When you stay at Villa Hippocampo in Villefranche-sur-Mer, you stay in the heart of the Cote d’Azur and have many opportunities to explore this impressive region in the south of France. One of the places that should be on your itinerary is Antibes, a town only 30 km west of Villefranche-sur-Mer and just 11 km east of Cannes.
Antibes is famous as a resort town but has many other attractions. Dubbed as one of the liveliest and prettiest towns on the French Riviera, Antibes has a relaxed atmosphere you can feel as you step foot on the ancient cobblestone streets of the Old Town. Walking through Old Town, a mythical place protected by ancient stone walls overlooking the Mediterranean, is one of the town’s highlights. Visits to the churches like the Chapelle Saint-Bernardin or the Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-la-Platea are also engaging activities during your walk about town.
This historic town has so much to offer, from the Port Vauban marina to the star-shaped Fort Carre, the Nomad statue overlooking the sea, and many more. First, we must note the charm of Antibes, as it has attracted great names like Pablo Picasso, Scott F. Fitzgerald, and Nikos Kazantzakis.
While here, you are still in Provence, so don’t skip trying local delicacies made from fresh produce sourced from the region, and the best place to do this is to stroll the Marche Provencal in Antibes. Located behind the ramparts, right in front of the town hall, the Cours Massena hall hosts sellers offering their fare of local produce, meats, fish, charcuterie, oils, spices, fish, bakery goods and flowers.
Explore the Antibes Old Town
The Antibes Old Town was founded as a Greek fortification nearly 2400 years ago, known as Antipolis. While not much remains of it today, archeological findings have pointed to Antibes’s Greek and Roman history. However, when you set foot at le Vieil Antibes, as the locals refer to the Antibes Old Town, you will feel the history flowing through the stone walls and cobblestone streets.
The maze-like old town gives you the opportunity to wander and explore hidden delights – small shops and exciting restaurants tucked away in ancient houses surrounded by stone walls, creeping vines, and colorful bougainvillea blooms. Don’t miss the many small bakeries or boulangeries, as they are known in French, and try some of the delicious, light, flaky pastries and delicious coffees.
Visit the Picasso Museum & Chateau Grimaldi
Pablo Picasso has lived or stayed in many quaint towns in the French Riviera, and Antibes has been one of his favored places. What is now the Musee Picasso, or the Picasso Museum, was known as Chateau Grimaldi, and it was a 14th-century feudal residence of the Grimaldi lords of the region.
However, the building was used for different things over the years, restored, and converted into a museum in the 1920s. In 1946, Pablo Picasso lived there for six months and donated some of his works to the museum. It was the first museum in the world dedicated to Picasso, and today, the Musee Picasso in Antibes houses 245 different works by the acclaimed artist.
Try the Green Fairy at the Absinthe Museum
When discussing visiting museums in Antibes, the Absinthe Museum should be on your list of things to see. Located in a basement in the Old Town, very close to the Picasso Museum, this resembles more of a bar with a gallery and a historical exhibition. Here, you can see how this potent green drink was made, and you can even sample a glass of the green fairy (if you are brave).
Step Back in History at the Fort Carre
The Fort Carre was initially built in 1552 as a star-shaped fortification, where the name derives (Fort Carre means the squared fort), and a protective wall was added later. Today, the Fort Carre is an open-air museum with an incredible view of the city, the harbor, and the Mediterranean in the distance. You will get a sense of medieval life in the fort, as it provides a sense of stepping back in history.
Visit Port Vauban
Port Vauban in Antibes is one of the largest marinas in Europe and is home to impressive luxurious yachts. The port is one of the best places for yachting and super-yachting in the Mediterranean, and you can take a walk along the marina and enjoy the sights. The marina can host yachts and ships of up to 160 meters, and it is really a playground for the super-rich.
See the Nomad
Another thing you should not miss in Antibes is the world-famous Nomad statue just on the other side of Port Vauban. Sitting on the Saint-Jaume bastion, at the edge of the Les Remparts (the sea wall) in Antibes as a sentry watching remains of the Roman fortification and gazing over to the sea, Le Nomade is a steel sculpture that has been a major attraction in Antibes since 2010. The sculpture is over 8 meters high and resembles a delicate white lace made from random letters.
Hike to the Cap d’Antibes
The Garoupe Peninsula is the west side of the Bay de Anges and offers a narrow coastal trail you can hike and explore until you reach the southern tip of the Cap d’Antibes. Along the way, you will see the Plage de la Garoupe, the Villa Eilenroc, the Garoupe Chapel, and the Garoupe lighthouse. Make sure you have your swimming gear with you, as the small beaches here are irresistible.
See the Whales & Dolphins at Marineland
The Marineland of Antibes is one of the world’s largest marine zoological parks. It features a dolphinarium with dolphins and orcas, a water park, and much more. Plan at least one hour to meet the dolphins and a few more to wander around the various shows and exhibitions like the Antarctica zone the tropical aquariums, and don’t forget to walk through the world-famous shark tunnel.
Enjoy Jazz a Juan
If you happen to stay at Villa Hippocampo in Villefranche-sur-Mer during the summer and love jazz, don’t miss the Jazz a Juan, the oldest jazz festival in Europe. Formerly known as the Antibes Jazz Festival, the world-famous, prestigious jazz festival is held in Juan-les-Pins, just west of Antibes. Also, you can walk the Boulevard Edouard Baudoin and see the hand impressions of some of the most notable names of jazz music.