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Cannes History

Life in Cannes hasn’t always been glamorous.

A tiny fishing village once existed where Cannes stands today, but it was the neighbouring islands of Lerina (now St Honorat) and Lero (now St Marguerite) that emerged as key trading ports in the fourth century AD.

In AD410 two monks (Honorat and Caprais) arrived on Lerina. By the sixth century there were 500 monks living in Lerina’s monastery.

Fearing a Saracen invasion, in the 11th century the monks procured the hill of Le Suquet on the mainland and built a watchtower, which still stands in Cannes' Old Town.

Le Suquet witnessed a period of expansion and the name Cannes was born.

Saracen pirates ransacked the monastery in the 12th century. While this failed to stymie the expansion of Cannes, it did lead to a period of great insecurity.

Piracy was a constant threat, and the King of Aragon, at war with the Count of Provence, had established a permanent naval blockade along the coast.

Cannes managed to prosper, but in 1520, war broke out between French King Francis I and Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Cannes became a corridor for marching armies.

Worse still, the great plague of 1579 decimated most of the population.

Spanish troops arrived in 1635, occupied the town for nearly two years, and then returned in 1707 during the War of Spanish Succession.

Cannes enjoyed a period of calm in the 18th century, and in the 19th century it flourished. Lord Brougham, former British Chancellor, visited the city in 1834 and became so enamoured with it he stayed.

He introduced the British aristocracy to Cannes and it soon became one of the trendiest spots on the Côte d’Azur.

Today, Cannes remains one of the Côte d’Azur’s premier destinations and the glamorous location for the iconic International Film Festival.

Did you know?
• The Man in the Iron Mask was incarcerated on the island of St Marguerite in the late 17th century.
• The Cannes Film Festival has been held annually since 1946, with the exception of 1948 and 1950.
• Cannes has been twinned with Kensington and Chelsea since 1970.

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Featured Hotels


Hôtel Alnea

A basic, comfortable hotel located only a minute's walk from the Palais des Festivals and a short stroll from the Croisette beaches. The rooms are air-conditioned and soundproofed and come with flatscreen TVs and free Wi-Fi. It's a good cheap option with great service and some colourful paint schemes.

Hôtel Le Cavendish

Formerly the home of Lord Cavendish, the British aristocrat who discovered hydrogen, this belle époque building is a charming hotel just north of the railway station. All 34 rooms are serenely elegant, but try to get one in the rotunda. And make time for the free aperitifs every evening.

Hotel Novotel Suites Cannes Centre

The Novotel offers good-value rack rates and some of the best online specials in Cannes. This swish, modern, all-suite hotel is only a 10-minute walk from the railway station but still delivers spacious rooms that all have microwaves and kettles, as well as large working spaces and flatscreen TVs.

Hôtel Barrière Le Majestic

This belle époque palatial hotel along La Croisette fuses classic elegance with modern refinements. It has 349 sumptuous rooms, three Venetian-style lounges, five restaurants, two bars and a swimming pool. It has also hijacked part of the main beach, which means guests can enjoy bathing in private.

Hotel Colette

This 3-star stay is one of the most stylish hotels in Cannes. Its simple yet striking white colour scheme acts as a canvas for the hotel's lively blend of modern furniture, contemporary art and the odd antique. Its location opposite the railway station is convenient, albeit not the prettiest.

Hôtel Martinez

Situated on La Croisette, the 5-star Hôtel Martinez is one of the Riviera's grand palaces. Guests can take advantage of the private beach, swimming pool and spa while staying in the palatial apartments or well-appointed rooms. Its Michelin-starred restaurant, La Palme d'Or, has a reputation for exceptional cuisine.