You might never have thought of spending 24 hours in Cannes before. And I would totally understand why! Cannes is known as a playground for the rich with its harbour full of yachts, ultra-expensive hotels and private beaches. But Cannes isn’t even that popular amongst the wealthy, not anymore. I visited Cannes purely to attend the Cannes Film Festival which happens every May, so it isn’t even somewhere I visited intentionally.
However, what I found was a very bustling, elegant little city with all the charm of the 1930s, with none of the aging.
A lot of holiday-goers only tend to visit Cannes for a couple of days. They may be visiting Cannes as part of an extended trip in the south of France, or maybe part of a cruise. There are no landmarks or ‘bucket list’ locations, which makes it a fantastic place for a relaxing stroll around and see what you like.
So, 24 hours in Cannes seems like the norm to most. Here is my guide to 24 hours in Cannes, and what I would do should I ever go again! And I really, REALLY want to!
24 Hours in Cannes
If flying into France, you’ll probably choose to travel to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport. Cannes has its own private airport but unless you’re Will Smith, you’ll be heading into nearby Nice. We flew with Jet2 airlines from Manchester Airport and had absolutely no problems. In fact, the plane wasn’t even full on the way back which is unheard of on budget airlines. Check out Jet2 flights here.
Unfortunately, Nice is still a short train ride away from Cannes. When you get out of the airport, head towards Nice Saint-Augustin train station which is roughly a 10-15 minute walk away. The signs towards the train station out of the airport are actually very decent. We personally followed Google Maps until the signs were more than adequate.
Once you arrive at Nice Saint-Augustin train station, you’ll realise just how tiny and easy to navigate it is. The ticket machines can be translated into English, and are really easy to follow. However, you can only pay via card or coin, so make sure you have a debit/credit card you can use abroad. Trains are roughly every 20 minutes to Cannes-la-Bocca/Gare de Cannes. I have seen both of the station names being used. Tickets are around €7.50 for one way and all trains towards Cannes leave from Platform 2, which you reach to via the under-track path. On our train, Cannes was the 9th stop on the line.
Since me and my boyfriend were staying in Cannes during the film festival, hostels and hotels were completely out of the question. There are barely any hostels in Cannes and none were available during our stay. Though you may be lucky, so I always use HostelWorld to search for Hostels. They have the most extensive listings and always lots of reviews.
Any hotel worth staying in was also fully booked or light years from my price range. If you’re gonna stay in a hotel in Cannes, go big or go home. The top Hotels in Cannes are the Hotel Carlton (this is the one I’d choose, a film location in To Catch a Thief (1955)), Hotel Barrière Le Majestic (the most central) and the Grand Hyatt Hotel Martinez (where Julianne Moore and Elle Fanning stayed during the Cannes Film Festival in 2017). If you want to peruse other hotel options, I always use booking.com.
We choose to go with an AirBnB property and we weren’t disappointed. You can check out the apartment we stayed in here. It was by far the most budget option available to us. As well as the low cost, the amenities were great and the little balcony made all the difference.
Cannes is a tiny city with no metro system, so you will probably find yourself walking everywhere. Even with our AirBnB a 30 minute walk out of the centre, we preferred walking. Cannes is usually a warm, sunny city so there’s not much need for using public transport.
However, the buses are easily the best method of public transport around the city. I’m usually sceptical of buses in new places and avoid them like the plague, but they were actually really easy to navigate. You might want to think about getting buses to speed things up if you’ve only got 24 hours in Cannes. I checked out my route on Google Maps before leaving my AirBnB and looked up the spot I wanted to reach and the time the bus left the nearest stop. Every single journey is €1.50, no matter where you’re going. And all I had to do was hand over the money and the driver gave me a ticket to validate, I didn’t even need to speak if I didn’t want to. It was SO easy!
I didn’t see any taxis waiting around in popular areas, like hotels, as I would expect in Manchester. Only at Gare de Cannes train station. But, that might have been because the roads were so busy due to the film festival. I recommend looking up taxi numbers online prior to your trip, or if you’re staying in a hotel/hostel I would just ask the front desk for help. My sources tell me Uber isn’t available in Cannes, only in Nice.
Things to see
When researching any trip, I always consult Lonely Planet’s top choices and sometimes TripAdvisor. Both recommend couture shopping and lapping up the luxury whilst in Cannes. I’ll admit, if that’s your bag, you couldn’t pick anywhere better! But something tells me if you’re reading my blog, you’re not doing so from the comfort of your mansion surrounded by Chanel and Ferraris. You might be a bit like me. Likes to relax and explore in equal parts, both of which are possible with 24 hours in Cannes.
I also have a little bit of FOMO (fear of missing out), so I want to make sure I hit all the best bits so I don’t get home and find out I’ve missed a biggie.
Start in the neighbourhood Le Suquet. It’s the old quarter in Cannes. Here, you could walk up to the Musee de la Castre or the Eglise Notre-Dame d’Esperance which are essentially a very old castle and church on top of a small hill and offers views over the rest of Cannes. We didn’t have time to walk up but they looked so picturesque.
Note: They both aren’t open on Mondays and have limited opening times, so check online before your visit.
Right next to Le Suquet is Le Vieux Port. It’s the main harbour in Cannes. There’s nothing much to do there, but it’s fun walking along the harbour and checking out all the stunning yachts that you’ll never be able to afford, right?
While you’re in the neighbourhood, you might want to visit Marche Forville just behind Cannes City Hall. It’s primarily a produce market, but I’m told that you can buy something called Socca, which is a local kind of pancake made out of chickpeas. It’s only open everyday from 7:30-1pm and closed Mondays. You’ll really have a job seeing much if your 24 hours in Cannes is a Monday!
Late Morning/Early afternoon
From Le Vieux Port, you’re in the perfect place to catch a ferry to Ilse Ste-Marguerite island just off the coast of Cannes. It may seem a bit faffy to head over to an island when you’ve only got 24 hours in Cannes, but I think that would be a total mistake! Ferrys leave the harbour frequently and only take about 15 minutes. And the website is super helpful/accurate about departure times.
While on the island, you can visit Fort Royal (former home to the Man in the Iron Mask) and walk through the delightfully smelling pine and Eucalyptus trees. You really feel like you’ve gone back in time hundreds of years on this island. And it’s not uninhabited, there are a couple of restaurants and food carts over there to keep you going. You only need about 2 hours on the island before taking the ferry back to Cannes. Return ferry tickets cost €14.50, but we both have students cards so got €1 off.
After you’ve docked, it’s time to see the actual city of Cannes! If you walk back along the beach front towards the city, you will pass Hotel de Ville, which is Cannes Town Hall.
Walking further east of the city, you’ll eventually reach the Palais de Festival. This is a huge building/complex housing many grand cinemas which are used during the Cannes film festival. I’m not sure what happens to it during the rest of the year, but I reckon it’s worth a look! The theatres are so grand and cosy at the same time.
Outside the Palais de Festival is the Allee des Etoiles du Cinema. It’s Cannes’ version of the Hollywood Walk of Fame. The pathway, starting with Meryl Streep outside the Cannes Tourist Office, is a collection of 46 celebrity handprints leading around the Palais de Festival.
Finally, you’ll reach La Croisette which is the promenade/beach front. This is probably the most well-known part of Cannes aside from Palais de Festival. It’s essentially just a long, straight walk next to the beach but it is beautiful. All the main Art Deco style hotels are along this strip and you do get lovely views out to sea. Sunset would be the best time to do this to really appreciate the magic of Cannes.
Places to eat
We ate at pretty generic, touristy restaurants right on the sea front, mainly pasta and pizza (but very good pasta and pizza). We ate at Caffe Roma, New York-New York and one in Le Suquet called La Pizza Cresci. They were all pretty nice places with space to eat outside, and great food. However, if you want to check out other bars and restaurants for your 24 hours in Cannes, I recommend reading these articles:
- The 10 Best Restaurants in Cannes You Can Afford by The Culture Trip
- The Best Secret Bars in Cannes by The Culture Trip
- Collection of Cannes articles by The Culture Trip
Honestly, if you just want to relax on a beach more than sight-see, I’ll forgive you missing out the ferry to Isle Ste-Marguerite. The beaches on the island aren’t as good as the ones on the mainland, so I suggest finding a beach there. This article from The Culture trip about the most beautiful beaches in Cannes looks good. (I swear, I don’t work for The Culture Trip! I just genuinely found their articles on Cannes extensive and helpful!)
If you’re a museum fan, then the best I found was the La Malmaison (aside from the Musee de la Castre). It’s a seaside pavilion home to the Grand Hotel and also holds modern art exhibitions. But really, if you love museums, why are you going to Cannes?!
Personally, if I had more time than 24 hours in Cannes, I would hike up La Croix Des Gardes on the second day. It’s a hill to the east of the city and is supposed to offer stunning views.
And that’s it! Those are my recommendations for spending 24 hours in Cannes. Do you think I’ve missed anything out? Let me know in the comments below!
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