The film industry and all other manner of business junketing represent CANNES's main source of income in an ever-multiplying calendar of festivals, conferences, tournaments and trade shows. The spin-offs from servicing the day and night needs of the jetloads of agents, reps, dealers, buyers and celebrities are even more profitable than providing the strictly business facilities. Cannes may be more than its film festival, but it's still a grotesquely overhyped urban blight on this once exquisite coast – a contrast reinforced by the sublime Îles de Lérins, a short boat ride offshore and the best reason for coming here.
The old town, known as Le Suquet after the hill on which it stands, provides a great panorama of the twelve-kilometre beach, and has, on its summit, the remains of the fortified priory lived in by Cannes' eleventh-century monks and the beautiful twelfth-century chapelle Ste-Anne. These house the Musée de la Castre (daily except Tues: April–May & Sept 10am–1pm & 2–6pm; June–Aug 10am–1pm & 3–7pm; Oct–March 10am–1pm & 2–5pm; €3), which has an extraordinary collection of musical instruments from all over the world, along with pictures and prints of old Cannes and an ethnology and archeology section.
You'll find non-paying beaches to the west of Le Suquet, along the plages du Midi and just east of the Palais des Festivals. But the sight to see is La Croisette, the long boulevard along the seafront, with its palace hotels on one side and private beaches on the other. It's possible to find your way down to the beach without paying, but not easy (you can of course walk along it below the rows of sun beds). The beaches, owned by the deluxe palais-hôtels – the Majestic, Carlton and Noga Hilton – are where you're most likely to spot a face familiar in celluloid or a topless hopeful, especially during the film festival, though you'll be lucky to see further than the sweating backs of the paparazzi. Alternative entertainment can be had buying your own food in the Forville covered market two blocks behind the mairie, or by wandering through the day's flower shipments on the allées de la Liberté, just back from the Vieux Port.
Strolling on and off the main streets of Cannes – rue d'Antibes, rue Meynardier and the promenade de la Croisette – is like wading through a hundred current issues of Vogue. If you thought the people on the beach were wearing next to nothing, now you can see where they bought the sunglasses and swimming suits, the moisturizers and creams, the watch, the perfume, and the collar and leash for little Fou-Fou.