France|August 2020

Vicky Leigh finds a spot on the Côte d’Azur that really is good for the soul
Vicky Leigh

La seule de toutes les villes de la Côte qui ait si bien gardé son âme.” In the words of Graham Greene: “Antibes is the only city on the coast to have kept its soul so well.” The 20th-century English novelist lived here for 25 years until his death in 1991 and almost 30 years on that soul is still very much in evidence.

With Nice and Cannes as neighbours, Antibes could easily be forgiven for trying to keep up with the Joneses, but rather there’s a sense that it is comfortable in its own skin as a more relaxed, laid-back destination on the Côte d’Azur, a stretch of coastline long associated with glitz, glamour and Hollywood stars. And you won’t need an A-lister's income to get here either, thanks to lowcost flights to Nice just 15km away and a €1.50 Ligne d’Azur bus journey from the airport.

Village vibes

Originally named Antipolis when it was founded by the Greeks in the 4th century BC, Antibes went on to flourish under Roman rule and by the end of the 15th century came under the rule of King Louis XI of France. In the mid-19th century, it became popular with wealthy visitors from across Europe, many of whom went on to build luxury villas and holiday homes.

Take a stroll around the harbour and you’ll catch a glimpse of the celebrity lifestyle. Port Vauban is the largest yachting harbour in Europe with more than 2,000 moorings and there are boats of all shapes and sizes as far as the eye can see, from modest speedboats to floating homes. They aren’t the only thing that will catch your eye here, though.

On the site of the former Bastion shipyard sits Le Nomade, a giant white ironwork sculpture created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa. Inaugurated in May 2010, the intriguing work depicts a crouching figure with a ‘skin’ made from letters of the alphabet, looking out to sea.

While the sight of all those yachts in the harbour is undeniably impressive, my favorite part of Antibes is the old town which lies just behind it. Le Vieil Antibes is where you really get a sense of its soul, with its village-like feel and streets lined with independent shops selling local products. If you haven't packed enough reading material to see you through the weekend, head to English bookshop Antibes Books on Rue Clemenceau, which also hosts regular author events and book signings and has welcomed familiar names including Stephen Clarke.


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August 2020