With its immaculate seafront hotels and exclusive beach concessions, glamorous yachts and designer boutiques, Cannes is in many ways the definitive Riviera resort, a place where appearances count, especially during the film festival in May, when the orgy of self-promotion reaches its annual peak. The ugly seafront Palais des Festivals is the heart of the film festival but also hosts conferences, tournaments and trade shows. Despite its glittery image Cannes works surprisingly well as a big seaside resort, with plenty of free, sandy public beaches. You’ll find the non-paying beaches to the west of Le Suquet towards the suburb of La Bocca along the plages du Midi, though there’s also a tiny public section of beach on Plage de la Croisette, just east of the Palais des Festivals.
Alternatively, you can explore the old aristocratic suburbs La Croix des Gardes and La Californie, once populated by Russian and British royals. Just offshore, the peaceful Îles de Lérins – Ste-Marguerite and St-Honorat – offer a sublime, easily accessible contrast to the frenetic town, while further out are the towns of Vallauris, with its interesting Picasso connections, and Grasse, famed for its perfume.