Our second-week holiday to South of France coastline started in Menton. the last French Riviera resort before Italy. Menton is one of the most beautiful corners of the country. Here, the sleepiness of the French Riviera remains, with its shuttered villas, terracotta roofs, dreamy beaches, palm trees, and lemon gardens.
Because of its close proximity to Italy, Menton can sometimes feel more Italian than French, from the culture and buildings to the delicious food. You can easily do Menton in just one day as a day trip from Nice. But as I’ve been to Nice and after 1 full week going places I wanted to enjoy two days soaking up sun rays, atmosphere, and the beauty French Riviera (Cote d’Azur) coastal town.
Just staying in Menton is an experience. Breathing the fresh sea air, enjoy the pastel colors of the houses which is more Italian than French it reminds me of Cinque Terre, smell citrus from the lemon trees, and admire the grand Baroque buildings. The narrow winding streets of Menton is filled with charm and history. Menton felt authentic to the classic time of the French Riviera. Despite being a close neighbour to the glamorous Monaco, Menton is still affordable and much less crowded.
Getting to Menton
Menton can be reached easily from all over France and Italy since it’s close to the border.
- By Car: Having a car to explore South of France coastline is actually the best way because the view is best with car Vs train and the bus schedule along the coastline is not so frequent.
- By Train: There is a high-speed train from Paris that reaches Menton in 6.5 hours. The train from Marseille to Menton takes about 3.5 hours. Easily book your train tickets thru SNCF connect
- By Plane: Nice International Airport is only a 30-minute drive away. It serves lots of major cities throughout Europe and the rest of France.
Menton is very small and one of the best things to do is just walk around and enjoy the atmosphere. If you’re looking to explore other destinations, there are two railway stations in Menton: Menton and Menton-Caravan which is closer to Italian border . These both link to other towns and cities in France and Italy. Italy Ventimiglia station is only a train station away from Menton-Caravan. Or you can even walk to Italy along the coast path. Menton Old town is only 1.2km from Menton main train station.
Menton main train station was under major renovation when we came in July. As you get off from the train exit using the disable access so you don’t have to haul your suitcases thru the stairs. Keep walking to the intersection and you will see Taxis. There is no Uber in Menton, so if you bring suitcases you will need to take a Taxi. We used Taxi Didier (0674949487) to take us from and to the train station.
Menton is famous for its Lemon Festival
Menton has been one of Europe’s big citrus producers since the 1400s but to experience the city’s devotion to lemons first hand, come to the Menton Lemon Festival in February.
In terms of visitors it’s just behind the Nice Carnival, but ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix, and runs for almost three weeks. Every Sunday chaos erupts in Menton, with dancing, musicians, lemon and orange mosaics and processions of lovingly-designed floats ten meter high, decorated with tons of lemons and created according to an annual theme.
Where to Stay in Menton
There’s a good amount of hotels and apartment in Menton, but i recommend to stay close to the beaches and the old town as this is the part where you most likely want to spend most of your time. We stayed in a studio apartment fit for family with 2 kids and the location is nicely located in the old town and within walking distance to 2 Menton main beaches: Plage des Sabblete and Plage de Fossan. We booked them here. We also liked this one but there was no availability on our dates.
Best Things to do in Menton
Stroll around Old Town
The old town has a real ‘Dolce Vita’ feel to it. It is easy to get lost amid the narrow streets, stairways and leafy plazas. The narrow street, lined with colourful facades, in all kinds of yellows and oranges. A few steps further, you come across a number of old-fashioned stalls, with softly lit lanterns. Shutters are opened at the first cool of the day, and laundry hangs out of the windows to dry. Time seems to stand still in these alleys. Artists’ studios appear to pop up all around. There is an atmosphere of nostalgia along this ancient Roman thoroughfare, running through the old town.
Within the ancient fortified walls, the medieval crossings and Baroque buildings around Saint-Michel Square reveal the importance of this rich history. And everywhere, absolutely everywhere, the brilliant blue of the Mediterranean makes its presence felt. A wonder for the eyes and for the soul!
Swim at the Menton Beaches
Plage des Sablettes is the busiest and the prettiest beach in Menton. However, there’s no shortage of other good beaches to explore on Menton. Generally, the beaches are rockier on the western side of Menton and sandier on the east towards Italy. Some good options are Plage du Fossan and Plage Rondelli. Fossan is pebbly and good for families. Rondelli is sandier and attracts a younger crowd, with some fun beach bars.
There is a locker paid by coins to save your belongings while you go for a swim. And I did see a shower to rinse yourself though there is no changing room.
Plage des Sablettes
Plage des Sablettes is a stunning promenade at the edge of the old town that hugs the white sand beach. It is located between the two ports (the Old Port and Garavan), along the Quai Bonaparte and the old town.
The promenade was completely renovated in 2019. It is now a pedestrian and there are shops, scenic restaurants and bars with a buzzing atmosphere. The beach is the prettiest in Menton and also ideal to swim with children. Lovely shallow waters, very gentle slope and there is no wave. This beach is monitored during the summer season.
At the top of the old town, discover the beauty of the Basilique Saint-Michel-Archange. This jewel of Baroque art was built in 1639 and overlooks the old town from its 53m high bell tower, the symbol of Menton. Step inside and feast your eyes on trompe-l’œil paintings by Cerrutti-Maori in the main vault and an amaranthine Genoa damask that captures the building’s Baroque heritage.
Salle des Mariages
Everything was left to his discretion, from the faux-leopard rugs to the carved wooden doors, chairs and bronze candelabra. But it’s the brightly colored murals that will grab you, and these are suffused with rich symbolism inspired by ancient mythology.
Some are accompanied with information plaques, but the way to get a full explanation is to show up for the guided tour on Thursdays or to get yourself an audio guide from the Town Hall’s reception.
Jean Cocteau Museum
Jean Cocteau was a famous artist and film director who loved Menton. In fact, it was one of his favorite places! Because of this, a museum was dedicated to him within the town, chosen by Jean himself, to display his work. Uniquely, the museum is built within the bastion, a 17th-century fort, that’s been decorated with beautiful mosaics by Jean Cocteau. However the museum has been closed after it was affected by the flood after a storm in 2018. To date the museum is still closed with no reopening planned.
Day trip to Monaco
Monaco is an independent state and one of the most glamorous places in the world and worth to visit from Menton. Train is only 11 minutes away for €2.3!
You can also take bus no. 100 from Menton Casino. The bus route from Nice to Monaco/Menton is one of the most stunningly beautiful bus rides in the world, and a super bargain at just € 1.50. See bus schedule here.