Historical Cannes

Cannes was made popular as a resort when former British Royal Chancellor Lord Brougham stayed there from 1834. He popularised the town amongst royalty, artists and writers. Since then it has been visited by the rich and famous for the great winter climate. Prosper Mérimée, Guy de Maupassant, Domergue, Chateaubriand, JMW Turner, Victor Hugo, Stendhal, Picabia, Renoir and Picasso have connections with Cannes.

To explore the history of Cannes you can visit:

Le Suquet Hill

The Lérins Islands

Cannes Town Centre


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Le Suquet, photo by Alan Copson


Le Suquet Hill

The hill above the old port holds the former monks’ castle, tower, former ramparts and a church. Also the 12th Century Tour de Mt Chevalier is said to be haunted by the Man in the Iron Mask. The hill is beautifully-lit at night and has great views of Cannes during the day. The ancient streets here are pedestrianised with no access for traffic.

Eglise Notre Dame d’Espérance

1 Place de la Castre, Cannes
This 14-17th Century gothic church has a selection of 19th Century paintings including a fresco by George Roux depicting the baptism of Jesus. The eight chapels of the church have links to the craft guilds of France going back to the 17th Century.

La Castre Museum (Musée de la Castre)

1 Place De La Castre, Cannes
Open July-August 10am-7pm and October-March 10am-1pm and 2-5pm
April-June and September 10am-1pm and 2-6pm
Closed Mondays from October to June
Free admission the first Sunday of the month

The museum was set up in the ruins of the medieval castle of the Lérins monks in 1952. Visit Chapelle Sainte-Anne which is now a historic monument. The art gallery at the museum features work from local artists amongst the ancient artifacts and ceramics from around the world. Seek out the 12th Century Chapelle Sainte-Anne.

Tour de Mt Chevalier/Tour du Masque

9, Rue du Mont Chevalier, Cannes
Popular myth has it that the tower is haunted by the ghost of The Man in the Iron Mask, a prisoner from the Bastille who escaped imprisonment on St Marguerite island and spent his final years in this 12th Century tower. You cannot go inside the tower so climb the outside for a panoramic view of Cannes bay.

view from Cannes

Saint Marguerite and Saint Honorat Islands

Fort Royal

Visit the cell where the unknown Man in the Iron Mask was kept imprisoned for eleven years. Take the 15-minute ferry ride from Quai Laubeuf in the Old Port to the nearest island of Saint Marguerite. Fort Royal was used as a prison from the 17th Century.

Musée de la Mer

Landing stage: Quai Laubeuf – Fort de l’île Sainte-Marguerite
June – September 10am to 5.45pm – October – March 10.30am to
1.15pm and 2.15pm to 4.45pm – April – May 10.30am to 1.15pm and 2.15pm to 5.45pm.
Closed Mondays from October to June.
The fort on Saint Marguerite houses the Maritime Museum (Musée de la Mer) – a listed historic monument – where you can view the murals of Jean Le Gac. You will also find exhibits of cargo from ancient shipwrecks.

Monastère et Abbaye de Lérins

This monastery and abbey on Saint Honorat Island is occupied by Cistercian monks who produce Lérina liqueur. There are seven historic chapels on this island, a museum exhibiting archeological items and paintings.

Cannes Town Centre

Notre-Dame de Bon Voyage

1 Rue Notre Dame, Square Mérimée, Cannes

The church of Notre-Dame de Bon Port was where sailors prayed for a safe journey at sea and is named for this. Seek out the the plaques which adorn the chapel. It replaced a 1580 chapel, Notre-Dame de Bon Port, behind which Napoleon spent the night after escaping Elba in 1815. There are 16th and 17th-Century wrought-iron grills enclosing the naves. The main door of the church was designed by Roger Capron and the church by Laurent Vianay. Also there’s a modern fresco to commemorate a visit from Pope Grégoire XI. Situated in front of the Palais des Festivals.

Memorial to World War I

Allées de la Liberté
Promenade de la Pantiero, Cannes

Designed by Albert Cheuret. Constructed in 1922-27 in bronze and stone. It is situated in front of the town hall or L’hôtel de ville. This memorial has been an historical monument since 2010.

Of course, Cannes has a long history of hosting artists and writers. Find out more about artists in Cannes.

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