The best holidays in Cannes are about capturing a feeling, rather than any particular sightseeing activity that you absolutely must do in your time there.
It’s about discovering that bewitching sense of jazz-age glamour that hangs on in the piano bars of the grand art deco hotels, savouring the aura of celebrity that almost glitters along the seafront with its superyachts and waving palms, and breathing in the glorious Mediterranean beauty of the soft sandy beaches and the tranquil islands.
Here are some suggestions on how you can conjure up that heady feeling of glamour, history and natural beauty combined during your 48 hours in Cannes.
5pm: After checking in to your Cannes accommodation, it’s time to dress up and take a twilight walk along the famous Croisette. Browse the designer boutiques strung along the palm-lined boulevard, gawk at the huge superyachts docked in the marinas, and check out the handprints of celebrities along the Walk of Fame by the Palais des Festivals.
7pm: There’s no better way to turn the atmosphere setting right up to ‘maximum glamour’ than with a sunset cocktail at one of Cannes’ many rooftop bars. Sit by the stunning infinity pool at Five Seas Hotel, enjoy the decadent lounge bar at the Radisson Blu, or kick back on the 5-star beach terrace at Hotel Grand Martinez.
8pm: The dining in Cannes ranges from the spectacular to the spectacularly over-priced, and we’ve written an extensive dining guide to help you discover an exceptional dining experience in Cannes. Whether it’s sumptuous French gastronomy at the 2 Michelin-star Palme d’Or, a cosy Provencal restaurant on the narrow cobbled lanes of Le Suquet, a dinner in Cannes is truly an experience to savour.
10pm: A nightcap on the Croisette calls. Take a pavement café table, order a cognac or hot chocolate, and watch the world go by. If you’re lucky, your visit will coincide with one of the genuinely mind-blowing fireworks festivals that light up the sea and sky of the Riviera in the summertime; otherwise, just enjoy the warm night air and the feeling of excitement in the air as you walk through the pools of lights thrown from the hotel lobbies and warm glow of the bars as you wander slowly back to your hotel.
9am: Today is your day to explore Cannes and its many splendid faces. Take breakfast on a terrace overlooking the sea, then explore the old town: ‘Le Suquet’, with its narrow cobbled lane leading up to Eglise Notre dame Esperance, a 500 year old church with a museum and stunning views of the Bay of Cannes from the gardens.
11am: Walk past the sailboats lined up along the seafront at the bottom of the Old Town, then head around the corner to the soft sandy beaches. For lunch, why not settle in at one of the sophisticated beach clubs for an indulgent day of dining, swimming, and relaxing on your deckchair.
3pm: Venture back into town for one of the quintessential Cannes experiences: Saturday afternoon shopping. Admire the window-displays of the flagship designer stores along the Croisette, enjoy the bustle and buzz of the high-street stores along Rue d’Antibes, or for a more local (and budget) shopping experience, hit the market and stores found along Rue Meynadier.
5pm: Art-lovers should definitely visit the modern art exhibition at La Malmaison on the Croisette, while a ten-minute drive out of Cannes will bring you to the beautiful Villa Domergue, which hosts art exhibitions throughout the summer. Classical music aficionados might be able to stay into the evening for one of the exceptional classical concerts hosted in the villa gardens with a stunning backdrop of the Bay of Cannes below. If art, shopping or music doesn’t interest you, why not spend the afternoon in one of Cannes’ superb spas?
7pm: After freshening up for the evening at your hotel, it’s time to have a drink at one of Cannes’ wonderfully atmospheric hotel piano bars. Bar l’Amiral at Hotel Martinez is the most iconic of them all- once playing host to stars like Sinatra and Madonna. A fantastic budget option is to buy a bottle of local rose’ and head back up to the church on the hill for a stunning sunset drink in the grounds overlooking the sea. There are often buskers playing up here in summer, lending to a superb atmosphere.
8pm: Dinner-time. Try something different- if you dined on the Croisette last night, why not head to Le Suquet this evening, or up into the hills to Mougins village? Mix things up to get a diverse Cannes experience.
10pm: Head to one of Cannes’ three casinos for a game of blackjack, admiring the supercars pulling up under the palms outside. For a seriously A-list experience, party with the celebrity set at nightclub Baoli, while those looking for a more relaxed experience should head to Charly’s- an underground cellar bar set in what used to be a place for keeping sheep in winter! Check out our nightlife guide for more options.
9am: Take a morning stroll to the market to stock up on Provencal picnic supplies: delicious crunchy baguettes, soft local cheeses and cured meats- and perhaps some flaky gooey pastries for dessert. Take a coffee and croissant for breakfast before heading to the ferry port for your trip to the islands.
10am: Board the ferry for the short and beautiful trip to the Isles Lérins, or as they’re commonly known, ‘the Cannes Islands’. Lying just offshore, these islands are deliciously tranquil after the glitz and glamour of Cannes, with pine forests and crystal clear coves. Ile St Marguerite is also the site of the prison where the real ‘Man in the Iron Mask’ was held in the 17th century, while neighbouring Ile St Honorat has a working Cistercian monastery and a vineyard. Enjoy your picnic on a quiet beach on Sainte Margherite, or book into the excellent La Tonnelle restaurant on Ile St Honorat for a terrace lunch with a wonderful view. Read more about a Cannes Islands day trip here.
4pm: Return to Cannes, relaxed, tanned, and refreshed after your day in the islands. Take a last wander around Cannes, eating an ice-cream and enjoying the wonderful seaside and celebrity atmosphere, before departing.