This Hotel on the French Riviera Has Cannes' Largest Infinity Pool, a Garden With 22,000 Flowers and Plants, and the Mediterranean Sea As Its Backdrop

Dating back to la belle époque, the Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel, in the south of France just reopened.

The exterior of Carlton Cannes hotel and the beach club

Romeo Balancourt/Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

As I check in to the Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel, I’m drawn to the history that has returned to the surface after the French Riviera hotel’s two-year renovation. Hidden under eight layers of white paint, the lobby’s statuesque pillars have been restored to their original marble stucco glory. Alongside them, the cherubs on the newly uncovered frescoed ceiling domes appear to dance for joy after being forgotten for years behind false ceilings.

But, right in front of me, there’s a new clue to this famous hotel’s past that I almost miss: a fine, terra cotta–colored powder encased under the glass of the curved reception desk. The lobby ambassadors — as the receptionists are now known — smile as I lean in for closer inspection. I might be mistaken, but it looks like tennis court clay. 

The grand garden at Carlton Cannes

Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

Ever since this belle époque property opened its doors at 58 Boulevard de la Croisette in 1911, the Carlton, which occupies an entire block on Cannes’ palm-lined beachfront strip, has been the place to see and be seen for politicians, royalty, and celebrities. Stars have long scrambled for a suite here every May during the Cannes Film Festival. The filming of Alfred Hitchcock’s "To Catch a Thief" in 1955, with Grace Kelly and Cary Grant in the ornate ballroom and on the Carlton Beach Club jetty, only served to reinforce its iconic status.

Yet another chapter of the hotel's illustrious history was written in 1926 when the property hosted what was known as the tennis “match of the century” between France’s Suzanne Lenglen and America’s Helen Wills. (Legend has it that the clay tennis court surface originated in Cannes decades earlier.)

As I sweep up the grand centerpiece staircase toward my fifth-floor room, I understand why a vintage tennis racket and ball are displayed like museum pieces on the wall. I notice terra cotta lines crisscrossing the carpet and similar detailing in the bathroom. It’s all French interior designer Tristan Auer's deliberate nod to the hotel's sporting heritage. (Auer oversaw the renovation of the hotel.) 

Dining tables in the courtyard

Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

VIP lounge area

Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

The renovation was a chance to align the hotel’s historic past with its future.

“The reimagination of Carlton Cannes, a Regent Hotel has skilfully preserved a piece of history for generations to come, including the hotel’s beloved façade and century-old features while ushering in a novel take on modern luxury,” Tom Rowntree, vice president of global luxury and lifestyle brands for IHG Hotels & Resorts, which owns Regent Hotels & Resorts, tells Travel + Leisure. “The hotel is a stunning backdrop from which the exceptional service and tailored experiences of a Regent Hotel can truly shine.”

The 332 rooms and suites have been completely redesigned. The soft gray tone of the walls is a blank canvas for when the sky breaks out in shades of deep pinks and oranges, as it often does at sunrise and sunset. Bay windows are now cozy alcoves to cocoon in, with a chaise longue deliberately placed to admire the Bay of Cannes from all angles.

As I look out a bay window, my eyes scan the parasols of the beach club and across the shimmering Mediterranean Sea. I follow the ferries shuttling passengers between the mainland and the Lérins Islands and superyachts coming into port with the silhouette of the craggy Massif de l'Esterel mountains in the background.

Interior guest room with ocean views

Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

Rowntree calls these bay window nooks “personal havens” and says they're “one of the most exciting additions to the hotel.”

“Personal havens are a Regent design signature relating to spaces across the hotel that have been curated and programmed to stimulate memorable moments," he tells T+L. "They are places that allow guests to relax, indulge, or enjoy inspiring views, adding a layer of extravagance to that moment."

Aerial view of the swimming pool

Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

Keeping to its belle époque style, two immense new wings have been built on either side of the “Grand Dame,” as the original building is called. The new wings add 37 soon-to-open branded residences for extended stays, including a 10,770-square-foot penthouse.

A parking lot behind the original building has been ripped up, and replaced by 22,000 flowers and plants and, shortly, a vegetable patch where herbs will be picked as a garnish for cocktails in the bar. With plenty of private corners to read a book or have a quiet conversation, this green oasis is a rarity along Boulevard de la Croisette — and also means that the rooms facing away from the water now enjoy a garden view.

Raised on a platform to survey the scene is Cannes’ largest infinity pool with sun loungers, a handful of cabanas, and a poolside bar. A 9,687-square-foot fitness center and spa is almost ready for guests.

Before Hollywood descends for the 76th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in mid-May, all of the finishing touches will be ready. This includes the final piece in the dining puzzle: Rüya — an Anatolian restaurant that has earned a following in London and Dubai.

Lobby lounge interior

Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

The opening will round out an impressive food and beverage footprint. There's the breezy Carlton Beach Club with Franco-Italian dishes and a cocktail list inspired by the rivieras around the world. (The signature 1930 cocktail claims to be the taste of the French Riviera in a glass with garigue-infused gin, Suze, Champagne, rosemary, and a homemade syrup made from the peel of nearby Menton’s famous lemons and bay leaf.) There's also Camélia, the lobby tea lounge where a dedicated tea master serves up infusions from around the world.

Restaurant dining interior

Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

After dinner in the chic brasserie-style Riviera Restaurant on the ground floor, where local produce and seasonal flavors come to the fore, I enjoy a quiet nightcap in Bar 58 — the new Carlton bar. The soft buzz of late-night talking surrounds me and I tune into one conversation floating through the air. “I liked the old Carlton, but this is very nice,” a guest from Florida says as he and his wife befriend the two women from Dublin sipping on glasses of Provence rosé at the table next to them.

Bar inside Carlton Cannes

Courtesy of Carlton Cannes, A Regent Hotel

That’s exactly how the employees feel, too — all of whom were kept on by the owners during the closure. Among them is concierge Jean-Marie, who first started in the role in 1979. “In real life, I haven’t had a relationship that has lasted as long as this,” he reflects. “The Carlton is a real love story.”

Nightly rates start at $650. To learn more or book a stay, visit

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