The French Riviera town of Cannes has long been synonymous with glitz and glamour. A popular spot for tourists attracted by the luxury shopping and the blue of the Mediterranean waters, it’s hard to believe there’s a calm, rustic side to this fabulous town.
1. Meet the locals
In the city centre, spend a morning perusing the shelves at Autour d’un livre, a bookshop and café with a cosy bohemian vibe located down a small street. Experience a typical French morning as you linger over a café crème and a warm baguette smeared with butter and jam.
To experience a side of the city rarely seen by tourists, taking a walk with someone who knows it well is ideal. Try one of the tours provided by Cannes Greeters, all of which are run and designed by local volunteers. These laid-back walks take you completely off the beaten track and provide unique glimpses into the life and history of the town.
2. Deep into Canne’s history and museums
Later, take a stroll up through the hills of Le Suquet to the Musée de la Castre, with its impressive 12th-century medieval tower. The stunning view makes the climb worth it and the small museum features some beautiful landscape paintings.
Discover the local history at The Musée d’Art et d’Histoire de Provence, just down from the Fragonard perfumery. The 18th-century mansion is worth the visit for its eclectic collections going from regional archaeology to family art pieces.
3. Escape to the surrounding national parks
Getting away from the legendary La Croisette, where revellers come to stroll at all times of the day, reveals a treasure trove of hidden gems and quiet corners from which to contemplate the beauty of the coastline. To the west of Cannes, for example, is the national park La Croix-des-Gardes, which offers a tranquil backdrop for a picnic or a spot of reading with an unparalleled view over the bay. You can also follow botanical trails or chose to jog through the forest.
4. Shop the Provencal seasonal flavours
Alternatively, get up early and head up to the medieval fishing village of Le Suquet where the open-air Forville Market starts at 7.30 am. Pick up some fragrant fresh flowers, and get tempted by and some rich tapenades of Olives de Nice and creamy Tomme de Provence Cheese. Enjoy the seasonal palette of fruits and vegetables from the regional farms before heading next door to La Cave Forville, a laid-back tapas and wine bar. Treat yourself to some oysters and a chilled glass of white wine as you watch the last of the market-goers come and go.
5. Enjoy the calm and artsy vibes of Mougins
A visit to the towns and villages surrounding the French Riviera offers the chance to discover some real local gems. Around 7.5km inland is the beautiful village of Mougins, snuggled between the sweeping peaks of the Alps and the twinkling topaz of the ocean. Home to Pablo Picasso during the last years of his life, it is a haven for artists and art aficionados. Far from the crowded museums in Cannes, the galleries at Mougins are more intimate, such as the Galerie Sintitulo, which specialises in emerging contemporary artists.
A walk through the medieval, pedestrianised village reveals ancient cobbled streets and stone buildings housing boutique shops and Michelin-starred restaurants. Don’t leave without sampling one of the innovative fresh fish dishes at La Place de Mougins restaurant, washed down with a bottle of palest-pink Provencé rosé.
In the summer months, observe the majesty of Europe’s largest lotus colony in bloom at the Fontermerle pond at Parc de la Valmasque. A little further afield are the MIP Gardens at Mouans Sartoux. Here, you’ll find the conservatory for the various plants and flowers grown to infuse the perfumes and soaps traditionally produced at Grasse.