Top 3 things to do in Cannes outside Festival time

Cannes has a love/hate relationship with the huge influx of visitors that the annual congrès events and Cannes Film Festival bring to this popular destination.

Bars crammed with people, traffic jams and a visible presence of the charming motorbike cops can overwhelm visitors – but Cannes remains one of my top French Riviera destinations for people-watching.

I’ve had coffee at Le Cirque on rue Hoche, bought Italian leather boots at the Cannes Shopping Festival discounted from €149 to €30 (!), visited Jean-Luc Pelé on rue Meynadier for tasty macarons and walked the length of the Croisette so many times I deserve my own star on the Allée des Étoiles.

If you want to discover the side of Cannes that I love and venture beyond the seafront offerings of the Croisette, here are my recommendations for the ‘Top 3 things to do in Cannes outside Festival time’:

1.   Marché Forville

Marché Forville is definitely one of my favourite markets on the French Riviera.  As well as being covered (meaning you can still visit when the region experiences the odd rainy day), it is a one-stop shop for your culinary basket.

The market is open every day from 7am-1pm, except on Monday when it is a bric-a-brac flea market.  As with most French markets, its advisable to take cash in small change (avoid €50 notes) and take your own shopping bags. Any day is great to visit, but my tip is on Sunday as that is when the farmers and produce growers go to the market to sell their wares and all the locals visit.

Browse the stalls for fruit, vegetables, tapenades, cheese, cured meats, fish, olive oil, herbs, flowers, fresh pasta, honey and home-made conserves.   I often find items here much cheaper than supermarkets like Fleur du Sel de Camargue (the salt from Aigues-Mortes), morel mushrooms or courgette flowers.

Marché Forville, Cannes

Marché Forville, Cannes

Surrounding the main market area are specialty shops including a roast chicken store, caviar and salmon boutique and boulangerie.  There’s a Fish and Chip shop, socca vendor and even an oyster/wine bar.  Other grocery items can be found at a couple of supermarkets – LeaderMarket, SPAR, and for frozen foods go to Picard (convenient for people staying in apartments who are self-catering).

If market shopping wears thin, grab a glass of wine or hot drink at one of the restaurants – I’ve spent far too much time at the outdoor tables at Café de l’Horloge decorated in French bistro-style with clocks adorning the walls  (Tip: There is an accessible ground-floor toilet).

2.  Le Suquet

Situated on the fringe of Marché Forville, is the tiny district of Le Suquet that is Cannes Old Town.

The energetic can walk up paved rue Saint-Antoine (best done on a clear day) where you will be rewarded for the climb to the top of the hill with panoramic views across Cannes, the Lérins Islands and the Esterels.    If you don’t have the energy, jump on the petit train that departs near the Palais des Festivals and weaves up to the top.

Le Suquet, Cannes

Le Suquet, Cannes

At the summit, there is a Gothic Provençal church, a watchtower and the Musée de la Castre (the museum has a small entry fee but if you visit the first Sunday of the month it’s free).

I like Le Suquet for the mix of old houses with vaulted entrances, small cobblestone alleyways draped in bougainvillea and numerous restaurants.

3.  Lérins Islands

I’m often surprised how many ‘locals’ have never visited the Lérins Islands!   Situated a short boat ride off the Cannes coast, they are a welcome escape from the crowds on the Croisette and you can find your own piece of island paradise, even in summer months.

Lérins Islands, Cannes (map:     )

Lérins Islands, Cannes (map: wikimedia)

Île St Marguerite is the busiest of the islands and accessible via ferry boat that is stroller or wheelchair-friendly.  Please note that while the ferry boats and island are suitable for wheel access, most paths are not paved (they are a dirt/fine gravel mix) so there is uneven ground.

Isle St Marguerite

Isle St Marguerite

There are many walking trails that cross the island under pines and eucalyptus trees, and small rocky coves for a refreshing swim.

Disabled toilet facilities on the island are located up the hill from the boat jetty. There are stairs to the Fort on the island.

For ferry timetables to St Marguerite and prices refer to

The other island you can visit is Île St Honorat, the home and haven for 21 Cistercian monks.  The island can be circumnavigated easily, and is a lovely place for a wander past lavender gardens, fruit and olive trees and the small operating vineyard.  Coincidentally, the monks sell their wine and lérina (a citrusy-herb liqueur) so if you fancy a glass of Chardonnay or Syrah crafted by the monks drop by to say ‘Bonjour’.

Isle St Honorat

Isle St Honorat (image: wineterroirs)

The grounds of the Abbaye de Lérins are off-limits to tourists, but you can stay there as a meditation retreat.  Day trippers can visit the shop or make a reservation at the island restaurant La Tonnelle.

Ferry timetables and prices are here:

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Sightseeing – CANNES (Cannes Boat Show and family-friendly activities)

The French Riviera welcomes many yacht shows annually including the Antibes Yacht Show, Monaco Yacht Show and of course the Festival de la Plaissance Cannes (the Cannes Boat Show) which is being held this week from 11-16 September.

The Cannes Boat Show is held at the old port next to the Palais des Festivals and also at Port Pierre Canto at the far end of the Croisette.   Superyachts are on display for sale, and visitors can browse stands of boat-related services and products such as clothing, yacht charters and yacht parts. Tickets are 18€ for adults, and free entrance for children under 12.

If all the yachting sightseeing tires out you and/or your family take a break for an icecream at one of the buvettes (snack kiosks) on the Croisette.  Afterwards, you can jump onto the ‘Petit Train’, the little white tourist train that leaves adjacent to the carousel on the Croissette.  They have a combined History and Croisette tour for 10€ for adults, 5€ for kids or free for under 3 years.  The duration is around 1 hour, you can choose commentary in 7 languages and it travels along the Croisette, down the main shopping street rue d’Antibes and up to the old town of Le Suquet with good views across Cannes.  It is a good option to keep the kids entertained, or if you have mobility issues as Le Suquet and the cathedral at the top are accessed via steep roads and some stairs.  They have baskets on the back of the trains to hold baby buggies/strollers.

Apart from the Le Suquet area, Cannes is flat and well-paved so it’s easy to walk around.  It’s doesn’t cover a particularly large area so you can walk easily within a few hours minimum.  Some of the sights you should include on a walking tour are:

  • the Croisette – see where they hold the world-famous Cannes Film Festival, admire the beautiful hotels and beach restaurants
  • rue du Marché Forville – for the local market selling fruit, vegetables, cheeses
  • rue Meynadier – souvenir shops, food shops, boutiques
  • rue Hoche – stop for a coffee at one of the many caféterias with outdoor tables
  • rue d’Antibes – the main shopping street

Other family-friendly activities for Cannes:

Îsle St Marguerite is a small island situated just off the Cannes coastline and accessible via boat that is suitable for stroller or wheelchair access.  Please note that while the ferry boats and island are suitable for wheel access, many paths are not paved so there is occasionally uneven ground.  Disabled toilet facilities on the island are located up the hill from the boat jetty. There are stairs to the Fort on the island.  The ferry leaves from the far side of the port (see map below).  Ticket and timetable information is at

Cannes ferry to Isle St-Marguerite

Boules:  There is a local boules (petanque) court adjacent to McDonalds on rue Félix Fauré.  Grab a sandwich from the adjacent snack kiosks and sit at the tables under the plane trees watching a few games of boules.

Playgrounds:  There is a free children’s playground close to the Palais des Festivals area on the boulevard de Croisette (near to the public beach where the Petit Train departs from). This playground includes small climbing equipment, carousel, funfair stalls, snack kiosks. Public toilets are nearby on the beachside of the Croisette.  Further along boulevard de Croisette in the direction of Port Pierre Canto, there is another public playground at the end of the beach with playground equipment.

FunCity, 47 avenue Maurice Chevalier, 06150 Cannes la Bocca:  Indoor playground facility with designated playareas for different ages, large climbing frames with tunnels, nets, slides, trampolines, soft toys, ball pits, inflatables, mini-karts, onsite restaurant for snacks and gift boutique.  Entrance fee payable

Bowling at Cannes Loisirs, 189 ave Frances Tonner, Cannes La Bocca.

Laser shooting individually or in teams at Laser Quest Cannes, 28 avenue des Arlucs, 06150 Cannes La Bocca.  Venue also has snack vending machines and air hockey table.

Kids cooking classes are available at Ecole Lenôtre Cannes, 63 rue d’Antibes, 06400 Cannes.  Choose from ‘Cuisine’ or ‘Patisserie’.  Ages 8 years and older.

Enjoy your time in Cannes!