A guide to Antibes
The ancient walled town of Antibes is one of the liveliest and prettiest on the Riviera, with a relaxed beachy feel, a thriving superyacht port and a gorgeous old town of narrow cobbled streets, markets and cafes.
Famous for being home to the Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, Antibes certainly saw its fair share of glitz, glamour and a touch of the avant-garde though the 20th century. For those who love art, and for those who love Picasso in particular, there could be no better place than Antibes and the French Riviera to trace the master’s footsteps, and find the masterpieces and scandals he left in his wake.
Lying to the east of Cannes, it offers a calmer, more traditional place to spend some time. It has a wonderful old town centre with a covered market and plenty of little cafes where you can contemplate the world as it drifts by.
Of all the seaside towns of the Riviera, Antibes is probably the most instantly recognisable- that wonderful jumble of old buildings sitting on the high ramparts above the sea, the tower of the Picasso museum rising above. The long curve of the port where the huge white superyachts line up along the quays, and the old fort standing watch on the far side. The old town is a warren of pretty cafes and bars, icecream shops and boutiques, with the busy Provencal market at the top of the town that smells of lavender and great wheels of French cheese. On the far side of town, golden sand beaches looked over by fairly charmless modern apartment blocks curve around to the famous Cap d'Antibes, where the gated villas of oligarchs sit under the cool pines along the rocky coast.
Beyond what was once the high walls you will find sandy beaches and a large harbour known as Port Vauban. Large luxurious yachts and a few small fishing boats are now anchored in the port where once the area was bustling with ancient Greek trading, it is now bustling with expensive yachts and boats. Being the largest marina in Europe you can often see some of the world’s largest (and most expensive) yachts anchored at this port.
The narrow streets, beautiful old stone buildings and the buzzing town centre make Antibes a little gem. With boutique hotels and gastronomic restaurants dotted around the port and town you can experience true modern French Riviera style.
The Cap d'Antibes is an upmarket area with large discreet villas. You can walk up through the lanes to explore the Cap, passing by some lovely botanical gardens (Jardin Botanique de la Ville Thuret) and on towards lands end where the iconic & luxurious Hotel du Cap sits.
Where is Antibes?
Antibes is a major town on the French Riviera that lies just to the east of Cannes and situated only 15 km from the International airport in Nice making it easily accessible for those in search of a little piece of paradise. The easiest and quickest way to get to Antibes is to fly as airlines fly from all over Europe throughout the year. If you are travelling from within France then the train is also an excellent option as the links to the French Riviera and Antibes and Nice in particular are great.
Also see: How to Get to Antibes
History & Culture in Antibes
Anitbes is an ancient town first known as Antipolis by the Greeks when its port was used for trading; it has since played a key role in Mediterranean trading. Taken by the Roman empire it remained a peaceful and successful town for several hundred years before the empire crumbled and it was seized by different barbarian tribes causing unrest and devastation.
In the 10th century Antibes was governed and ruled by Seigneur (lord) Rodoart who took it upon himself to protect the town. Rodoart had stone walls built by the architect Vauban in 1700 to surround the city and no military forces ever succeeded in conquering and winning Antibes due to these long protective surrounding walls. At this time a castle was also built using the remaining Roman stones and this was where Rodoart lived. The town of Antibes remained unharmed throughout history due to these walls and its stubborn residents.
When Napoleon came to Antibes from the island Elba it won its status of ‘Bonne Ville’ meaning good village as it had stayed true to the King of France and defended all opposing military forces.
As history and time developed Nice and France united to become one country, resulting in parts of the strong and protective walls around Anitbes being demolished as the need for protection was no longer a requirement. This is when the town and its surrounding areas really began to evolve and grow as before it was seen to be unsafe outside of the city walls.
Picasso was a fan of Antibes and stayed at the Chateau Grimaldi, the Antibes castle, for 6 months leaving behind his artwork when he left. The Chateau is now known as the Picasso museum with exquisite pieces of artwork from Picasso which were donated by himself and his family. Alongside Picasso’s art and other artists work you can wander the museum and soak up the castle environment and browse the excellent pieces.
Now Anitbes, Juan Les Pins and their surrounding areas almost merge into one large big expanse of the Cap d’Antibes that sits between Nice and Cannes. It can be hard to see the defining areas from a map but the towns themselves still remain very different today.
Also see: History of Antibes
Events in Antibes
There are also lots of local markets to visit in Antibes and of course plenty of cultural and musical events. You will not be short of entertainment in this beautiful French Riviera town.
Sights & Attractions in Antibes
There are a number of Museums and galleries where you can absorb yourself in the history and culture of Antibes. The Musee Picasso is a well known art museum situated in the Chateau Grimaldi, which is worth going to have a look at itself. Picasso had a short 6 month stay in the Chateau in 1946 but always felt connected to the town of Antibes and on his departure left a number of his art pieces behind which can now be seen in the museum today along with several other artists work. The Fort Carre is located just on the outskirts of the famous Antibes Port Vauban. It a fantastic old stone building that holds the that perches on the edge of the Saint-Roche Peninsula with stunning views out over the ocean it is open all year round to tourists.
Hotels in Antibes
Anitbes town itself has only a small handful of hotels to choose from, with the majority of boutique hotels located along the coast of the Cap d'Antibes and in Juan Les Pins. Most of the accomodation in Antibes is made up of luxury villas in the hills over looking the ocean, or self catering aparthotels.
If you are looking for the height of luxury then the Hotel Cap du Eden Roc in Cap d'Antibes is the place to go. The iconic hotel is still "the" hotel in the Anitbes area and many a famous face has walked through its doors, including the best writers, artists and the elite when it first opened over one hundred years ago. The incredibly chic and elegant interior and choice of luxurious rooms, suites or villas offer complete privacy and the finest in hospitality.You can relax by the infinity pool over the ocean, indulge at the spa or listen to the sound of the waves at the private beach.
Imperial Garoupe Hotel on the coast of Antibes inbetween the old town and Juan les Pins is another luxurious 5 star hotel. Offering guests the highest comforts with anitque furnishings and the finest of contemporary touches, exquiste gardens, fantastic mediterranean views and a large pool.
There are a few choices of apartments in Antibes, just a short drive away from the coast in the lovely quiet country side you will find the Olympe Residence. Private balconys and terraces, fully equipped kitchens, neutral colours, wooden furnishings and a lovelt swimming pool make this a fun, family friendly place to stay. Only 5km to Antibes beach you can whizz into town in no time.
With a number of luxurious villas in the hills of the Cap d'Antibes you will have privacy and peace as many of these gated properties are set back from the hillside roads with their own garden areas, swimming pools and spectacular ocean views.
Things to Do in Antibes
There is plenty to do in the old town of Antibes with a bustling and thriving town centre and surroundings you are never short of activities to do or places to see.
The market in the old town, Marche provencal, is open every day in the quaint little street of Cours Massena. Stalls set up early every morning loading their fresh local produce displaying a variety of scents and colours in a true provencal style. If market shopping doesn't tickle your fancy then you can browse the local boutique shops. Following in true Cote d'Azur fashion there is a host of designer chic clothing and jewellery boutiques tied in with the odd souvenir shop.
Of course, being right on the coast of the Mediterranean you can head out onto the beautiful golden beaches and venture into the sparkling blue waters to enjoy a whole range of water sports. The beaches are perfect for families with long stretches of soft sand and the gradual descent into the water. If you have children in tow then the Marineland water park may be a popular option, you can browse the aquarium, watch a animal show, hop on a water ride and even enjoy some adventure golf.
There are plenty of other sporting activities to keep you entertained. Explore the Antibes and Cap d'Antibes on bike or on foot and experience the breathtaking views from the hills. With an array of luxury and palatial villas lining the winding hillside roads and views that go for miles out to the ocean.
The walk around Cap d'Antibes is a must for its extraordinary views across the Bay of Angels to the Alps. Follow the coast road around to Plage de la Garoupe, where you can pick up the stunning walking path Le Sentier du Littoral that leads you around the rocky coastline. This is not a strenuous walk, but the path is very narrow and there are lots of stairs.Snorkeling or paddleboarding around the Cap is a gorgeous way to spend a day, or you can rent a small boat from the port to explore the coast. There's also a pleasant and slightly strenuous walk up through the forest to the lighthouse and chapel on Cap d'Antibes- at the top there's magnificent views along the coast in both directions.
If you want to see the beautiful beaches and experience more of the coast along Antibes then the best option is to hire a boat or yacht. There are a number of boating companies who will take you for a luxurious day out on the sea. You can head off to the popular and famous St Tropez and anchor there for the day or just explore more of the beaches along the French Riviera, stopping to have lunch and a glass of rose along the way.
Beaches in Antibes
Antibes is the first town along the coast from Nice that has natural sandy beaches, and there are several to choose from. Plage de la Gravette is right in town, a small but wide semicircle of beach in the shadow of the ramparts. As you walk along towards the Cap d'Antibes you'll find the open beaches- which is really just one long beach separated by a sailing club. All the beaches get extremely busy in the summer, and the picnics and beach volleyball carry on long into the summer nights. There are some watersport rentals available by Royal Beach restaurant and at the sailing club. Up on the Cap itself you'll find tiny pebble and seaweed coves shaded by pine trees, and stone steps and platforms that lead down into the clear blue sea, and also the lovely Plage de la Garoupe, which has a very small section of public beach, a cafe and 2 private beach clubs.
The Ministry of Health in France provides up-to-date information regarding the cleanliness of beaches. The interactive map (which is available in English) allows you to zoom in on the beaches of interest and to review recent test results. The beaches and rivers are ranked from excellent (blue) to prohibited (pink), meaning that entering the water is strictly prohibited. The monthly testing and monitoring makes it possible to assess the effects of wastewater sanitation and dirty rainwater runoff into swimming sites.
Also see: Beaches in Antibes
Restaurants in Antibes
Antibes has more restaurants and cafes than you can shake a stick at (although I've never quite understood why you'd want to do that). We've got a comprehensive restaurant guide here, but standouts include Le Quatre for a delicious crepe by the market, Royal Hotel or Royal Beach for modern Italian food overlooking the sea, and Le Brulo for good honest Provencal food- think crispy duck and potatoes and whole baked fish with tomatos, lemons and olives. If you fancy Michelin star cuisine, head to Le Figueur de St-Esprit on the ramparts or Le Bacon on the Cap d'Antibes. Meanwhile, for a cheap and tasty snack, head to the covered market for the Nicoise speciality socca- a woodfired chickpea crepe served all oily and salty in a piece of tinfoil. Seriously good, and at 2.50 a slice, hard to go wrong!
Nightlife in Antibes
The nights in Antibes tend to be lively in the warmer months, with a plethora of bars catering to a mostly tourist and yachting crowd till late. There's a couple of English pubs with occasional live music,late-night bars with DJ's, a couple of nice wine bars and an Australian Bar (not at all Australian save a crocodile stuck to the wall). There is only one nightclub in Antibes proper, L'Ekinox, and to be honest it's a bit of a dive. If you want more of a Riviera nightclub experience, head over the hill to the clubs in neighbouring Juan-les-Pins, or a bit further down the coast to buzzing Cannes with its piano bars and super-clubs under the palms. Do be aware that it's hard to find taxis back to Antibes late at night though-cabs are rare and expensive on the Riviera. Check out our comprehensive nightclub guide for Antibes.