Day Trip to Antibes
Antibes is one of the most picturesque villages on the entire Riviera, and worth the trip alone just to photograph the tiny streets with their quirky colorful doorways and flower-filled windowsills. Add a few lounging local cats and you are in Instagram heaven.
Before you plunge into the captivating alleyways of the old town, first take a walk along the Port… It is the largest marina in Europe and has spots for 1500 boats. You will think you’ve seen the biggest yachts of your life, but keep going… through arches, up stairs… keep going until the very end… the super yachts get bigger and bigger the farther you go… and you can just google the boat names to get the story on who owns each one and some of its most outlandish features! Check out this article to get an idea.
Now go into the Old Town… Every morning except Mondays there is a bountiful produce and gift market under the covered arches on the main road through town… the sights and smells are divine. And on Thursdays and Saturdays you’ll find an all-day antique market just as you enter the village to your right.
The Musee Picasso is in the fortress-like Chateau Grimaldi, perched right on the seawall. In 1946 Picasso spent a joyous year in Antibes using the 2nd floor of this magnificent chateau as his workshop, and at the end of that year gave several important works to the city, including 44 drawings and 23 paintings, among them some of his most famous. During this time Picasso worked with a palette of only 12 colors, using only the paint he could buy at the local hardware store, the same paint that the fishermen used for their boats! For other nearby Picasso sights, some history on his time in the South of France, and some great links, see my Picasso Museum page.
Summer Hours (June 15-Sept. 15) 10am-6pm, plus open late on Tuesdays and Fridays in July and August until 8pm. Winter Hours 10am-noon then 2pm-6pm. Closed Mondays; plus Jan. 1, May 1, Nov. 1, and Christmas. Tickets are 10€ for adults, but reduced to 8€ for seniors over 65, students and teachers with institution ID. Free for children under 18, and handicapped persons, and free for everyone on the first Sunday of each month. Twice a year there are entire free weeks: The first full week in November (Tuesday through Sunday) and the first full week in February (Tuesday through Sunday).
Absinthe Museum and Bar
After the Picasso museum, now would be a good time to visit the one-of-a-kind Absinthe Museum and Bar, tucked into the right side of the covered market, which is a Museum by day and Bar by night! Even if the bar part is not open, be sure to ask permission to go downstairs to take a look. Absinthe is the semi-hallucinatory greenish drink that inspired the most creative Parisian minds of the early 20th century, including Van Gogh, Oscar Wilde, Modigliani, Hemingway and Toulouse-Lautrec. The ‘green fairy’ has been illegal for the last 70-odd years, but nowadays the active ingredient is tightly controlled and a fraction of the original dose, so it is once again legal and is enjoying a popular resurgence. There is a specific way to drink it, with water poured in over a sugar cube on a special spoon, or even flamed. 25 Cours Masséna open 9am-2:30am
Antibes Free Walking Tours offers free (yes free!) 2.5 hour tours in English at 10am on certain days. Sign up on their website.
For a more private tour, 8 people max, consider the 3 hour Picasso in Antibes walking tour for 65€/person which includes museum admission.
The Antibes Tourist Office offers a walking tour of Old Antibes in English at 2:30pm on Thursdays for just 7€ per person or 12€ for couples. Double check with the tourist office ahead of time to reserve and confirm that it is really happening, especially outside of summer season.
How to get to Antibes from Nice
The easiest way to get to Antibes from Nice is by train, and the 25 minute trip will cost 5.20€ each way full fare, but there are also day passes and family passes available.
The coastal trains go roughly every half hour in both directions until around 10pm (11pm to near midnight on weekends), but check the schedule here with TrainLine (in English) to be sure, especially for the smaller stations.
You can also take a bus from Nice, but I don’t recommend it. The Bus #620 to Antibes and Cannes may seem like a bargain at just 2.50€, but between taking the tramway to the Parc Phoenix stop to get to the bus, all the stopping along the route, and the inevitable traffic, the trip ends up taking twice as long as the train and that is time you could be using to explore Antibes. I only suggest the bus if you are going to see other little towns along the route, other Picasso sites for instance, as after leaving Nice the bus winds through Saint Laurent-du-Var, Cagnes-sur-mer, Villeneuve-Loubet, and after Antibes, Vallauris.
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Photo credits: Musee Picasso by Ecce Art, licensed under creative commons, Cat in windowsill by Best of Nice