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Riviera Attractions the Harbour in Cannes

Cannes lives on and by the sea. Trade, wealth and pleasure have come and gone on the waves flowing in and out from the Mediterranean Sea. To support these three worlds, the presence of an easily accessible port is indispensable. Bad sailing weather is a common feature of the bay. Cannes is a fishing town that dates back to Ancient Roman times, but the port only dates back to the middle of the XIXth Century. There were always some kind of rudimentary docks available, but these were ill-suited to any major trading, so when construction on a proper pier and port finally began, they were completely replaced.

A view from the Castle above the harbour down on the lights and yachts below


Commerce with the city of Grasse was growing in the first decades of the XIXth Century, which then led to demands to construct some kind of port service. An English aristocrat, Lord Brougham, arrived here for a holiday and decided to stay. He bought a villa in the old town. He would play a major role in attracting British tourists to Cannes and in building the port. A paddle-steamer service began operating between Marseilles and Cannes in 1834.

The problem was where could such boats be hosted? In 1838, the Quai St. Pierre, a jetty and wharf, was opened, but observers and sailors quickly deemed it insufficient. Construction began, but it would take until 1873 for it to finish. A second followed in 1903. It was named Albert-Edouard after the Prince of Wales who inaugurated it in 1898. No self-respecting pier of the times was without its casino and grand avenue, the Esplanade des Allies. Unsurprisingly, boats of commerce went elsewhere to be replaced by those of fun and pleasure. In a sense, this is when Cannes achieved its reputation of excess and glamour.

From Cannes Castle Museum you get quite a magnificent view of the harbour day or night

Cannes Was Build Around the Port

To make a port work, one needs to feed it, so railways, streetcars, roads and hotels are built. The first ferries between the city and Lerins Islands started running in 1903. A few years later, the first major ocean liner, the Ile de France, called in to port. By 1913, Cannes was the point of origin for steamer trips going to San Remo. In 1929, the first transatlantic cruise between Cannes and New York was made by the Vulcania. The original casino was torn down and replaced in 1979.

The Culture of Cannes Comes to Life

The port mixes old and new. The Quai St. Pierre is the principal remnant of the old port. It is full of people. One of its remarkable qualities is its abundance of colour at which one can gaze for hours. Make sure you partake of the Bouillabaisse as its ingredients are brought from these waters. If you make your way to the Albert Edouard pier, the new style comes into focus: yachts whose beauty could be argued to reflect that of Cannes'.

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