In Cannes, there’s only one hotel that matters. The Carlton.
OK, so that’s not strictly true. There are dozens of fantastic hotels dotted around the city that’s best known for being the home of the annual Cannes Film Festival. It’s just that the Carlton Cannes dominates La Croisette, and has done for a century.
It’s a place which typifies everything that is grand about the French Riviera, welcoming film stars through the ages while starring in music videos and films. There are an impressive 343 rooms and 39 suites in the building.
I was lucky enough to get a look behind its doors when I stayed there for two nights during my visit.
The hotel was built in 1911 with one dome, but due its success another wing was added to the building in 1913, meaning the hotel is currently celebrating its centenary. Englishman Henri Ruhl was the Carlton’s first owner, the name derived from the Scandinavian for ‘Town of the Free Man’.
The Carlton’s association with the rich and famous started early on, with Russia’s Grand Duke Michael providing funding for the building of the hotel. Legend has it that when the Grand Duke stayed at the Carlton he insisted on his valets milking a cow to ensure his milk was at its freshest!
The hotel has managed to stay in the spotlight over the years thanks to its famous guests. One of the biggest events of its early years came in 1922, when the League of Nations (the forerunner to the United Nations) decided to meet at the Carlton to discuss the aftermath of the First World War.
Fast forward to 1946 and the first Cannes Film Festival took place in the city, filmmakers from around the world arriving on the Croisette to promote their wares. The Carlton was the first sponsor of the Festival, with only six journalists in attendance, compared to over 4,000 today.
The hotel was in a prime position for deals to be made and stars to be pampered and it’s where the President of the Festival Jury resides for the fortnight.
A few years later found British director Alfred Hitchcock arrive in Cannes in 1954 to shoot scenes for his upcoming thriller, To Catch a Thief. Cary Grant was to be cat burglar John Robey alongside the stunning Grace Kelly as Frances Stevens.
The Carlton exterior can be seen in the film as can the reception and, perhaps most famously, Room 623 (see above), which Grant and Kelly lingered outside before stepping inside before kissing near the window. Many of the cast and crew stayed at the hotel during the film’s production and there are photos of Kelly walking through the corridors in her bathrobe, something you wouldn’t see today with paparazzi potentially lurking around every corner.
Grace Kelly’s connection with the Carlton continued when, in 1955, she was in town for the Cannes Film Festival. While there she met His Serene Highness (HSH) Prince Rainier III of Monaco, whom she would eventually go on to marry in 1956. She became Her Serene Highness Princess Grace and became true Hollywood royalty.
Today the Carlton still celebrates its history with Grace through the Grace Kelly Suite on the seventh floor (see above). Designed by Nicolas Papamiltiades, the suite makes for an exceptional stay at the hotel, decorated with portraits of the actress from the private collection of the Palace of Monaco.
Other suites on the seventh floor are dedicated to actors such as Sean Connery, Cary Grant, Uma Thurman, Sean Penn and Sophia Loren.
In 1982 the Carlton became part of the InterContinental Group.
As well as To Catch a Thief, the Carlton can be spotted in music videos, including Elton John’s I’m Still Standing (1983):
Look out for the hotel in 1993’s video for New Order’s World (The Price of Love):
Staying at the InterContinental Carlton Cannes
Full details of room rates can be found on the Carlton Cannes website.
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The Côte d‘Azur, within three hours of over 30 European destinations, offers a wide range of themed stays all year round. With France’s second airport, Nice Côte d’Azur International Airport, the French Riviera is within reach of over 33 countries, 103 destinations and served by 56 airlines.
Cannes is located approximately 32 kilometres from Nice. Visit the local tourist office at www.cannes-destination.com.
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Top image © CRT Riviera Côte d’Azur – Photographer: