Antibes is a city of many facets, with the biggest marina on the Riviera, the Billionaires Quay where you can admire some of the largest and most lavish gin palaces, the old fortified town and the famous Picasso museum, the free commune of Le Safranier... Beaches, aquatic activities, the enchanting setting of the Cap d'Antibes, shopping and a lively nightlife, your stay in Antibes is exceptionally promising!
Oriented towards the Baie des Anges to the east and the Golfe Juan to the west, Antibes is the second city of the Alpes Maritimes: in 2012, it had a population of 75,568. Enjoying a Mediterranean climate, the summers are sunny and hot and the winters are mild.
The old Antibes and Picasso museum
Yachts on the Quai des Milliardaires in Antibes
Old Antibes and the foothills of the Alps in the background
Bastion Saint-Jaume and nomad in Antibes
Cathedral of Antibes
Streets of old Antibes
Beach of Antibes
Old Antibes illuminated at night
Small port of the Olivette at the Cap d'Antibes
Phoenician city called Antipolis in the 5th century, Roman city, a bishop's see, border town of the kingdom of France, prized vacation destination during the Victorian era and the Roaring Twenties, today a centre for leisure, business and technology, Antibes certainly does have a rich history. The old town, the ramparts, the monuments and archaeological sites, the villas on the Cap d'Antibes all testify to the city's prestigious past. Let's go visit it.
You can enter the town by way of the Port Vauban, one of the biggest marinas in Europe. The Billionaires Quay is one of the rare quays where yachts larger than 100 metres can moor – a real show.
Nearby, integrated into the restored Bastion Saint-Jaume, the monumental sculpture “Nomade” by Jaume Piensa, will make you pause for a moment.
Passing through the Porte Marine gate in the ramparts, you will come to the Boulevard d’Aguillon, one of the most lively streets in town with its many bars and restaurants open until late at night. If you go up the Rue Aubernon you enter Old Antibes. Just in front of you, the Cours Massena hosts every morning the Provençal market, the most popular market on the Riviera, a feast of flavours and fragrances. With its very old houses, this square constituted the “Bourgade” in the Middle Ages.
Going to the right, you will come to the Place Nationale with its column given as a gift to the city by Louis XVIII. Not far from there you can admire the very pretty Saint-Bernadin Chapel built in the 16th century. Around there, it's a pleasure to stroll the small shaded streets with a plethora of shops, galleries and fountains. One such fountain, on the Place de Gaulle at the other end of the Rue de la République is composed of three basins and 91 water jets accompanied by a play of light, all controlled by computers.
Going to the left from the Cours Massena and up the Rampes des Saleurs, you enter the very oldest part of the town, fashioned by 3000 years of history. A maze of tiny lanes, you will find there the main cathedral of Antibes, dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception (Notre Dame de l'Immaculée Conception). First built in the 5th century on the site of a pagan temple, reconstructed in 1125 following attacks by the Saracens, it has been altered several times.
The Château Grimaldi, built on foundations from the Roman era, today houses the Picasso Museum and many of the artist's works including “La Joie de Vivre”. The Saracen Towers, one of which is part of the château, seem to still be protecting the city. Running along the sea, you can follow the old parapet walk on the ramparts built by the royal military architect Vauban.
A bit further along, you will come to the “free commune” of Safranier, which stretches between the Rue de la Tourraque and the Rue du Haut Castelet. A neighbourhood dear to Graham Greene, Prévert and Paul Arène, the “free commune” was founded in the 1960s by a handful of fun-loving Antibes-dwellers who loved the local traditions, and above all, partying (and there are a lot of fêtes during the year!) A play of flowers and suns brightens up the narrow lanes and the square where there is a very convivial restaurant, the Taverne du Safranier, overlooked by the house that belonged to Kazantzakis, author of “Zorba the Greek”.
Way on the other side of the city, you will find the Fort Carré, symbol of Antibes' role as the last bastion before the Comté de Nice and today open to the public.
One can indeed spend several days in Antibes just to see everything it has to offer. Or to take time to laze in the sun on its beaches or follow one of the trails along the sea.
The cape, or Cap d'Antibes, has several beautiful paths, well frequented on Sundays, and quite unique views over the Iles de Lérins to the west and the Mercantour to the east. At the most elevated point of the Cape, the Phare de la Garoupe lighthouse, one of the most powerful on the coast, dominates the gulf of Juan les Pins and the Baie des Anges. Not far from it is the charming little Notre-Dame-de-la-Garoupe church (also called Notre-Dame-du-Bon-Port by seamen) with its superb collection of ex-votos and the Notre-Dame des Amoureux oratory created by Raymond Peynet. A museum in Antibes is devoted to him. From May to October, typical fishing boats are moored in the little Olivette port.
At the tip of the cape, the villa Eilenroc, which symbolizes the splendour of the Belle-Epoque, offers tours of its grounds and rose garden on some days of the week.
Near Antibes, Juan-les-Pins, a legendary seaside resort with sandy beaches, hosts a Jazz Festival, the very first ever jazz festival in Europe.
From there, you can visit the Iles de Lérins. Boats leave Juan les Pins (as well as Cannes) for the islands of Sainte Marguerite and Saint-Honorat where you can visit the fortified Lérins Abbey.
Nine kilometres from Antibes, the Sophia Antipolis technological park, the most important in Europe as well as on a worldwide scale, is situated just below the Préalpes d'Azur regional park.