World famous for its film festival, Cannes is an atmospheric, small city on the Mediterranean. While most of the focus is on the glamorous hotels, sandy beach, and air of luxury permeating throughout, there’s a hidden, charming side to Cannes as well, equally beautiful and worthy of attention. Walking along the Promenade de la Croisette is a high point in itself, taking in the lounging and sporting tourists and locals as well as the (in off season) quietly buzzing beachside cafés and restaurants.
Blue skies over the city and harbor of Cannes, one of France’s most popular resort cities on the Mediterranean
One of Cannes’ best outdoor experiences is to take the ferry to Îles de Lérins. The two islands – Île Sainte-Marguerite and Île Saint-Honorat – are only 15-20 minutes from Cannes harbor, and ferries leave nearly every half hour. Because there are limited connections between the islands, I chose to visit Île Sainte-Marguerite, not able to resist a glimpse of the former home of the Man in the Iron Mask.
Day trippers come by ferry to picnic and play on Île Sainte-Marguerite while yachts moor offshore
The island is a true treasure: while definitely on the tourist path, it still has a feeling of wild space, with tall pine trees and fragrant eucalyptus flanking the walking paths and craggy rocks jutting into clear cerulean water. I did a walking circumnavigation of the island which took me three hours at a leisurely pace, stopping periodically to sunbathe, snap pictures, eat my packed picnic lunch, and watch the yacht parties moored offshore.
Rocky and wooded, Île Sainte-Marguerite still affords privacy on its walking paths, and gives off a wild feel despite its popularity
Once back on the mainland, I headed to Le Suquet, the old town area of Cannes. Perched on a hilltop with steep staircases and windy streets, this is one of Cannes’ most charming areas, with some of the best Provençal restaurants in the area and the best views over the beaches, harbor and city.
Sunset over Le Suquet, where you can find panoramic views from the clock tower of Notre-Dame de l’Espérance
On the whole, I preferred my time in Nice for its myriad diversions and more diverse architecture and array of sights, but Cannes is an extremely relaxing, sophisticated city, with plenty to discover outside its glamorous reputation, restaurants and hotels.