Lying at the foot of Vallauris hills, Golfe-Juan is nestled between Cannes and Juan-les-Pins in the center of a large natural harbor. This is where Napoleon landed in March 1815 after he and a few hundred men escaped from Elba island. After a warm welcome by the local populace, Napoleon marched over the mountains (a route known today as Route Napoléon) to reach Grenoble in 6 days and then Paris. Locals still celebrate Napoleon’s landing with a reenactment on the beach, an event held every 2 years in March (next on in 2017).
Like many towns on the French Riviera, Golfe-Juan has seen significant changes in the past decades due to growing tourism. From a small fishing town numbering only 180 residents in the early 20th century, Golfe-Juan became a fashionable seaside retreat. Residential developments and hotels have sprung up to accommodate the many tourists who are discovering the town’s charm. Its sheltered position creates a pleasant climate all year-round, which is why you’ll see tourists here, even in October.
Golfe-Juan is made up of three main streets: Avenue de Liberté (N7) – the main road linking Cannes and Antibes, Avenue de la Gare that takes you down to the port, and Boulevard des Frères Roustan (N98) that goes around the coastline into Juan-les-Pins. There’s a stretch of roughly 1 km of narrow sandy beach lined with tall palm trees. There are also three scuba-diving clubs, a water-skiing school and ascensional parachuting club.
1. Air travel. The closest airport is in Nice (25 km); there are several daily flights to Paris and direct connections to most major cities in Europe, as well as United States and Canada (seasonal), plus a number of destinations in the Middle East and North Africa. Bus 250 leaves every 35 minutes from the airport and takes about an hour to reach Golfe-Juan.
2. Boat travel. Golfe-Juan is just a short sail away from Cannes, around Cap de la Croisette. The local port has a capacity of 850 berths. A ferry line connects the town to Île St. Marguerite off the coast of Cannes.
3. Bus travel. Bus 200 from Nice leaves every 15-20 minutes daily and stops in Antibes, Vallauris, Golfe-Juan/Juan les Pins, and finally Cannes. The journey takes longer than by train due to frequent bus stops. From Golfe-Juan you can take the bus up the hill to the pottery town of Vallauris.
4. Car travel. From Cannes follow Avenue Marechal Juin that will take you down the coast to Golfe-Juan via Route Cannes. If you’re coming in from the A8 highway, take the Antibes exit then keep the road RD135 to Vallauris. Route Napoléon starts in Golfe-Juan and takes you through the Alps to the city of Grenoble via RN85, passing through Grasse, Castellane, Sisteron and others.
5. Train. A railway station links Golfe-Juan to Antibes and Cannes, which is just one train stop away. Trains run every 30 minutes on average. For national rail routes and high-speed train links (TGV), the nearest stations are Cannes and Antibes. Taking the train is the best way to move around the coast, as the roads are quite crowded.
6. Planning your time. Take day trips to Juan-les-Pins and Antibes, and reserve a day to explore Cap d’Antibes and its beautiful coastal hiking path.
7. When to go. A visit to Golfe-Juan at the height of summer involves dealing with traffic congestion and crowds. Once the tourist season is over, the town becomes more tranquil. You can enjoy sitting on a terrace along the Old Port and admiring the views without the never-ending parade of tourists in peak season.
Things to do
Sights. Although there’s not much sightseeing to do in this small town, you can walk around the Old Port and explore the back streets, where you’ll see many traditional Provence houses. Spend as much time as possible on the beach (don’t forget the sunscreen) and if you want some shade, the hiking trails around Golfe-Juan will take you through Mediterranean forests.
Shopping. You’ll find an excellent selection of local products, including cheeses, quality wine, bread, fruits and vegetables. Every Friday a market is organized around Place Nabonnand. The Belgium chocolate-maker Leonidas has a small boutique in Golfe-Juan. Les Petits Porcelains on Rue Clement Bel offers a beautiful selection of porcelain items.
Nightlife. If you’re looking for nightclubs and discos, the closest places you’ll find them are either Cannes or Juan-les-Pins. Le Village club in Juan-les-Pins is on par with any other exclusive location on the French Riviera, with its international clientele and high prices. Also in Juan-les-Pins you’ll find the Brazilian themed Pam Pam bar, offering a huge variety of cocktails; and Zapata Mexican Bar, a welcoming place with affordable prices. La Reserve is a lounge by day and club by night, it’s a good place to sit and watch the world go by.
Performing arts. Théâtre de la Mer Jean Marais is an open air amphitheater on 109 Avenue des Frères, with a schedule that includes concerts, plays, variety shows, and stand-up comedy.
The Picasso museum is housed in a 16th century castle in the center of Vallauris – Chateau Grimaldi. Picasso lived in Vallauris from 1948 until his death in 1955. He created many works here and was instrumental in the revival of the pottery industry and arts movement in the area. There are also works by Léger, Miró, Chillida, Klein, Modigliani, Picabia and Calder. After leaving the castle, take a picture with the bronze statue “Man with a Sheep”, one of the rare sculptures of Picasso installed in a public square.
Vallauris is a town of arts and crafts where you’ll find pottery shops, artists’ workshops and art galleries. French actor Jean Marais came to Vallauris in 1973 to open his own workshop. After buying about 200 kg of clay from a local factory, Marais set about learning the tricks of pottery and 2 years later he opened a gallery on Avenue Clemenceau. Here you’ll learn more about the life and work of this man of many talents.
Another Picasso museum can be found in Antibes. This one also houses a ceramics collection and offers spectacular views over the Mediterranean.
Parc du Paradou covers 12 hectares and it’s perfect for a relaxing walk in nature. The forests provide a cool respite from the scorching heat of summer.
Fishing enthusiast will be happy to find many good spots along the harbor. La Fourmigue is a green painted tower in the middle of the bay that marks a dangerous rocky reef that is home to a large variety of fish. You can also spend a wonderful afternoon scuba diving and snorkeling; look for Diamond Diving shop on 11 rue des Pêcheurs.
The restaurant scene is quite diverse, with most places concentrated around the port. On the promenade to the Camille Rayon marina you will find many restaurants and bars including the Cafe Bleu which has live jazz on Friday and La Casa, with an affordable selection of Mediterranean cuisine. Le Bistrot du Port is a small restaurant specialized in fish and seafood; here you have the opportunity to choose the fish you want. La Paillote Blanche offers French and international dishes in an excellent location: right on the beach, looking towards the port.
La Jonque Bleue (109 Avenue des Frères Roustan) offers Asian cuisine and Taj Mahal (32 Avenue de la Palmeraie) has a reputation for being one of the best Indian restaurants in France. If you’re in the mood for Greek food, stop by Olive Restaurant (in the port). La Cigale Du Golfe offers Lebanese food and unlike most restaurants in town it’s open all day long.