A Mediterranean resort that also includes Juan-les-Pins, Antibes has 25 kilometres of coastline and is a getaway for the very rich but also one of the French Riviera’s preferred destinations for French families.
You can mix afternoons at the beach with day-trips to Nice and Cannes, which are both minutes from the resort on the TER train.
There’s much to occupy you closer by, with a coastline made for walking, and a waterfront fortified by Vauban in the 1600s, now the preserve of the world’s richest people, who moor their gargantuan superyachts in the port at eye-watering expense.
Here’s our hand picked list of the top things to do when you visit.
When you add it up you realise that Antibes covers a very large area, made up of the old town, the entirety of the peninsula and of course the summery resort of Juan-les-Pins.
There are almost 50 private and public beaches close by, and that doesn’t include the informal coves along the Sentier de Tire-Poil where you can bathe on the rocks and slip into the water to cool off.
To select just one: Plage de la Salis is a free, white sandy bay next to the yacht club with smooth, glistening sea on clear days.
Walk on the Sentier du Littoral on the Cap d’Antibes
Here’s another way to retreat from the commotion of Cannes for blissful privacy, in a wonderful natural setting.
The coastal walk on the lower reaches of Cap d’Antibes hugs the steep and rocky shoreline.
It’s called the Sentier du Littoral. In places the walk is so open to the elements that the path is occasionally closed off when the winds are up, but towards the east side of the cape things are calmer, and you’ll find spots where you can sunbathe on the rocks and take a dip in gleaming waters.
So in the summer two things are essential: Good walking shoes, and swimwear, because the sea will be very enticing on a hot day.
Even before you consider what lies inside, this historic building is a treasured slice of Antibes’ heritage.
It was built on top of the original Greek Acropolis, and the first few metres of the walls are Roman.
A branch of the Genoese Grimaldi Family (for whom it’s named) held it until the 1600s when the French crown took over.
Fast forward to 1946 and Picasso was invited by the city to use the newly restored castle as a studio, and he obliged, completing several works here that summer.
In 1966 the museum was inaugurated and it now has 245 of his paintings, ceramics and drawings.
There are also sculptures by Joan Miró and Germaine Richier, and paintings by Nicolas de Staël.
The 20th-century cartoonist Raymond Peynet settled in Antibes in 1976. He soon made many friends and threw himself into local life, holding exhibitions and designing posters for events here.
In the 80s he helped set up this museum, which now displays 4,000 illustrations charting his 50-year career.
There are exhibits of the jewellery and porcelain he created, as well as full-sized figures of his famous “Les Amoureux” characters designed for the window display in the Galeries Lafayette in Paris in the 50s.
They were the inspiration for an extremely popular and iconic series of dolls, selling in the millions since they were first released more than 60 years ago.
The Bastion Saint-André, designed by Vauban and built in the late-17th century is the fitting home for Antibes’ collections of historical artefacts.
The exhibition space is small as the bastion is little more than a solitary coastal tower, and the museum is unassuming.
But it will drive home the rich and long history of the area.
The waters off the cape are notoriously treacherous and claimed Roman, Etruscan, Greek and Phoenician ships, and their contents are on show at the museum.
There are amphorae and other pottery, coins, mosaics and an enlightening assortment of everyday objects.
You can also go up to the battlements for views down the eastern side of the cape and up to the hills behind Cagnes-sur-Mer.
For the last 66 years a pine grove next to the water in Juan-les-Pins has welcomed some of the world’s top musicians for nine nights of concerts.
A quick breeze through just some of the names to have performed at Jazz à Juan tells you all you need to know about its standing in the music world: John Coltrane, Sonny Rollins, Nina Simone, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong have all performed on this stage.
The curators take pains to ensure the festival looks to the future, and has given more recent artists like Wynton Marsalis, Marcus Miller and Joshua Redman a platform.
There’s also a “jazz-off”, in which ensembles compete against each other for a prize each year.
Ferries shuttle back and forth to Sainte-Marguerite from Juan-les-Pins throughout the day.
You could stop at the market or local shops in Antibes or Juan-les-Pins for provisions, before setting sail.
Once there, unwind on the quiet forest trails and have a picnic lunch below the fragrant stone pines and eucalyptus trees.
At the top of a cliff on the north shore is Fort Royal, where the mystery Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned at the behest of Louis XIV in the 17th century.
The prison has been replaced by a museum, but the cells are still intact and you can also survey the artefacts recovered from two local shipwrecks, one Roman and the other Moorish from the 900s.
Life in Cannes is turned on its head during those two weeks in May, when scores of paparazzi, industry bigwigs and the world’s biggest stars are in town for the famous film festival. The remainder of the year it’s a sleek pleasure garden for the world’s wealthiest people, and a honeypot for people seduced by the glamour.
Here’s our hand picked list of the top things to do when you visit.
The French are renowned for their daily markets, which are replete with local, seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables. Head to Cannes’ Marché Forville any morning (except Mondays) to try the local produce (olives, meats, seafood and more) and have a bite to eat.
What’s on offer can range from fruit, veg, flowers and fragrant herbs right up to exquisite hand-crafted confectionery, truffles and gourmet olive oils.
And you can round it off with a glass of wine from one of the bars just outside, while there’s also live music on Saturdays and Sundays.
- The Cannes Yachting Festival runs every September and is a chance to admire the latest boats and luxury yachts on sale. If you can’t afford the down payment on a vessel, don’t worry – simply play out your tycoon fantasies by visiting all the sleekest sailing machines. The festival attracts an international crowd, with about 50% of the attendees coming from overseas. It takes place in two locations: the Vieux Port (the Old Port) and the Port Pierre Canto.
- The Cannes Film Festival is one of the most famous international festivals in the world, celebrating both art-house and mainstream cinema. Cannes comes alive every May when the most celebrated names in the film world descend on the city. Although the festival takes place all over town in every theatre, cinema and hotel, the main concentration is on its most famous street, La Croisette.
Musée de la Castre
After struggling up the hill in Le Suquet you can step inside this museum, which is in one of Cannes’ few medieval buildings, a fort built in the 11th century to defend the bay.
The Musée de la Castre is located within a medieval castle that was once home to the monks of Lérins. Positioned high above the city, it provides amazing views of Cannes and beyond. In the 19th century, the museum was bequeathed an eclectic art collection by a local resident, which includes medieval artefacts, Asian instruments and unusual paintings.
At the end of the tour you can climb 109 steps the to the top of the square tower to improve on that view of the bay from the terrace.
Centre d’art La Malmaison
The Centre d’Art La Malmaison is housed in what used to be the Grand Hotel on La Croisette. The hotel was demolished and all that remains is the Games Room, where you can now find lots of artwork from the 20th and 21st centuries. It’s a brilliant modern-art museum with fantastic temporary exhibitions. La Malmaison is a must-see.
Beginning at La Croisette is a shopping area that has pretty much every high-end brand you can name.
It’s impossible not to feel a little underdressed as you shuffle by branches of Dior, Chanel, Gucci , Miu Miu, Bulgari and Prada.
In fact you could walk for an hour or so and pass nothing but luxury boutiques.
Unless you have expensive habits or happen to be extremely wealthy you’ll mostly be doing window shopping in this part of Cannes, but it’s an education to see how the other half lives.
This is especially true of the Carré d’Or, between La Croisette and Rue d’Antibes, where glitzy jewellery shops rub shoulders with the most select bars in the city.
Saint Tropez is known for its decadent lifestyle, high-end fashion, laid-back beach vibe and over-the-top partying. It does have other things to offer too, like art, history, beautiful scenery and wonderful walks. Here’s our hand picked list of the top things to see when you visit.
If you’re put off by the overpriced bars, restaurants and posh fashion houses, at least you won’t have to pay to soak up Saint-Tropez’ opulent ambience.
Take a stroll along the Jean Réveille jetty that keeps the Mediterranean out, look back awestruck at the yachts and bask in the light and ochre hues that wowed the early-modern painters more than a century ago.
The quayside is full of painters trying to capture this beauty, and you might like to browse their work for a souvenir.
See Avant-Garde Art at the Musée de l’Annonciade
The penitent monks of St Tropez built an old chapel in 1510 where they looked after returning prisoners of war. It’s a beautiful building. Now it houses the art museum specialising in art from the early half of the 20th century, particularly by Paul Signac. Small but beautifully formed.
Musée de la Gendarmerie et du Cinéma
St Tropez has a rich film history. Several classic movies were filmed here and the film industry – thanks to Brigitte Bardot – put St Tropez on the map. The old police headquarters, the “gendarmerie” used to be housed in this building but now it’s home to the Museum of Police and Cinema. There is a link – the highest grossing movie of 1964 in France was “The Troops of St Tropez” about a police officer transferred into town to deal with nudists and his errant daughter. Charming and cute.
Musée de la Gendarmerie et du Cinéma, Place Blanqui, St Tropez +33 (0)4 94 55 90 00
Church of Notre Dame de l’Assomption
This large church presides over the whole town and it’s well worth a visit. You’re not allowed to take photos but there is some lovely artwork inside. The views from the top of the hill are stunning.
Chapelle Sainte- Anne
Completed in 1618, Chapelle Saint-Anne hides in a conifer grove on Mont Pécoulet, a hill behind Saint-Tropez.
In the 19th century long-distance sailors would ride up to this spot to seek protection from St.
Anne before departing.
The chapel is in a very pretty spot, blessed with vistas of the resort and the azure sea, but also appears in the annals of pop culture.
Mick and Bianca Jagger were married here in 1971, and guests included Paul and Linda McCartney, Eric Clapton and Ringo Starr.
At the deepest nook of the Gulf of Saint-Tropez is an enchanting urban development begun in the early 60s and the brainchild of architect and urban planner François Spoerry.
Port Grimaud is a tangle of waterways between rows of buildings designed to look like the old fisherman’s houses in the old quarter of Saint-Tropez.
Each of these homes is directly next to the water and has a berth for a boat, usually filled by a sleek-looking yacht as this “Little Venice” is home for some very wealthy individuals.
Take in the Views over Cap Camarat
The Cap Camarat lighthouse is the second highest in France and offers amazing views over the bay. Afterwards you can swim on the beach below, called Bonnes Terrasse, or continue further round the coast on an even longer walk. A perfect escape from the parties and living the “high life”.
With Les Bateaux Verts ferries you can hop from Saint-Tropez to Port Grimaud, and also across to the charming resort of Sainte-Maxime on the other side of the gulf.
After landing you could have a wander around the harbour and old quarter, which are refreshingly down-to-earth: There are French local shops and a large community that lives here all-year-round, not just in high season.
Then see what you can find along 10 kilometres of coastline.
Plage de la Nartelle is the pick of the beaches, with golden sands and clear waters but none of the crowds you’ll be accustomed to at Saint-Tropez.