On the French Riviera, between chic Cannes and elegant Nice, sophisticated Antibes sits on the edge of the Mediterranean Sea basking in the sun…
The southern French seaside resort has oodles of charm and has long lured tourists to enjoy the old town, the arty vibe, the golden sandy beaches and memorable sunsets. Writer F. Scott Fitzgerald rented a house here in the 1920s and partied to excess with his wife, their home is now the renowned hotel Belles-Rives. The “diffused magic of the hot sweet South … the soft-pawed night and the ghostly wash of the Mediterranean far below” wrote Fitzgerald in “Tender Is the Night.” That description has not changed.
What to do in Antibes
The beaches are a big draw of course. 25km of beaches, some sand and some shingle. Some are open to the public, others are private. La Gravette is popular, shaded by the ramparts of the old town, protected from wind and watched by lifeguards. Pop to the tourist office to pick up a map and discover all the beaches, including secluded bays and coves, perfect for a laze in the sun.
Coastal walks are popular here too. Take the 1km rather steep hike from the beach to the Garoupe Lighthouse. The view over the pine and olive trees to Juan-les-Pins, the resort next door, is well worth the effort. The lighthouse is among the most powerful on the French Mediterranean coast.
Off-beach there’s also plenty to do.
The Picasso museum is a beautiful historic building, formerly the Chateau Grimaldi. It takes it’s name from the Grimaldi family who owned it until 1608. Built on top of a Greek Acropolis, which became a Roman castrum, the first few metres of the walls are what the Romans left behind.
In 1946 Picasso, who was staying in a villa nearby, was asked by Chateau Grimaldi’s curator (it was at that time a provincial museum) to donate a drawing. Picasso said he would but complained that he’d never had a whole wall to paint on. The wily curator offered him carte blanche and Picasso accepted. Instead of one drawing, he burst into activity painting frescoes on the walls and even over other paintings throughout the summer. There are now some 245 Picasso paintings, ceramics and drawings in the museum’s collection.
Hardly known, the Peynet Museum of Antibes is unusual but interesting and a must see for lovers of cartoons. Artist Raymond Peynet lived in Antibes for 20 years. In the 1980’s he helped set up this museum, which now displays 4,000 artworks charting his 50-year career including jewellery, porcelain figures and posters, as well as full-sized figures of his famous Les Amoureux characters designed for a window display in Galeries Lafayette Paris.
Old town Antibes
With its winding cobbled streets, art galleries and charming cafés, Antibes old town is a great place to wander. Shop at the market or sit and watch the world pass by and the boats bob in the marina.
Fort Carré dominates Antibes, surrounded by a park on the Saint-Roch Peninsula, rising to a height of 43m. It’s the perfect place for a photo opp with 360-degree panoramic views. The 16th century fort was updated in the late 1600s by King Louis XIV’s military engineer Vauban and it is fantastically preserved. Eagle-eyed visitors may recognise it from the 1983 Bond film Never say Never Again, it was the villain Maximilian Largo’s fortress!
Island hop from Antibes
Hop on a ferry shuttle to the island of Sainte-Marguerite. Take a picnic and explore the island where the Man in the Iron Mask was imprisoned and follow the forest trail beneath a canopy of pine and eucalyptus trees.
Antibes for kids
Parc Phoenix, a little way from Antibes is a must visit for families. This huge park has a zoo, enormous greenhouse, exotic flower collections and plenty of animals of all sorts to keep the kids enchanted.