Antibes - Juan les Pins has a population of roughly 80.000, which probably increases 10 fold during the school holidays. The town is part of a contiguous metropolitan area consisting of separately incorporated towns lining the Côte d'Azur from Nice to Théoule sur Mer southwest of Cannes and stretching inland to Grasse. With a fast growing population - a bit like France's version of California - this area probably has by now close to 1 million inhabitants. If it were officially regarded as a metropolitan area, which it is not, it would be France's 5th largest.
Once you have made your way on four lane highways lined with shopping centers, modern apartment buildings and public housing to "Centre Ville" you are ready to explore one of the prettiest historic towns on the Côte d'Azur: Vieille Antibes with narrow cobble-stoned streets and the aura of "Picasso once lived here". It is situated on on the Baie des Anges (Bay of the Angels), the bay stretching from Nice to Cap d'Antibes. Driving west along the coast you will reach Le Cap d'Antibes, one of the most exclusive areas on the Côte d'Azur where the billionaires of our times (nowadays many Russian oligarchs) have their multi-tens-of million dollar villas.
Juan les Pins lies on the next bay west, the Golfe de Juan. Most travel guides tend to glorify Juan les Pins as an elegant town, the place where in the 1920's and 30s, "les années folles", the likes of Scott and Jelda Fitzgerald, Douglas Fairbanks and other Americans vacationed. Reality is a bit different as the town proper is a rather plain looking concrete jungle with a narrow beach, a pretty promenade lined with cafés, bistros and nightclubs and the railway line running just a couple of blocks behind the beach through town. Fitzgerald, Fairbanks & Co. congregated mostly in Cap d'Antibes region. Juan les Pins is a bit more affordable than other towns on the Côte d'Azur, hence many young people vacation here. Beach, sun, sea, nightlife and the annual Jazz festival are an appealing proposition for some to vacation in Juan les Pins.
Outside the summer holiday season you should find a parking space close to Vieille Antibes easily. It is a good idea to do the rest by foot - most of the old town is pedestrian only. Walk the narrow, bustling streets lined with restaurants, bistros, art galleries and shops. The market takes place in an open, roofed hall on Cours Masséna every day except Monday. It is a colorful affair offering a great selection of meat, fish, cheeses and vegetables. Cours Masséna is lined on both sides with cafés and bars that are quite busy both day and night. Behind the market is Cathédrale de l'Immaculée Conception built on the foundations of a Roman fort in the 12th century and enlarged in the 17th century. Notable are the ancient clock tower and in the church's interior the Baroque altarpiece and a life-size wooden carving of Christ's death attributed to one of the Bréas, the 15th century Niçoise painters. In January the Festival d'Art Sacré d'Antibes (Festival of Sacred Music) takes place in the cathedral. It is the new year's opening salvo of the many cultural events on the Côte d'Azur and is attended by over 40.000 visitors.
Antibes was founded in the 4th century as a trading post by Greeks from Phoecia. They had established a network of coastal towns, like Massalia (Marseille), Monaco, Agde, Nice and Antibes to trade with the native Celto-Ligurians. The Greek name Antipolis means "the town opposite" - referring to another Greek settlement across the Baie des Anges, namely Nicaea (Nice). As elsewhere on this coast, Antibes was a Roman oppidum for a while before being overrun by Saracens and pirates. In the early Middle Ages ownership of Antibes passed between various noble families and finally it became a bishopric of the Popes in Avignon. When Pope Clement VII of Avignon (he is regarded by the Catholic Church as an anti-pope) was unable to repay a huge loan collateralized by the town of Antibes, he ceded ownership in 1384 to his lenders, the brothers Luc and Marc Grimaldi. Thus Luc Grimaldi became Prince of Antibes - the last descendant of this line died in Brussels in 1940. In 1608 the Grimaldis sold their fort in Antibes to the French King and moved to their castle in Cagnes, the pleasant residence that can be visited there. Antibes was militarily important, since it marked the frontier between France and the Kingdom of Savoy. Fort Carré, overlooking Antibes harbor, and the ramparts along the seawall are the only remains of what was once an impressive fortification.