French Riviera: Your Guide for What to do in Cannes

If you’re looking for a guide on what to do in Cannes beyond attending the world-famous Cannes Film Festival, then look no further than our in-depth guide to this storied coastal city.

People often associate the city of Cannes with the annual convergence of the cinema set during the Cannes Film Festival. But if you’re looking for an escape to experience joie de vivre any time of year, then a vacation to this glamourous spot on the French Riviera should be at the top of your list. With the help of our friends at the iconic Hôtel Martinez, here are our vetted recommendations for what to do in Cannes.

Why Cannes?

Located on the southern tip of France, Cannes is a seaside spot teeming with cultural richness. Originally populated by religious figures and Ancient Roman leaders, the city is now a hotspot for festivals, gastronomic getaways, and beach retreats. “Cannes is a unique spot on the French Riviera,” says Hôtel Martinez’s General Manager Yann Gillet. “It is a worldwide village that combines luxury, beach, entertainment, culture, and authentic Mediterranean dining experiences, all within walking distance. Its eighteen kilometers of white sand beaches are also some of the safest and cleanest in the region.”

Stay: The Suite Life

The Hôtel Martinez is one of the best hotels in Cannes to embrace the French Riviera’s carefree spirit. This recently-restored property embodies the city’s contemporary Mediterranean style, featuring an art deco style ideated by Architect Pierre-Yves Rochon. As far as culinary delights, Hôtel Martinez is also home to iconic dining spots, such as the Martinez Bar and the Michelin-starred La Palme d’Or.

The hotel is also just a stone’s throw away from its own private beach, providing guests premiere access to soak up the beauty of the storied Riviera. If you’re seeking a truly serene seaside experience, then check out the hotel’s spa, L’Oasis du Martinez. This secluded space provides a wide range of experiences, such as a deep-blue lap pool hugged by a verdant garden. Guests can also indulge in the herbal tea room after one of Hôtel Martinez’s personalized, eco-conscious treatments.

The apartments remain top accommodation choices amongst Hollywood’s brightest…

The crowning jewel of the hotel sits on the seventh floor. The Penthouse Apartments are imbued with décor dedicated to historic French cinema icons. The apartments remain top accommodation choices amongst Hollywood’s brightest and are also bookable through your SmartFlyer travel advisor for the true VIP experience. Additionally, these prestigious, connected suites offer 1,250 square meters of sunlit space, ranking them among the largest suites in Europe. We highly recommend this accommodation option for any large groups looking to wake up every morning to 180-degree views over the shoreline before you head out to answer, “what’s there to do in Cannes?”.

The Penthouse Apartments can be broken into two separate categories: the Actress Suite and Producer Suite. When split into separate suites, the Actress category can include one or two rooms with their own bathrooms. On the other hand, the Producer Suite guarantees guests two rooms with bathrooms. However, both suites have access to a 480-square-meter terrace with pristine views of the bay and La Croisette. With additional butler service, Hôtel Martinez ensures all guests return home feeling like A-listers.

French Fare at Every Turn

This two-Michelin-starred restaurant…offers menu items always sourced from local ingredients found across the coastline.

At the top of our list when diving into “what to do in Cannes” is tasting your way through distinct regional specialties. Right at Hôtel Martinez, guests can experience award-winning dining at the restaurant and beach club. Restaurant La Palme d’Or is located on the first floor of the property, also offering a beautiful balcony over La Croisette. This two-Michelin-starred restaurant is led by Chef Christian Sinicropi and offers menu items always sourced from local ingredients found across the coastline; this includes fresh offerings from local fishermen.

Lunch on the beach at The Martinez is always chic and makes for an ideal way to recharge on the Riviera. La Plage du Martinez is both a private beach club offering fine dining and unbridled access to Cannes’s waterfront. After feasting on the chef’s selection of seasonal dishes, dive right into the turquoise waters before soaking in the rays from the club’s Pontoon. For the more adventurous, book a water-skiing adventure and ride the surf along the city’s pastel shoreline. This beach club is sure to offer many options when figuring out what to do in Cannes.

If you’re looking for a more local experience, then consider exploring Le Marché Forville – or the Covered Market. Located to the west of Rue Meynadier, this is any foodie’s paradise when searching for what to do in Cannes. There are plenty of local products such as seasonally harvested vegetables and fresh catches of the day. Additionally, visitors can peruse dozens of family-owned food stands that serve delights like rotisseries and Italian polenta. There are also an array of floral stalls begging to have bouquets made and brought back to your suite at Hôtel Martinez.

As we wrap our dining section, we’d be remiss not to mention the iconic Restaurant La Guerite. Established in 1902, this restaurant is perched on the rocky cove of Sainte-Marguerite island. Accessible via a VIP shuttle – organized through your SmartFlyer travel advisor – diners are treated to Chef Yiannis Kioroglou’s ocean-inspired dishes. This is also an ideal location for private events with unparalleled beach access.

Smartie Spots to Stop Along a Guided Walking Tour

When it comes to what to do in Cannes, we recommend working with your SmartFlyer travel advisor to book private guided tours of the city’s cultural landmarks. After syncing up with your local host, Le Suquet is a common first point of interest. This area is also known as the city’s Old Town thanks to its positioning atop a hill at the heart of the city. This is the oldest quarter in the city, blending Provençal charm and village authenticity. From there, your guide will walk you through the various sites, including Middle Age ramparts, flea market events, and locally-owned restaurants and shops. The Chapel of Sainte-Anne is also an ideal vantage point for panoramic views of the bay and the Croisette which runs alongside it.

The art scene in Cannes is also not to be missed. Villa Domergue – formerly Villa Fiesole – is an Italian-style villa built in 1934. Designed by portrait artist Jean-Gabriel Domergue and his wife Odette Maudrange-Domergue – a sculptor – the two created vibrant interiors and verdant terraced gardens with ponds and waterfalls. Now protected as a monument, the property is open for guided tours through rotating exhibitions, as well as seasonal events.

…immerse yourself in their artisanal market places.

If you’re looking to level up your walking tour to an alpine hike, then take a private transfer out to L’Estérel. Bordered by the Mediterranean and Provence, the mountain range is uniquely painted by its characteristic red rock and striking reliefs. Hikers and mountain bikers alike will find plenty to explore in its various nature trails, such as Natura 2000. Afterwards, take a brief walk into the region’s coastal towns to immerse yourself in their artisanal market places. Your personal driver will ensure your transfer back to the Hôtel Martinez is a smooth one.

Notable Off-Shore Oases

The Lérins Islands is a four-island archipelago located just opposite the Bay of Cannes, a short boat ride away from La Croisette. Remote and unspoiled, these Mediterranean isles offer visitors a unique blend of unique history and vibrant flora and fauna. The Island of Sainte-Marguerite is the largest of the islands, colored by rich cultural and natural sanctuaries. For example, the lake on the western side of the island provides visitors lookouts to observe migratory birds. Guests can also hike through towering eucalyptus trees at the island’s center. The forts from Saine-Maguerite’s military history are also a highlight. Additionally, guests can visit the heart of the Royal Fort to find the infamously mysterious prison of the Man in the Iron Mask.

The Island of Saint-Honorat is also known for its deep spiritual history. Originally the home of a 5th-century monastery, the island is now owned by monks of the Cistercian Congregation. Local purveyors here are known for their handcrafted rich wine and olive oil production dating back to the 19th century. After a guided wine tasting, hike around the island to uncover the island’s hidden sacred ruins and artifacts. Whether it’s long-standing statues or full chapels, there’s plenty to discover while freely roaming the natural coves lined with olive trees and Aleppo pines.

Uncovering Cannes history sometimes requires a deeper dive – literally. Cannes’s underwater Eco Museum is the newest addition to the city’s many art installations. This is also the first underwater museum in France and the Mediterranean off the island of Sainte Marguerite. British sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor created six statues made of ecological material to raise public awareness. The sculptures also help the underwater flora and fauna return to this now-protected space, where boat mooring is prohibited. All guests need are a pair of flippers and a mask to view this entire easily accessible exhibition!

Ready to chase summer in Cannes? Contact your SmartFlyer travel advisor!


Restaurant La Palme d’Or, 73 Bd de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France
La Plage du Martinez, 73 Bd de la Croisette, 06400 Cannes, France
Marché Forville, 6 Rue du Marché Forville, 06400 Cannes, France
La Guérite, Cannes – Île Sainte-Marguerite, 06400 Cannes, France
Le Suquet
Villa Domergue, 15 Av. Fiesole, 06400 Cannes, France
Massif de l’Esterel
Lérins Islands
Île Sainte-Marguerite
Île Saint-Honorat

Book Now

You May Also Like

City Guides

Vienna City Guide

Back in the 1970s, Billy Joel made the lyric, “When will you realize, Vienna waits for you?” famous; decades later,...

City Guides

What To Do in Istanbul: Your Guide to Karaköy

If you’re trying to figure out what to do in Istanbul, our first piece of advice is to shift gears...

City Guides

Buenos Aires Guide: A Local's Top Palermo Spots

In a city as dynamic as “The Paris of the South,” compiling a complete Buenos Aires guide for this expansive...