Why Cannes Is More Than Just a Film Festival


If no one thought to invite you to the film festival, there are still plenty of things to keep you busy in Cannes.

Cannes is synonymous with its annual film festival – how often do you hear the word Cannes without those two words following it? The good news is, Cannes does continue to exist for the 50 weeks of the year it’s not deluged with international superstars.

The thing Cannes really has going for it is its position on the Cote-d’Azur. A gleaming little jewel on the French Riviera, it was a magnet for European high society long before the Cannes Film Festival began attracting celebrities to its shores. Here are five excellent things to do in Cannes if you’re not tripping down a red carpet (and if you are, ladies, make sure you’re in heels!).

Promenading with the beautiful people

A stroll down the palm-lined Promenade de la Croisette, Cannes’ main drag, is both necessary and unavoidable. This is where the business of being Cannes happens: on one side there are picturesque beaches, on the other, expensive restaurants, cafes and glamorous boutiques. You’ll also find the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès where the Cannes Film Festival is held. It’s gloriously ostentatious, and there are few waterfront promenades more striking.

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Taking the high road

Anyone left cold by the conspicuous displays of wealth dotting the harbour (also known as yachts) needn’t conclude Cannes is just a film festival with a showy town attached. From the high vantage point of the old town, Le Suquet, you can get a great view over La Croisette. Then, turn your attention to Rue St Antoine, the narrow, cobbled lane lined with restaurants and shops that weaves up into the town. The old quarter is where Cannes’ fisherman lived, and where monks from the nearby island of Saint-Honorat built their hilltop castle. Today it houses the Musée de la Castre. At the bottom of the town there’s the daily market, Marché Forville, where you can find the day’s catch from local fisherman, fresh flowers, local cheeses, wine, and fruit and vegies.

Going far from the madding crowd

The beaches off La Croisette are excellent, with white sand and sun loungers a plenty, but if you want to escape the crowds, Clue d’Aiglun should do the job. Located in the hills north of Cannes are a series of grottoes sculpted into the rock by waters flowing down from the Alpes-Maritimes called the Clues de Haute Provence. Clue d’Aiglun is one of the prettiest, surrounded by fragrant pines and eucalypts. Lounge on white marble ledges before plunging into the azure pools filled by gushing waterfalls. Who needs a red carpet?

Learning the art of French cookery

The Provençal-style cooking in this part of France is quite distinct from traditional French cuisine. It takes inspiration from its Mediterranean neighbours, with lots of garlic, olive oil, anchovies, and tomatoes. At Les Apprentis Gourmets, take a cooking class in the incredible workshop kitchen, then head upstairs to the mezzanine to enjoy your creation. There’s also a cool deli with delicious morsels for sale. It’s located in the Rue d’Antibes neighbourhood, which runs parallel to La Croisette.

Exploring idyllic islands

A 20-minute boat-ride from Cannes there’s an island idyll – two, in fact. The Lerins Islands are Île Saint-Honorat and Île Sainte-Marguerite, where The Man in the Iron Mask was held prisoner in a fortress for 34 years. You’ll have a better time than that mystery man did, though – there are beaches, nature walks, and a Musee de la Mer (Museum of the Sea), and you can visit the masked man’s cell in the Fort of St Marguerite. Check out the ruins of a monastery built on Saint-Honrat in the 11th century (the monastic community still resides on the island in a 19th century version). The monks produce wine, honey, and lavender oil and welcome guests for week-long visits.

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