Le Suquet Proves Cannes Isn’t The City You Think It Is
Cannes is viewed as the definitive French Riviera resort with its magnificent seafront hotels, designer boutiques, luxurious superyachts and major cultural and business events including the Cannes Film Festival, MIPCOM, Cannes Lions, MIPIM and ILTM.
There is, however, much more to the city than these glossy events at the Palais des Festivals et des Congrès or shopping on rue d’Antibes and the palm-lined Croisette.
To the west, on the small hill of Mont Chevalier lies a compact district, Le Suquet, that largely avoids self-promotion and gives visitors a sublime contrast to the glitz of modern Cannes.
Le Suquet : The Old Town quarter
Le Suquet is located on the slopes overlooking Vieux Port, with its boundary roughly falling inside rue Georges Clemenceau, Quai Saint-Pierre, the edge of Marché Forville and boulevard Victor Tuby, the Old Town quarter of Cannes was a former Roman town known as Castrum Canois.
Castrum Canois eventually fell under the rule of the monks on the Îles de Lérins who built a castle, small chapel and watch tower in the 11th century to defend the town from attacks. In the 19th century the tower was marked for demolition until sailors argued it was a valuable landmark for their approach to Cannes.
Today, this district that lay foundations as the oldest neighbourhood in Cannes is known as Le Suquet and is a charming area to visit with pedestrian alleys, flower-boxed balconies, restaurants set in vaulted stone rooms and heavy antique doors hiding traditions of Cannes’ history as a former fishing village.
Le Suquet Highlights:
The chapel and castle houses the Musée de la Castre, an eclectic mix of ethnographical and archaeological objects including musical instruments, paintings and primitive art. The square in front of the museum has remnants of the old city walls and we recommend you climb the 109-steps of the tower for unobstructed panoramic views of Cannes and surrounds. The tower and chapel are classified as historical monuments.
Top tip: The museum is participating in ‘Quinzaine des Musées’ which is an Egyptian Archaeology exhibition and will be offering free entry from 1 December to 13 December 2015 with Egyptian-themed films, workshops and seminars.
Notre-Dame de l’Éspérance
Finished in the 17th century, this Provençal Gothic church was constructed when the Chapelle Sainte Anne at the adjacent museum became too small. For the best views, walk up onto the rempart walls where you’ll be able to peer over the fish-scale tiled rooftops of Le Suquet and look across to the Esterel mountains.
The square in front of the church is the venue for the open-air annual festival ‘Les Nuits Musicales du Suquet’ which hosts classical music concerts and recitals.
One of the French Riviera’s best markets, Marché Forville is open Tuesday to Sunday from 7am until 1pm (on Mondays, the market is a bric-a-brac market) and offers visitors the opportunity to buy fresh fruit, vegetables, flowers, seafood, herbs and artisan products such as olive oil, tapenades, and conserves.
Surrounding the market are bars, cafeterias, a handful of supermarkets and a few specialty shops retailing fresh and cured meats, roast poultry, caviar and salmon products.
Top tips: The nearby Parking Forville-Suquet has free car parking for the first hour. If you love cheese, we recommend you head one street away to rue Meynadier – here you’ll find Fromagerie Ceneri (22 rue Meynadier), a Cannes icon and the local temple of cheese; try a chunk of brie with truffles, a spoonful of runny cancoillotte flavoured with absinthe, or goats cheese from the Haute-Alpes drizzled in raspberry-infused honey and wrapped in chestnut leaves.
Housed in an old oil mill, this small museum is one of Le Suquet’s hidden secrets. Open the 1st Saturday of each month or for historical re-enactments only, Victor Tuby, a biologist and founder of the Academy of Provence curated a collection of traditional objects including costumes, antique furniture, ceramics, toys and ornaments that celebrate Provençal art and traditions.
A short detour west from Le Suquet on avenue du Docteur Picard, lies one of the most significant buildings in Cannes history, Château Eléonore.
The villa was built in the 1830’s by Lord Henry Brougham for his daughter Eléonore-Louise and is important for its role in cementing Cannes as a desirable destination for the English aristocracy.
Today, the villa functions as private residences and therefore can’t be viewed inside, however historical links still exist in a statue of Lord Brougham erected opposite the Vieux Port, his grave at Cannes Grand Jas Cemetery and the famous French Riviera roses ‘Nabonnand’ grown by the head gardener of the villa.
Restaurants in Le Suquet
Maitre Renard, 4 rue Saint-Antoine
Reserve a terrace table at this eatery at the lower end of Le Suquet’s main pedestrian street where you can dine as you watch the world go by.
Maitre Renard hosts regular jazz evenings which creates a pleasant laid-back atmosphere and he often pops out of the kitchen to check diners are satisfied with their dishes that include interesting flavour combinations such as foie gras with gingerbread and red pepper chutney, or tagliatelle with vanilla-infused gambas. The pear with saffron and ginger is a highlight of the dessert menu.
Le Relais des Semailles, 9 rue Saint-Antoine
One of our favourite restaurants in Le Suquet, their Menu du Marché is superb value!
A cosy interior with stone walls, beamed ceilings and an upstairs room with fireplace for cooler nights, expect good service and beautifully presented food using the best of vegetables from the nearby Marché Forville – don’t miss ordering the lamb or duck if you eat meat.
Le Mesclun, 16 rue Saint-Antoine
Often regarded as one of the better restaurants in Le Suquet, this family-run establishment serves creative food in a warm and unpretentious setting, which can be a breath of fresh air. Service is attentive yet unobtrusive, and the menu has inventive touches and is matched with a good wine list. Reservations recommended.
Mantel, 22 rue Saint-Antoine
Mantel is popular with locals, tourists and business people who keep returning for Chef Noël Mantel’s culinary plates that transport diners to the reaches of Provence and Italy.
Reservations are necessary if you want to taste their inspired menu that draws on Mediterranean flavours and the freshest local produce.
We recommend the Chef’s risotto with cepes and veal juice or the lobster ravioli finishing with the delicious lemon tart for dessert.
Le Manoir, 4 petite rue Saint-Antoine
Le Manoir has an unassuming façade with a location tucked off the main street of Le Suquet, but it impresses with a well-executed menu and impeccable service – put simply, this is hospitality as it should be.
Try the magret de canard, and if your stomach allows room after the generous portions we suggest the chocolate sphere with cherries for dessert.
Le Marais, 9 rue du Suquet
Le Marais is a safe bet for fairly priced menus in a district crammed with restaurants. They close each year from mid-December until early February but make sure you return in warmer months to enjoy the terrace as you eat typical French cuisine including escargots with parsley and garlic, or duck foie gras with Armagnac and fig jam.
This article was written by Rebecca Whitlocke, who with over 10 years travel industry experience loves to share ‘must-do’ destination tips and hidden spots to discover in France and beyond.
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