Lights, Camera, Cannes: Soaking Up the French Riviera

June 07, 2024 Travel

Truth be told, Cannes was never on my bucket list. Despite working with an international film festival for over ten years and hearing countless stories about Cannes, I never felt drawn to it. However, when I found out I’d be attending the 77th Cannes International Film Festival, I realized how much I actually wanted to experience it.

Pronounced "can," as in "can of soup" (the “s” is silent), Cannes is a city located on the shimmering French Riviera (or Côte d'Azur) on the Mediterranean coast of southeastern France, between Nice and Monte Carlo. Every May, this resort city transforms into the epicenter of the film world.

The Cannes Film Festival is the largest and arguably most significant film festival in the world. It is an industry-only event, so getting accreditation to the festival was a milestone achievement for me.

For eight days, from May 14–21, I became part of this much-talked-about film event and got to explore the beautiful Cannes.

The Palais des Festivals

Visiting the Palais des Festivals is an essential Cannes experience. Located on Boulevard de la Croisette, this sprawling complex by the sea hosts various cinemas, including the grand Grand Théâtre Lumière, where the iconic red carpet events take place.

My festival badge allowed me to watch films, including one at the Grand Théâtre Lumière. I had to pinch myself to remind myself it was real—I was walking on the red carpet. It was the highlight of my Cannes experience.

Around the Palais are tents where countries participate in the largest film market in the world. Nearby, more than 140 handprints of the greatest film stars are molded in the ground, including Pedro Almodovar, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Quentin Tarantino.

The Medieval City of Le Suquet

For our first two nights, we stayed on Rue Meynadier, in the heart of the historic district, just a stone's throw from the bustling glitz and glamor of the center. We stayed in a charming Airbnb, an adorable and Instagram-worthy apartment on the 5th floor of a building right on Rue Meynadier. The 6th floor has an open-air coffee nook with breathtaking views of Cannes. It was a delightful spot, albeit the lack of elevator access was a tad inconvenient.

Rue Meynadier is a picturesque, narrow, cobblestone street adorned with shops and cafes. It is nestled in the historical Le Suquet area, which serves as a link between modern Cannes and its fascinating past as a fishing village. 

On our first night in Cannes, we had dinner at one of the charming restaurants on the nearby Rue du Suquet called Suquet Premiere. Rue du Suquet is the original thoroughfare leading into the center Cannes, set against the hillside and dotted with local culinary gems.

From the top of Le Suquet, you can get the best views of Cannes and all of the Old Town, which I accessed when I rode Cannes’ Le Petit Train. 

At the top of Cannes is also the 15th-century church Notre-Dame d'Espérance (also known as Our Lady of Hope). This hilltop Gothic-style stone church is known for its Renaissance porch, its square Romanesque bell tower separated by an archway, and the 19th-century organ.

City Center of Cannes

What I adore about Cannes is its walkability. From our Airbnb on Rue Meynadier to Rue Jean Jaures, the more modern part of town where we later moved, everything is within walking distance. The center of Cannes has everything: shops, cafés, restaurants, and festive bars.

The Allées de la Liberté is where I always find myself in between screenings, to sit down, people-watch, and recharge. 

Somehow, I also always end up on either Rue Hoche or Rue d'Antibes, the two bustling dining and shopping streets. Both are lined with chic shops and quaint cafés and restaurants, all set against the backdrop of 19th-century façades.

My place of solace is the Church of Our Lady of Good Voyage (Notre-Dame de Bon Voyage). Situated on Mérimée Square, the church is known for its cultural and historical heritage. The interior of the church is adorned with ornate statues and stained glass windows, each narrating different facets of Cannes’ rich history. This was also the first stop for Emperor Napoleon upon his return from the island of Elba. 

Of course, there is the beautiful old port, used for both huge super-yachts and smaller sailing boats.

Promenade de la Croisette

La Croisette is the hotspot where fans gather at historic hotels like the Carlton and the Martinez, the preferred stays for most celebrities. It's also the place where interviews happen and autograph-seeking fans gather. I wanted to try my luck several times, but our packed Cannes itinerary kept me busy. It was still fun peeking through the crowds, hoping to spot a celebrity.

This stunning palm tree-lined waterfront avenue is famous for its scenic beaches, restaurants, cafés, and boutiques. We even hosted one of our events at Rado Beach Helen, a fantastic waterfront restaurant. 

Rado Beach Helen

Besides the posh eateries, there are kiosks along the boulevard offering affordable sandwiches and coffee.

The festival also hosts the Cinéma de la Plage on Macé Beach, along La Croisette, which is free and open to everyone. I got to watch a film there, and it was a cool (literally) venue. 

Beyond my usual walk from our Airbnb to the festival venues, I explored more of La Croisette on the cute Le Petit Train tour.

Cannes Magic

From the dazzling Palais des Festivals, to the charming streets of Le Suquet, the vibrant Cannes City Center, and the sparkling La Croisette, each Cannes moment was unforgettable. I am deeply grateful for the opportunity to experience Cannes in all its glory, and I can't help but dream of returning for more.

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