913km (567 miles) S of Paris; 21km (13 miles) SW of Nice; 11km (7 miles) NE of Cannes
On the other side of the Baie des Anges (Bay of Angels), across from Nice, is the port of Antibes with neighboring resorts Juan-les-Pins and Cap d’Antibes. Antibes and Juan-les-Pins boast the best natural-sand beaches on the French Riviera. In 1923, these resorts became the Riviera's first summertime playground when the Grand Hôtel du Cap (now the Hôtel du Cap Eden-Roc) stayed open all year round, attracting guests as illustrious as Cole Porter and F. Scott Fitzgerald. There are five ports here, including Antibes's Port Vauban -- the largest yachting port in Europe.
Juan-les-Pins is the epitome of family fun, while Antibes is famous for having been home to Picasso and for the young, yachting crowd who hang out in its bars and restaurants. Spiritually divorced from Antibes, Cap d'Antibes (a peninsula lying between Antibes and Juan-les-Pins) is studded with the villas and outdoor pools of the superrich. If you come in mid-July, you'll hear blues in the air around La Pinède Gould during Jazz à Juan.
Antibes has a quiet charm unique to the Côte d’Azur. Its harbor is filled with fishing boats and pleasure yachts. The likes of Picasso and Monet painted its oh-so-pretty streets, today thronged with promenading locals and well-dressed visitors. A pedestrianized old town center, the Vieux Ville, makes it a family-friendly destination as well, and a perfect place for an evening stroll. An excellent covered market is also located near the harbor, open every morning except Mondays.
Spiritually, Antibes has long possessed a liberal edge. The Vieille Ville's western quarters are made up of the Commune Libre de Safranier—the Free Commune of Safranier. Residents in this artsy enclave have adopted the motto: "Je ne crains rien, je n'espère rien, je suis libre", which translates as “I fear nothing, I hope for nothing, I'm free.” Safranier’s warren of lanes is filled with flower boxes and alfresco art. The town’s latest open-minded outpouring is the giant meditating statue by Catalan artist Jaume Plensa, which looks out endlessly to sea from underneath the Musée Picasso.
Just west of the Cap d’Antibes, this Art Deco resort burst onto the South of France scene during the 1920s, under the auspices of American property developer Frank Jay Gould. A decade later, Juan-les-Pins was already drawing a chic summer crowd, as the Riviera “season” flipped from winter respites to the hedonistic pursuit of summer sun, sea, and sensuality. It has been attracting the young and the young-at-heart from across Europe and the U.S. ever since. F. Scott Fitzgerald decried Juan-les-Pins as a “constant carnival,” no doubt after a sojourn in his seaside villa, which is now the Hôtel Belles-Rives. His words ring true each and every summer’s day.
Juan-les-Pins is famed throughout France for its International Jazz Festival. In 2014, the festival’s alfresco seaside stage hosted George Benson and Stacey Kent. Picasso also adored this most liberal of summer resorts, renting seven different local villas here during his yearly painting vacations during the 1920s and 1930s. He was no doubt spellbound by the Iles de Lérins that bob just offshore: Local ferries zip over to them all summer long.
The Cap d’Antibes has been the preserve of the rich and famous since Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald partied upon its pine-backed beaches in the roaring 1920s. Anyone who was anyone in South of France folklore—Pablo Picasso, Man Ray, Jean Cocteau—called by to join in the fun. Alas, where impoverished artists discover, the ultra-rich soon follow. From the 1960s, Le Cap became the summer playground of Brits and Americans, and more recently Russians and Arabs, who built French chateaux, Moorish palaces, and English castles upon this paradisiacal peninsula.
This being socialist France, paradise is assuredly public, not private. A lovely 6km (3 3/4 miles) coastal path rings the headland, passing picnic and diving spots en route. It even loops underneath the home of many a multi-billionaire. All too tiring? Then download the movie instead. The 2014 Woody Allen release, Magic in the Moonlight, was filmed on this fabled stretch of land.