Nice and the Cannes Film Festival on a Budget

– Written by Victoria Philpott

Darrhlings, luvvies and wannabe celeb spotters rejoice – it’s nearly time for the Cannes Film Festival 2013. If that doesn’t excite you enough, aspiring Jenson Buttons can take a quick train journey over to Monte Carlo for the Monaco Grand Prix, which is on at the same time. Leave your backpack and make your base in Nice and you’re pretty much smack bang in the middle of all the action.

With the help of the many budget hostels in Nice, and the excellent bus service, Cannes and Monte Carlo don’t have to leave you bankrupt. The scenic coastal town on the Cote d’Azur is less than an hour’s bus journey from both too. Journeys are under €2 and you’ll get a beautiful tour of the South France countryside into the bargain. And to top it all, for the savvy traveller there’s plenty to do on a budget in Nice itself.

Cannes Film Festival

15-26 May 2013

What to do

Get into a screening for free

It’s free to hang out in Cannes and savour the atmosphere, but to enjoy a film it can be a little trickier. Most of the screenings are for industry professionals but it is possible to get a ticket from the Cannes Tourism Office for the Cinema de la Plage, the cinema on the beach. Films are shown on a big screen as evening falls. Get there early though, tickets sell out fast.

Otherwise get chatting to people in bars, people in the industry often have more tickets than they know what to do with. You’ll see members of the public dressed up in crazy outfits outside the big cinemas with signs saying what films they want to watch – every so often a kind film bigwig will make their wishes come true.

Celeb spotting

Head to the InterContinental Carlton Cannes Hotel and watch the celebs come and go. A lot of celebrities will stay on their yachts so it’s worth hanging around the harbours if you’re after a glimpse. You can watch the red carpet, although be prepared to battle your way through the crowds. Best to sit back and watch the big screen from the green knowing that Johnny Depp et al are just a few metres away.

In Cannes it’s easy to get around on foot, in fact that’s the best way if you’re hoping to spot the stars.

Out of season

Cannes is a town dedicated to its film industry, when the festival isn’t on it acts as a museum to festivals gone by and it gears up towards its next one. There are exhibitions of everything to do with film and it also has hundreds of cinemas for you to enjoy. Even the phone boxes are dedicated to the cause!

Cheap eats and drinks

Unless you do the old supermarket trick, there aren’t many cheap eats to be had in Cannes, especially during festival time. If you do decide you need to eat out stay away from the promenade and head into town to La Pizza, an Italian restaurant selling at comparatively great prices.

Hostels in Cannes get booked up early for the festival but with Nice just down the road, who needs them?


Nice is great to explore on foot. There’s also a modern tram running throughout the city if you fancy visiting the outskirts. The main square is perfect for people watching – there are always dance troupes, magicians and singers vying for your spare cents.

What to do

Check local signs for outdoor markets, book fairs and antiques stalls for you to peruse for free. Visit the Cours Saleya Flower Market open every day except Monday, when it turns into a brilliant antique market.

Museums are free on the first Sunday of the month and there are plenty of shops and boutiques, but the main attraction is the beautiful beach stretching along the Nice coastline.

Walk the famous Promenade des Anglais in the sunshine, just be careful the wandering baby strollers and skateboards don’t knock you down. Follow the path round from the city and you’ll come out under the Colline du Chateau, where you’ll find an impressive waterfall.

Climb up to the chateau and you’ll be rewarded with great views across the city.

Cheap eats and drinks

For cocktails and bieres take a trip down into the Old Town. While you’re there pay a visit to the family-run ice cream parlour Fenocchio Maitre Glacier. You can’t miss it on Place Rossetti, just look out for the 94 coloured flavours screaming out at you, from €2.

The Old Town in NiceIf you’re looking to eat steer clear of the Old Town and the over-priced tourist restaurants on the main strip. Instead, head down to the port area where you’ll find a good range of restaurants serving value Plat du Jours. Otherwise, Lou Pilha Leva in Place Centrale serves the most delicious Socca, polenta and soupe au pistou – you can get an excellent dinner for less than €7.

Some bars offer free hors d’Oeuvre, so check before you choose your drinking haunt. Otherwise the many boulangeries sell excellent filling cheesy breads, croissants and pastries for just a few cents. Combine this with a trip to the supermarket, Monoprix, and enjoy your feast on the pebbly beach watching the waves crash in.

Where to stay in Nice

Hotel Trocadero in Nice is in an excellent location from which to explore. It’s a few minutes from the tram station and just a 20-minute scenic walk from the beaches, the famed Old Town and the bus station. Private rooms are excellent value – they come with air-conditioning, a safety box and some even have balconies.

Private rooms start at €42pppn

Villa Saint Exupery Gardens is an award-winning family-owned monastery a little out of town, but the free shuttle bus is a quick and easy remedy to that.  It’s a very social hostel – perfect if you’re travelling alone – with a large common room and a great bar with happy hour prices. They have an all-you-can-eat breakfast and excellent value Plat Du Jours. They’ll also help you out with arranging scuba diving, canyoning, sailing, skiing and rock climbing trips in the area.

Dorms start at €23pppn

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Thanks to fiddi1, Wolfiewolf and The Dishevelled Traveller for the images from Flickr! Please note that all images were used under the Creative Commons at the time of posting.

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