When you think of the French Riviera, you think of glamour. And Cannes does not disappoint. However, because of this glitzy reputation many travelers are scared off due to fear of needing a Kardashian-sized bank account to enjoy themselves on this strip of sunny paradise. While it is not difficult to find ways to spend your nest egg on the Riviera, if you plan ahead, you can enjoy all that Cannes has to offer at any budget.
View of the “old harbor” in Cannes
When to Go
The first factor that can make a big difference as to how much you will have to spend is what time of year you decide to go. The “high season” stretches from mid June to early September. Hotel prices are easily double what they are during other months of the year. Therefore, the smart traveler will choose to go in either late spring or early fall in order to still catch that famous Riviera sun as well as enjoy much more reasonable hotel and flight prices. In fact, all the photos included here were taken this past May, and as you can see the weather was nothing to complain about. Also, I highly recommend tacking a few days in the riviera on to any Paris trip! Oh and Monaco is only an hour from Cannes, so maybe you’ll need an extra week 😉
What to Do
While there is a lot to do in Cannes, the one thing that all visitors must do is relax at one of the many beaches and enjoy that cerulean blue Mediterranean water. The water is consistently a mild temperature, so beach goers can enjoy a dip through early October comfortably. One thing to note is that there are several public beaches that are free to the public, however can get very crowded on hot days, and there are many private beaches owned by the hotels where you have to pay for a chair, the prices range from around 30 to 60 euros per day (many offer half day deals as well, be sure to ask).
There is a reason that lying out on the beach is the town’s pastime.
There are a few historical sites to see in the town, the one that I always recommend is the “Musee de le Castre”, which is a little maritime museum with ancient findings from the Cannes harbor, including ancient Greek and Roman pottery and art. But the kicker is that this is where you will find the best view in Cannes; bring your camera because after a short climb up an old watch tower, you will have a 360 view of the harbor, mountains and town.
Vista from atop the Musee de la Castre
Where to Eat
Once you’ve gotten a gorgeous Riviera tan, I recommend trying some of the excellent restaurants that are right off the beach. One in particular “Caveau 30” offers excellent seasonal choices and in my mind best exemplifies the Riviera life of food, fun and friends. Budget traveler tip: ask about their lunch prix fixe, 2 courses for around 17 euros. Also, they have some very reasonable bottles of good local wine.
The steamed mussels in a white wine sauce are a must a Caveau 30
Where to Stay
Cannes is a small city and so there are many different lodging options available. However, every time I have visited Cannes, I have opted for finding a hotel right in the downtown, as close to the beach as I could find within my budget. Some great options are:
- Hôtel Barrière Le Gray d’Albion: A 4 star hotel located just 1 block from the beach, very comfortable beds, modern bathrooms, complimentary wifi. Rates from $150/night off season, from $400/night high season.
- The Carlton (Intercontinental): A luxury 5 star hotel, famous for housing stars during the film festival. Excellent service, excellent maid service, luxe rooms. Really no stone is left unturned at the Carlton. However, can get very pricey in high season. Recommend staying here during early spring or later fall, as prices can stay high longer due to its status. You will probably be able to get a good room for under $200/night in the early spring, but expect to pay at least $400 a night in the summer
One final tip, try to make time to take the ferry out to the harbor island, Isle St. Marguerite. The idyllic island is home to the prison of the famous “Man in the Iron Mask”.