If you are going to the French Riviera, known as Côte d’Azur, don't miss Antibes, a resort town in southeastern France between Cannes and Nice. The Cap d’Antibes peninsula lies between Antibes and Juan-les-Pins, a sophisticated resort with an active nightlife and a known jazz festival. The area is a popular destination for international travelers, who love strolling down the historic cobblestone streets of Old Town and through vibrant open-air markets filled with foods and crafts. Art lovers will want to see Picasso's paintings in a 12th-century chateau and check out the Antibes Art Fair. The town is also a great spot to enjoy a variety of beaches and a botanical garden. People of all ages and interests will enjoy a vacation in this lovely seaside area.
Walk through the narrow cobbled streets of vielle ville, the historic Old Town. Down by the harbor—divided into the old port and the newer Port Vauban. The luxurious superyachts you'll see are a far cry from the days when Guy de Maupassant moored his boat in the small port in 1886 while staying at the bed and breakfast La Bastide du Bosquet and writing short stories and the novel "Mont Orio."
From here, stroll back through the old stone arch towards the market where stalls overflow with fruit and vegetables. You can wander through the little streets behind the market or along the ramparts on the Promenade-Amiral-de Grasse where the sea views are magnificent.
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Platea d'Antibes is a pretty site with its wooden sculptured façade and well worth stepping inside for its crucifix of 1447 and a Virgin sculpted in 1515.
Head south along the ramparts to the delightful Place du Safranier, the heart of the very small, free commune of the Safranier, created after World War II. It’s known for being the place where Nikos Kazantzakis wrote "Zorba the Greek" and the location of the excellent casual bistro, Le Safranier.
A stroll of 100 yards or so takes you south to the Musée d’Archéologie, which covers 4,000 years of history discovered in and around Antibes. Turn back from here and wander through the little streets to the covered marketplace.
There are also fun, free (tip-based) guided walking tours on Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday mornings.
When walking through Old Town, you'll see a building dominating the skyline: the former Château Grimaldi at Antibes, with a rich history over hundreds of years. It was not only a home to bishops but a town hall and a barracks.
In 1946, Spanish artist Pablo Picasso came to live in the Château Grimaldi and was so delighted with the place and the views out to sea that he later gave a large number of his works to the town. With other donations, notably from his wife Jacqueline Picasso in 1991, the collection grew, and while it's a small museum, it includes paintings of mythological beasts and Mediterranean sea images as well as ceramics that are worth the visit alone. When there is no major exhibition, you’ll also see the vibrant, richly colored paintings of Nicholas de Stael, who lived and died, in Antibes. The work of some modern artists has been added as well.
The museum is open daily except for Mondays, and is closed January 1, May 1, November 1, and December 25. Confirm exact schedules and times with the museum directly.
The Cap d’Antibes is a promontory running south from Antibes and Juan-les-Pins. Long and narrow, it’s easy to walk across from west to east but if you want to explore a bit more and have time, either take the local envibus and stop off at different places or drive.
It’s a wonderful, wooded, hilly area, full of chic villas down little lanes that lead to nowhere except a great view. The jewel in the crown is the stately highly-rated Hotel du Cap-Eden-Roc; also see the Naval and Napoleonic Museum. If the weather is punishingly hot and you crave greenery, walk through The Jardin Botanique de la Villa Thuret, created by the botanist Gustave Thuret in 1857.
Not to be missed is the little La Garoupe Sanctuary chapel with its ships and models; this fishermen’s chapel is full of evocative reminders of those lost at sea. The nearby Phare de la Garoupe lighthouse is one of the most powerful on the coast—the beacon can be seen by boats for 25 miles out to sea.
Antibes has numerous artists who fell in love here and painted the small citadel town on the Mediterranean; the town has celebrated their fame by putting stands at the places where the artists set up their easels and captured the scenes forever. Pick up the Antibes Juan-les-Pins Tourist Office's easy-to-follow map which takes you around all the stands showing the original works of art.
The guided walk shows the marketplace before it was covered with the present cast-iron structure as painted by Emile-Charles Dameron, past the view of "The Rocks of l'Ilette and the Fortifications" by Eugène Boudin painted in 1893. There’s a Claude Monet picture of Antibes with the snow-capped Alps in the background, a view from the Boulevard de Bacon, and a delightful picture by Ernest Meissonier of riders on the Salis beach in 1868. You will also see a familiar Picasso piece.
Since many of the originals are in museums in the United States, you may recognize some of the art.
Everyone goes to the lively covered market with about 30 vendors which takes place the first part of each day in Cours Masséna in the heart of Old Town. The Provencal market (Le Marche Provencal) is a wonderful sight—an inspiring mix of fresh fruit and vegetables, cheese, olives, spices, flowers, and more. It's full of color and smells and the perfect place to buy food for a great picnic; the market is open daily, except for Mondays in winter.
In the afternoon Cours Massena becomes a crafts market. You’ll find painters, ceramicists, sculptures, and woodworkers displaying their art in the covered market. From mid-June to September, the market takes place daily except for Mondays. From October to the middle of June, this market is on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
The Foire clothes market has a mix of items from clothing to jewelry and bags to household goods. Some of it is pretty downmarket, but it’s a fun early-day experience. The Foire is held Tuesdays and Saturdays at place Amiral Barnaud in Old Town; Wednesdays at Place Jean Aude (La Fontanne); Thursdays at Lacan Car Park (the post office in Old Town); and Fridays at Pont Dulys in Juan-les-Pins.
There’s also a good brocante (secondhand) market where you can find shoes, bags, vintage clothes, and miscellaneous other items. It takes place every Thursday and Saturday at Place Audiberti; every Saturday at Place De Gaulle; and every Saturday at the Boulevard d'Aguillon.
The famous Antibes Art Fair (The Salon d'Antibes) occurs during the last two weeks in April in the Esplanade du Pré des Pêcheurs, at the entrance to the Vieil Antibes, just across from Port Vauban. It’s a major antique and art fair—one of the largest in France—that has gone on for more than 45 years and has more than 20,000 attendees annually. Serious traders and collectors from all over Europe head to Antibes for the event.
The fair includes some lovely international art including modern art, antiques, antique jewelry, tableware, photographs, designer furniture, rugs, and more.
The beaches in Antibes and along the Cap d’Antibes vary hugely. They include stretches of yellow sand (very crowded in the summer months), pebbly long beaches that stretch out beside the road from Antibes along the coast to Nice, and a series of small rocky coves around the Cap which are wonderful for snorkeling (some are public). Most of the sandy, family beaches have minimal showers, toilets, and places to buy food.
Another alternative is Marineland just outside the main part of Antibes. There are many activities, including evening dolphin shows, splashing down the Shark River, looking at polar bears and penguins, and meeting sea lions and turtles.
For several days each July since 1960, crowds have headed to Juan-les-Pins for the Jazz à Juan festival where many famous international musicians play. Concerts also take place throughout the city as part of the Jazz Off, like evenings on the Petite Pinede stage. One evening each year is also a fun time with jazz in the streets of Antibes and Juan-les-Pins, featuring 15 concerts in the city's four corners.
Check out the sidewalk on Boulevard Edouard Baudoin behind the waterfront stage to see tiles with handprints of over 50 musicians who have played at the festival.
An adventurous and scenic activity in the French Riviera region is partaking in water sports with expert guides who speak English and French. Options include river, sea, or lake excursions such as rafting and kayaking. The beautiful places you may journey through include the Var above Nice, the Verdon in Castellane, Roya, and other rivers, and Lake Verdon and Lake Saint-Cassien, among others.
Participants need to be at a moderate physical fitness level for the trips which typically run 3.5 hours.
The Musée de la Carte Postale (Museum of the Postcard) in Antibes is an engaging way to learn about how the exchange of information has transformed from postcards used frequently at the beginning of the 20th century to the cell phone and internet modes of modern communication. You can view thousands of original, international postcards from many eras and learn about the history of different means of communication in both the temporary and permanent exhibitions.
A guided audio tour is provided in English, French, Italian, Spanish, or German; or you may choose to stroll around on your own, reading the French and English descriptions on the walls. The museum is open every day except Monday and is free for children under 12.
In the center of Juan-les-Pins, you'll find Parc de la Pinede, a nice spot to relax surrounded by pine trees which are especially appreciated for the shade they provide on a hot day. The whole family can enjoy the small park which has a playground equipped with slides, swings, and a merry-go-round for children, a bowling area, and paths for scooters, cycling, and rollerblading. It's also fun to watch the locals play boules, a variety of games which involve throwing or rolling heavy balls.