Cannes, the famous French Rivera resort town frequented year-round by the wealthy, well-connected and famous, is justly regarded as an expensive destination for cash-strapped tourists. From fashion and entertainment through food, drink and accommodation, the city is aimed at the financial upper crust but, surprisingly, can also be thoroughly enjoyed on a budget. It’s not necessary to arrive on a full-service flight or a luxury yacht, stay in one of the many upscale Cannes hotels, eat and drink at Michelin-starred restaurants and shop in designer boutiques to get to grips with and have a great time in this fairytale destination.
Given the location of Cannes and its excellent road and rail connections, cheap travel by coach or slow train as well as by budget airlines off-season can save euros better spent in the farmers’ market on the delicious cheeses, fruit and other fresh produce of this fertile region, and it’s the same storey with accommodation. Five-star luxury hotels hosting famous restaurants and even more famous guests are a dime a dozen here, but there’s also a wide but less publicised choice of French pensions, inns, home-stays and even the odd hostel in the less fashionable parts of town.
Of course, the best restaurants serve magnificent meals using rare and expensive ingredients, but French provincial cooking is a long tradition based on peasant foods, enjoyed in small eateries all over town by Cannes locals on a night out. Picnics involving delicious French bread, a selection of cheeses and meats and fresh fruit washed down with the local red wine, all bought at Forville Market, will cost a fraction of a similar meal in a restaurant set along the harbour.
Stay out of the tourist areas and the town centre, explore the back streets and see where the local people eat. Most pensions have restaurants with lunch and dinner menus at set prices outside their doors – it’s an easy way to compare costs. Mandelieau La Napoule and the beachside eateries out beyond Le Sofitel are good places to start your search. Bistros and brasseries also display that aid to frugal foodie economy – the fixed price menu, offering several courses and drinks at a reasonable cost.
It’s the same with shopping – ignoring or just window-shopping in the main shopping streets around La Croisette and Rue d’Antibes, then hot-footing it to the Old Quarter or the Monday brocante at Forville to find discarded, once-worn designs and castaways from the big estate sales as well as antiques, bric-a-brac and household items. Cannes is a retail hub for nearby towns and villages for its shopping malls and department stores with outlets catering for all prices as well as a good selection of fast food joints, and the little boutiques in Rue Maynadier are packed with fashions costing a fraction of their designer equivalents on Rue D’Antibes. In the same area’s back streets are even more little shops, selling everything from yet more fashion items to souvenirs.
Another well-kept secret for serious shopaholics is the city’s industrial zone, Les Tourrades, set in a decidedly unpretty district along with McDonalds and motor repair shops. It’s crammed with factory outlets and flea market style warehouses selling everything from clothes, shoes, kitchen necessities, decorative objects, jewellery and a great deal more, as well as being a fascinating place to wander for the dedicated bargain-hunter. It’s also a good place to cheaply buy extra suitcases to carry home the rest of the bargains! Les Tourrades is quite a distance from the town centre, but local buses travel there as it’s where the locals shop. Visitors should remember the entire area closes at lunchtime for the usual siesta and opens again in the late afternoon.
Lek Boonlert is an editor and content reviewer at DirectRooms and is responsible for all Cannes Hotels content.