Best Things to do in Antibes, France

Antibes can feel relatively understated compared to its more ostentatious neighbours, Nice and Cannes. This historic town has a laid-back, yet old-world vibe – one that transports you to the French Riviera of old – to the times when Picasso and F. Scott Fitzgerald frequented the corner cafes and glorious beaches.

Days are usually spent outdoors – dining alfresco at chic brasseries, perusing open-air markets, or sipping pastis on terraces in the charming old town as live music plays nearby.

Here, you can gallery hop, learn about local history, or relax on sandy beaches – occasionally dipping into the sapphire-blue Mediterranean Sea to cool off. There are scenic hiking trails to ramble along, and enchanting interior villages to explore.

If you’re seeking the best things to see in Antibes, this Provençal town has something for everyone, so keep reading for inspiration.

Is Antibes Worth Visiting?

If you’re looking for a picturesque base for your South of France holidays, or simply want to discover the true essence of the Côte d’Azur, then Antibes is absolutely worth adding to your itinerary.

You’ll find the beautiful coastal town right in the middle of the French Riviera, with Cannes to the west and Nice to the east, making it an excellent base for exploration.

In Antibes, you’re blessed with historical and artistic cultural sites, upscale shopping and top-tier culinary experiences. If you add stunning beaches and dramatic coastal trails into the mix, this town has all the ingredients for a memorable Côte d’Azur day trip or extended stay.

What to do in Antibes

Many of the top things to do in Antibes can be experienced on a day trip to the seaside town. But to really experience the joie de vivre, it’s better to stay put for a while…

Explore Vieil Antibes

Antibes old town is a delightful network of narrow alleyways and shady squares flanked by pastel-hued townhouses with wooden shutters. The sweet floral scent of bougainvillaea and jasmine lingers as you stroll past patisseries, gift shops and open-air cafes.

The atmosphere is lively – particularly in peak season – but visit out of season and you’ll be treated to a unique slice of local life.

Pop into Cathedral Notre Dame – its most recent incarnation dating back to the early 1500s.  Here, you’ll notice the interior is a striking rose colour, enhanced by religious paintings and a decorative altar.

Browse art galleries, walk the town’s ramparts, or visit the bustling Provençal market to shop for gourmet picnic ingredients, and local arts and crafts. You can visit Le Fort Carré with its panoramic views, or admire works by Pablo Picasso, displayed in a museum dedicated to the pioneering artist. 

After sundown, the old town atmosphere is electric – grab a seat and dine alfresco on hearty plates of ratatouille, Provençal tart and crème brulee.

Relax on the Beach

Antibes is blessed with several beautiful beaches, meaning you have a veritable smorgasbord of places to spend a day by the sea.

The most convenient is the horseshoe bay of Plage de la Gravette nestled between the ancient ramparts a short stroll from the old town. It’s a beach for dedicated sun worshippers and those seeking to unwind after a morning of market shopping. There’s little to no wind thanks to the breakwater, and the reduced swell makes it safe for swimming.

Wander towards Cap d’Antibes and you’ll discover the popular Plage de Ponteil. Possibly the best beach in Antibes, if you ask the locals! You can make use of the sailing club or enjoy a day of swimming, snorkelling and sunbathing.

It has great facilities and kiosks for snacks and drinks – so you’ll never go hungry – and the wide tree-lined promenade that runs in parallel is a lively place for sunset walks.

Then there’s Plage de la Salis – a public beach carpeted in fine white sand and outstanding views of Antibes’ old town in the distance. It’s a similar vibe to Ponteil, but wins extra points for the cleanliness and quality of the water. It also has a staffed accessible area for disabled people to access the beach and water.

There are several other stunning beaches in and around Antibes, you can read about them here.

Admire Picasso’s Paintings

Pablo Picasso was invited by curator Romauld Dor de la Souchère to stay at Château Grimaldi in the 1940s. He felt that the artist, following his earlier visits to the French Riviera, would be further inspired by Antibes.

Picasso arrived with his muse – a fellow painter, Françoise Gilot – and an atelier was created for him to work in the castle. During his stay, the flamboyant pioneer of Cubism created some of his most prolific works.  When he departed the château, he donated 23 paintings, over 40 sketches, and ceramics to the venue that would later become Musée Picasso.

Today, the Picasso Museum has expanded to include 240+ works by the artist. On a self-guided tour, you can see creations such as La Joie de Vivre and The Woman with the Sea Urchins.

The museum also displays popular art and sculptures by Joan Miró, Fernand Leger, and Germaine Richier, among others. If you adore contemporary art, this venue is a must-visit in Antibes.

Discover Antibes Walking Trails

Another way to flex your artistic muscle when visiting Antibes is by walking the legendary Art Trail. This route transports you to all the places that inspired Picasso, Claude Monet, et al.

At various viewpoints throughout Antibes, you’ll see reproductions of paintings in places that inspired the original artwork. You get to see the landscapes through the eyes of the artists and can create your own interpretation in the present moment.

For a different perspective of Antibes, walk the stone stairs to Phare de la Garoupe. The lighthouse stands over 100 metres tall on the Antibes peninsula, sheltered amid maritime pine trees.

The walk is mostly shaded and not far from Plage de la Salis, although you can also drive up if needed. At the top, panoramic views await, and there’s a small bistrot serving cool drinks.

Peruse Local Markets

Since the 12th century, markets have been a big part of life in the French Riviera, and today they still take place most days in Antibes.

In the old town of Antibes, you’ll find Le Marché Provençal, a popular covered market where vendors sell fresh produce. On cloth-covered stalls, you can peruse rows of rainbow-coloured fruits and veggies, herbs, olive oils and cheeses. This vibrant market is the perfect place to pick up a gourmet lunch for the beach or self-catering treats.

In the afternoons and evenings during summer months – in the same location, the market transforms into a thriving arts and crafts market, showcasing sculptures, artworks, and original creations from local artisans.

These aren’t the only markets in town though. The popular Foire (clothing) market takes place on Tuesdays and Saturdays at Place Amiral Barnaud in the old town. Alternatively, if you have a penchant for antiques and collectables, the weekly brocante invites you to browse rare treasures from the past on Saturdays at Place Audiberti.

Take Day Trips from Antibes

Antibes is at the heart of Côte d’Azur action, making it easy to explore neighbouring cities, islands and enchanting hilltop villages.

Hop aboard the scenic train to nearby Nice and stroll along Promenade des Anglais, visit Musée Matisse and Cours Saleya – the bustling old town market.

You can follow in the footsteps of American author F. Scott Fitzgerald and spend a day in glamorous Juan-les-Pins.  Relax on stunning beaches, sip cocktails waterside or dine at Michelin star La Passagère in Hotel Belles Rives where he stayed with his wife Zelda.

The glitzy resort of Cannes – home to the annual film festival – is less than 15 minutes away too. Stroll along Le Croisette gazing in windows of designer boutiques, or browse the rows of books in the prettiest library set within a historic mansion. If you prefer to dive into local history, Le Suquet in the old town is an enchanting labyrinth of alleyways leading to an epic viewpoint and museum.

Fancy a trip inland? The picturesque villages of Mougins and Grasse are nearby. In Grasse, book a tour to learn all about the art of fragrance making. You can even create your own individual scent!

Photograph Le Nomade

In a town brimming with history, Catalan sculptor Jaume Plensa’s Le Nomade acts as a beacon of a new era for Antibes. The contemporary white iron sculpture sits by the waterfront outside Bastion Saint-Jaume.

The vision from afar is of a man calmly gazing out to sea. But look a little closer and you’ll notice that The Nomad is crafted with letters of the alphabet. Only the face is devoid of words, it simply opens up to the sea and sky.

It’s an impressive display of creativity and a great place to stroll, sit and observe the luxury yachts in Port Vauban as they bob quietly in the bay.

Have a History Lesson at Le Fort Carre

On a hilltop overlooking Antibes, surrounded by greenery, is Le Fort Carré. The impregnable fort was built on the orders of Henri II – originally constructed to defend Antibes from land and sea invaders.

During the French Revolution, it is said Napoleon was imprisoned here, and in later years it was used as a military training location. If you’re a movie enthusiast, you may also recognise it from Never Say Never Again, the popular James Bond film.

Guided tours are available if you fancy learning about the star-shaped military fort and its rich history. And with entry only being €3 per adult (free for kids), it’s one of the more affordable Antibes attractions.

Museum Hopping in Antibes

One of the most interesting places to visit in Antibes is Musée Picasso. The museum, set inside a historic château, showcases rare works by the abstract artist.

Or maybe you’re more interested in ancient civilisations? In that case, head to the Archaeology Museum. Located in the Saint-Andre bastion, you can see a plethora of collections from the Greek and Roman eras of Antibes to interesting relics discovered beneath the sea.

Younger visitors may enjoy spending a few hours at the Peynet and Cartoon Museum. The venue displays a range of etchings, caricatures, sculptures and posters created by French cartoonist Raymond Peynet.

For something a little different, there’s also the Absinthe Museum. Unfortunately, the cave bar/museum was closed during my most recent visit, so I didn’t get to peek inside, but apparently, the décor alone is worth a visit!

Open-Air Festivals

Antibes hosts many annual festivals with highlights including the Floralies d’Antibes in May. This celebration focuses on the arrival of springtime and locals adorn the city with 50,000 colourful flowers.

Also in May, the Antibes Rally takes place. It’s a time when the best rally drivers in France take to the roads along the French Riviera to compete for the championship title. In addition to the rally, you can see classic car shows and motor-related exhibits during this event in Antibes.

Some of the best music events happen in the summer months. Fête de la Musique takes place in June – a gathering of musicians playing everything from classical to EDM, folk and dance tunes. Or, if jazz is more your genre, Jazz à Juan is held in July in neighbouring Juan-les-Pins.

It’s time for Salon du Vin et de la Gastronomie in October. This is when the bars and restaurants of Antibes come alive, allowing locals and visitors to sample the cuisine and wines of France.

Hike Le Sentier de Tire-Poil

Le Sentier de Tirepoil is one of the most scenic coastal treks you can embark on from Antibes. The five-kilometre hair pull trail, as it’s known, is open daily except for when there’s a severe gale blowing.

If you want to explore the trail during your stay in Antibes, remember to pack sturdy shoes and plenty of sunscreen as there is little shade along the route.

The rugged path is punctuated with rare plant species including sea lavandula and silver ragwort, and the scenery gradually transforms from patchwork areas of vegetation to lunar-like landscapes.

While you’re walking, look out for dolphins frolicking in the Mediterranean Sea and listen to the bird calls as you admire views across the Bay of Angels to Nice.

Thuret Botanical Gardens

In the centre of Cap d’Antibes, you’ll find the idyllic Thuret Botanical Gardens, which were opened in 1857 as a site for botanical research – a project helmed by French botanist Gustave Thuret.

Blooming with exotic species, the gardens were admired by author Georges Sand and mentioned in her 1868 collection “Letters of a Traveller”. 

An embodiment of wild nature, the five-hectare park is a wonderful place to spend a lazy afternoon. Pick up a brochure at the entrance and take a fascinating tour to learn all about the botanical and medicinal properties of the 1600+ species of tropical trees and shrubs within the park.

Where to Stay in Antibes

Antibes accommodation ranges from boutique hotels to charming apartments, and luxurious villas – you’re truly spoiled for choice! Here are some of our favourites…

La Jabotte Boutique Hotel is situated within a stone’s throw of Plage de la Salis. Ideal for those who want to combine sightseeing in the old town, with some beach time, and perhaps a little hiking around the cape.

La Maisonette Antibes is a two-bedroom village house (shown below, left) with outstanding views. You’ll be in the heart of the old town and will enjoy morning coffees or an aperitif on your private balcony overlooking the sea.

Hôtel La Villa Port d’Antibes & Spa is a more modern offering in Antibes. Facilities include air conditioned rooms, a swimming pool, spa, and a bar. It’s located right on the edge of the old town, and close to the popular Plage de la Gravette.

Need a lot more space to spread out? This 5 bedroom luxury villa offers plenty of it – ideal for large groups or families, it sleeps up to 10 guests. It also features a private pool, beautiful gardens, table tennis, and a sauna.

Tips for Visiting Antibes

There are several free car parks in Antibes, but they all require a short walk to the city centre. I normally head straight for the parking at Plage du Ponteil – it’s free from 1st October to 31st May each year, and costs just €1 an hour during the summer months between 9am and 7pm.

Alternatively, on the other side of the city, head for Parking du Fort Carré which is free year-round. A free shuttle bus runs into the city centre every half hour.

Taking a day trip from Nice? It’s only 13 minutes to Antibes on the TGV, or around 20-25 minutes on a regular train. And the best part is that the train station is not far from the old town.

From sampling authentic Provençal cuisine and shopping in local markets to museum hopping, and admiring famous works of art to fun days spent at the beach – there are so many things to see and experience when you visit Antibes. It’s a charming town with something for everyone, and perfectly placed to explore the hidden treasures of the Côte d’Azur.

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