Known for its annual Cannes Film Festival, this southern France gem is more than this one event in May. Mallory and I embarked on a road trip along the Côte d’Azur, and Cannes ended up being one of my favorite spots. Its gorgeous Mediterranean Sea views and classic architecture are sure to make you swoon. And I’ve been back since to enjoy this treasure on the French Riviera with my family. Here are 11 things to do in Cannes, plus a day trip to Antibes nearby.
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Where We Stayed
During our week-long vacation on the Côte d’Azur, Mal and I stayed in many different Airbnbs. But this one was, by far, our favorite. After staying in a shoebox-sized Airbnb in St. Tropez, we were thrilled to spread out in Cannes. This cozy one-bedroom apartment sits on a calm square and is near downtown. And hostess Kos went above and beyond to make sure we were comfortable. Best of all, the apartment had French charm and was thoughtfully decorated. And you cannot beat this sunrise view snap. Get $50 off your first Airbnb booking.
In Cannes, I shopped till I dropped, and Rue d’Antibes is where it’s happening. We perused PULL&BEAR, Pimkie, Pylones and Bathroom Graffiti. Whether you’re looking for the latest trends or small knickknacks, Rue d’Antibes will suit your fancy. Not long before our trip, I found a hole in one of my favorite sweaters. So I justified the cutest black fur coat from Zara.
Eating gluten-free is tough in France, but with a bit of research, you can do it. I saw that Bridget Bakery was right off this main hub, and I munched on a gluten-free brownie. It wasn’t the most Instagrammable, but I enjoyed the gluten-free options.
If you go anywhere in France, from the biggest city to the smallest village, there’s a great chance there’s a market. And personally, I think it’s one of the most authentic French experiences you can have. Cannes’ Marché Forville is worth a visit for its fresh meats, cheeses and flowers. Mallory and I stocked up on charcuterie fixings and made a delectable spread (if I do say so myself). It’s a great way to taste fresh French food, and you can do it very affordably, too.
Although the name’s Italian, La Piazza provides the quintessential French dining experience. Think large patio on a bustling street with ocean views. I ordered the parmesan risotto, which was cooked perfectly al dente and packed flavor.
My friend Mackenzie studied abroad for a semester in Cannes, and naturally, I had to ask her for all her recommendations. She suggested Gelato Junkie, which was a must for this frozen treat-lovin’ gal. I downed the Snickers gelato, and it was superb. And you can’t beat this spot’s aesthetic.
Steak n’ Shake
Are you kidding me, Kristin? Steak n’ Shake? Throughout high school, this not-so fast food diner was a favorite hangout for my pals and me. But it’s not known for being the classiest of joints in America. So, when I saw its restaurant logo in France, I gasped. Antithetical, it seemed. Mal and I were curious and also craving a good burger and fries.
And let me tell you: it did not disappoint. In France, as one can assume, it’s much classier. The menu is slightly different, but the cheese sauce is the exact same recipe, I’m convinced. And my Nutella shake was divine. The American-sized portions were a welcome change, too.
Palais Des Festivals and La Croisette
When in Cannes, right? If you’re going to a major film festival hub, you must snap a photo on the red carpet. Naturally, I had to get a few glamour shots myself. You can also walk along the hand imprints on the sidewalk, including Catherine Deneuve’s. (If you haven’t seen her in Umbrellas of Cherbourg, you absolutely must change that!)
This massive building is located on La Croisette, which is one of the major streets in Cannes. Definitely stroll this street for its restaurants and views.
I had the chance to return to Cannes during the film festival this year. And although we didn’t attend the festival, we were able to see the red carpet and all these wonderfully dressed people milling about. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any celebrities — at least any that we recognized. But the ambience was exhilarating!
Musée de la Castre and Église Notre-Dame d’Espérance de Cannes
I love museums, and it’s one of my favorite parts of traveling. Although not terribly big, Musée de la Castre held my interest for its wide range of art. Along with the classic paintings, this museum showcases ancient warfare tools from thousands of years ago. And from all over the world, not just France. You probably don’t need more than one hour or so for this museum, but I’m glad I added it to my itinerary.
The museum exit drops you off to some epic views of the city and to the nearby church. Église Notre-Dame d’Espérance de Cannes isn’t too big, but I’m glad I poked my head inside. Right outside the front door of the church is a sort of rampart that you can climb and get more city views.
Villa Rothschild/Médiathèque Noailles
If you’ve done any travel in Europe, the Rothschild name is a good name to know. This Jewish family established a successful bank, enduring hundreds of years. And they have their mark throughout France and its history. When I surveyed the city from the rampart at the church, I saw this gorgeous building at a distance. And I had some time to kill and thought I might as well go find that building.
It ended up being one of the Rothschilds’ villas that’s now been turned into a library. Y’ALL. I don’t know about your hometown library, but this one will surpass all your expectations. I enjoyed poking around this beautiful library with its attached garden grounds.
Day trip to Antibes
Only a 20-minute drive from Cannes, Antibes is a great day trip to add into your Cannes itinerary. It’s a smaller town with gorgeous Mediterranean Sea views and French charm. Here’s what we did on our day trip to Antibes:
Rent bikes from Kaktus
On a sunny afternoon in Antibes, we decided to rent bikes from Kaktus Cycle to ride along the ocean. We had some incredible views and sea breeze. That being said, Mallory is a seasoned cyclist used to biking in the city. Me, not so much. There wasn’t a great bike path; it was mainly on the road. So, if you’re not a big cyclist or not comfortable biking on the road, I wouldn’t recommend. But otherwise, Kaktus offered a great price, and Antibes is chock full with views.
Our trip to Antibes unfortunately fell on a Monday, which meant that the Picasso Museum was closed. However, I would’ve loved to add this spot to our itinerary. Next time, for sure!
Tiffany’s Kitchen in Juan-les-Pins
It’s not what you know, it’s who you know, right? Mal had an American family friend, who happened to live in Juan-les-Pins, which is an 8-minute drive from Antibes. We met up at her place for wine, and then she took us to one of her favorite local spots called Tiffany’s Kitchen.
This cozy restaurant was nothing ritzy from the outside, but the food blew me away. I was tired of eating burgers sans bun (gluten-free life) and decided to order the duck. I had only ever tasted duck once in my life, but I needed to shake it up. And wow, did this duck and potatoes roasted in duck fat deliver!
If you’re heading to this film festival capital, you will want to add these 11 things to do in Cannes to your list, including a day trip to Antibes. Out of all the places we visited on the Riviera that week, Cannes holds a special place in my heart.