A Jetsetter’s Guide to Cannes, France—Beyond the Film Festival
All eyes turn to the starlets crossing Cannes' red carpet each spring during the annual film festival (May 14–25 this year), but there’s more to discover in this French Riviera coastal town than just the cinema. Here are the hottest spots to eat, sip, and sleep no matter what season you visit.
The glitziest Cannes hotels sit in a row along the main drag, La Croisette—a palm tree-lined seaside promenade that separates the sand from the city. You may recognize the Hollywood-inspired rooftop sign of Hôtel Martinez in the backdrop of many film festival party snapshots, but now, the 1930s Belle Époque beauty has an interior just as photo-worthy thanks to a recent revamp by interior designer Pierre-Yves Rochon (also behind The Savoy in London and the Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris). While none of Cannes’ hotels front on the sea, the 409-room Hôtel Martinez runs a private beach club just across the Croisette, while its two-Michelin-starred restaurant La Palme d’Or (the only in the city to hold the prestigious award) sits directly on the promenade overlooking the bay.
Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic
It’s hard to beat the 180-degree view from the terrace of the Suite Christian Dior at nearby Le Majestic, whose interiors were inspired by the couture house’s Parisian address. Clear any lingering signs of jet lag at Spa Diane Barrière with a Biologique Recherche-branded facial (the reason why French women never show signs of aging) before dining at one of two of the city’s most iconic eateries—the Mediterranean-inspired La Petite Maison de Nicole, whose courtyard garden feels like you’re sitting in a Milanese piazza, and the Cannes outpost of Parisian brasserie Le Fouquet’s. This summer, another one of the Riviera’s starred chefs, Argentina-born Mauro Colagreco (who helms the two-Michelin-starred Mirazur in Menton), has designed a menu of dishes cooked over a wood fire (a nod to his native cuisine) that you can order right from your sun lounger at Le Majestic’s beach club La Plage Barrière.
Château Saint-Martin & Spa
The sister hotel to super-swanky Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc in Antibes, the 34-acre Château Saint-Martin & Spa is hidden in the hills above Cannes in the village of Vence. With a history stemming back to the 12th century (when the château served as a Knights Templar Commandery), the hotel is as regal as it gets and makes for the perfect countryside escape from the pulsating nightclubs below. Relax with a treatment from the La Prairie spa beneath a flower-draped gazebo in the gardens or lounge around the infinity pool surrounded by olive trees. Bonus: guests can access the hotel’s private plage in Cap d’Antibes, meaning no need to brave the crowds of tourists vying for a place on the public beaches.
SHOP + DO
Luckily, you don’t have to travel far to discover the best shopping in Cannes. The majority of boutiques sit along two parallel streets—La Croisette and rue d’Antibes. On La Croisette, window shop at designer flagships like Chanel and Cartier or pop into one of the few haute concept shops like 55 Croisette, where you’ll find pieces by Alaïa and Balmain hanging next to more street-style chic (and affordable) labels like Ben Taverniti Unravel Project or Aussie fave Zimmermann.
Once you’ve admired the off-the-runway looks, walk a block back to the boutiques lining rue d’Antibes, pausing at local jewelry label LeyNat Bijoux along the way. If you’re more a fan of the culinary kind of shopping, make your way to the Rue Meynadier or the Rue Grande—the pedestrian street was once used by horses and carriages in the 16th century—where you’ll find local fromageries (cheese shops) and macarons by Jean Luc Pelé. The street eventually makes its way up the hill of Le Suquet, the birthplace of the 400-year-old city. Start at the covered Forville market, where you can stroll between stands of fresh produce and flowers (on Mondays it opens up as an antique market) before climbing the 109 steps to the Musée de la Castre’s 12th-century tower for a 360-degree photo op over the bay and Lérins islands.
JS Tip: If you have a car, it’s worth heading the 10 minutes out of town to one of the top fromageries in the region, 365 Fromages in Valbonne, where cheesemonger Eric Gayraud sources a mix of farm-fresh fromage from across the French Riviera.
From the Vieux Port, set off on a 15-minute ferry ride to the Île Sainte-Marguerite, the largest and closest of the Lérins Islands where the Man in the Iron Mask’s cell still stands. The island is practically untouched except for the 17th-century Fort Royal (which was later converted into a prison) and waterfront restaurant La Guérite, which appears like a mirage on a rocky cove sprinkled with pine trees. This is Cannes’ answer to the beach clubs crowning Saint-Tropez’s shores. Bring a bikini (or buy one at the boho-chic boutique) and plan on spending the day sipping rosé on a sun bed perched over the sea, breaking for lunch on the shaded patio—you can’t go wrong with the charcoal-grilled catch of the day—while acoustic bands serenade tables until sunset.
Over 30 beaches line the coast of Cannes, but if you want to see and be seen, make your way to one of these top three: La Plage 45, La Môme Plage, Le Gray D’Albion. On the French Riviera, private plages feature beachfront bistros that are as swanky as what you’d find on shore, such as Beefbar by La Plage 45—the seaside version of Monaco’s haute steakhouse. At Le Gray d’Albion, lounge on the iconic ponton or reserve one of the private day beds along the sand. Call ahead, especially in high season, since the front rows—the best seats on the beach—are the first to go. As day slips into night, rosé is switched out for cocktails and DJs take over the beach bars for a scene as vibrant as the area’s lauded clubs. We especially love Baôli, a Riviera institution that hosts some of the Côte d’Azur’s hottest summer soirées.
EAT + DRINK
Before the sun starts to set, snag a seat at the panoramic Le 360 in the Radisson Blu 1835 Hotel & Thalasso, where floor-to-ceiling windows stretch along the entire lounge bar. Another popular pick is Le Roof at Five Seas Hotel, which sits behind La Croisette and whose rooms feature views of Le Suquet’s historic clock tower rising above the Old Port. Once the show is over, switch scenes to one of the more popular spots to start—or end—the night: Chrystie, a restaurant-slash-club with dinner shows and DJs that truly embodies the Riviera’s ritzy reputation (think plenty of bottle popping). For something more subdued, 1862 Wines & Spirits opens up a terrace come summer that makes for a great pre-dinner drink spot.
For dinner directly on the water, book a table at the glass-encased L’Ecrin Plage’s restaurant designed by star decorator Miguel Cancio-Martins (behind Sardinia’s Billionaire and Buddha Bar Paris). Most of the area’s fine dining is tucked inside the five-star hotels, but along Palm Beach, you’ll find over-the-top cabarets like Medusa. After dining al fresco on chef Yannis Kioroglou’s fusion of Japanese, South American, and Greek fare (foie gras gyozas with truffle ponzu and fried duck spring roll are just the start), take a seat inside the cabaret club for the Crazy Horse-meets-Cirque du Soleil–style show that goes on until 5 a.m.
Luckily, Cannes is the kind of town where you wouldn’t even think of rising and shining until at least 10 a.m. That’s when the crowds emerge to sit for a leisurely café along the Croisette (sporting a pair of Jackie O sunglasses, of course). After getting your caffeine fix, nurse your hangover on the island of Saint-Honorat with hair of the dog (a.k.a. wine crafted by Cistercian monks, a tradition spanning back to the Middle Ages) before hopping between the Lérins Islands in the comfort of a luxe Italian Riva yacht, pausing for fresh seafood on private shores along the way.
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