The definition of a café society is straightforward: a society of persons who are regular patrons of fashionable cafés. For Woody Allen, it’s a little more complicated than that (it always is). His new film, titled with the aforementioned moniker, follows a naive young man who moves to Hollywood to work for his powerful agent uncle and winds up falling in love among movie stars and high-end hookers. Then he moves back to New York, gets into the nightclub business, and falls in love again. Café Society, one of the most widely discussed films at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, has the banter, neurosis, and cynicism that comes with any Allen film. But it also places the audience in a fantastic setting in 1930s Hollywood and Manhattan, when certain restaurants, clubs, and bars were truly exclusive—places that, had they been around today, wouldn’t have let reality TV stars anywhere near the velvet ropes.
Cannes has historically exuded this kind of nearly untouchable glamour for decades—but on steroids. Old Hollywood stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Grace Kelly would travel to the film festival and delve into the characteristically French auras of chic cafés, dark bars with tuxedoed waiters, and restaurants with seaside views where big studio deals could be done. Today, there is a café society in Cannes, only not such a closed-off one. You may not be in the modern-day café society, but that doesn’t mean you can’t drink and dine among them on the Mediterranean.
In celebration of Woody Allen’s latest film and the dazzling lifestyle it portrays, below are the four destinations worth visiting in Cannes to see and be seen.
The Grand-Hotel du Cap-Ferrat, just a short drive from downtown Cannes, is one of the most stunning properties in all of Europe. Situated on a cliff with a spectacular garden overlooking the sea, the hotel has a restaurant inside called Le Cap, a favorite of celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie Pitt. Le Cap has a luxurious Parisian vibe to it, with menu items that include slow-cooked sea bass in a zucchini flower and caviar from Aquitaine with baby leeks and olive oil.
Located in the Carlton Hotel, one of the oldest and most established in Cannes, this is the bar where Old Hollywood came to drink—Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor were frequent guests during the festivals. The room is decorated with a bit of Belle Epoque flair, with a menu of snacks that includes a smoked salmon club sandwich and a foie gras crostini.
La Palme d’Or
La Palme d’Or has two Michelin stars and sits inside the iconic Martinez Hotel, where many celebrities like Julia Roberts and George Clooney have stayed throughout the years of the Cannes Film Festival. The restaurant’s European-inspired menu includes dishes like bonito and belly, veal sweetbreads, and Chateaubriand. From the dimly lit dining room, guests won’t only be treated to views of the festival elite, but also of the Mediterranean Sea just across the Promenade de la Croisette.
The Bâoli nightclub is where the stars hang once the screenings, dinners, and cocktail hours have come to a close. There’s definitely a list at this place, and VIPs take precedent, including billionaires and movie moguls. Some tables are set up outside under tents near La Croisette, while the main room inside offers an intimate but hedonistic setting for dancing through the night.
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