Cannes: culture, history, and the best things to do

cannes view of the harbour

In this blog I’m going to share with you my experience in Cannes. I’ve spent there a week with my parents. We went there mainly to relax and spend some time together – I’ve moved abroad but I’ve kept the habit of going on holiday with them every summer.

The festival of cinema

Cannes of course is famous for the festival of cinema. The golden palm is a true symbol of the city and you find it everywhere. Painted on the floor in front of the festival building, sculpted in the garden of the Carlton hotel and printed in various souvenirs.

Cannes golden palm
Symbol of the golden palm
Cannes city palms
And there are also many real palms in Cannes!

The symbol of the golden palm comes from the city’s history. According to official website of the Cannes festival, the city’s motto is

Praemium palma victori

which means: The prize of victory is the palm. This may sound weird, but it comes from an ancient legend of Saint Honorat, You can read the story here.

Chamin de l'etoile Cannes
Le Chamin de l’etoile, the French version of the Walk of Fame in LA
cannes cinema
If you are with children, they will surely have fun with these! There are many from famous films all over the city

Trompes d’œil

Trompes d’œil (optical illusions) are common in most French cities. In Cannes, surprise surprise, they are almost entirely about cinema. I’m going to show you here the ones that I have photographed, but I can assure you that there are many more.

I don’t want to disclose where they are, as I think it’s quite fun to wander around and make a discovery by yourself. But if you really want to know, I’ve actually written where they are in an Instagram post.


If you love luxury travel, then Cannes is definitely the place for you. We are talking about serious luxury here. There are so many 5star and 4star hotels to choose from, if you have a lot of money to spend.

Sophisticated places require sophisticated pictures, right? (photo credit: mom)


A famous one in particular is the Carlton Hotel. I would encourage you to stop and look at the facade. You will see a clock. Nothing weird so far, but look closer. You will see that there is a huge Rolex clock. Quite a statement, isn’t it?

Cannes hotel Carlton rolex watch

But you don’t have to be super rich to have a nice time in Cannes. I stayed in a hotel/apartment calles Citadines Apart’hotel. It’s an interesting business model: basically you have a reception like in a hotel and you can have breakfast. The rooms, however, are small apartments with a kitchen, so you can also save some money by avoiding eating out all the time.

Also, if you want to spend time at beach, you have various options.

  1. Private beach clubs. Here you will pay on average 25€ for an umbrella and chaise longue. I went there with my parents and I can say it was not bad at all for you got
  2. Council beach club. This comes around a half cheaper and is a more basic service
  3. Free beach.
Cannes beach summer
Relaxing at the beach

The old town

The old town is my favorite part of Cannes. As most medieval towns, is placed on top of a hill to be easier to defend. During the day it was a bit empty, no doubt because the heat doesn’t make the climb very attractive.

cannes old town café
My dad and I taking a break from the sun in a nice café in the old town (photo credit: mom)

During the night, though, it changes completely. Full of crowded restaurants and shops, it’s great for a stroll after dinner. And when you reach the top, you will get a beautiful view over the city, the harbour, and the coast.

cannes view of the harbour

If you are really lazy you can also take a shuttle bus to reach the top.

Shops, food, and art in Cannes

There are 2 great streets for shopping:

  1. Rue d’Antibe. This is for clothes, accessories, and more and you will find mainly big international brands.
  2. Rue Meynadier. This is a pedestrian street full of local shops. You will find a lot of local products, which means a lot of food. I’m not a huge fan of French food (sorry my French readers, but I definitely prefer Italian). However, there are things the French are very good at making, above all sweets and cheese. I strongly advise you to try some of these!

At night, you may also find local markets selling art and other goods. I find this a great way to spend the evening and also a good way to buy presents and souvenirs rather than the touristy shops.

Speaking French in Cannes: the challenge

window with french flag

If the only language you speak is English, well, I don’t have good news for you. The French are a proud people and they don’t particularly like to speak English. In my experience at least, they will reply to you in French.

I speak some French and I got away with a mix of French, Italian, and gestures. Italy is very close to Cannes and there are so many Italians there that most every local would speak or at least understand.


I hope you enjoyed this blog! I had a very good time and I would recommend a visit for those who are looking for a relaxing holiday.


family trip cannes
Goodbye from Cannes!

9 Replies to “Cannes: culture, history, and the best things to do”

  1. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I knew very little about Cannes before reading your post. I, along with almost everyone else, associate the city with the film festival, but didn’t give it much thought past that. I would just love to explore the old town and scour the streets for all of that amazing street art!

  2. Followingtherivera says: Reply

    I think Cannes is such a good destination for holidaying with your parents! You’re so right about it being major luxury there, I love seeing the grand Rolex watch. Such a shame you don’t like French food, I always remember it as being tres bien! Great tips on the cinemas too, you can’t get enough.

  3. It’s really nice to see that you hang out with your parents every Summer even though you’re abroad now >< I also do the same with my parents: I always try to get back for Xmas. The Carlton Hotel clearly has it going on with that Rolex clock! Thanks for showing me around Cannes.

  4. My knowledge about Cannes has been only limited to the annual Cannes film festival. But your post shows there is much more to Cannes beyond films. I really love how the illusions are created through out the city and really appreciate the fact that there are certain budget options as well for stay.

  5. I’ve always wanted to see the Carlton Hotel in Cannes! What a beautiful trip! I love all the highlights you mentioned and will definitely consider it for my trip there some day.

  6. I have always seen and heard about Cannes and all because of the film festival. Given an opportunity I would love to spend time in the older part of the city. It’s undoubtedly one of beautiful cities. The beach looks beautiful.

  7. Canned looks like such a beautiful place! Your pictures are gorgeous, too. I guess they have luxury accommodations for all the stars who come to the festival. I guess if I want to visit, I better learn French!

  8. Love Cannes! Glad you enjoyed it and got to experience it with your parents! I mean hey, if you went shopping with them in Cannes than that is all that matters right (JKing) but it is a plus. Not knowing how to speak the language is hard but it is such an experience!

  9. I’ve always just associated Cannes with the film festival and never really knew what else it had to offer. After reading this, I want to go. Now! What a beautiful place! The pedestrian street sounds right up my alley, so to speak. You had me at sweets and cheese! Agree with the language barrier issue for English speakers – we got lost in Normandy a couple of years back and had soooo much trouble communicating looking for directions.

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