If you’re planning to visit the Mediterranean coastline in southeast France for a few days, you may wonder whether you should stay in Cannes or in Monaco.
While Cannes has a great summer vibe, with its Boulevard de la Croisette, the Palace of Festivals, and vibrant markets, Monaco has a unique confluence of French and Italian cultures and impressive wealth and luxury. The Monaco Grand Prix is also one of the greatest F1 racing events in the world.
Cannes is located in Provence-Alpes-Côtes d’Azur région, southeast France with a population of 74000. Monaco on the other hand is the second-largest sovereign city-state in the world with a population of a little over 39000.
Both locations located on the beautiful French Riviera, only a 35-mile drive apart.
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Cannes or Monaco – What travelers say
- Monte Carlo in Monaco is one of the richest places in the world with the highest GDP, home to the most number of millionaires and billionaires per capita.
- While Monaco in general is very pricey, Cannes can be quite expensive as well, especially during the International Film Festival in the summer.
- The rest of the year, however, travelers often find Cannes more affordable than Monaco. Cannes is also better connected by train to other areas of the Cote d’Azur.
- Cannes has beautiful harbors, the glamorous Palace of Festivals, well-manicured gardens, great architecture, and stunning white sand beaches.
- Despite the bustling crowds of summer, most travelers find Cannes to be relatively quiet the rest of the year, and therefore more relaxing.
- Cannes offers vibrant markets and shopping districts, especially along the Promenade de la Croisette.
- Monaco is known for its stunning views and scenery, nice beaches, and restaurants and lodging suited to different budgets.
- Many travelers prefer to plan their visit to Monaco just around the Grand Prix in May. The Late Prince Ranier III’s car museum is another attraction for all car lovers out there. Consisting of almost 100 vintage cars on display, the exhibition is bustling with activity right around the GP.
- Travelers often recommend spending half a day in Monaco, half a day in Cannes, and a full day in nearby Nice. Located at a distance of 7.5 miles from Monaco, and 16 miles from Cannes, Nice is considered a good alternative for those looking for a deeper experience along the Cote d’Azur.
Cannes or Monaco: Transportation
Travelers often find it hard to access public transportation while exploring Cannes. One way around it is to rent a bike so you can explore with ease.
There is a regular train service between Cannes and Monte Carlo with trains leaving as frequently as every half hour during the mornings. Trip duration between the two locations is roughly an hour.
On average, about 265 trains operate between Monte Carlo and Cannes on a weekly basis. Tickets are available while boarding and don’t require an advance purchase.
Cannes and Antibes are located about 25 mins from Nice by train. The availability of trains is very frequent but can vary during public holidays and festivals.
Lignes d’Azur runs regular buses between Cannes and Menton, located east of Monaco, along the Italian border.
Since Monte Carlo is the only train station in Monaco, traveling by bus is one of the best ways to explore the city, especially if you’re planning to visit Old Monaco which falls outside the city lines.
Lignes d’Azur also runs buses between the Monte Carlo station and other areas of Monaco, making it a convenient option for those traveling to and from the station.
Travelers generally don’t recommend renting a car because of the scarce parking and due to the high frequency and convenience of traveling by train or bus.
Cannes or Monaco – Vibe & People
Cannes is well-known for its summer vibes and the International Film Festival. The city is also home to a number of great hotels with beautiful views.
The island of Saint Marguerite is a good option for a day out by boat, and the old town is known for its charming evening ambiance, making it a nice choice for walks.
Monaco is one of the richest places in the world with a mostly international population. Despite being often described as “a concrete jungle”, Monaco has a lot to offer given its small size.
The rock the old town is built upon is a nice place for a casual stroll, and its tight-winding roads are densely packed with tourists, locals, and interesting sights.
Monaco is an intriguing confluence of French and Italian cultures and a nice mix of the old and new.
Monaco is often recommended for its culture surrounding fancy and vintage cars, with the Grand Prix and the Prince’s car museum being two major attractions.
Cannes or Monaco – Sights & Culture
Promenade de la Croisette is one of the biggest tourist attractions in the city. It’s decked with beautiful villas, luxury boutiques, and a bustling shopping center.
La Croisette is also famous for a number of private white-sand beaches usually owned by boutique hotels in the area.
Le Suquet or the Old Town was an ancient settlement with gorgeous views of the beach and interesting historical artifacts and architecture. Its main street is still well-preserved and provides a nice ambiance for evening strolls.
Palais des Festivals et des Congrès organizes the most glamorous red-carpet event in the world – the Cannes Film Festival. The main auditorium is open for visitors throughout the year and is a popular tourist attraction.
Marché Forville is organized every weekend and is dedicated to displaying hundreds of herbs, fragrances, handicrafts, and all things natural. With live music in the background, it’s a nice way of immersing yourself in the city’s culture.
Historical monuments such as Musée de la Castre and Notre-Dame de l’Espérance provide a much-needed respite from the busy city streets along with impressive views of the city.
Île Sainte-Marguerite is an island forested with aromatic trees and natural stone piles while the Île Saint-Honorat is steeped in history with a past full of raids and expulsions. The latter still has a Cistercian community that sells the wine and traditional homemade honey.
The island also continues to have a Cistercian community selling homemade honey and traditional wine.
Cannes has several interesting museums representing the nation’s history and evolution through the ages. Travelers particularly recommend the Musée Des Explorations Du Monde, the Centre d’Art La Malmaison, and the Musée de la Castre.
During the race season, the area around the Circuit de Monaco in Monte Carlo is closed off to tourists unless they have a ticket to the Grand Prix.
Since the circuit is located on a narrow course on the streets of Monte Carlo and La Contamine, the authorities shut down the area for security reasons. Something to keep in mind if you’re planning your travels at the same time.
The Musée Oceanographique de Monaco houses one of the oldest aquariums in the world. There are also gorgeous views from the top of the cliff overlooking the Mediterranean belt and its harbors filled with yachts, the Prince’s Palace of Monaco, the Casino de Monte-Carlo, and numerous hotels and restaurants.
Saint Nicholas Cathedral, also known as The Cathedral of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, or simply the Monaco Cathedral, is the final resting place of Grace Kelly and Prince Rainier. Visitors generally feel the cathedral is worth visiting.
Travelers often recommend taking the scenic route while walking down from the Royal Palace, and past the port to Monte Carlo and the Café de Paris to reach the famous hairpin bend by the Fairmont Hotel.
There are a number of attractions here, including the Princess Grace Japanese garden, the Grimaldi Forum, and the National Doll Museum. You can either walk or take a tourist train from the museum gate.
Monte Carlo is considered a must-visit for travelers. The Casino de Monte-Carlo is an exquisite structure with elegant interiors and picturesque gardens.
Another highly recommended place is Super Yachts Monaco which organizes the largest superyacht show in the world.
If you have extra time on your hands, you can also visit the Exotic Gardens and the cave, and explore the Fontvieille area. Interesting sights there include the Stade Louis II, the Chapiteau circus, and Princess Grace rose garden.
Cannes or Monaco – Food & Nightlife
The pedestrian center behind the Promenade de la Croisette in Cannes is full of trendy cafes and bars, frequented mostly by hipsters. There are also loads of late-night bars located in Rue du Suquet, surrounded by a charming Old Cannes vibe.
Some of the other famous bars are Raw Bar at La Mome with its chic interiors, the expensive Chez Astoux highly regarded for its ambiance, Charley’s bar, the Baoli, Club Gotha, and Morrison’s Irish Bar.
Cannes boasts several Michelin-starred restaurants such as La Palme d’Or at the Martinez Hotel, La Villa Archange in Le Cannet, and Le Mas Candille in Mougins.
There are plenty of restaurants overlooking the sea around the Old Port area such as the popular and reasonably priced Auberge de Provence.
Rue Meynadier has many historic restaurants and luxurious hotels and shops.
Besides the expensive places in the center, Monaco also has some affordable restaurants, most of them a distance from the Beach Plaza. Fontvieille has a decent selection of affordable restaurants and supermarkets for daily needs.
One of the highly recommended restaurants in Monaco is La Montgolfiere Henri Geraci, a family-run restaurant located in an unassuming old town alleyway in Rue Basse, serving up delicious meals in a charming and intimate setting.
Another highly rated restaurant is Le Louis XV – Alain Ducasse à l’Hôtel de Paris, located at Place du Casino. Quite different in vibe from the previous restaurant we mentioned, Le Louis XV is widely considered to be a representation of all things fine dining and French gastronomy.
Both of the above restaurants are Michelin star rated.
The Casino de Monte-Carlo is open to visitors with its gaming rooms opening from 2 PM every day. Remember to carry your Passport or other ID for entry purposes, and adhere to their dress code.
Cannes or Monaco – Shopping
Cannes has the highest number of luxury fashion boutiques per square foot in France with La Croisette and Rue d’Antibes at the epicenter!
You’ll find almost all luxury brands at these two places – Dior, Vuitton, Gucci, Hermes, Chanel, Prada, and Chopard along with lesser-known local brands such as Kronometry, Louis Julian, Taizo Perfumery, or Atelier Jean-Luc Pelé.
Rue Meynadier in Cannes also has many historic restaurants and luxurious stores and hotels.
The Golden Circle next to the Monte Carlo casino is the best place for shopping for chic international brands such as Hermes, Dior, Gucci, and Prada. The area also has a number of luxury jewelers and watchmakers such as Bulgari, Cartier, and Chopard.
La Condamine, located near the port is home to some 200 stores consisting of both luxury brands and independent shops.
Cannes or Monaco – Lodging
all the hotels in Cannes are across the four-lane Boulevard de la Croisette.
The Carlton and the Martinez stand out as two of the most stunning places to stay. Travelers rave about the Martinez’s superb rooms with their covered balcony and dining table, sumptuous bathrooms, and spectacular sea views.
The Carlton’s sea-facing suite ranks high on many travelers’ lists, despite the lack of beachfront rooms and the high prices. Both the Carlton and the Martinez have private beaches across the Croisette.
If you want sea-view rooms, The Gray d’Albion is also highly rated by travelers. It’s located on the Croisette, near the Majestic, another famous place known for its great location and upscale comfort.
Another hotel around the same location worth considering is the Croisette Beach Hotel MGallerie.
Located a few minutes away from the city center, Hotel Cezanne offers a quiet location and clean rooms. Some travelers find the location to be perfect – not too far from the Croisette, but also quiet enough for a restful night after a full day of sightseeing.
Le Cannet is located in a safe and quiet part of the town but requires a long walk to the city center, especially during the heat of the summer.
The AC Hotel Ambassadeur Antibes, owned by Mariott and located in Juan Les Pins in Antibes also ranks high on the list of traveler recommendations.
Hotel Mas Djoliba in Antibes has a pool, on-site parking, and a great breakfast. Although the beach is Antibes is not that great, the one at Juan Les Pins is nice but requires a separate fee to access.
Travelers highly suggest Le Meridien in Monaco and praise the great cuisine (though pricey) and luxury rooms with sea view. The hotel has a nice pool and private beach, and is well-located with a bus stop right in front.
The premium rooms are far superior than the standard street-side rooms. The hotel has a much vibe in the summer compared to the off-season. It attracts many Russian guests.
The Novotel Monte-Carlo has a signature French Riviera vibe with a pool, sauna, hammam, and fitness room. They serve healthy in-house cocktails and Mediterranean food with vegan and gluten-free options.
Cannes or Monaco – Day Trips
Noteworthy short trips from Cannes and Nice include St Paul de Vence and the panoramic and quaint hilltop village of Eze. Both are quickly and cheaply accessible by bus.
If you’re an outdoor enthusiast, Cannes has a few cliff-diving and hiking spots at Theoles-Sur-Mer and St. Raphaël. Both are a quick train ride from Cannes la Bocca. Nearby Cap d’Ail is also famous for its impressive free-climbing spots.
The train ride from Cannes to Monaco offers picturesque views of the countryside. Visits to Villefranche and Eze located on the way to Monaco are also highly recommended.
Monaco can be used as a base for visiting Roquebrune, Cap Mala, Menton, and San Remo. If you’re looking for a secluded beach for taking long walks, the stretch between Monaco and Cap d’Ail is worth visiting.
So is St Jean Cap Ferrat, a peninsula located in Villefranche known for its wealthy neighborhood and beautiful hilltop villas.