Cannes has flourished from its origins as a small fishing port, and now stamps a firm mark as one of the major tourist destinations in this region.
Every year, the red carpet is rolled out again for the annual Festival de Cannes (Cannes Film Festival) being held this year between 13 May – 24 May 2015.
The Cannes Film Festival is iconic and epitomises the glamour of Cannes – celebrities dressed in haute couture dripping with jewellery from the leading jewellery houses, photographers clicking away incessantly on the red carpet outside the Palais des Festivals, and tourists jostling on the Croisette for a glimpse of a celebrity.
Whether you’re a first time visitor or a regular stalwart, Access Riviera has curated this ‘Advanced Guide to Cannes Film Festival’ with local tips and advice to help you get the most out of your visit.
Note: This guide features supplementary ‘Access Notes’ after most sections specifically giving information for persons with reduced mobility to enable them to enjoy a Festival experience. I hope you find this information useful and share it on social media.
What’s included in the 2015 Programme?
French drama La Tête Haute (Standing Tall) opens the festival with the director Emmanuelle Bercot becoming the first woman to launch the event in over 25 years.
Controversial films include ‘Amy’ about the life story of singer Amy Winehouse, and ‘Carol’ a lesbian drama starring the beautiful Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. It seems Woody Allen and Emma Stone can’t stay away from the French Riviera – they filmed ‘Magic in the Moonlight’ here in 2014 and are at Cannes Film Festival this year for out-of-competition mystery drama ‘Irrational Man’.
Un Certain Regard, a section of the official competition features global films from countries including Japan, Italy and the Philippines.
The Palme d’Or is the highest prize awarded at the Cannes Film Festival. . The palm design is a tribute to the coat of arms of the City of Cannes.
The trophy has been crafted annually in the Chopard workshops since 1998 and is now created with ‘fairmined’ certified gold. In tribute to the 60th anniversary of the trophy, Chopard has designed two jewellery lines inspired by the palm leaf with one collection being showcased at a special release lunch on 17 May at the Chopard Rooftop at the Hotel Martinez. There will also be the gala evening at Port Canto on 18 May with a concert by Robbie Williams.
Why visit the Cannes Film Festival?
For first-timers to the Cannes Film Festival it may seem like a crazy place with road blockages, numerous security personnel and photographers and camera crews occupying every spare inch of pavement on the Croisette.
However, it’s a fantastic place for people-watching and you really do see all walks of life during the Festival. Spectators bring their own seats and ladders to the Croisette in the hope of seeing a movie star on the red carpet – frequently, their view is of the back of someone else’s head, but we can all dream of a slice of cinema magic.
Film and fashion combine to bring the big names and undiscovered stars to the streets of Cannes, if you get the chance to visit during Film Festival I highly recommend it.
Useful downloads for visitors to Cannes Film Festival
If you’re attending the Festival, click onto this pdf link for the layout of the Palais
Access notes: For persons requiring disabled access, download this accessmap for entry points to the Palais
Download the free bilingual (English and French) mobile application ‘Festival de Cannes’ in partnership with Orange that is available on the App Store and Google Play for Festival news, hour-by-hour coverage, videos from the red carpet and more. The app link is here http://www.festival-cannes.fr/en/apps.html
If you need a general map of Cannes for orientation (a tourist map), click on this link Cannesmap
Can you get tickets to the films?
The official Film Festival and the Main Marketplace are closed to the general public, so unfortunately you’re out of luck if you were hoping to buy a ticket and sit beside someone famous.
The Director’s Fortnight and International Critics Week have a small allocation of public tickets, and residents of Cannes can win a ticket to a free screening; they apply to the Mairie (Town Hall) and they are entered in a lucky dip.
Things to see and do during Cannes Film Festival
If you are not a producer, actor, production crew or have a Press Pass or Festival badge, you can still enjoy Cannes and the atmosphere at the Film Festival for free (or a low budget). Access Riviera has many tips and snippets of advice:
Undeniably, one of the best seafront promenades on the Côte d’Azur, the Croisette throngs during Film Festival.
The Croisette offers an incredible mix of people during Film Festival time – imagine eager tourists, ladies in haute couture cocktail dresses, champagne at terrace restaurants, and private parties on superyachts.
Wander along and check out the huge promotional billboards draping down the façades of the hotels from the film production companies. The top hotels for star spotting are the Carlton Intercontinental, Hotel Martinez and the Majestic Barrière. Security is intense for all the hotels, but you can join the spectators and paparazzi crowding the road frontages for free; enter inside you better have a hefty credit card limit. The beach restaurants are set up with marquees for the private events.
To break up the frenzy for families, there is a small fairground area with carousel (fee applies) and a public playground near to the Palais, and also another small public playground at the other end of the Croisette.
Access notes: The Croisette is paved and flat all the way from the Palais des Festivals to Port Canto, and there are accessible public toilets along the Croisette.
Allée des Étoiles du Cinema
Outside the Office de Tourisme at the base of the Palais des Festivals, you can see handprints from movie stars but it is nowhere near as extensive (or publicised) as the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
If you’re spending a few days on the French Riviera and really into immortalised handprints, Juan les Pins also has a Walk-of-Fame of jazz stars from the annual Jazz à Juan Festival, and Monaco has a Champions Promenade which pays tribute to some of the world’s best footballers.
Access notes: Fully accessible on paved flat surface.
Cinéma de la Plage (Open-air cinema)
Every evening during the Film Festival, there are free public film screenings at the open-air cinema at Plage Macé opposite the Majestic Hotel.
Screenings start from approximately 9.30pm nightly, but due to its popularity Access Riviera recommends you arrive early to have any chance to grab a deckchair.
The Tourist Office advises tourists to prebook an invitation, but it’s not necessary. The 2015 schedule of films is here
Access notes: The open-air cinema is on the beach so direct access is tricky. There is a concrete ramp with small landing at the entrance where you can watch but no designated area for persons with wheelchairs or reduced mobility. The Croisette is raised from the beach though, and the projection screen is huge so you can also watch from the promenade.
Vieux Port (old port)
Stroll for free along the port admiring the expensive superyachts berthed there. Many yachts host private parties in the evening so it’s a good time to wander past for a nosey.
Access notes: Fully accessible on paved flat surface.
While the Croisette, Palais des Festivals and the seafront hotels are frenetic (and expensive) during the Festival, Le Suquet awakens each day almost unaware an international festival is happening mere minutes away.
Le Suquet is Cannes Old Town, interspersed with old houses spilling over with flower boxes, brick-vaulted entrances, small alleyways and numerous restaurants.
To get to the church and Musée de la Castre at the summit (fee applies to enter the museum, excluding the 1st Sunday of the month when entry is free), walk up rue Saint-Antoine, rue du Suquet, and then Traverse de la Tour. The views from the top are some of the best in the area stretching across Cannes, the Lerins Islands and the Esterels.
Access notes: Wheelchair bound or tourists with reduced mobility can still visit the top to enjoy the views, though the streets are steep! Follow rue Saint-Antoine, rue du Suquet, rue du Pré then rue Louis Perrisol. This route follows paved flat roads and avoid the many stairways in Le Suquet. Or jump onboard the Petit Train tourist train that departs from near the Palais des Festivals as it chugs it way up there too.
Cannes cinema murals
Since 2002, Cannes has been developing a series of film-themed murals scattered around the city on walls of buildings.
There are 15 in total, including murals of Charlie Chaplin, Marilyn Monroe, and cars from films.
For the map of where to find each mural and descriptions, download this pdf the Murs peints de Cannes
Access notes: Fully accessible on flat paved surfaces.
A pop-up TV stage is set up on the Croisette, with presenters interviewing stars, directors and other industry notables. If it all gets too much ‘on location’, you can still watch the Film Festival action from your Cannes hotel room. TV Festival de Cannes will be broadcast in French and English throughout the Palais complex and in most hotels along the Croisette on the TV Orange, Canal 30 and Canal 32 channels in the CANAL+ and CANALSAT packages.
On Twitter, you can follow @Festival_Cannes for all the latest Film Festival news.
My recommendation is to arrive via bus or train. There are road blockages during the Festival, notably the Croisette, and police frequently block roads for major stars exits from hotels and restaurants.
The large carparks nearby and under the Palais des Festivals are extremely busy.
Cannes is walkable, and the distance from the train station to the Croisette is only 5 minutes.
Outside of Film Festival season there is a small minibus (called City Palm) that travels a circuit regularly between Hôtel de Ville, the Croisette, rue Latour-Maubourg, eastern end of rue d’Antibes, the train station (Gare SNCF), and rue Félix Faure. However, it doesn’t operate during Film Festival time due to the Croisette closures.
Cannes train station
The Cannes train station (Gare de Cannes SNCF) is still undergoing renovations – it’s much lighter and brighter than it’s predecessor, with ample glass to let in more natural light and more seating but you’ll find construction vehicles and pedestrian detours outside the entrance.
There are ticket counters with attendants, but you can also purchase your train tickets from the blue ticket machines and then validate them in the yellow machine at the platform entrance. TOP TIP: Use coins for the blue ticket machines as often they can’t read non-French issued credit and debit cards.
As at 12 May 2015, there is just one yellow validating machine – located at the entrance to the westbound platform (Voie 2) – so ALL tickets must be validated here whether you are using either platform.
The train station has a Relay newsagent selling newspapers, phone credit, cigarettes, snacks. There are caféterias and vending machines onsite.
Well-maintained and clean public toilets are located just outside the station 50 metres to the left of the station entrance. These toilets are open Monday-Sunday 8am-9pm (excluding bank holidays), these toilets cost 50 centimes and you insert your coin into the automated turnstill and it opens the gate. There are 2 ladies toilets, 2 men’s toilets and a parent’s room with baby changing facilities. There is a change machine there to swap notes for coins but it is often out of order so don’t rely on it.
Access notes: Due to ongoing renovations including new installation of elevators at Cannes train station, persons with reduced mobility can contact ONET Accueil in the main hall of Cannes train station (service available Monday through to Sunday 7.30am-7.30pm) where they can assist passengers with luggage and access on and off trains. All interior facilities of the train station including the public toilets are on flat ground and accessible.
Cannes is on the following bus routes:
- Bus 200 (between Nice and Cannes)
- 210 line (between Nice Airport and Cannes)
- 210 line Noctambus (a night service exclusively for Thursday, Friday, Saturday nights and bank holidays between Nice Airport and Cannes)
All of the above timetables and prices current as at 12 May 2015 are found here https://www.departement06.fr/vous-deplacer-en-bus/lignes-et-horaires-3029.html
The journey on Bus 200 takes around 1.5 hours for the full oneway journey from Nice to Cannes, but it is by far the cheapest option at €1.50 oneway. The train from Nice to Cannes takes about 40 minutes.
The Cannes bus stops are the Gare Routiere (near Hôtel de Ville and the port), and outside the train station (the 200 stop is opposite Hotel Ligure).
Local Cannes buses with Palm Bus (previously known as BusAzur) cover the immediate Cannes area and extend to nearby areas of Le Cannet, Palm Beach and Mandelieu-La Napoule. Their website is in English, French and Italian with maps and timetables – check it out here www.palmbus.fr
Access notes: Buses have kneeling ramp entrances and designated wheelchair areas midway on the bus. On main route number 200 there are on board visual route maps, lighted signage and sound calls advising of the next bus stop to assist hearing and sight-impaired travellers. Wheelchair bound travellers also have an on demand service for regional buses called Access06 whereby you can prebook a designated minibus ; more information is here (in French only) https://www.departement06.fr/accessibilite-des-transports/service-access06-4020.html
If time is the essence, make use of a helicopter transfer with Uber and Helipass between Nice Airport and Cannes. Available from 8am-9pm for the duration of the Film Festival, the trip duration is less than 7 minutes, cost €160 per passenger which includes a private driver from Nice/Cannes to the heliport and then to central destination (maximum of 4 passengers). There are 7 helicopters on call. To book your Ubercopter transfer:
From Nice airport to Cannes downtown or vice versa
- Open the Uber app and request ‘UberCopter’ at the bottom right of the screen.
- Go to the Hélipass desk, following the indications at the airport.
- A private driver will take you from the heliport to your final destination.
- From Cannes downtown to Nice downtown or vice versa
- Open the Uber app and request ‘UberCopter’ at the bottom right of the screen.
- Request your driver. He will get in touch with you to confirm the flight.
- Benefit from a private drive to the heliport.
- Upon your arrival, another private driver will take you from the heliport to your final destination.
For something a bit different and to stand out on the Croisette, book one of the stunning cars from Riviera Classic Car Hire. The rental fleet includes head-turning cars such as a Morgan 4/4, Fiat 124 Spider and a Triumph TR3. www.rivieraclassiccarhire.com
Where to find Wifi hotspots
France is cottoning on that the world likes 24/7 online access. Here are some places in Cannes to find Wifi:
- Hotel de Ville (Town Hall) gardens across from the port. For details on how to log on, click ẀifiCannes
- Mocca (directly opposite the Palais des Festivals)
- La Potinière du Palais (on square Merimee)
- New York New York (Allée de la Liberté Charles de Gaulle)
- Cristal Café (rue Felix Faure)
- Le Melting Pot (rue de la Rampe; the opposite side of the port from the Palais des Festivals)
- Factory Café (Gray d’Albion shopping arcade)
Where to wine and dine
Don’t be discouraged from dining in Cannes for fear of breaking your bank balance during Film Festival. Here are some of Access Riviera’s favourite places for well-priced food and drinks, atmosphere or a true Cannois experience:
Le Jardin Secret, 2 rue Frères
Le Jardin Secret is an eclectic place in Le Suquet with entry through a narrow bar area/art gallery. Open from 7pm (also open for weekend brunches) if you’re looking for high-end fine dining don’t go there – they serve tapas-style dishes in a laidback manner.
Lovely little garden courtyard and Wifi. Look for the entrance on rue Frères through the old door and the sign with the key. Follow them on their Facebook page for current news on opening times as they close for private events.
Access notes: Accessible but can get crowded in the garden.
I’m always promoting Marché Forville – why? Because I think it’s one of the French Riviera’s best markets for ambience, food stores and convenience – the people-watching is great too!
Drop by to buy fruit, vegetables, fresh pastas, tapenades, sun-dried tomatoes, sauces, cheese, cured meats, fish, eggs, honey, olive oils.
You will also find products here that are sold much cheaper than a supermarket such as courgette flowers, morel mushrooms and Fleur de Sel de Camargue, the salt harvested near the town of Aigues-Mortes.
There are specialty shops surrounding the main covered market including a shop selling regional products and duck, a salmon and caviar store, a bakery (boulangerie), a roast chicken store, a Fish and Chips caféteria and a socca vendor. There are also a number of supermarkets there – LeaderMarket, SPAR, and for frozen foods go to Picard (good for people staying in apartments who are self-catering).
Many restaurants, bistros and bars fringe the Marché Forville including an oyster/wine bar. My pick is Café de l’Horloge with it’s French bistro-style with clocks adorning the walls. A café noisette costs €1.60 or stop by for a glass of wine after your shopping.
The market is open every day from 7am-1pm, except on Monday when it is a bric-a-brac flea market.
Any day is great to visit, but my tip is on Sunday as that is when the farmers and growers go to the market to sell their produce.
Top Tip: Take cash in small change (avoid €50 notes) and take your own shopping bags.
Access notes: The entire market is accessible and on flat paved ground. There is an accessible ground-floor toilet at Café de l’Horloge next to the market.
Astou et Cie Brun, 27 rue Felix Faure
If you’re feeling partial for seafood, head here where you can gorge yourself on seafood platters piled with clams, prawns and oysters or fresh sea bream. Reservations recommended as it gets busy.
La Boulangerie par Jean Luc Pelé, 3 rue du Vingt-Quatre Août
Grab your fill of artisan breads, salads (most priced around €6-€7), sandwiches, fruit salad and yoghurt, open Monday-Saturday 7.30am-7.30pm.
Or for sweet tooths, drool over the store windows filled with chocolates and macarons at Jean-Luc Pélé’s patisserie-chocolatier shops on rue d’Antibes and rue de Meynadier.
Access notes: Fully accessible on flat ground. No toilet facilities.
Le Cirque, 30 rue Hoche
This café/bistro has a modern cosmopolitan vibe that wouldn’t see it out of place in New York, Melbourne or London.
Situated on a corner site, it has a modern décor (design geeks will love their quirky logo, and interior fittings) with good coffee and most mains are under €15. A café noisette cost €2. Plenty of seating – indoors includes a second-level, or outdoors with terrace tables. There is a high-chair for babies, and a baby change table in the toilet facilities upstairs. Recommended.
Access notes: Fully accessible outside terrace on flat ground, however toilet facilities are located upstairs.
Le Bouche a Oreille, 7 rue des Gabres
Cosy wine bar serving tapas platters. A good diversion from some of the overhyped, overcrowded Croisette eateries.
Access notes: Accessible with outside tables.
Le Tikawa, Allées de la Liberté (next to Le Grand Café)
Whoever thinks grabbing food from a snack kiosk is not ‘de rigeur du jour’ during Cannes Film Festival is missing out!
Le Tikawa may not have the prestigious surrounds to finalise film deals, but they sell tasty decent-sized salads, paninis and cold drinks – all for a fraction of the price at any of the neighbouring restaurants.
My favourite salad costs a wallet-pleasing €6.50.
Grab a table beside the plane trees, have a quick bite to eat and watch the locals playing pétanque.
Access notes: Fully accessible on flat ground. Nearest accessible toilet facilities are automated pay toilets in the square.
Philcat, promenade de la Pantiero
Head to promenade de la Pantiero beside the port to the unassuming blue and white snack kiosk where Philcat serves one of the best pan-bagnats in Cannes. For those not already in the know, a pan-bagnat is a regional specialty (of Nice) and comprises of a pain de campagne (French sourdough) or white bread bun filled with salad Niçoise.
Access notes: Fully accessible on flat ground. Nearest accessible toilet facilities are automated pay toilets in the square across the road.
Ma Nolan’s, 6 rue Buttura
Looking for a decent pint? Head to Ma Nolan’s. It can get rowdy, but it escapes the pretentiousness that sometimes sniffs around Cannes bars. Good range of tap beers and pub food, and only a hop, skip and a jump from the Croisette action and the Palais des Festivals. www.manolans.com
Access notes: Fully accessible outside tables on flat ground, however there are stairs up to interior of the bar and toilet facilities.
Factory Café, 17 la Croisette Gray d’Albion
Situated in the arcade for the Galerie du Gray d’Albion shopping centre between rue des Serbes and rue des États-Unis. They serve burgers, meat dishes, pasta ranging up to €15 and most are served with fries and coleslaw. Friendly staff. Seating indoors, or outside including a small patio area with wine barrels as tables (perfect for resting a pint of beer). Has played non-intrusive jazz/lounge music in the background on my last few visits. A café noisette cost €1.80. Mainly corporate clientele. A bonus is they have free Wifi.
Access notes: Accessible outdoors but a tight squeeze indoors and one step down.
Le Tube, 10 rue Florian
One of my top picks for Cannes. If traditional French bistros aren’t your thing, Le Tube will inject some oomph into your gastronomic search. Stylish, modern with a slightly industrial feel with brickwork, exposed pipes and graffiti artworks Le Tube offers French food with a modern twist. Try their menu du marché and café gourmand. A good option for pre or post-Festival cocktails too.
Access notes: Fully accessible.
Things to avoid
Big notes at Marché Forville – take small denominations of Euros; avoid €50 or higher denomination notes. French market vendors are none too pleased when you buy a slice of cheese or a bottle of truffle oil and pay with a €100 note.
Driving – avoid driving if at all possible, especially anywhere near the Croisette. During festival time, there are many road blockages and unannounced road diversions. Park at Port Canto, find a car park on the outer rim of central Cannes or catch a train or bus.
Booking accommodation through non-reputable sources – this can be difficult to avoid however check, check and double check the authenticity of your accommodation source. French-registered businesses should have a physical address, contact details and a SIRET or SIREN number (business registration). Overseas accommodation representatives should email you full booking details including local contact numbers. Some fraudulent company names to avoid that have duped Festival goers in previous years include: Premier Destinations, Cannes Events, Euro-Events, Global Living Group, The Ultimate Living Group, Riviera Network, Business Travel International or Expo Travel Group, Universal Shows or Splendor.
Bear in mind, that any accommodation centrally located in Cannes will increase room rates dramatically for Film Festival – if you can stay outside Cannes at other towns it may be a good option. Possibilities include Mandelieu La Napoule, Cannes La Bocca, Le Cannet, Golfe Juan, Juan les Pins or Antibes. If you’ve left your Cannes accommodation until the last minute, ask at the Office du Tourisme at the Palais des Festivals as they often have updated information on hotel availability and get good rates to fill rooms at partner hotels.
Partying till late if you’re not staying in Cannes – It’s a given that Festival goers will enjoy a sundowner or two, however be aware that if you decide to prolong the party action you may end up for paying pricey cab fares. Taxis are expensive on the French Riviera and public transport schedules at night are limited.
Found this Advanced Guide to Cannes Film Festival useful? Please share on Facebook or Twitter. Thank you!