The bronzed and the beautiful quaff champagne from private beach clubs and superstars rub shoulders with the super-rich in the toniest town on the Cote d’Azur. Packed with flash restaurants, posh bars and designer boutiques, Cannes may seem out of reach to those on a modest budget but by making a few savvy savings you can live it up without being loaded. Oh, and posing and people-watching cost nada.
HIT THE BEACH: The stretch of sand that hugs the glitzy palm tree-lined boulevard, La Croisette is mostly given over to pricey private beach clubs. Soaking up the rays here will set you back around $35 per day. Two public beaches bookend the seafront but they get packed out in the summer months. Head to the sleek rooftop terrace at the Radisson Blu Hotel and you’ll find chunky shaded loungers, an alfresco bar and killer views of the coastline, the old harbor and the 16th-century clock tower. There’s no cover charge so you can laze in the sun all day for the price of a couple of ice-cold brews.
SAIL: If you can't snag an invite onto a super yacht, board one of the small ferries that depart from the old port and sail across to Île Saint-Honorat ($18 round-trip), a gorgeous island inhabited by 25 Cistercian monks; the monastery has been making wine from the island's grapes since the Middle Ages. There’s one restaurant right by the water’s edge that serves typically French dishes from an open kitchen (a three-course set menu costs around $35) or stock up on picnic produce from the Carrefour supermarket before you set off and have a spot of lunch in a secluded cove.
GET AROUND: Save cash and carbon emissions by hopping the train that snakes along the Cote d'Azur. It's an easy 30-minute journey from Nice Airport to Cannes and tickets cost around $7 each way (versus $100 in a taxi). On the double-decker trains nab a seat on the top deck for awesome views of the Med as you pass through small coastal towns. From July to September, a Carte Isabelle rail pass costs $20 per day for unlimited travel along the French Riviera. Head to Antibes for an early morning mooch around the food market, chug along to Nice for an alfresco lunch and continue to Monte Carlo to stroll along the F1 circuit and gawk at the sports cars and megayachts.
DINE: Steer clear of the La Croissette if you want to stuff your stomach without emptying your wallet (a sandwich at the Carlton Hotel costs upwards of $40). Head to the old harbor and there are plenty of waterfront restaurants that offer excellent fixed price menus. L’Assiette Provencale is a particular highlight and serves a three-course menu (including a basket of fresh breads and tapenade) for around $30. For light bites, order a drink at Taverne Lucullus and you can tuck into French Rivera-style tapas dishes (deep-fried zucchini flowers, salt cod) for free.
SHOP: All of the big-name designers have boutiques along La Croisette, from Dior to Dolce & Gabbana but head to Rue d’Antibes and you can shop the best of the French high street (Petite Bateau, Blanc Bleu, Comptoir des Cotonniers). Pop into L’Atelier de Jean-Luc Pelé to stock up on macarons, buy retro film festival posters at Cine Folie and for a good old rummage, head to Forville Maket on a Monday to browse the antiques stalls; keep an eye out for pieces from some of the grand dame hotels to recreate the Rivera look at home.