Cruise ship by the coastline of Cannes, France.

A road trip around Cannes on the French Riviera

Published: 2nd July, 2024.

We headed off towards the French Riviera from Dijon. A good .. kilometers away, this is a fast journey on the highways. As we approached the coast, the nature began to shift. More Oleander and Olive trees and the occasional rocky outcrop appeared along the highway.

In Cannes, finally!

Cannes is small, and we noticed this as we drove through in less than 10 minutes. And that was with traffic. The narrow road taking you through Cannes has some pretty steep ups and downs, almost as if it was designed to be similar to a gentle rollercoaster.

The sun was beating down and the temperature was easily beyond 30 Celsius. And as we made our way through the center, the scent of the Mediterranean tickled our nostrils. We were finally here, summer in Cannes, and just after the Cannes film festival (a good choice, it turned out).

Hugging the coastline by car

After the first day, we both had the same idea. Why not explore the coast as close as possible by car? With that in mind, we went for a ride, taking a turn toward the beach, and it turned out that there was a road hugging the beach, with the Mediterranean Sea less than fifty meters away! Cruise ships and beachgoers everywhere, it was time to get some picnic food and finally make our way to the beach and let our toes sink into the sand.

Eating out in Cannes? How about exploring the local food

It should not come as a great surprise that France is more expensive, and Cannes is especially true for this. With our minds set on a light lunch in central Cannes, we headed to one of the restaurants with a classy interior. Seventy Euros for a salad, two sparkling water, and two coffees. Ouch. The appeal of Cannes is not the affordable joy (and amazing food) you would hope for. Sure enough, you can find Mediterranean-style salads and seafood. But expect to pay hefty amounts for it. Our experience did not unfortunately show that the food scene in Cannes was tremendous. Then again, it is what you make it! Therefore, we continued our search for the groceries we could not find elsewhere and found a plethora of exciting food to try out on our balcony facing the sea.

A croissant in Nice, and then, onward

You can easily outgrow Cannes in a few days. As our attention lifted above the horizon, we learned more about Nice, the student city a short car ride away. So we headed out on the highway again (and the road tolls..) to check out the neighboring city Nice. It is larger, that is for sure! With wider roads and a more meticulous road network in the center, we went for a spin and took a break outside a cute little boulangerie in the center.

When we decided to try hugging the beach by car, we found that although it was possible, it was not nearly as fun and interesting as in Cannes. The beaches are not as small or absorbing our interest as much.

The treat of walking around in Cannes

Although we had explored Cannes and Nice by car, it became apparent that Cannes is best explored by foot. So it was that we went for long walks around the beach and the small historical center daily. And you know what, that turned out to be exactly the vacation we needed. A chill time in a small hip town by the French coastline. Warm weather, cruise ships to behold, and the occasional cafe to do people spotting. Go to Cannes for Cannes itself, and look forward to a quieter time. You can easily spend a week there if you also break up your trip with a car ride or two to Nice nearby, and maybe even one of the sights inland. Cannes may not be the largest place with the most versatile shopping life (you will find the hip and upscale brands, of course). Cannes is a combination of smaller pleasures that taken together make for a good choice for a lowkey vacation. You have the sea, the beaches, the historical old town, cafes, and restaurants facing the beach life. If you do want to go shopping, then the larger brands in central Cannes are there for your enjoyment. Go to Cannes and expect to walk around, let your daily rhythm slow down, and take in the view of the beach, cruise ships in the harbor, and the sound of waves as you grab a bite to eat in a restaurant by the beach.