I can still remember my first trip to Cannes almost a decade ago.

As a total film buff, I was next level excited to see where the iconic film festival takes place.

When we pulled into the station on a day trip from Nice, the first view I saw was a giant mural of Marilyn Monroe.

I knew then that this was a city I was going to like.

We spent the day hopping between the beach, lunch on La Croisette, and, of course, seeing as many sights as possible.

Back then, I would’ve never guessed just how much time I’d be spending around this chic riviera city.

Now, it’s a classic stop every summer.

There’s so many things to do in Cannes, that even now, I’m still finding new gems.

I have so many amazing memories of doing everything from exploring the city, to taking day trips with to St. Tropez, and the Lerin Islands.

Not to mention enjoying the city’s iconic party scene, hitting up Bal des Fous with friends, and even partying with a few rock stars on occasion.

So I think I’m more than qualified to help you make the perfect visit with my overview of my favorite things to do in Cannes.

Welcome to Cannes


When you arrive in Cannes, you’re stepping into a world where the glittering French Riviera meets historic charm.

While you’re there, you must take a stroll along the Boulevard de la Croisette. The views of the South’s famous azure sea lined with luxury yachts will make you feel you’re in a movie.

If you like shopping, check out the promenade’s upscale boutiques reflect the city’s high quality of life.

For an authentic Cannes experience, explore the narrow streets of Le Suquet, the old quarter.

This elevated area gives you picturesque vistas of the city, especially from the vantage point at Église Notre Dame d’Espérance.

You can also escape the city bustle with a day trip to the tranquil Lérins Islands.

It’s a short ferry ride, short ferry ride, with magnificent views, bringing you to a serene environment away from the mainland’s hustle.

Cannes is also an ideal base to explore nearby towns like Antibes, Saint-Tropez, Nice, and Grasse.

Key Experiences not to miss:

  • Enjoy Cannes’ beaches and coastline
  • Attend a showing at a historic theater
  • Explore the city’s history

Remember to stop by the Tourist Office for the latest information on sightseeing and walking tours.

Events and Festivals in Cannes

Cannes Film Festival

Ally in Cannes at the Palais des Festivals des Congres in July 2018

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most prestigious and publicized film festivals in the world.

Every May, the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès comes alive as filmmakers, stars, and enthusiasts gather to witness premieres and compete for the iconic Palme d’Or.

Lots of major films make their premieres there every year, and the festival’s red carpet is legendary not only for the fashion but also its strict dress code and steep steps.

The fun thing is throughout the year, they have the steps set up for tourists to take photos.

They also host several showings and events throughout the year, including the infamous summer costume dance party, Bal des Fous.

International Trade Events

Adweek schedule in Cannes

Throughout the year, Cannes hosts tons of international trade events.

For instance, the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès is the site for markets that span various industries, from TV content with MIPTV to real estate with MIPIM.

I was lucky enough to get VIP access to an AdWeek party a few years ago (thanks to a friend in the headlining band).

It was a total blast, and I’d recommend saying yes if you ever get invited.

Gastronomic Delights

Local Markets

Marche Forville in Cannes South of France Koala

Explore the heart of Provencal flavors at Cannes’ local markets, where fresh produce and fragrant flowers reign supreme.

The Forville Market invites you to savor the region’s bounty, including ripe fruits, artisanal cheeses, and an array of olives.

A stroll through here isn’t just shopping; it’s a delightful taste of local life.

These are some of the most ones I’ve been to and liked over my years of visiting Cannes.

  • Marché Forville: Open every morning except Mondays.
  • Flower Market: Discover a splash of color and fragrance on select days.
  • La Bocca Market: Open every morning except Mondays.

Fine Dining

Caprese salad in Cannes

Prepare for a culinary journey at Cannes’ celebrated fine dining establishments where gourmet creations meet elegance.

At La Palme d’Or, Canne’s only two Michelin star restaurant guarantees an exquisite dining experience.

Just head to the ultra glamorous Hôtel Martinez, sitting along iconic La Croisette.

I haven’t dined here yet, but I have been to the hotel for a brief look around and the food looks just as incredible as the vibe.

If you’re looking for something a bit cheaper but still just as chic, try Aux Bons Enfants.

It’s a Bib Gourmand (Michelin’s award for good quality and cooking) pick.

  • Michelin-starred restaurants: For those seeking the pinnacle of taste and presentation.
  • Gourmet tasting menus: Often include local, seasonal ingredients.

Cafes and Bistros

Ally and family in Cannes on La Croisette Armani Cafe Aug 2023

For a more casual yet equally enticing option, Cannes’ cafes and bistros offer charming spots to savor local cuisine and people-watch.

From a fresh croissant at a sidewalk cafe to a hearty Provencal stew in a bistro, you’ll find the essence of French dining culture right at the table.

Normally, this is what I default to while I’m in town, since I love the people watching.

If you’re not from Europe, the concept of Bistro vs Cafe can be confusing. I didn’t know the difference for ages until one of my local French friends broke it down for me.

Here’s what you need to know.

  • Bistros:
    • Cozy atmospheres
    • Traditional French dishes
  • Cafes:
    • Perfect for espresso
    • Light bites and desserts are available

Outdoor Activities

Visit the Beaches

Ally at the beach in Cannes French Riviera July 2018

I can still remember my first time at the beach in Cannes, even though it was almost a decade ago.

My dad and I were so excited to see sandy beaches, especially after dealing with all the pebble beaches in Nice.

If you want to hit up the beach, spend the day at Palm Beach or Plage de la Bocca, where the soft sand and pristine waters make them a haven for sunbathers and swimmers alike.

Or, for a more exclusive experience, you can plan to head to a beach club.

Depending on the time of year you’re visiting, you may want to make reservations.

There are tons to choose from, but out of all of them, I keep hearing friends talk about the Carlton Beach Club the most.

Explore the Islands

Ally at Ile St. Marguerite lerin islands in cannes south of france Sept. 2022

Jump on the ferry and head to the Lérins Islands, which is a short sail from the coastline.

Île Sainte-Marguerite is especially popular thanks to the legend of the Man in the Iron Mask.

It’s also home to the iconic La Guérite. Basically, it’s a terrace with seafood, salad, and pasta that turns into a pretty iconic party scene.

You can also wander around ancient fortresses, visit monastic communities, and explore secluded coves, all while immersing in the tranquility away from the buzz of the mainland.

If you want to check it out virtually before committing to the day trip, check out my YouTube video below about visiting for the island for afternoon.

Water Sports Adventures

Port de Cannes (port of cannes) in French Riviera - Aug 2022

For those seeking a burst of adrenaline, this city has it all.

Book a ride on a catamaran voyage across the blue waters, or choose from a myriad of water sports.

Jet skiing, parasailing, and other water sports will quench your thirst for adventure as you make waves along the riviera.

There’s also some great boat tours leaving from Cannes that highlight the coast of the South of France and can be a fun day trip.

Arts and Culture

Museums and Galleries

Musee de la Castre in Cannes June 2022

If you have a penchant for the arts, the Musée de la Castre stands high above the city in the historical district of Le Suquet, offering remarkable views and an even more impressive collection.

Plus, it’s inside a medieval castle!

This museum presents an array of medieval artifacts, Asian instruments, and global art.

It’s really cool to wander here. I especially loved seeing the instruments and iconic view of Cannes sitting below.

They also host cool after parties like the one my friends and I went to after their concert in the marina.

Seeking contemporary art?

Cannes’ galleries, host a variety of modern exhibitions that showcase both local and international artists.

La Malmaison, once the grand salon of the Cannes Grand Hotel, now serves as an art center displaying works of renowned 20th and 21st-century artists.

If you end up hopping on the ferry to the Lerins Islands, don’t miss The Musée du Masque de fer et du Fort Royal. It’s the museum highlighting the mysterious past of the Man in the Iron Mask.

Besides the history, it also has some really gorgeous art work.

Historical Landmarks

Castle in Cannes

A day in Cannes wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Le Suquet.

Take time to wander up the winding path to the summit where the Eglise Notre Dame d’Espérance sits.

This beautiful church dates back to the 16th century and offers insights into the architectural heritage of the region.

As you meander through the cobbled streets, each step will transport you back in time, uncovering a piece of Cannes’ storied past.

It’s perfect if you can time it to catch the sunset.

Shopping Spree

Boutique Stores

Rolex in Cannes La Croisette

Cannes is synonymous with high-end fashion, and its boutique stores showcase the best in luxury brands.

Stroll through the streets near La Croisette and you’ll find an array of shops offering exclusive couture, jewelry, and leather goods.

La Croisette

La Croisette in Cannes view from apartment building Sept 2023

Boulevard de la Croisette is the heartbeat of Cannes’ shopping scene.

You’ll find lots of designer brands and spot at least a couple of insane sports cars.

As you walk along, the Mediterranean Sea’s azure backdrop makes your shopping experience truly memorable.

Provençal Markets

French Marche

For a touch of local flavor, add the Provençal markets, like famous Marché Forville, to your itinerary.

You’ll find stalls offering everything from fresh produce to antiques and home-crafted items.

Local’s Tip: While you’re there, grab some authentic South of France souvenirs like lavender, olive oil, and handmade soaps to bring a piece of Provence home with you.

Relaxation and Wellness

Spa Experiences


Indulge in world-class spa days that promise more than just pampering; they offer a rejuvenating journey for your senses.

One of the most popular spas in Cannes is at legendary Hôtel Martinez.

Just book your treatments early during peak season, especially if the Film Festival is in town!

Leisurely Walks

Ile St. Marguerite in Cannes Lerin Islands beach

Embrace the calming effect of a leisurely stroll along tone of the city’s many gorgeous terrains.

Experience these paths of tranquility:

  • Boulevard de la Croisette: Walk past designer boutiques and sandy beaches
  • Palm Beach: Enjoy sweeping views of the Mediterranean and a quieter atmosphere
  • Île Sainte-Marguerite: Get lost in nature, or hang on the sandy secluded beaches


Bars and Clubs

Ally and friends in Cannes at Bal des Fous party Barbie Adventure

Cannes’ bars and clubs are legendary.

You can start your evening with a fine cocktail at one of the stylish bars like Harry’s Bar, known for its locations in New York and Paris.

For music and dance, join the crowd at venues that feature everything from international DJs to live bands.


casino table koala

In Cannes, the casinos offer more than just gambling.

They’re entertainment hubs where you can enjoy slot machines and table games, alongside concerts and live shows.

Dress up for a glamorous evening, and you may rub shoulders with celebrities.

Transportation and Navigation

Arrival by Sea

Yachts in Cannes French Riviera

If you’re arriving in Cannes by water, the city is well-equipped to welcome you.

The Old Port (also known as Vieux Port) lies at the heart of Cannes, offering a place for yachts to dock.

Even if you aren’t lucky enough to be arriving via boat, you can still marvel at all the luxury yachts lined up along the quay.

Or hop on a tour boat or one of the ferries.

My first time on a boat in the riviera was only a few years ago, and it’s now one of my favorite ways to show people the beauty of the riviera.

Coastal Drives

Cannes at Sunset view from balcony of La Croisette apt Sept 2023

If you want to explore by land, the coastline of the French Riviera has some of the most scenic drives in the world.

I’ll be honest, I’ve never driven here, mainly because as an ex-New Yorker, I’m not the most confident driver.

But, I have been a passenger many times over the years, and it’s truly a gorgeous drive.

The journey along the seafront, where the road weaves through stunning vistas and homes, and invites you to uncover hidden gems along the coast.

It’s absolutely a stunning ride, and so worth it, even if you hire someone to drive you.

Bonus points if you do the drive on a motorcycle at sunset. There’s truly nothing more magical.

Whether you’re after a leisurely drive or an adventure-filled day, the coastal route from Cannes provides ample opportunities for both.

Public Transit

Cannes train station Gare de Cannes

One of my favorite things about being in the French Riviera is how easy their public transport system is to use.

You can catch a train from the main station for a quick trip to other hot spots on the Riviera, or use the local buses to move around the city itself.

If you do prefer cars, Uber is always my go-to when I need a ride around town.


Ally at Bal des Fous in Cannes French Riviera party

What are some unique activities to experience in Cannes?

You can wander around Le Suquet, the oldest district in Cannes, to soak in the blend of classic French charm and contemporary culture.

Another unique thing to do in Cannes is checking out the iconic The Palais des Festivals steps, before strolling along La Croisette.

For a truly unique visit to Cannes, head to the Lerin Islands, specifically Île Sainte-Marguerite where the legend of the Man in the Iron Mask was born.

Which attractions in Cannes are best for young adults?

Cannes has a fabulous nightlife scene, especially during the summer.

If you’re looking for something seasonal and less touristy, check out Bal des Fous party.

It’s a costume party, with a different theme every weekend. I went last summer with all my French friends to the Barbie and Ken + Adventure themed party (as Tomb Raider with a date dressed as Indiana Jones).

There are also lots of chic beach clubs dotting the coast if you want a more traditional South of France party vibe.

How can visitors enjoy a day in Cannes without spending money?

I love a cheap and chic day in the riviera. My go-to plan is taking a scenic walk around the city, enjoying the people watching.

After that, the beach is a must. In fact, it’s basically a crime not to visit the beach while in the South of France.

What are the top family-friendly activities in Cannes?

Families can enjoy the sandy beaches or visit the museums that are geared towards entertaining visitors of all ages.

Can you suggest evening entertainment options in Cannes?

Cannes at night can be fun for many age groups. If you’re looking for a wild night out, the city has some fabulous clubs and annual dance parties like Bal des Fous.

If you’re looking for something more low-key, check out open-air concerts or indulge in the local cuisine either at a cafe or bistro or a fine dining restaurant.

What are some must-see spots in Cannes for cruise ship passengers?

Cruise ship passengers should not miss the chance to see the Cannes Film Festival Palace, and stroll along the iconic La Croisette Boulevard to experience the glamour Cannes.

Final Thoughts

Ally at the beach in Cannes South of france

I hope this helps you find some of your new favorite things to do in Cannes.

It’s certainly got me excited to go back this summer!

Let me know in the comments below what you’re most looking forward to checking out!


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