Snuggled between glamorous Cannes and cultural Nice is Antibes, known as a hidden gem on the Côte d’Azur despite that it is the second largest town out of the three French Riviera havens.
Côte d’Azur, or the French Riviera, has long been a dream vacation for Americans and an annual August getaway for Parisians. The northern part of the stretch along the coastline below Monaco is famously hailed by Nice, Antibes, and Cannes. Out of the three towns though, Antibes might be the lesser known hence making it an even more of a perfect holiday destination. From Paris, the train takes a little less than 6 hours while flying only requires 1.5 hours but arriving in Nice.
Antibes was originally founded by the Greek, the name Antipolis (translation: Opposite City,) refers to its geographical position from Nice. Around 19th century, wealthy Europeans began to appreciate Antibes by purchasing or building seaside villas. Later, the town was further heightened in reputation by legendary artists, including: Pablo Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald who were captivated by Antibes so much so that they drew inspiration from this tranquil destination. The Jazz Age and the Roaring Twenties elevated Antibes to jetset status.
Today, much of its former glamour has evaporated but there’s still much to experience. Jazz festivals, superyachts, Old Town, Picasso’s epic museum, and best of all, sunbathing on the beach. Here are some quintessential things to do in the lovely Antibes, a lovely jewel in the fabulous Côte d’Azur.
Old Town / Vieil Antibes
Vieil Antibes, 06600 Antibes, France
Locally referred to as vielle ville, Old Town is a Medieval area full of cobblestone streets embellished with fountains, harbor, crêperies and shops selling gelato mixed with fresh fruit. In Old Town, you’ll also discover Fort Carré, and the iconic Picasso Museum. Scroll down to read more about these landmarks.
Musée Picasso, place mariejol, 06600 Antibes, France
Since painter Pablo Picasso spent much of his time in the Antibes, visiting his museum is a must-do. The former Château Grimaldi from the late 14th century became Picasso’s home in 1946 for six months. Despite numerous Picasso museums around the world today, this one in Antibes was the first museum honoring the iconic artist, with many works personally donated by Picasso himself, including: La Chèvre sculpture and La Joie de Vivre. In 1990, Jacqueline – muse and second wife of the painter – also donated numerous works by Picasso to this particular museum. Today, there are 245 pieces in Musée Picasso that showcase his love for this region of France.
Avenue du 11 Novembre, 06600 Antibes, France
The 16th century fort is one of the most popular sites in Antibes, since it was used as a prison where Napoleon Bonaparte was held during the French Revolution. The fort was most likely built by the Romans but later reconstructed by King of France, Henry III. During the 17th century, Marquis de Vauban – the French military engineer who worked under Louis XIV – added strength to the fort for defense and military purposes. You can learn more about the detailed history of Fort Carré at the site which is open all-year-round. But the best part about this spot is the spectacular view of endless oceans and an epic shoreline of the Riviera.
Plage de la Jetée. 21 Avenue Guy de Maupassant, 06160 Antibes, France
There’s not a more quintessential activity to do in the French Riviera than sunbathing on a beach, or drinking rosé at a beach club. Some beaches are free, like La Plage de la Gravette situated next to Fort Carré so you can enjoy the view of the fort while sinking your body in the warm waters of the South. Other popular ones near Old Town are: Plage de la Salis and Plage du Ponteil.
For private beach clubs, we really loved La Jetée where you can order a bottle of rosé and hang out on lounge chairs where you soak up the sun or diving into the ocean for a fun splash.
Le Comptoir de La Tourraque
1 Rue de la Tourraque, 06600 Antibes, France
Le Comptoir de la Tourraque is a cozy spot unlike the typical beachside eats or upscale haute French cuisine restaurants spotted throughout Antibes. This unpretentious local gem changes its menu three times a week to properly incorporate seasonal produce and ingredients into its “bistronomique” dishes, meaning that each plate is prepared with bistro’s simplicity approach combined with gourmet concept. Located quite close to the Picasso Museum, this restaurant also makes a lovely stroll along the coastline.
Cours Masséna, 06600 Antibes, France
One of my personal favorite things to do as a traveler is to visit local markets, and the one in Antibes is no exempt. In fact, it has become one of the most iconic and important markets in all of Côte d’Azur. Not only will you find the freshest produce in season, the variety extends to lavender oils and organic soaps. Try to get there early, before 10 a.m., start collecting the juiciest vegetables and fruits for your perfect picnic basket.
Le Sentier du Littoral, Cap d’Antibes
11 Chemin des Douaniers, 06160 Antibes, France
Le Sentier du Littoral, Cap d’Antibes is a gorgeous pathway along the coastline that makes an ideal spot for hiking, picnics, and even swimming. Begin at Plage de la Garoupe to start your narrow trail, you’ll see several stops clearly marked for you to pause and indulge in a picnic or a relaxing drink. Make sure to wear comfortable shoes as the trek can be rocky, put on hats and pile on the sunscreen! Depending on how much you want to take your time, the hike typically requires 60-90 minutes.
If you’re looking for a more serious hike, then head to Groupe Lighthouse for one of the best panoramic views of the French Riviera. Start your trail from Plage de la Salis where you’ll reach Chemin du Calvaire. You won’t be able to visit the interior of the lighthouse, but there’s a tiny chapel nearby where you can wander inside to say a little prayer.
PS. If the weather is rainy, we do not recommend the hike.
1 Rue de la Tourraque, 06600 Antibes, France
Juan-les-Pins boasts a glamorous history since F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald resided in a villa by the sea here during the 1920s. Other famous artists from the Jazz Age also unveiled Juan-les-Pins where they water skiied and lived a relaxing lifestyle away from bustling Paris. Nowadays, Juan-les-Pins has lost its former glitz but it remains as a fabulous area to shop. From luxury boutiques of local and international designers to jewelries made by artisans on the promenade, you’ll definitely find something unique to bring home.
Nightlife in Antibes-Juan les Pins
If day drinking on the beachfront isn’t enough, then stay in the area of Juan-les-Pins for several popular bars and clubs on the riviera with DJ’s spinning through the night pumping up a younger but hipper crowd. Check out: Kiss Club which caters to the stylish and the posh night owls. Not too far is Le Village, if your vibe is “go big or go home” since it’s a more expensive club with headline DJ’s. Head to Pam Pam cocktail bar for an early evening session of people watching.