Life doesn’t get much better than sitting at a pavement café in Cannes on the French Riviera, watching the world go by. From celebrities stepping off their superyachts, supercars pulling up under the palm trees, and supermodels tottering along in their super-high heels, this is a town that glitters, and the people-watching is superb.
A stroll along the palm-lined Promenade de la Croisette in the summer time is one of the great people-watching experiences on the planet. With grand art deco hotels on one side and splendid superyachts on the other, the Croisette boulevard winds itself along the Mediterranean seafront past the iconic Palais des Festivals, past glamorous boutiques, past the foot of the old town with its cluster of sailboat masts in the port, and finally around to the famous beach clubs stretched along the golden sands. No matter what time you come out, the Croisette is a people-watching extravaganza, but expect the glamour quotient to ramp up on summer nights as the sun sets across the Mediterranean.
Expect to see: A little bit of everything is possible on the Croisette, from movie stars to gawking tourists.
360 Rooftop Bar, Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso
If you’re looking for the ultra-luxe experience in Cannes or hoping to mingle with the jet-set, then an evening at the 360 rooftop bar atop the Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso is a must. As you walk onto the huge deck terrace and settle into one of the sophisticated lounge areas, it’s hard to decide where to look first, whether you want to feast your eyes on the Mediterranean and the distant Alps, or at the glamorous people mingling by the bar as the music starts to play.
Expect to see: Jet-set & celebrity in high summer and around the Film Festival; an all-round glamorous crowd.
Much of French local life takes place at the market, and Cannes is no exception. Marche Forville is a bustling covered market, housed in a huge Provencal-styled building painted a pinkish ochre colour. Inside you’ll find seemingly endless rows of colourful produce from gleaming piles of black and green olives, huge wheels of French cheeses, profusions of fresh-cut flowers, and shining whole fish. As you wander through the market, watch the locals chatting, the stallholders calling out their wares, the superyacht chefs loading up their baskets with seafood and just enjoy the happy clamour of Mediterranean market life.
Expect to see: A vibrant cross-section of Cannes daily life.
Cannes has several casinos, but whichever you pick, the people-watching is always good- particularly in high summer, when you can expect a high-rolling clientele. (The more supercars out front, the better your chances are of spotting a celebrity.)
Expect to see: Celebrities and oligarchs in high season; tourists and heavy gamblers year-round.
Intercontinental Carlton Cannes Hotel
You may not necessarily be able to afford to stay there, but your budget should stretch to a high tea or brunch at the Intercontinental Carlton Hotel, for a magnificent people-watching experience. This opulent art deco hotel has seen over a century of royalty and celebrity past through its doors, and it is still considered the most prestigious hotel in Cannes particularly during the Cannes Film Festival.
Expect to see: Old dames in mink coats, dapper gentlemen, scarf-wearing movie directors (and a fair few tourists like yourself.)
One of the best places to see the locals in action is one of Cannes’ boules (petanque) clubs. Cannes has two boules squares- one down by the old port (5 euro per person to play) and one by Port Palm Beach near the casino (free).
Expect to see: Old men in berets, some women and younger adults getting into this most traditional French pastime.
The narrow cobblestone laneway that winds up through the old town is lined with restaurants and bars, and if you can nab one of their outside tables then you can settle in for an evening of fantastic people-watching.
Expect to see: Young, old, famous, tourists, rich, poor: Le Suquet is a living breathing old town, so anything is possible.
The late-night piano and live music bar, La Chunga, is an institution in Cannes, and despite starting out the evening as a restaurant, it just gets louder (and looser) as the evening progresses. Lots of fun, and simply brilliant people-watching.
Expect to see: Famous faces in summer time, a good mix of ages, people really getting into the swing of it.
Take your pick of the many beach clubs in Cannes, and settle in on a deckchair by the Mediterranean as you drink cocktails and watch the glamorous people swim, dine and party as the day goes on.
Expect to see: Celebrities, beautiful people, families, superyacht crew and a whole beach full of people playing in the water, parasailing, jetskiiing and sunbathing.