Antibes is a city in the French Riviera. The Cap d'Antibes is the break between the Bay of Cannes to the south-west and the Baie des Anges to the north east. Old Antibes and the port of Antibes are on the mainland on the side facing the Baie des Anges, while Juan les Pins is on the Cannes side and the magnificent Fort Carré lies between the port of Antibes and the rest of the Baie des Anges. Although Antibes is best known for its coast, the municipality does stretch up the hills inland.
During the summer, the place is packed, primarily with French families. In the evenings, everyone is out at the many outdoor restaurants in the old part of Antibes and in Juan les Pins. A fun place for a relaxed vacation.
Antibes was founded by the Greeks over 2000 years ago with the name Antipolis. Shortly afterwards it was incorporated into the expanding Roman empire when it was known as Antiboul. With the fall of the Roman empire Antibes was a target of pirates and raiders until the growing power of Genoa removed most of these menaces.
Around the 11th century AD Antibes was a feudal town whose eventual overlord was the Pope. In 1384 it passed into the hands of the Grimaldi family - the former Genovese merchant princes who had now moved westwards to Monaco and Nice - as collateral to a loan that the Pope could not repay. Shortly after this Antibes became the easternmost port of the kingdom of France - at that time Nice was part of Savoy - and thus was extremely important. Over the years, and particularly during the 100 years war, it's port was continually fortified and expanded, culminating in the Fort Carré and the Port Vauban finished in 1710.
The first tourists arrived at Cap d’Antibes in the 1880s and the adjacent town of Juan les Pins was built at the end of the 19th century. Although it expanded, during the early 20th cetury Antibes was less developed than its neighbors on the French Riviera and was thus a haven for artists such as Picasso and later Nicolas de Staël. This under-development did not last and as the 20th century drew to a close the combined municipality of Antibes-Juan-les-Pins was just a part of the unbroken development between Nice and Cannes.
There are three tourist information offices in Antibes-Juan les Pins:
1) 11, place du Général de Gaulle (Antibes) 2) 51, boulevard Charles Guillaumont (Juan les Pins) 3) In the old town near the remparts.
The usual method of driving to Antibes is to take the A8 and exit at the Antibes exit (junction 44) and then taking the winding road down to Antibes. It is possible to approach Antibes along the coastal roads (RN98 and RN7) from Cannes and Nice/Cagnes sur Mer. In summer all these coastal roads can be extremely congested as can the main route from the A8. There are, however, very few alternative methods of access and all of them eventually use one of these roads so if you want to go to Antibes then you pretty much have to expect traffic jams.
There is a regular bus service (number 200, 1.5€) between Cannes, Antibes and Nice: there is a stop Place Charles de Gaulle in downtown Antibes. Alternate bus option is the "250 express": faster (takes the highway), more comfortable (not a commuter bus), stops directly at the terminal if you're going or coming from the airport, but also much more expensive (9€): bus stop is just above the train station. There is a 200 and 250 express about every 20 min.
The term 'VTC' (voiture de transport avec chauffeur) in France is the equivalent of a private hire taxi/minicab in English-speaking countries - you can only take a VTC if it has been pre-booked. (The term 'taxi' (see section above) in France is the equivalent of a public hire taxi/cab in English-speaking countries - you can take a taxi either by hailing one on the street, going to a taxi stand (station de taxi) or booking one through a taxi operator (central de radio taxi).)
Unlike taxis, by law a VTC can only charge a fare which is either a fixed price which has been agreed in advance or an amount calculated based on the time of the journey. A VTC is forbidden from charging a fare calculated based on the distance of the journey actually driven and having a taximeter installed. A VTC can only carry up to 9 passengers.
Antibes features both standard French cuisine as well as local specials focusing on fresh seafood and produce from Provence. Scenic restaurants can be found around the port of Antibes, in the old town, and in Juan les Pins.
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of cafés, bars and salons de thé in Antibes. Tea tends to be expensive (up to 4 EUR per person) and not the highest quality (Lipton tea bags, for example). Coffee from coffee machines (35-50 centimes) is actually pretty decent, and good in a pinch.
Antibes can be a difficult place for vegetarian or vegan travellers. Vegetarians should not have much trouble but vegans can expect ending up with a bland and expensive salad. Servers tend to not be very accommodating and are often visibly insulted if asked to modify a dish. There is hope, however. There is a 'falafel place' in the old town near the covered market with vegan options. There is also Chez Helen's, a vegetarian restaurant with vegan options in the old town. There are also a few Indian restaurants in the old town and, in Juan les Pins, a number of Asian restaurants.
One interesting place to drink at is the Absinthe Bar La Balade (25 Cours Masséna, Antibes - Tel. 04 93 34 93 00 -email: [email protected] ). Absinthe, the mysterious green liqueur so much associated with 19th century artists and writers such as Van Gogh and Baudelaire, was outlawed for decades because of the health risks associated with its abuse, namely insanity and death. However these side effects seem to have been due to "quality control" issues and the herbs that go into absinthe are in fact good for you. Absinthe was only reintroduced legally again in about 2003, and there are very few places where it is possible to drink it. The bar is set in the basement of the Olive Oil shop by the covered market (Marché Provençal) of Antibes and is full of charm even without the lure of Absinthe. If there is a group of you the host will normally give each member of the group a slightly different absinthe so that you can try the different varieties. It is quite an experience and will set you back a mere €4 for a glass. Given the price of beer in the touristy bars by the port this is a real bargain. On Friday nights there is a piano man. The Absinthe bar also provides you with dozens of silly hats (yes, hats), which everyone wears and trades as the evening goes on.