour drive away. The surrounding areas of Road D6 provide rows and rows of lavender, but also vibrant sunflowers. You really can’t go wrong visiting this destination as the fields are completely unobstructed, with lavenders as far as the eye can see. There’s a reason why it’s the most famous, which may make it well worth the drive should you choose Valensole instead.
For either field, the best time to visit would be in July or August – the peak of summer, when the lavenders are in full bloom.
Distance from Cannes: 2 hours. Distance from Nice: 2 hours and 15 minutes.
Contributed by Antoine and Marielle of Offbeat Escapades.
Menton is one of the best places to visit on a day trip from Cannes. Located at only 1 hour by car and 1h25 by train from Cannes, Menton is very easy to access. This charming town is right close by the border with Italy on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Menton is nicknamed the “Pearl of France” so you should totally check it out! Not only it has an ideal situation, but also a pleasant climate, beautiful architecture with many good photo spots, and great beaches!
You have a lot of things to do in Menton! First of all, you can walk around in the Old Town. The houses with ochre colors and louvered shutters are very pretty there. Also do not miss the Basilica of St. Michael the Archangel. Second of all, Menton offers many beautiful gardens. The one in Villa Maria Serena and Fontana Rosa garden are some great examples, and you will find there very interesting plants and flowers! Another great place to visit in Menton is the Bastion. This fortress built in the 17th century has been turned into a museum and is decorated by Jean Cocteau, a famous French artist. Last but not least you should definitely spend some time at the beach. Plage des Sablettes is the best one to see if you are on a day trip. It’s located close to the Old Town, and it’s perfect for relaxing while enjoying the view!
Because Menton benefits from a wonderful climate all year long, you can come here any time of the year. It will be quite busy in summer, but you can come in spring or September if you want fewer people.
Distance from Cannes: 1 hour. Distance from Nice: 45 minutes.
Contributed by Ophelie from Limitless Secrets.
Located in the heart of the French Riviera, the microstate of Monaco is well-known for its luxurious style, world-famous casino, and the Formula 1 race. Monaco is the second smallest sovereign state in the world (after Vatican City) so thanks to its tiny size, spending one day in Monaco is truly all the time you need to see the main highlights.
Monaco is one of the most expensive countries in the world so if you don’t want to break the bank, it’s better to visit Monaco as a day trip from Cannes (or any other bigger cities on the French Riviera). If you have a rental car, you can reach Monaco from Cannes within an hour via the A8 highway. Alternatively, you can take the train from Cannes to Monaco which takes a bit more than an hour.
Since Monaco is very popular among tourists, try to start your day as early as possible. You can start by walking around Port Hercule, the main port of Monaco, and admire the countless beautiful luxury yachts. Then make your way to the Old Town of Monaco (otherwise known as The Rock), which is arguably the most beautiful part of Monaco with its pastel-colored houses. Here, you can visit the Prince’s Palace, the Cathedral of Monaco, and the Oceanographic Museum, and you can also enjoy the beautiful panoramic view over the Port.
A day trip to Monaco wouldn’t be complete without visiting the famous Monte Carlo Casino. Even if you don’t like gambling, it’s a really beautiful sight to see, not to mention all those glamorous sports cars parking in front of the casino! If you want to go inside, make sure to wear proper clothing, otherwise, you might not be able to enter.
Distance from Cannes: 1 hour. Distance from Nice: 30 minutes.
Contributed by Krisztina of She Wanders Abroad.
More on Monaco
A great day trip from Cannes is one to the city-state of Monaco. This is a very interesting city and country to visit. It is the most densely populated country in the world and you find it on the French Riviera as well. From Cannes, the journey by train is about 1 hour and 15 minutes. It is surrounded on all its sides by France, except for the south side where the country borders the Mediterranean Sea. There are many reasons why you should visit Monaco. There is a large collection of high-rise buildings next to the blue sea, which looks incredible. Furthermore, there are many beautiful viewpoints.
Of these, the view from the Saint-Martin Gardens is the best, as you can see a large part of Monaco from above. Also, Monaco is all about luxury. There are large yachts and many luxurious events. Another great thing to do in Monaco is to visit one of the beaches. Larvotto Beach is a great beach to visit. Also, you find here the Monte Carlo Casino, a world-famous casino. The best time to visit Monaco is in the months just before and after the summer. There are fewer crowds during that time, the weather is amazing, and the hotels are more affordable then.
Distance from Cannes: 1 hour. Distance from Nice: 30 minutes.
Contributed by Dymphe of Dymabroad.
From Cannes, you have many options when it comes to making a decision about a day trip to Italy. Ventimiglia, Dolceacqua, Apricale, and Albenga are some great day trip choices for those who have really little time to sneak away from the French Riviera. Though the most beautiful, most rewarding destination from Cannes for a day trip in Italy is Sanremo.
Sanremo has a little of everything, a little tradition, some luxury, beach, old, and new mixed in a unique style that makes this town charming. It’s also about 1 hour and 15 minutes away from Cannes, so it doesn’t take too much to get there for a day away from the French Riviera. If you’re traveling by train, that’s taking somewhat more, as you’ll need to change 1-2 times. From Ventimiglia, which town is right on the French border, it takes 15 minutes to get to Sanremo by train, that’s the estimated time you need on the train station to get tickets and get to the platform.
The second reason you should pick Sanremo as a day trip from Cannes is that it’s sufficiently different from most of the resort towns on the other side of the border, to justify the idea just from the point of view of curiosity alone. Sanremo is as elegant as Cannes but less stuffy and self-conscious, and usually speaking, more down-to-earth in the manner of the Italian Riviera.
A third reason to visit Sanremo on a day trip is because of its low-budget family restaurants, which aren’t any easier to find on the French Riviera. In Sanremo however, the family business that’s running simply because the owners love to make food and serve it is a really strong and great tradition. Also, the architecture in Sanremo’s Old Town, La Pigna will make you fall in love with the Italian style, and don’t forget the beautiful beaches and views over the town.
Sanremo is definitely one of the best Italian towns to visit when you’re planning a day trip from the French Riviera!
Distance from Cannes: 1 hour and 20 minutes. Distance from Nice: 1 hour.
Contributed by Helga from ShegoWandering.
Deep in the Provencal hills, about an hour from Cannes is Tourtour, a charming and pretty village where you’ll want to stay for weeks! This picturesque medieval village is one of the Most Beautiful Villages (Plus Beaux Villages) of France and is a must-see if you’re road tripping in France.
Tourtour makes a great stop if you’re exploring the surrounding olive groves and vineyards, most of which offer tours and tastings of their delicious products, so typical of the Var region. The village is surrounded by rolling hills studded with olive trees and vines planted in straight rows in the rich soil. The oil produced here has a sharp and peppery taste, look out for the rare La Belgentieroise olive which is firm-fleshed, long and green, and perfect for cooking.
Tourtour itself has not one, but two chateaux, the best of these is a typical 16th-century chateau with four round towers which sit at the southeast end of the village. Now housing the Tourtour town hall, the pretty castle has a small courtyard with the most stunning views across the surrounding countryside including the distinct Sainte Vistoire near Aix-en-Provence, and the Luberon. It’s no surprise that Tourtour is called ‘the village in the sky’; viewed from a distance it sits proud on the horizon and dominates the skyline.
Take a slow meander out of the village to the 11th century Romanesque Eglise Saint-Denis, a simple and striking church that sits atop a small grassy hill, surrounded by beautiful tall cypress trees and more glorious views.
Head to the busy Place des Ormeaux for a fun lunch, where cafes and restaurants line the square and serve wonderful local produce, including juicy tomatoes from the vine with home-grown basil, liberally drizzled with local olive oil. With a glass of chilled white wine, there is no-where better to be on a sunny day in the south of France.
Distance from Cannes: 1 hour and 15 minutes. Distance from Nice: 1 hour and 35 minutes.
Contributed by Izzy of The Gap Decaders.
As you can see, there are many things to do in Cannes France in one day and it doesn’t require staying in Cannes at all! It is a great spot for many day trips, particularly if you are staying in Nice or other towns on the French Riviera. You truly can visit Cannes in a day! Or use it as a home base too.
How about you? Have you been to Cannes or Nice? What did you think?
One thing I didn’t write about is food, the French Mediterranean cuisine is delightful, lots of seafood! I love the Eater guide because it is updated frequently and there are 2 great posts from the Culture trip on the best restaurants and affordable restaurants because Cannes is expensive!
For a visual summary of this post, check out my Cannes web story!
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