How to do the French Riviera on a budget.
We so closely associate Cannes with the eponymous film festival and see photos of the south of France exclusively through the eyes of celebrities and influencers. But visiting Cannes during the off-season has major perks—including better rates and fewer tourists.
Cannes, a village near Nice on the French Riviera that becomes a big city in summer, never drops below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Though the vibrant blue sea reaches icy temps in winter, you can still dine and lounge seaside under the sun, and live that linen-clad Instagram-influencer life. Here are the biggest advantages to an off-season trip, and some tips for enjoying the glamorous seaside without a red-carpet budget.
Hotel Prices Are Down—Way Down
The largest hotel in Cannes, its letters presiding over the city like the Hollywood sign of France, Hotel Martinez, part of The Unbound Collection by Hyatt, might feel intimidating to first-time visitors, especially when you observe the clientele wearing head-to-toe Chanel or Louis Vuitton. But the down-to-earth managers keep this spot from feeling off-limits, even with Cannes’ only Michelin-starred restaurant–La Palme d’Or– inside, or the fact that it houses the second-largest penthouse in Europe.
Yes, Hotel Martinez gets pricey during film festival time, when jewelry brands make the penthouse suite their showroom and celebrities can be spotted roaming the massive, open-air eatery drenched in the afternoon sun. But winter is a different story. You’ll gasp when you open your door to find a striking view of the Mediterranean, but you can enjoy it starting at just €200 a night, and even less during select occasions when the hotel offers special discounts.
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Beaches and Pools Are Less Crowded
Visions of white sands along the French Riviera dotted with striped umbrella after striped umbrella all but disappear in winter, when you can claim stretches of shoreline all for yourself. The sea is calm at this time of year, too, so you can watch the meditative waves roll in, or listen from your hotel window for soothing sea sounds.
Hotel Martinez is also set to reveal two scenic outdoor pools in the coming months. While guests can enjoy private access in summer, the off-season (which is still quite warm) will allow locals and non-guest visitors to use the pool and soak in the opulence.
There’s No Pressure to Hit The High-End Shops
Cannes in summer is sure to beckon the best—and most expensive—looks. But winter is a more casual affair, and Cannes delivers with not only apparel, but places to shop for unique gifts or just last-minute essentials. Along the tree-lined La Croisette you’ll find shops like Balenciaga for window-shopping, but venture to Rue d’Antibes and down side streets and you’ll find record shops, a refurbished cinema, and antique stalls and markets selling produce and kitschy goods.
You Can Gawk at Luxury With No Shame
From the stretch of land owned (though never visited) by the late King of Saudi Arabia, to the island where monks make champagne, to the castle where Louis XIV is said to have kept his twin brother clad in an iron mask (the inspiration for The Man in the Iron Mask starring Leo DiCaprio), there is plenty of luxury to lust after along the French Riviera, visible during a boat or ferry ride. You won’t have many actual celebrities to ogle, thus saving you from agents and bodyguards shooing you away, but you’ll still have plenty to marvel at. Check with your hotel concierge to see if they can arrange a guided boat trip for you, and you’ll learn all about Cannes history.
You Can Snag That Hard-To-Get Table
Downtown Cannes, La Croisette, and Rue d’Antibes are filled with restaurants and nightlife that buzz with crowds in the height of summer, and places like Le Jardin de Martinez, right on the shore of the Bay of Cannes and operated by Hotel Martinez, are fully booked during festival season. In winter, expect short to no wait-times to dine in luxury or snag a barstool on a night out.
Even if you don’t identify with the rich and the famous, Cannes is still a welcoming destination, especially in winter, which feels more like an east coast spring.
Photos taken by Rachael Roth with a Nikon D3500.