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why visit cannes

Cannes is such a beautiful old town. Cloaked in ancient history it sits with such a regal permanence that is gained only through the passing of time, through the ages. Centuries of changes renders the town of Cannes and its islands as much a part of the landscape as the mountains and sea that frame it are. It's not just about the beaches, the restaurants, the local wining and dining, the history of Cannes allows you to feel the sense of time, and our own fleeting graze on the surface of it.

The origin of Cannes lies not in the old city itself but out in the calm blue waters of the Mediterranean sea where a tiny cluster of two, mostly uninhabitated islands, less than 2 miles offshore, play harbourmaster to the towns story. Never a shrinking violet, the town of Cannes has always been a key player on this part of the the French Riviera's coast.

Earliest Times

Before Cannes existed there were the Iles des Lerins. These tiny islands, their size belying their strategic importance, were populated by the ancient tribe of Liguria, the Ligurians. These people, who we have now come to associate with the most North Easterly region of Italy, were once a vast tribe.

Appearing in the histories of Northern Italy, Provence and Corsica it is possible that they reached all the way across Southern France into the North of Spain. They are the earliest known settlers to the area of Cannes dating back to the neolithic era from 4000BC to 2000BC.

The Iles des Lerins were so significant because they provided a sheltered and safe mooring in the environment of vibrant maritime commerce when pirates were at large and maurauders were rife.

The smaller of the two islands also had fresh water springs from which ships barrels could be replenished, an advantage that cannot be underestimated by todays standards. Archeological signs exist of a sizeable settlements on the islands from this time.

St Honorat
Across the Bay
St Marguerite
View from Le Suquet, Cannes
Le Suquet, Cannes
Le Suquet

Rome and the Christians

It was the Greeks, however, who gave the islands their name after a ligurian hero called Lero, which would suggest a certain harmony bewteen the two cultures. Following the Greeks came the sweeping Roman occupation of the Mediterranean area, which began as early as 2 BC, and saw Cannes established as a powerful naval base in a string of many for the Roman empire.

It was during this era and the emergence of Christianity that the second island, Ste Honorat, gained notoriety. Honoratus is said to have been born in Northern Gaul in 350AD. He made holy pilgramages through Palestine, Syria and Egypt before settling on the island in search of sanctimonius solitude. His reputation for piety drew disciples and the monastery, which remains in situ, was established. Of interest to the many Irish visitors to the South of France is that Saint Patrick studied on the island before bringing christianity to Ireland.

Rome Falls.

The falling of the Roman empire saw turbulent times seize the entire region and the fortunes of Cannes and the islands entered a long period of grave unrest. Relentless invasions over a time of more than two hundred years saw the eventual descecration and enslaving of the regions population.

The land, towns and communties were destoyed and faced a bleak and obscure future until, in 950 AD, fortunes turned. Count Guillame of Provence, also known as 'the Liberator', took charge and mounted a succesful counter attack on the barbarians.

He put into place a series of rebuilding and restructuring plans all along the coast that reenforced and strengthed the entire regions defences. Castles and forts were built, links forged with prominent, reliable families capable of ruling and the area became regenerated over time.

Stonework Cannes067
Famous visitorsFortress
080Old looking over new Cannes
Olive TreeOld and New

Cannes was gifted to Rodoard, the son of a noble family of Grasse, in return for help defeating the barbarians. His eldest son, Canue, gave his name to the town.

Canue was a pious man who became a monk and, in 1030 AD, turned over Cannes to the Abbey, a deal confirmed and sealed by the Pope. Cannes remained the property of the church right up until the eve of the French Revolution.

Peace and Fortification

Despite being under the auspices of the church Cannes still needed to be defended. The towers on St Honorat and Le Suquet were erected, beginning in 1073 and finished in 1190 and 1395 respectively. Under the ruling Lord Abbot peace reigned for several hundreds of years although the area was ravaged by ill health and plagues and peace was not to last.

The Count of Provence of the time redeemed his claim to Cannes but subsequently fell to the Angevins family who held titles under the House of Royal France, Kings of Naples and Counts of Provence. Neighbouring Nice however fell under the controlling familiy of the House of Savoy putting Cannes on the border, and the frontline, of political hostilities between the two towns.

A Sunny Future

In its tumultus history Cannes has been ransacked, pillaged, attacked and raided by everyone from the Romans to the Spanish via the neighbouring Nicoise. It has been plagued by illness, attacked by Barbarians, Saracens, Sardinians, Croatians and even the British. It was the Spanish who built the fortress on Sainte Margheurite that later became a prison and was made famous by the tale of the 'Man in the Iron Mask'.

In 1789 France was gripped in the unrest of revolution. The dust of ten years of battle and thousands of years of unrest eventually settled on a new Republic. It wasn't just the ruling classes that wrought the change, everything the church owned was auctioned off and the Abbey of St Honorat passed temporarily into private hands.

In the 1800's the South of France was already becoming popular with visiting dignitries and Royalty in the winter months and Cannes received attention of a different, more welcome and lasting kind. The Abbey was returned to the church and is still home, to this day, to an order of Cistercian monks. In 1863, with the assistance of Britain, a railway line linked Paris to the South Coast, shortening the time it took to make the journey and increasing Cannes popularity as a sunny holiday resort.

Old Town Cannes
winding streets
Town Hall architecture
The beautiful dome of the Carlton Hotel
sunny days
Beautiful Med, from Cannes
peaceful seas

Cannes Today

So the future was sealed for this ravaged, battle worn little Southern France town. The magnificent stone fortresses, and narrow, pretty, laned old town the only remains of a bloody and beseiged history. The crystal waters are stilled and peaceful, finally. It's hard to imagine such strife was possible amidst such natural beauty, sun dappled islands and stretching beaches.

Renting holiday Accommodation in Cannes

Enjoy the pleasures of this hard fought for harmony, by holidaying in Cannes. If you are ready to book a holiday villa or vacation rental apartment in Cannes then please use the search facility below. You can also 'Browse Rentals' in the main menu to find other areas and other holiday rental destinations in the South of France aor the Italian Riviera.


Some top holiday rentals in Cannes

Mandelieu 5-Bed Sea View Villa

French Riviera » Cannes » Mandelieu 350 sq.m. Villa 1002
»Holiday rental villa
»Price per night:$1,027.91
»Per person (x10):$102.79
Tranquil, Sea View
Located in the hills above Cannes, this exclusive villa has incredible panoramic sea views. With 5 double bedrooms, the villa can sleep 10 guests and has an independent apartment. There is a stunning swimming pool, enclosed garden and beautiful terraces.

Cannes 2-Bed Penthouse Terrace Apartment

French Riviera » Cannes » Carnot 78 sq.m. Apartment 1091
»Holiday rental apartment
»Price per night:$242.47
»Per person (x4):$60.62
City Centre, Contemporary
This contemporary, 2-bed penthouse apartment for 4 is situated in the heart of Cannes, just a few minutes walk from the Palais des Festivals and beaches. This fantastic property features 2 terraces, a jacuzzi and a spacious outdoor lounge and dining area.

Solero Apartment

French Riviera » Cannes 90 sq.m. Apartment 0564
»Holiday rental apartment
»Price per night:$166.82
»Per person (x4):$41.71
Swimming Pool, Tranquil
“I warmly recommend anyone contemplating a stay at Solero Apartment, and bookings through RRG, to do so.” - jamesbarber
Beautiful views and a pool are just two of the many features that make this apartment both charming and inviting. Located in a quiet area just outside of Cannes city centre.


Find your holiday rental in Cannes


Immediate Area

» Cannes old town» Le Cannet» Super Cannes
» Theoule sur Mer» Mandelieu» Mouans Sartoux
» Mougins» Cannes Croisette» La Bocca
» Californie» La Croix des» La Banane
» Carnot 
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