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A stop in Cannes from a Mediterranean cruise will take you to a city that blends the excitement of Hollywood with the Old World beauty of Southern France. Cannes has come a long way since its days as a tiny fishing village. Today, the city is best known for the Cannes Film Festival held each May as well as being a playground for the rich and famous. On a Cannes cruise, you can experience the glitz and glam side of the city or opt for exploring some of its history and scenery-focused experiences.
Get right into the thick of Cannes’ downtown activity with a stroll down Boulevard de la Croisette. Considered to be one of the most fashionable streets along the French Riviera, Boulevard de la Croisette is home to grand and historic hotels, gorgeous French Art Nouveau architecture, upscale boutiques, and gourmet restaurants. Even if you don’t choose to go into any of the shops, you’ll no doubt enjoy the luxe ambiance of the street and the palm trees lining the boulevard.
Le Suquet is the name given to the Old Town area of Cannes, and this picturesque neighborhood is a must-see during a Cannes cruise. In addition to the historic architecture found throughout Le Suquet, part of its charm is accredited to the fact that the Old Town is traffic-free, giving pedestrians ample space to explore Le Suquet’s courtyards, narrow staircases, and old city walls.
If you love Hollywood blockbusters and the world of movie stars, then seeing the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès is a must-do during a Cannes cruise. This opulent building serves as the venue for the Cannes Film Festival each year, and is also used for other events throughout the year, including the G20 Summit.
The Notre-Dame de l'Espérance is an iconic church in Cannes due to it architecture and location atop a low summit in Le Suquet overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. The design of the cathedral has a Gothic feel dating back to the 16th century. The exterior of the cathedral is defined by its clock tower. Inside, you’ll find a vaulted ceiling and a 17th century Madonna on the high altar.
Vieux Port means Old Port in France, and it distinctly characterizes the port area located below Le Suquet. Vieux Port is worth visiting for its excellent maritime views that include yachts, sailboats, and the lovely sea. The adjacent neighborhood of Allées de la Liberté, with its historic alleyways, is a charming area to walk around.
If you’re more of a beach fanatic than a city lover, then you’ll love the sandy beaches lining the coastline of Cannes. Many of the beaches are open to the public and have beach chairs and umbrellas available to rent for the day. Some of the free public beaches in Cannes are Plage de la Casino, which is located off of Boulevard de la Croisette; La Bocca Beach, which has a peaceful vibe with gorgeous coastal views; and Les Rochers beach for underwater adventures like snorkeling.
In addition to free public beaches, Cannes also has luxurious private beaches, some of which are open to day-trippers who are willing to pay the entrance fee to access them. Once you’re on the beach, you’ll often find restaurants with outdoor dining as well as musical entertainment. Some popular private beaches to visit include the Royal Plage, Bâoli Beach, and Plage Croisette.
A fun way to explore Cannes is on one of the two motorized toy train city tours. These adorable trains depart from the seaward side of Palais des Festivals each morning and take passengers on a 35-minute tour around certain areas of Cannes. One goes around Le Suquet, and the other takes visitors up and down Boulevard de la Croisette and the Rue d’Antibes. During the tour, you’ll be provided with commentary of what you’re seeing, which is provided in eight different languages, including English.
For ancient artifacts and gorgeous views, spend time walking around the Musée de la Castre, a former monastery turned medieval castle that functions as a museum. The building itself is impressive to see, with its formidable architecture and surrounding gardens. From the property’s vantage point atop a hill, you’ll see panoramic views of the Bay of Cannes below. Inside the museum, you’ll find an impressive collection of art and ancient artifacts, from Mediterranean antiquities and ethnographic artifacts to pre-Columbian primitive art and 19th century Provencal paintings. There is a massive array of history and culture to discover within the walls of the Musée de la Castre.
You might think that Cannes would be all about French cuisine, but it’s actually Italian cuisine with French influences that the city is known for. Its location just across the Mediterranean from Italy has resulted in Italian flavors in the local food. For a snack, get one of the quintessential French baguettes sold all over the city. For something sweeter, indulge in one of the many decadent pastries found in the bakeries of Cannes, like lemon meringue. If you’re a wine aficionado, try a glass of wine from the nearby Provence region or any of the other world-class wine regions in France.
Cannes was given its name due to the cane reeds that once grew on its shores. The monks of Lérins came to the area in the 4th century and left their mark with the fortifications they built in the 10th century to protect the city from attacks by sea. Napoleon traveled through Cannes during his journeys as well. It wasn’t until 1834, when Lord Brougham visited and decided to build a villa in Cannes, that the city started to become known as a resort destination and not just a port for the fishing industry.
Today, the economy of Cannes is heavily impacted by the tourism industry. Most visitors come during the balmy summer months, though shoulder season is a great time to go when temperatures are cooler. The tourism trade crosses with the film industry in Cannes each May when the city attracts visitors for the Cannes Film Festival, which is considered to be one of the most important film festivals in the world (if not the most important). This Hollywood connection gives Cannes a luxurious vibe, and you’ll find many luxury hotels and casinos along with a strong yachting culture.
When you cruise into southern France to spend the day in Cannes, your cruise ship will dock offshore. Cannes is a tender port, so you’ll be transported to the harbor from the ship on a comfortable tender boat. Once you arrive at the tender dock, you’ll find that you’ve been conveniently dropped off within walking distance of shops, restaurants, and the Old Town area. In addition, there is a restroom right by the tender dock. For the tourist information office, head five blocks away toward 1 Boulevard de la Croisette, where you’ll find it on the first floor of the Palais des Festivals building.
Cannes is an extremely walkable city, and many of its top sights are located within the city center. If you do wish to travel farther afield or need assistance getting around the city center, then you’ll have many forms of public transportation you can use, including a local bus system, trains that connect with other nearby towns from the train station by Vieux Port, and boat ferries. In addition, taxis are available for hire. You can even rent bicycles, motorbikes, and cars to get around during your Cannes cruise port of call.
On a Cannes, France cruise, it’s easy to find shopping, since the central shopping areas are all located within walking distance of the port. Visit Rue d’Antibes and Boulevard de la Croisette for upscale boutiques and popular clothing brands, as well as Rue Hoche on which you’ll find the Galeries Lafayette department store. For bargain finds, there is a flea market located at Place Gambetta that runs every morning during high season.
The official currency of Cannes is the euro, similar to the rest of France. ATMs are located around the city, and you can also find currency exchange offices in the city center, particularly near transportation hubs.
Tipping in France is not obligatory, but many people do so for excellent service. If you do tip, 10% of the total bill is generally considered to be more than enough of a tip to show your appreciation, though it’s rare to leave more than a 20 euro note. Many restaurants include a service charge, but this may or may not go to the server, so it’s common to leave extra cash on the table for the server (as opposed to adding it to a credit card payment method). Many people also tip a couple euros to taxi drivers, or 10% of the fare if it’s a longer ride.