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Antibes and Cap d’Antibes

Called Antipolis in the past, Antibes was founded by the Greeks around 50BC, between two bays (St Roch and La Salis). Throughout its history, the town has always been a place of commerce, and this glorious past has left its mark in the form of fortifications, ramparts and magnificent buildings. It also was, and still is, the grand rival of Nice. The marina in Antibes is lovely and bustling all year round and the new outer harbour, the largest in Europe, welcomes some truly unique yachts, particularly on the Quai Camille-Rayon where the multi-millionaires dock.

Port of Antibes

The old town is splendid, with its narrow streets and its covered marketplace from which waft scents and aromas so typical of the south of France, its squares lined with cafés with their terraces under the plane trees. These same sights enchanted Pablo Picasso in his day, and there is a museum dedicated to him in the Château Grimaldi where he had a large studio. He was blown away by the beauty of this place which was offered to him in 1946 for his large compositions, and which he decorated and gave back to the town. It was really from the 1920s that Antibes became well-known among renowned artists. Going further back, one could mention its history with Napoleon in 1815, or the strategic position of the fortified town against the counts of Savoy and of Nice in the 14th century.

Market at Antibes
photo by Eddy Galeotti / Shutterstock.com

Market at Antibesphoto by Eddy Galeotti / Shutterstock.com

The Saint Roch peninsula is not to be missed in order to take in the panoramic view of the Fort Carré, a fortress majestically set in four hectares right beside the sea, its elevated position affording it a superb view of the whole coastline. Built in 1550, it was fortified by Vauban, and remained important – and unconquered – until the 19th century, when it was abandoned. Later, after being restored by volunteers, it was bought by the town council and has been open to the public since 1998.

Another Vauban fortress, the St André bastion houses the Archaeological Museum, which also offers a magnificent view over the old town and the Cap d’Antibes. Visitors here will be captivated by the history of the town since antiquity, when it was a capital of commerce in the Mediterranean.

photo by Eddy Galeotti / Shutterstock.com

photo by Rostislav Glinsky / Shutterstock.com

A nearby tourist attraction, Marineland is an aquatic park with about 4,500 marine animals, including polar bears, orcas, dolphins, sea lions and sharks… in huge tanks. It is the largest marine animal park in Europe, and its displays aim to raise awareness of the need to protect the natural habitat of these animals.

The Cap d’Antibes is situated at the very end of the peninsula, separating Antibes from Juan-les-Pins, a wonderful spot and a very exclusive residential area, where sumptuous villas nestle in a luxuriantly green Mediterranean backdrop. The Eden Roc hotel is found here in the heart of a majestic eight hectare estate, one of the most beautiful along the Côte d’Azur, counting the most famous stars in the world among its guests, especially during the Cannes festival season. Another palace, the Hotel du Cap, surrounded by pine forest, has also been known for welcoming the biggest names, particularly from the world of cinema, since 1914.

It is also possible to visit Eilenroc, the villa designed by Charles Garnier, built in 1867 and set in a beautiful 11 hectare estate looking out to sea at the ‘prow’ of the cape. The absolutely stunning setting of the Cap d’Antibes has seduced artists and heads of state alike since the 19th century; it was even here that Jules Verne wrote his novel ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’, a fabulous story which will have you daydreaming as you lie on the gorgeous Plage de la Salis, one of the Côte d’Azur’s most attractive beaches.

Also sometimes referred to as Billionaire’s Cape, the Cap d’Antibes is, along with the artisan village of Biot (in the hills not far away and known since ancient times for its ceramics and later for its bubbly blown glass) where a third of the world’s roses originate. Its ‘pinks’ (Dianthus) are also very popular, as well as mimosa and anemones, sold as cut flowers nowadays.