From Vicious Pirates to Affluent Yachties, the History of Cannes is Truly Fascinating

As you gracefully glide into the bustling ports of Cannes, or as you gleefully stroll along the magnificent Croisette dwarfed by the fabulously luxurious palaces that line the oceanfront walkway, it is easy to assume that this now famous playground of the rich and famous has always been so. It is hard to fathom that this elegant city’s origins lie in that of a fishing port, and the tale of our home’s development is rich and truly fascinating. By delving into the history of Cannes, we see the immaculately positioned bay transform from an impoverished village blighted by violence into a haven for the affluent and their extravagant lifestyles.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t always so easy to charter a yacht in Cannes! As far back as the 2nd century BC, people have inhabited the land that Cannes now sits on, although their ancient dwellings would have been a far cry from today’s glitzy hotels and luxurious villas! Like much of modern day Europe, the Roman Empire engulfed what is today known as Cannes, and the ruins of Roman architecture can be found to this very day on the beautiful Lerins Islands. Le Suquet is the site of the original Roman settlement, and is a beautiful, historically rich district categorized by winding cobbled lanes that snake up this enchanting hill. As the Roman Empire waned in its strength, Christianity’s influence began to be felt throughout the region, with the first monastery in the Cote D’Azur erected on Saint-Honorat where legend states that Saint Patrick studied. These islands are often the first stop on the exciting itineries of those who decide to charter a yacht in Cannes and explore the treasures that the Med offers.

Following the fall of the Roman Empire, barbarians embarked on regular attacks on the small fishing village, with Barbarian pirates terrorizing the crystal clear waters where magnificent superyachts now play. Medieval times in Cannes, or Canua as it was then known, were defined by violence and instability. The Saracen’s continued onslaught on the area led to the need for fortification, and so the monks, whose power reached far beyond their home on the Lerin Islands, built a castle on the mainland to protect themselves and the village. The old castle remains today, perched majestically on Le Suquet, peacefully watching over the beautiful superyachts at rest in the Old Port. It wasn’t until the 16th century that the monks’ power finally dwindled, and Cannes became independent. In the centuries to follow, there were numerous battles on the nearby Lerin islands, and Cannes developed from a small fishing village into a small town with an estimated 600 homes: still a far cry from the now beautiful city that one cannot help but to fall in love with.

As Intriguing as it is Coincidental

The tale of how Cannes finally became the playground of society’s elite is as intriguing as it is alarmingly coincidental, and one that many of today’s visitors have never heard. It was the year 1834, and the British aristocrat Lord Brougham was forced to halt his journey to Italy due to a cholera outbreak that made Nice, which was then part of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, impassable. Like many visitors today, he quickly fell in love with the town and built a villa here. In the years to come, the British aristocracy became enchanted with the small town and many frequently visited, with some choosing to follow in Brougham’s footsteps by building villas in the area. After a railway was built stretching across the Cote D’Azur, Cannes became more accessible and European royalty began to holiday in the town along with others along the Riviera. Following the First World War, the town aroused the interest of an increasing number of Americans. With this cross-Atlantic influence, Cannes quickly became the haunt of the rich and famous.

This world of elegance and luxury that we know and love cannot be more contrary to the small, impoverished settlement that sat here just two centuries ago

From Violence to Glamour- Cannes Today

Today, Cannes is famous world wide for its international film festival, and many visitors annually flock to the region from around the globe for a week in May to soak in the glamour and luxury that this Mediterranean haven offers. The film festival began after the German occupation of Southern France ended, and has become a highlight in the calendar of many. The Old Port and Port Canto become showrooms for the most elegant and spacious superyachts to grace the Med, and the streets of Cannes rumble with the electrifying growl of supercars. Many of those who wish to sip on the glass of luxury choose to charter a yacht in Cannes, competing over who has the most breathtaking vessel, or who has the most powerful supercar. This world of elegance and luxury that we know and love cannot be more contrary to the small, impoverished settlement that sat here just two centuries ago.

Adam Reynolds

Written by Adam Reynolds

Adam Reynolds left the west coast of Ireland in search of bigger and better boats, and has since become a core member of the 212 Yachts team. His love for travel and the yachting industry have made him a knowledgeable charter assistant and creative blogger. You can find him in our Port Canto office talking about yachts and his favorite travel destinations.


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