What to see at Cannes 2023
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Cannes 2023: what’s on in the city during the festival

The European capital of cinema has a lot to offer lovers of architecture and design, with places wrapped in the alure of the past side by side with contemporary architecture

What to see at Cannes 2023
By Editorial Staff -

Every year around this time, the international media turns its attention to Cannes as the international film festival rolls out the red carpet, and the city on the French Riviera gets ready to welcome the most important film stars and their entourages amid a festive atmosphere. Scheduled for May 16–27 and now up to its 76th edition, Cannes 2023 will be raising the curtain on the long-awaited performance of Johnny Depp in an arthouse film, along with the equally famous Martin Scorsese, Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harrison Ford, and the three Italian directors Marco Bellocchio, Nanni Moretti, and Alice Rohrwacher.

For anyone who’s ever been to Cannes and has a mind to go back – and not just for the coveted Palme d’Or – the French town has places steeped in the charm of yesteryear and the early 20th century alongside contemporary architecture. Just a few reasons for paying a visit are its art deco-style palace hotels, tea rooms transformed into art galleries, secret gardens, and architect-designed homes.


Château Thorenc: the duchess’ garden

Built in 1870 for the Duchess of Bedford, Château Thorenc is a historical garden of incredible charm, full of rare and luxuriant plants. A chateau of the same name, owned by various people over the years, once stood here. Wealthy English industrialist Sir Richard Atwood Glass bought the chateau in 1876 and had it redesigned.

It was again redesigned in 1930 by Louis Süe and Léon Le Bel, commissioned by Albert Neubauer. Later, its layout was modified by Bảo Đại, the emperor of Annam, who owned it between 1937 and 1960. It was finally demolished in 1968 and replaced with a residential building. Over the years, however, the garden has continued to grow in size and beauty thanks to the work of landscape architects Lucien Lhotte, Denis Troncy, and Jean-Baptiste Dental.


Hotel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes: an art deco hotel from 1926

Movie stars regularly meet at this hotel opposite the Palais des Festivals, the film festival’s main venue. Built in 1926 in the art deco style, the Hotel Barrière Le Majestic Cannes has a private 35-seat cinema whose carpet features the titles of the most famous Palme d’Or-winning films. The hotel’s rooms include the Mélodie Suite – premium accommodation decorated in homage to the film Any Number Can Win, with Jean Gabin and a young Alain Delon.

But the most remarkable room in the hotel is the Christian Dior Suite. At every festival, this 4800 sq.ft. (450 m2) suite dedicated to the Parisian label is set up as the stars’ dressing room for the red carpet. Created by the hotel in collaboration with the fashion label, this sumptuous apartment offers guests a unique way to enjoy the extraordinary atmosphere and light of the Côte d’Azur.

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The Palais Bulles: a bubble-shaped maze

The Palais Bulles – literally, the Bubble Palace – sits atop a hill overlooking the bay in Théoule-sur-Mer, not far from Cannes. Although designed as a multi-functional accommodation facility by Hungarian architect Antti Lovag, a forerunner of organic architecture and blobitecture, this maze of round pink buildings was later acquired by French designer Pierre Cardin as his summer home.

It comprises a series of communicating structures that intersect and overlap, offering unique views over the city of Cannes below. Often used for fashion shows and events, the Palais Bulles remains one of the most interesting examples of architecture in the area. So much so that the French Ministry of Culture added it to its list of heritage properties in 1999. In 2016, French architect Odile Decq carried out a complex renovation that returned the structure to its original design. It was then sold to the Parisian fashion house founded by Cardin, who used it as his home.

Palais Bulles is elegant curvilinear architecture formed by spaces skillfully interrupted by stairways, terraces, porticoes, and domes, which in turn are punctuated by skylights, portholes, and oval windows. It’s both a timeless and futuristic design that invites dreams of other worlds and other spaces.


La Malmaison: an art gallery by the sea

La Malmaison iStockphoto

Located on the Croisette, the famous Cannes promenade, La Malmaison started life as the Cannes Grand Hotel. It was later closed, partially demolished, and then purchased and rebuilt by the local government. What remains of the original building today was once the gaming and tea rooms, which now house a contemporary art gallery that hosts solo exhibitions of 20th and 21st century artists, including Mirò, César, Matisse, Picasso, and others who’ve been inspired by the Côte d’Azur. These prestigious collections are enhanced by the intimate atmosphere of the museum and its charming 19th-century salons, where photographs, sculptures, and other works of art are also on display.

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