Graham Greene, who lived in Antibes for more than twenty years, considered it the only place on this stretch of coast to have preserved its soul. And although Antibes and its twin, Juan-les-Pins, have not escaped the overdevelopment that blights the region, they have avoided its worst excesses. Antibes itself is a pleasing old town, extremely animated, with one of the finest markets on the coast and the best Picasso collection in its ancient seafront castle; and the southern end of the Cap d’Antibes still has its woods of pine, in which some of the most exclusive mansions on the Riviera hide. North of Antibes is lovely Biot, with its fascinating Fernand Léger connections.
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Musée PicassoLording it over the Antibes ramparts and the sea, the sixteenth-century Château Grimaldi is a beautifully cool, light space, with hexagonal terracotta floor tiles, windows over the sea and a terrace garden filled with sculptures by Germaine Richier, Miró, César and others. In 1946 Picasso was offered the dusty building as a studio. Several extremely prolific months followed before he moved to Vallauris, leaving all his Antibes output to what is now the Musée Picasso. Although Picasso donated other works later on, the bulk of the collection belongs to this one period. Picasso himself is the subject of works here by other painters and photographers, including Man Ray, Hans Hartung and Bill Brandt; there are also anguished canvases by Nicolas de Staël, who stayed in Antibes for a few months from 1954 to 1955.
Juan-les-Pins, less than 2km from the centre of Antibes, had its heyday in the interwar years, when the summer season on the Riviera first took off and the resort was the haunt of film stars like Charlie Chaplin, Maurice Chevalier and Lilian Harvey, the polyglot London-born musical star who lingered here until 1968, long after her fame had faded. Juan-les-Pins isn’t as glamorous as it once was either, though it still has a casino and a certain cachet, and the beaches are sand.
Juan’s international jazz festival – known simply as Jazz à Juan and by far the best in the region (jazzajuan.com) – is held in the middle two weeks of July in the central pine grove, the Jardin de La Pinède, and square Gould above the beach by the casino. A Hollywood-style walk of fame immortalizes various jazz greats at la Pinede, set into the pavement.