The South of France has been on my bucket list for some time. Images of pristine water, luxury yachts, the warm sun on my back, and indulging in fresh cheeses and wine filled my mind as I began to book my trip to Cannes, Monaco, and Nice. Cannes was our first stop on the itinerary and we planned on staying there for 3 days. The city of Cannes is beautiful, but I believe that you can truly tell the beauty and vibrancy of a city based on how it is during the offseason.
My trip to the South of France happened at the end of October – during the rainy winter season. In the days leading up to the trip, I would constantly check the weather forecast and browse the geo-tagged Instagram stories of each city to keep tabs on the weather. It would appear that we would be okay. I noticed that there seemed to be enough sun, and I hoped that good luck would continue to run its course during my vacation. Unfortunately, life does not always go according to plan. On arrival, the weather was pleasant. The sun was out and I could not see a rain cloud in sight. However, by the time we arrived at our Air B&B, Mother Nature had other plans in store for us. Despite the onslaught of rain, I was determined to enjoy my time in the famed resort town.
At the end of the 3 days, I came to the conclusion that without the sunshine or the fervor of the film festival – Cannes is a very quiet and unassuming sea-side town. Planning a trip for the off-season is budget friendly, but there are limitations. My Cannes Travel Guide aims to give you all the best bits of information to enjoy your time in Cannes, come rain or shine. More specifically this Cannes Travel Guide offers honest insight into visiting a town that is better suited for high-season travel as opposed to off-season travel. Despite this little hiccup, my time in this (rainy) city was still enjoyable.
The French Riveria, including Monaco, is infamous for expensive luxury boutique hotels. If that’s your cup of tea – here is an excellent article highlighting the best hotel accommodations for a range of comfortable budgets. However, as a student, opting to stay in an Air B&B is the budget-friendly option for me.
I highly recommend commencing your search for Air B&B’s well in advance (2-3 months in advance if you can). There are many options for homes but they book quickly. On average accommodation’s in an Air B&B range from £40-60 a night. Hotels are considerably pricier, at about £70-100 a night (and this takes into consideration the offseason). Cannes itself is quite small. However, if you prefer to be at the center of the action I recommend finding accommodation’s located in La Croisette or Le Vieux Port. I stayed along Rue Carnot which is close to the Old Town and the Port. Culture Trip has an excellent article on the best neighborhoods to stay in Cannes.
I am quite lucky to travel to destinations during the high season or to areas that are incredibly vibrant during whatever season. It came as a great surprise to realize that during the offseason Cannes is incredibly quiet and subdued. I am in no way meaning to tarnish the reputation of Cannes. The city is beautiful. But I was under the impression that the city would be lively and animated all year round. Imagine my surprise when I realized that, without the warm seaside weather and the hubbub of the Cannes International Film Festival, Cannes is a sleepy slow-paced fishing town.
First and foremost, it should be noted that during the off-season many popular restaurants and stores are either permanently closed or have reduced working hours. Furthermore, almost everything is closed on Sunday. We learned this the hard way when we landed and realized everything was closed (which left us eating frozen pizza, bread and Nutella). Despite the reduced working hours – there are still plenty of things to see in Cannes. All you need is a sense of adventure and a willingness to walk to these places! I have included the list of places I visited whilst there. For a more extensive list check this link out.
La Croisette is one of the most iconic promenades in France (and Cannes). Running Parallel to the sea, La Croisette is home to different luxury and designer boutiques, cafes & bistros as well as (funny enough) an outdoor gym. Below you have access to the beach, with some parts open to the public, while the other part are private hotel beaches. You do have the option to pay for a sunchair if you’d like. I was unable to enjoy the beach because of the weather. Despite being Canadian – even I have a limit when it comes to cold water. Also, the sea was quite rough!
Both these little streets are home to different businesses. Here you can shop for perfumes (from Grasse), soaps (that come from Marseille), lavender and other spices (like herbes de provence). The farmer’s market is home to fresh produce, different antique vendors as well as an old man that sells very old (French) books for as little as EUR2.00! The Florville market isn’t open every day – so be sure to check online before you go.
This is just a monument, located in the center of the old town/old port, that commemorates the lives lost during World War I. It is located right next to a big cabana that is home to musical performances and other performances during the high season. During the offseason, it’s just a fun place to take a bunch of photos!
Another iconic landmark of Cannes. This is where you get to see all the fancy (and expensive) yachts of the rich and famous. Sadly, no matter how long I stood there, I did not receive any offers of being the wife of some tall, dark, handsome and rich stranger. Maybe you might have better luck!
The old town is beautiful. Home to late 19th-century to early 20th-century architecture, Old Town Cannes is my favourite! There are even some parts (like in Suquet) that date back to the Roman times. Regardless of the rainy weather, I fell in love with the romantic charm of this part of town. The colourful buildings, the beautiful facade work – I could imagine myself living there. I also adored the ivy and other flora and vines that would run up the side of the homes.
There is a nice little walk through a small garden/public park in the center of Cannes (near the old town Suquet), that takes you to the musee de la Castre. This is an actual museum so you can go inside and check out the exhibitions, but even a nice walk around the area is sufficient enough. Due to its location (on a hill) you do get a nice view of the city below.
Ladies (and gentleman), this the road you walk along when you have some coins to spend. If you’re smart like me, you’ll walk along here after hours in an effort to avoid spending any money and also relieve some of that guilt of not being able to afford anything at all. I will soon have that Gucci bag in my hands – but for now, window shopping will have to suffice. All jokes aside, Rue d’Antibes has a range of high street stores (Zara, Bershka, H&M) to luxury designer brand stores (think YSL, Christian Louboutin, Jimmy Choo, Hermes, Gucci etc).
I think many blogs present to you this idea that France is the culinary capital of the world without adding the caveat that not all places in France will merit Michelin stars. By this, I mean that despite grand dreams of French cuisine, the food in the South of France is a hit and miss. I say this honestly because I wasn’t impressed by the food in Cannes. Perhaps this is in due part to the offseason impact. Some places my friends recommended were closed (either permanently or just on the days we went), while others ceased to exist. I was more inclined to indulge in pastries and coffee but even that left much to be desired. Despite this, there were a few places that I did at least enjoy, which I have listed below. However, our preferred meal was heading down to the local grocery store to grab pizza, bread and Nutella. Don’t judge – as two university students on vacation we had to make do with what we had. Plus, our makeshift meals were better than what Cannes had to offer us 😉
This was the first restaurant we went to in Cannes for dinner. A nice Italian spot with excellent service and delicious food. It is on the pricier side though so expect to pay anywhere from EUR18.00 to EUR23.00 per main dish. I recommend the lasagna. It was filling and flavourful. However, the best part of the dining experience was the service. Our server was the biggest flirt and upon finding out I spoke Spanish and French, continued to stop by every so often to make conversation.
On our second night, after braving the torrential downpour and arriving absolutely soaking wet to this ice cream store we found out it was closed. Stores in Cannes will sometimes close randomly (during the offseason) if it is too rainy without any warning. Or if they feel like it. This is just the laissez-faire attitude of the French. I am a crazy person and hold steadfast onto the belief that one should have access to ice cream come rain or shine. Luckily on our last day, we made one last attempt to get ice cream and this place was open. Apparently, this store is the oldest ice cream store in all of Cannes – though I am not sure how true this is.
THIS IS THE BEST BURGER PLACE IN ALL OF FRANCE. I cannot stress this enough. If you are looking for a gourmet burger (or “French” burger), this is the place to be. For EUR18.00 you get a burger, fries, a drink, housemade ketchup and a small scoop of ice cream. I dream of this burger (and the homemade ketchup). Once upon a time, they had a restaurant in London but it closed in 2018. This just means I have to return to France for this burger.
In Canada, a bagel should cost you no more than $2.00. Apparently, Cannes does not follow that same belief because a bagel at this cafe (with cream cheese and cucumbers) will run you EUR5.00 (that’s $8.00). The cafe was cute and the bagel was tasty but it isn’t worth that much money. On top of that a latte will cost you around EUR3.00-3.50. I found that coffee in the South of France is more of a cafe au lait (hot milk and coffee) as opposed to a latte (steamed milk that doesn’t burn the espresso). I like the concept behind this cafe but did not think the prices match the quality.
This cafe is actually situated adjacent to the Mache Florville. It is a quaint coffee shop that houses an array of different teas and coffees. At one point they even roasted their own beans. They also have coffee beans from India (how cool!) The owner is incredibly laidback and the ambiance of the cafe is one where you can sit down, drink calmly and watch the world go by.
Cannes is small enough that you can walk around to most places. However, Cannes does not have an airport. That means that you land in Nice and from there you must either take a taxi, rent a car or take a train to Cannes. When I initially began to plan this trip – there was no clear information regarding trains. I am here to make things easier for you.
Taking the train is the easiest thing to do when in the South of France. The train line connects all the cities along the coast, including Nice, Monaco and Cannes. In fact, you can even take the train all the way to Italy! The train from Nice to Cannes is around 40 minutes. You can buy your tickets online (they cost around £5.00) but I actually recommend purchasing your tickets at the station itself. They have options for different age groups including 16-26 year olds. It is much easier to buy a ticket at the station rather than purchasing it online. It is also cheaper. During the high season, you may want to book tickets in advance. As an aside you can also take Ubers everywhere in the South of France, except for Monaco.
Cannes is an odd place. It seems like a larger than life city due to the glamour of the film festival. In reality, it is a small town that did not ask to be famous but is dealing with it however it can. Nevertheless, during the offseason you get a more authentic experience of what Cannes is like without all the glitz and glamour.