Many know Cannes only for the international film festival that happens each spring in May. However, it has a lot to offer because of its gorgeous location, which has been the setting for many notable movies. There are casinos, shops, and restaurants on the famous promenade La Croisette. Like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, La Croisette has the brands the rich and famous want as well as luxurious hotels that overlook the beautiful beaches. What’s interesting is La Croisette did not have traffic until 1874. The promenade was expanded to cater to the wealthy that started to vacation in the small town. It was originally a dirt road with dunes and reeds. According to Cannes Estates, the area dates back to the 69 AD. Yet, the name Cannes can be traced to the 10th century where the town was called Canua, a term that came from “canna,” meaning reed since the shores were littered with them.
Cannes has a rich history that has ties to the Ligurian tribesman, Phocaeans, Celts, and Romans. The Romans created a settlement called Le Suquet, which is the oldest part of Cannes. There were many battles fought over the land as well as a plague that killed half the population in 1520. Tourism picked up in the 19th Century, which was mostly attributed to Lord Brougham. He was detoured to Cannes because he could not enter quarantined Nice in 1834. He enjoyed the area so much that he built a villa and summered in Cannes for many years. The increase in the local population created a construction boom. Hotels, casinos, shops, restaurants, and homes were built with the best materials.
However, Cannes made a name for itself with the Cannes Film Festival. The film festival began in Venice as the Venice Film Festival in 1938, but the awards were “fixed” due to pressure from Hitler and Mussolini. French Diplomat Philippe Erlanger wanted to create a “free” festival that had no constraints. After receiving approval from the French Ministry of Education, Erlanger created a festival in France and Cannes was chosen as its home. The Cannes Film Festival opened on September 1, 1939. Although the Venice Film Festival was still operating, the Cannes Film Festival overshadowed it and became what it is today. Celebrities and the wealthy came to the festival not only to view the films but also to be seen. Cannes created a reputation for glamour and opulence. The ports that were once filled with fishing vessels were now filled with yachts and cruise ships.
After the festival is over, many stay to relax on the pristine beaches and dine al fresco. Cannes is also known for its markets, such as the international flower market (e.g. mimosa flower) and the outdoor market Marche Forville, which is known for its olives, cured meats and produce. However, to truly discover what Cannes is about, you should take one of the many walking tours. You’ll see the beautiful architecture, the Palais des Festivals, the promenade, and more. If you are planning a trip to France, make sure Cannes is on your itinerary.