Nestled between glitzy Nice and Cannes, the resort town of Antibes is known for two things: multi-million-dollar mega yachts and a maze-like Old Town encased by 16th-century ramparts. The Côte d'Azur's second-largest town is home to 80,000 inhabitants and the largest marina in the Mediterranean Sea, Port Vauban, which has been attracting ships of a different variety since before the times of the Roman Empire.
The ancient Greek trading port of Antipolis was heavily fortified by Vauban in the 17th century and, after a battle that endured many years between France and the House of Savoy, Antibes—and the entire county of Nice—claimed its current French status. After the first World War, American railway tycoon Frank Jay Gould opened a swanky seaside resort in neighboring Juan-les-Pins that was home to the region's first luxury hotel and casino, drawing the likes of Scott Fitzgerald, Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich and Picasso.
Delta offers a seasonal flight from New York (JFK) to the Nice Côte d'Azur Airport, which features two recently renovated terminals (complete with Jamie Oliver restaurants, a Petrossian caviar bar, and a Ladurée macaron shop) and sits just a 20-minute drive away from Antibes. Travelers can also reach Antibes on a 12-minute train ride from Nice or by high-speed train from London or Paris.
You can also hop on the Vallauris Express 250 bus from both terminals at the Nice Côte d'Azur Airport for the 38-minute ride to Antibes. Be sure to purchase tickets at sales offices in the bus station (gate A0) or at arrivals (A2/A3).
Walking is the easiest way to get around Antibes' narrow, cobblestone streets, since most of them are pedestrianized and all of the attractions lie within the historic city center.
There are buses, but these are mainly used to get to other towns and villages. A great way to explore Antibes (particularly the glamorous, villa-lined peninsula of Cap d'Antibes) is by bike, with paths often frequented by some of the region's Tour de France-level pro cyclists.
Antibes & Cap d'Antibes — Where to Stay
Between Antibes and sister resort town Juan-les-Pins, you'll find plenty of hotel options, perhaps the most glamorous being Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc, a hotel with 33 seaside cabanas and an infinity pool extending over the Mediterranean. To give you an idea of how legendary this spot is, it served as inspiration for Fitzgerald's classic novel, "Tender is the Night." Another spot that was a Fitzgerald favorite is Juan-les-Pins's Hôtel Belles Rives, the former villa Saint Louis where the writer and his wife, Zelda, once lived. Now the hotel—which was the first along the water on the French Rivera—is home to 43 guest rooms and a Michelin-starred restaurant, La Passagère.
Where to Eat
Get lost strolling along the winding streets of Antibes' Old Town, where you'll come across a number of charming bistros serving up classic Mediterranean fare (think seafood, Italian-influenced pasta and pizza, and regional specialties like bouillabaisse).
For a Michelin-starred affair, make your way to family-run Bacon on the Cap d'Antibes, where the seafood-heavy menu has been a local hit since opening its doors as a seafood shack back in the 1940s. While strolling along the ramparts after a visit to the Picasso Museum, pause for lunch at Les Vieux Murs, whose name translates to "the views from the walls," referring to the restaurant's view over the Mediterranean. If you'd rather dine directly on the water, head to the Cap d'Antibes, where you'll stumble across one of Antibes' best-kept secrets: La Garoupe beach. Here, you can lounge at one of the many private beach clubs like Plage Keller, which doubles as a seaside eatery.
Things to Do
- Visit the Musée Picasso: In 1946, painter Pablo Picasso transformed the 14th-century Château Grimaldi into his personal art studio, leaving behind 23 paintings and 44 drawings. Now the castle serves as the first art museum devoted to the artist, housing 245 of Picasso's paintings and sculptures (including his 1946 Joie de Vivre), as well as a selection of work by contemporary artists like Joan Miro, Nicolas de Staël and Fernand Léger.
- Sip Absinthe: A crazy collection of hats (yours to wear for the evening) line the walls of the cave-like Absinthe Bar, which sits tucked on the corner of a side street near the covered market. On Friday and Saturday nights, the venue turns into a piano bar where you can sing along to jazz favorites while sipping the once-forbidden liqueur (often associated with 19th century artists and writers like Van Gogh and Baudelaire), served up in traditional fashion—silver spoon and sugar cube included.
- Hike Along the Coast: From the Garoupe beaches on Cap d'Antibes, head off on the coastal footpath facing the Old Town's ramparts on a two-hour light hike around the peninsula. The "Chemin des Douaniers," also known as the "Sentier de Tire-Poil," leads to the tip of the Cap d'Antibes and villa Eilenroc, a Belle Époque beauty built by the same architect who designed the Paris and Monte-Carlo opera houses.
- Hit the Market: Every day from 6 a.m. to 1 p.m. you'll find cheesemongers, fishermen and florists posting up with their wares in the covered Provençal market, located in the cours Masséna. From mid-June to the end of September, the market transforms in the afternoons (except on Mondays) into an artisan showcase where painters, sculptors and ceramicists show off their creations. If you're visiting in the summer months of July and August, night markets are held in the evenings on Juan-les-Pins' Promenade du Soleil and Antibes' L'esplanade du Pré-des-Pêcheurs.
- Bask on the Beach: Juan-les-Pins' promenade is lined with some of the area's best private beaches, where white sandy shores and bottle service are a given. One top pick: Polynesian-inspired Moorea, dotted with thatched-roof umbrellas and tiki bars.