Cannes & Île Saint Honorat

 

Cannes, the busy and glamorous city in the heart of the French Riviera, is anything but unknown. It's home to a seemingly endless string of the most glittering events and conventions, with sandy beaches lining the shore. It's the perfect place for a beach day, exploring, shopping, dining, sailing or even an island picnic. With so much to do in one spot, Cannes is worth at least a full day's visit - probably two. 

Cannes and Ile Saint-Honorat, France | A travel guide to the glittering city of the French Riviera, and a peaceful escape to the islands. | Things to Do | Abbaye des Lerins Wine | How to Get to Ile St. Honorat from Cannes
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Walking is the best way to see any city, and in Cannes the Promenade de la Croisette is the perfect place to start. Stretching along the coastline between the city and the water, this street has famously beautiful views.  Along the way, you can stop at a beach or enjoy the walk down to the old port. Make your way to Rue d'Antibes if you're looking for some chic shopping (or just a treat from Ladurée), or walk the narrow market street Rue Meynadier if it's not too busy. 

The promenade ends at the base of Le Suquet, the old town of Cannes. You'll certainly want to explore this charming hilltop neighborhood, and make a reservation for dinner if you haven't already! Aim to follow the pedestrian-only Rue Saint-Antoine up to Rue du Suquet, but none of these winding, climbing cobblestone streets will disappoint.

Around midday you'll notice everything getting increasingly crowded, even if you're tucked away under a beach umbrella. This might be your only afternoon in Cannes, but now is the time to make an island escape for a few hours.


Île Saint Honorat


An incredible 15-minute ferry ride from Cannes is Île Saint Honorat, home to the Abbaye de Lérins. Even if the island were underwhelming (spoiler: it's not), the ferry ride alone would be worth the fifteen-Euro round trip tickets. Because the small boat fills up quickly, buy your tickets at the Port de Cannes in the morning or online in advance, and arrive early to board.

Quite the opposite of Cannes, Saint Honorat is a quiet oasis that's almost completely undisturbed by the buzz of modern life. About twenty Cistercian monks live and work here making their own wines, liqueurs and olive oils.

When you arrive, you'll quickly notice how walkable a place this is: less than a mile long and a quarter-mile wide, the island can only be reached by boat and there are no cars to crowd the unpaved roads. Most of the land is planted with vineyards, fresh herbs, olive trees, and fragrant eucalyptus that perfume the air.

Have lunch at the local restaurant near the pier, La Tonnelle, or pack a picnic and spread out along the shore. Either way, relax with a view over the water and daydream about joining one of the boats anchored between Île Saint Honorat and neighboring Île Sainte Marguerite

You could walk the perimeter of the island in about an hour, but you'll want to take your time finding the tiny chapels and historic cannonball ovens hidden among the trees. Make your way to the Monastere Fortifie, the monastery's ancient fortress that is open to the public with views over the islands and the bay of Cannes all the way to the mountains.

Finally, visit the Abbey itself for a glimpse into the devoted lives and practices of the monks. Just outside the gates are the monastery's shops, where you'll find the fruits of their labor - a unique collection of wines and liqueurs, small batches of olive oil, and handmade trinkets. If you're more in the market for an experience than a souvenir, schedule a wine tasting in the vineyard. 

The last ferry usually leaves Île Saint Honorat's pier at 5:30pm - no, you can't stay here forever. Even after a quick journey back to modern civilization, you're left with enough time to rest (or explore more of Cannes) before dinner in Le Suqeut.

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Next: Saint Paul-de-Vence

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