At Essential Sailing, we love the history, culture and cuisine of the places we visit almost as much as the sailing to get there. Our Captain’s Blog brings you a taste of what to expect from our luxury crewed sailing holidays around the French and Italian Riviera. In this blog we linger in Antibes bustling market Masséna, the world’s finest Piccaso collection and chic Juan-Les-Pins.
Sit back and be inspired.
Antibes was founded in the 5th century BC as a Greek trading post called Antipolis (‘the city opposite’), presumably because of its location opposite Nice, or Nikaïa. The two cities later became true opposites, with Antibes as the frontier town of France while Nice was controlled by the Dukes of Savoy until the 18th century. Hence Vauban’s mighty 17th century Fort Carré on the eastern edge of the town, where Napoléon was once prisoner, and the massive ancient ramparts, which today protect the old town of Antibes from flooding.
Tucked away behind the ramparts is Vieux Antibes (Old Antibes), a honey-coloured quarter of winding cobbled lanes, splashed with flowers and over flowing with shops, restaurants and bars. Be sure to visit the bustling morning market in the cours Masséna, and the craft market which takes place Friday and Sunday afternoons (also Tuesday and Thursday summer).
Alongside the market stands a 12th to 16th century sea front château, the former seat of the Grimaldi family, that today houses one of the world’s finest Piccaso collections. Beside the castle, the bold red and yellow Église de l’Immaculée Conception represents a hotchpodge of periods and styles. Its 11th century belfry was formerly the town’s main watchtower.
On the waterfront, the Port Vauban Yacht Harbour boasts some of the Riviera’s most luxurious yachts. Nearby, the Cap d’Antibes promontory was the first coastal resort to welcome rich tourists in the mid-19th century. Its beach is still considered by many the best place to enjoy the sun.
Juan-les Pins became the first summer resort on the Riviera in the 1920s, thanks to Nice restaurateur Edouard Baudoin, who saw a film about Miami Beach and decided to re-create it on the Côte d’Azur. In 1924, he bought a stretch of land and opened a restaurant and a small casino. By 1930 Juan-les-Pins had become not only the most popular resort, but also the most scandal-ridden, as the first beach in France where young women dared to bathe in one-piece swimsuits without skirts.
Today it remains a popular resort renowned for its lively nightlife. Yet it maintains a certain sophistication, thanks to its chic shops, pine-fringed beach and famous jazz festival.