Cannes or St Tropez: Which French City to Visit?


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Should you visit Cannes or St Tropez on your trip to the French Riviera? If you have to choose between the two places for your holiday, you’ve got a difficult decision ahead of you.

Both are beautiful small cities on the famous Côte d’Azur with gorgeous beaches, incredible cuisine and a splash of luxury so you can live like a superstar for a weekend.

But despite their similarities, choosing to stay in Cannes over St Tropez, or vice versa, will give you a very different experience of the Southern French coast.

In general, choose Cannes if you want to visit a bigger town with easy access to other areas along the French Riviera. On the other hand, St Tropez is a good option for those who want a luxurious holiday destination in a beautiful setting.

Both will give you a relaxing stay amongst beautiful surroundings, but ultimately, you should think about what activities you’d like to fill your time with to see which is the right destination for you.

Cannes

While not necessarily bursting with activities, Cannes is a perfect stop for a city break.

The warm weather and beautiful beaches will entice you to spend your trip unwinding and absorbing some vitamin D, but it also has some delightful neighbourhoods to wander around, as well as a couple of museums if you’re not so much of a sun-lounger. Home to the legendary film festival, Cannes is known as a hot spot among the rich and famous.

Cannes Harbour
Cannes Harbour

Accessibility

Reaching Cannes from outside of France is very simple thanks to its international airport just outside the city in nearby Nice. You can arrive in the centre from the airport in just around 40 minutes either by bus or car depending on the traffic.

There are also both bus and train connections to Cannes, making it an easy town to reach from nearby areas. You can view schedules here.

If you’re on a week-long road trip in the Côte d’Azur, it makes sense to rent a car so you can move freely around the area, however, if you’re just planning on staying around Cannes, a car isn’t necessary.

There are many car parks around Cannes, and some are located very centrally, but with parking being quite costly, having a car can be an unnecessary expense. You can browse car rental options here.

Cannes is a very walkable city, which is one of the best activities to do in Cannes, however, if you do prefer to use public transport, there’s an excellent bus system, with tickets valid for an hour so you can use the same ticket even if you change buses.

You can also take the tourist train from the Pantiero promenade around the popular areas of Cannes, such as Le Suquet and the Promenade de la Croisette with an audio tour; during summer months the train also runs at night so you can see the city from a different perspective.

Your best option, though, is to strap on a pair of comfortable sandals and discover the vibrant city on foot.

Sandy beaches in Cannes
Sandy beaches in Cannes

Affordability

When it comes to the cost of staying in Cannes vs St Tropez, it’s natural to be wary. You don’t get the reputation that Cannes has without plenty of luxury hotels and fine-dining restaurants.

However, there are always cheaper options, so if finance is a concern, you can still visit Cannes on a budget and save some money here and there.

For a double room with a view, or even just being close to the seafront, you can easily spend over €200 a night, in fact, the majority of properties in Cannes cost over €200 per night, so for accommodation, Cannes is quite expensive.

You can find some small studio apartments for less than €100 per night, as well as budget hotels in the centre for around €150 per night for a double room.

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend much in Cannes to enjoy your time there. You can access the beaches for free and, of course, walk around the city and take in the sights without spending a cent.

You can also book a free walking tour of Cannes with a local through the Cannes Greeters programme. Simply look up your interests and see who’s available at a time that suits you and you can explore Cannes with the help of a local guide who can show you their favourite spots that you might otherwise be unaware of!

So whatever you spend on accommodation or cocktails, you can save by getting some exercise, gaining some local knowledge and enjoying the bountiful views.

One of the most popular activities is a boat trip to the islands of Sainte Marguerite and Lérins, which takes just 15 – 30 minutes. On the island, you can hike around the natural wonders like the rock pools and eucalyptus trees, or visit the famous fort that held the Man with the Iron Mask prisoner, for just a few euros.

If you like to stay on the beach but prefer to lounge in style or with conveniences, there are plenty of bars along the public beach in Cannes where you can rent a sun lounger for around €30 a day and have excellent food and drink services.

Restaurants in Cannes are on the more expensive side, especially if you’re looking for a table with a view. You can, however, find plenty of provençal restaurants with excellent set menus for relatively affordable prices. Even if you’re not looking directly out over Cannes Harbour, you’re sure to still have a great view in the beautiful city.

Yachts in Cannes port
Yachts in Cannes port

Things to do in Cannes

When weighing up the differences between Cannes and St Tropez, it’s important to think about how you like to spend your time when travelling. Some people simply want to bask in the sun and cool off in the sea in between sipping cocktails, while others like to be a little more active and have cultural experiences too.

One of the best activities in Cannes is taking a boat trip out to St Marguerite to enjoy the views back towards the city of Cannes and along the coast, as well as explore the old fort turned sea museum, with its small exhibitions and wonderful views.

More excitingly, however, there is a unique aspect to this island that you absolutely shouldn’t miss out on the underwater eco-museum!

With six sculptures by Jason deCaires Taylor dotted around the south coast of the island, you can rent diving gear to see these incredible pieces of artwork that are ecologically safe and provide a unique habitat for aquatic life as well as a fantastic opportunity for divers.

If you want to spend more time on the water, you can even rent solar-powered boats without the need for a boat licence, so you can enjoy the views of the Mediterranean coast as well as the sparkling blue waters at your own leisure.

You can also visit the city’s World Explorations Museum! With plenty of artefacts and objects collected from around the world, especially the Mediterranean and Middle East, you can spend a few hours in the mediaeval castle that houses the museum.

And if you want to explore some other nearby areas, you can also easily reach nearby Antibes from Cannes should you wish.

Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite Island
Fort Royal on Sainte-Marguerite Island

Where to Stay in Cannes

Villa Claudia Hotel Cannes – This centrally located hotel is perfect for mid-range visitors to Cannes. They have a range of lovely rooms to choose from, a great garden for guests to lounge in, a fantastic central location and breakfast in the mornings.

Hotel Splendid – This opulent hotel in the centre of Cannes is perfect for those who want an upmarket stay in this French Riviera city. They have gorgeous rooms to choose from and plenty of luxe amenities for guests to take advantage of.

La Bastide de l’Oliveraie – Those who’d like a choice between a typical double room or a furnished suite will love this hotel in Cannes. Well-located for seeing the top sites of the city, there are several rooms and suites available and plenty of wonderful amenities, as well.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cannes hotels!

Beautiful Cannes
Beautiful Cannes

St Tropez

St Tropez is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places in France, and despite having the same glamourous reputation as Cannes, it’s a slightly more natural and less touristic holiday destination though also boasting a thumping nightlife. With its iconic pastel yellow and pink buildings, St Tropez is as picturesque as it gets.

Accessibility

St Tropez is admittedly less easy to reach than Cannes, so if you don’t plan on renting a car, it may be too difficult to reach. Toulon Hyères Airport is around an hour’s drive from St Tropez, while Nice Airport is double the distance and takes just under an hour and a half to reach.

If you don’t mind driving, there is a beautiful coastal road that offers scenic views all the way along, passing through Cannes and Fréjus, or the pretty hilltop village of Gassin if you’re coming from Toulon.

You can take a bus in 2 hours from Toulon airport to St Tropez, or a train from Nice to Fréjus followed by a bus to St Tropez taking 4 hours in total (there is no train station in St Tropez), however, the cheap tickets aren’t worth taking up so much of your time on the road.

That said, there’s essentially one main road in and out of St Tropez, so even if you’re driving, you may find yourself sitting in traffic as you approach the town, especially in summer.

Also like Cannes, St Tropez is best seen on foot, so you don’t need to worry about public transport within the town. The walks along the beaches, around the old fishing port and even up to the citadel are very scenic and don’t take long, even at a leisurely pace, so you can have a very relaxed time in St Tropez and still see the sights.

Citadel of Saint Tropez
Citadel of Saint Tropez

Affordability

Staying in St Tropez can be more expensive than in Cannes as there are fewer options in the luxury holiday destination, with almost all summer lets priced at over €200 per night for two people.

The properties are more luxurious, however, with entire homes available or breakfast included in most of the hotel prices, so if your idea is to take a more secluded and romantic trip, then St Tropez is perfect.

You can then save a little money by participating in free activities across the town, such as walking around the beautiful old port to the picturesque rocky shore at the Quai de la Pesquière, and the small but beautiful lighthouse where you can look back over the harbour.

If you want to add a cultural experience to your St Tropez itinerary, you can also visit the Citadel which now houses the Maritime Museum, as well as the joint Gendarmerie and Cinema Museum for quite low prices.

Eating and drinking is one of the best activities in St Tropez, however, as the restaurants and bars line the old port, giving you wonderful views over the St Tropez Gulf as well as an excellent opportunity to people-watch.

The prices are largely affordable, although the closer you get to the centre of the port, the more expensive they become. You can find set lunch menus throughout the town at relatively affordable prices for the area, all with exceptional seafood.

Port of Saint-Tropez
Port of Saint-Tropez

Things to do in St Tropez

Just regarding prices, Cannes may seem more attractive as there are more options for affordable accommodation, however, if you want a livelier trip with a few more activities, St Tropez might take the win.

As well as walking along the incredible beaches and enjoying the gentle buzz of the old fisherman’s port, you can also explore the old town.

On Tuesday and Saturday mornings, you can find a fresh produce market in the Place des Lices, where otherwise you’ll find small groups of men playing pétanque, both transforming the opulent town into its former status as a traditional fishing village, which gives St Tropez its unique charm.

Continue on the winding road up to the 16th-century citadel, from which you’ll have spectacular views over the town, as well as an in-depth exploration of St Tropez’s maritime history, from whalers to the role of the Ottoman Empire and expeditions to Zanzibar; St Tropez has a long history which has made such a unique and characterful town.

You also can’t visit St Tropez without taking a trip to the Gendarmerie and Cinema Museum. While pairing the two may seem unusual, the museum explores the representation of the police through cinema as well as looking at the long cinematic history of St Tropez.

With over 100 years of cinema in the town, the most famous film star to grace the streets of St Tropez is the effervescent Brigitte Bardot.

After leaving Paris, the actress and model lived most of her life in St Tropez and almost became one of the town’s landmarks before living a more secluded life away from the public and paparazzi. Her unapologetic sexuality and stunning beauty matched perfectly with this sparkling scenic town, so it’s no wonder she became a symbol of the classic and classy French Riviera.

Outside the museum, you can find a beautiful statue of the star, as well as a second located on a rocky island East of Les Salins, which you can see best from a boat.

If your interest still hasn’t been piqued, or you want to spend a few days in the area rather than a day trip to St Tropez, you can also visit the iconic Église Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption de Saint-Tropez, whose belltower stands proudly over the town, delight at the colourful Butterfly Museum, or spend an hour or so perusing the modern art in the Annonciade Museum.

Notre-Dame-de-l'Assomption of Saint-Tropez
Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption de Saint-Tropez

Where to Stay in St Tropez

Hotel La Romarine – This 3-star hotel is an excellent option for mid-range visitors looking for a great place to stay in St Tropez. Well-located close to all this little town has to offer, they have a swimming pool, tennis courts and an array of great rooms on offer.

Le Pre de la Mer – This upmarket boutique hotel is a great choice for all those looking for a luxury choice while visiting St Tropez. Along with a range of lovely rooms to choose from, there is breakfast on offer each morning, a swimming pool and a spa/wellness centre.

Appartement centre St Tropez – If you’re looking for a good self-catering option while in St Tropez to lower your France trip cost, this fully-furnished flat is a great choice. It’s well-located close to all of the town’s highlights and beaches and it’s equipped with everything you may need.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more St Tropez hotels!

Town of Saint Tropez
Town of Saint Tropez

Cannes vs St Tropez: Which is Better to Visit

Both offer exquisite seafood which you can find at reasonable prices on set menus, beautiful beaches with pristine water, and a richesse that you can’t find anywhere else than the French Riviera.

However, if you must choose between them, consider your budget, your interests and how much time you have to spare.

If money is no object, St Tropez offers a fuller holiday experience; there are plenty of bars and restaurants to try, museums and art galleries to peruse, historical sites to educate you, and of course beaches and walks to relax.

However, if you’ve got tighter purse strings, Cannes, as a bigger city, has more options for accommodation and dining for all tastes and budgets.

For those people short on time or who prefer to use public transport than rent a car, Cannes is also a better holiday destination than St Tropez, as it’s much easier to reach due to the proximity of the airport, as well as the excellent and reasonably priced public transportation system.

If you don’t mind the drive and want to stay in a slightly more secluded property, St Tropez has some wonderful hotels and rental apartments that are away from the hustle and bustle of city life, and yet just a short walk from the lively town centre.

If you’re still struggling to choose between Saint Tropez and Cannes, then the decision is a simple one: take a week-long Côte d’Azur road trip and see them both!

Are you visiting St Tropez or Cannes? Have any questions about either town? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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