People say you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy the French Riviera. I wouldn’t be so sure. Cannes is Beverly Hills’ sister city. What’s a sister city? It’s a sort of cultural exchange between two unrelated cities. It works between these two, they’re very similar. You could say Cannes is the European Beverly Hills, or the other way around? Chicken or the egg? Architecture is the obvious part they don’t have in common. Cannes is beautifully Mediterranean, while Beverly Hills is like nothing in particular. “Cannes is dead outside of the Festival season”, is true for the most part. People visit Cannes to hunt their favourite celebrities for autographs. Some go to Cannes for the luxurious shopping, others to experience the aura of the world's most wealthy few. Plan your trip for the second half of May if that’s what you’re after. The Festival lasts for 12 days packed with movie screenings and events.
Everything revolves around the seaside promenade. It’s the focal point of Cannes. Boulevard de la Croisette is 2 km long. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s enough to make your head spin. The sea, the beaches, restaurants, and mega-yacht marinas are on one side of it. You know the drill; most beaches are private and access is restricted. There are a few public ones as well, just not as well kept. The other side of the promenade is all about posh hotels and shopping. Luis Vuitton, Versace, and Chanel: all the good stuff. The hotels are actual landmarks here with legendary ones like the InterContinental Carlton or the Majestic. Set camp in one of the lobbies and stalk ALL the celebs.
The Palais de Festival is further down the promenade. It’s nothing special, to be honest. There’s the iconic red carpet, but it’s all so unassuming. Rather it’s the camera flashes and lighting during the festival that makes the impression. The demi-god actors and actresses of modern pop-culture are the core of the sacrum of this place. Without them it’s just an ugly building. When you get to a certain age though, you don’t know whom half of those celebrities are anyway. There’s a casino right next to the Palais, worth a visit even during the off-season. It’s slightly more accessible to the general public than you might think. You can bet as low as €0.01.
That’s pretty much it for the mainstream tourism in Cannes. You can do some more shopping, eating and clubbing along the Rue d’ Antibes. That’s the city’s second artery, for those who would prefer to avoid the crowds. Explore the narrow alleys and you might find some of the most charming hidden cafes. You might stumble upon the Church of our Lady of Good Voyage. It provides a little peace and rest from the chaos and heat outside. Befriend the local merchants at one of Cannes’ many markets. That’s where you can buy the freshest produce and seafood. Cannes used to be a fishing village and some people still practice that trade. Don’t be surprised if you hear them shouting “putain de touristes" when you pass by. Locals are fed up with tourists sometimes and are not very well known for their friendliness towards foreigners. Personally, during my last visit of Cannes, I had already the “pleasure” to be almost physically attacked by a snack bar owner, just because I made critical remark on the slow service.
Le Suquet is the “old Cannes”, where the fishermen built their houses. Despite all the bling bling and multi-million dollar yachts the Vieux Port (the old port) kept its charm. Le Suquet is the oldest part of the city; some parts are over 400 years old. Rue St Antoine is the only street here and leads to the top of a hill. Once there you’ll witness the most beautiful view of Cannes and the bay. Eglise Notre Dame d' Esperance is a church you can visit when climbing Le Suquet. It’s a humble temple in contrast with the extravagance of modern Cannes. Musée de la Castre stands on top of the hill. It’s an old castle/ watchtower renovated and turned into a museum. The exhibitions include mostly primitive art and musical instruments. The gardens outside are absolutely delightful as well. Climb the tower for a 360-degree view of the area. You can see as far as the Île Sainte-Marguerite, half a mile off the coast of Cannes. That’s the island where the Man in the Iron Mask was held. You can visit the historic prison called Fort Royale, which now houses a museum and a youth hostel.