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Things to Do in Menton, France


Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Visit Menton, France

Not everyone has heard of Menton, the sunniest city in France. Located in the region of Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, close to the Italian border and by the sea, it’s one of the best places to visit in the French Riviera.

Menton, France, is one of the most popular day trips from Nice, but the city of lemons deserves more than a couple of hours on the way to somewhere else. When you visit Menton, you’ll find that this city has the best of everything: fantastic food, beautiful beaches against the pure blue Mediterranean Sea, and a warm climate year-round. And best of all, Menton is quieter than some other towns in the region, as tourists tend to flock to Nice or Cannes.

So, if you want to enjoy the French Riviera without the crowds, then here’s a list of the best things to do in Menton, France.

Are you planning your Menton trip last minute?

Below are some of the best Menton tours, hotels, and more!

Book your Train to Menton. If you fly to Nice Airport, this private transfer from Nice Airport to Menton will come in handy.

Looking to travel around Menton independently? Click here for the best car rental rates in Menton, and use Menton as the starting point for a fun French Riviera Road Trip.

Top Experiences and Tours in Menton

Top Places to Stay in Menton

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What to Do in Menton, France

Menton - French Riviera

Menton is easy to explore on foot. Most sights and Menton things to do are concentrated in the Old Town, between the sea and the rail tracks.

1. Explore the Old Town

Menton is the kind of place that encourages you to slow down and relax, and the Old Town is the ideal place to do that. Menton’s historical center is home to a maze of narrow, steep medieval streets and roads that echo the pirates that founded the town in the 13th century.

Menton’s Old Town offers a concentration of seven centuries of history, marked by famous architects like Charles Garnier, Adrien Rey, and Alfred Marsang. The baroque buildings, in particular, are remarkable, especially around the Parvis Saint-Michel.

2. Enjoy Menton’s Gardens

If you’re wondering what to do in Menton, then you may not think about the local gardens. But with its balmy microclimate, Menton has some stunning gardens worth exploring. This includes the botanical garden Val Rahmeh (Avenue Saint-Jacques, Menton), a must-see in Menton for over 100 years and created by the former Governor of Malta.

You should also try to see the rare plants of Jardin Serre de la Madone (74 Rte du Val de Gorbio, pictured above), the antique-inspired house and garden at Jardin des Colombières (312 Rte de Super Garavan, Menton), and the romance of Jardin Fontana Rosa (6 Avenue Blasco Ibanez, Menton) with its Spanish accents.

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3. All Citrus at Menton’s Lemon Festival

Lemon Festival Menton

If you are looking for places to visit in France in winter, don’t miss Menton and its Lemon Festival, which usually occurs during the second half of February.

For centuries in Europe, Menton has been famous for its lemons: very bright, yellow, and elongated fruits prized by chefs for their rich essential oil.

The Fête du Citron (Menton’s Lemon Festival) takes place every February, and it involves giant sculptures of lemons and other citrus fruits. One of the most popular festivals in France, the lemon displays are also accompanied by parades, shows, music, and dances, and it’s one of the Menton highlights.

Fête du Citron - Menton Lemon Festival

4. Visit the Basilica of Saint-Michel Archange

A visit to the Basilica of Saint Michel Archange (Place de l’Église, Menton) is one of the best things to do in Menton, and it reflects the city’s Italian history. A jewel of Baroque architecture, the Basilica was commissioned by Prince Honoré II of Monaco in 1619, with consecration in 1675. The façade, however, was not completed until the 19th century.

The Basilica is accessible from the seaside by majestic stairs, and it looks best in the morning when the weather is cooler and tourists haven’t arrived yet. The building has a unique bell tower, a façade that’s simply stunning, and a beautiful ceiling mural on the inside.

5. Admire the Belle Époque Villas

Menton is filled with elegant Belle Époque villas. Belle Époque is the name given to a period of French and European history between 1871–80 and the beginning of World War I in 1914. The villas left behind by the wealthy aristocrats from this era are some of the best things to see in Menton.

Beautiful and ornate, the villas are spread throughout the town of Menton, and many of them are within walking distance of the city center and offer lovely views.

6. Visit the Museums Jean Cocteau and Le Bastion

Jean Cocteau is an emblematic character of the Côte d’Azur. He came to Menton for the first time at 22, and he returned very often. In Menton, he decorated the Sale des Mariages in the town’s City Hall.

The Musée Jean Cocteau – Collection Severin Wunderman (Quai Monléon) is one of the top Menton attractions. It celebrates the work of multi-talented French poet, novelist, filmmaker, and visual artist Jean Cocteau and is the largest public resource of his work. The museum opened in 2011 thanks to the will of Séverin Wundermann, a great collector of Cocteau’s work. Works by Cocteau’s friends complete this artistic universe: Picasso, Modigliani, De Chirico, Miro, Foujita…

The Musée Jean Cocteau – Collection Séverin Wundermann is also worth seeing for its architecture (by Rudy Ricciotti), which looks like a thick concrete shell pierced by faults with irregular contours. The Museum is currently closed due to renovation work.

While working on the decorations of the Salle des Mariages, Cocteau was charmed by an abandoned 17th-century fort located nearby. The mayor at the time suggested making it a museum of his works. The artist accepted, and he restored and redecorated the small fortress. The Musée Jean Cocteau – Le Bastion (Quai Napoleon iii, open from Wednesday to Monday) now hosts temporary exhibitions dedicated to the artist. It has become an essential stop on the discovery tour of Cocteau’s work in Menton.

7. Spend a Relaxing Beach Day

Menton - French Riviera

There are many things to see in Menton, but the city is also home to lovely beaches if you need a break from Menton sightseeing.

Relaxing on one of the many beaches is one of the best things to do in Menton, France. Menton has both sandy and pebbly beaches, and they’re supervised in the summer. The most popular beach in Menton is Plage des Sablettes, located in a small bay beneath the city’s basilica and with views of the villas in the east and Mortola Point. Plage des Sablettes is considered one of the best beaches on the French Riviera.

But if you’d prefer quieter beaches, then try Plage de Fossan, a pebbly beach that’s great for families, or Plage Rondelli, which is sandier and has some great beach bars.

8. Visit the Cimitière du Vieux Château

If you walk uphill from Menton’s center, then you’ll arrive at the Cimitière du Vieux Château (Mont du Souvenir, Menton), the town’s cemetery. The site of Menton’s cemetery was once home to a medieval castle, hence the name. The castle is long gone, but the site still has fantastic views. When you stand up there, you can stare across the city’s terracotta rooftops to the mountains and along the Riviera coastline.

Numerous wealthy Russian and British aristocrats are buried in the Cemetery du Vieux Château, and it’s filled with beautiful carved stone tombs and sculptures. The cemetery is divided into terraces that are dedicated to different nationalities and regions. Some highlights are the Russian terrace, with the graves of princes, and the British area where you’ll find the tomb of the supposed inventor of rugby, William Webb Ellis.

9. Explore the Colorful Marché des Halles

If you wonder what to do in Menton, France, related to food, the Marché des Halles (Rue Pelisson) is a good place to start. Located between the fishermen’s port and the Baroque Quarter, this local market is vibrant and busy and is the acknowledged gastronomical hub of the city.

The Marché des Halles is full of the sights, smells, and tastes of the South of France, which is why it’s one of the top Menton tourist attractions. The Marché des Halles is open year-round until the early afternoon (closed on Mondays) and offers a range of fresh produce and local products.

10. And Taste Menton’s Local Specialties

Socca Nice

Among the best things to do in Menton is to try its cuisine, a perfect mix of classic Provençal flavors and original dishes with Mediterranean zest. Food in Menton is very similar to food in Nice (socca, bourride, soupe au pistou, etc.), plus some local specialties.

Menton is the city of lemons, so to immerse yourself in its culture, you can taste lemon in all its forms. Lemon is used in a Menton apéritif, a lemon liqueur similar to Italian Limoncello. Lemon is also used in recipes for vinegar, tapenade, jams, chocolates, and oil. For dessert, we recommend Les Sablés au Citron de Menton (Menton’s lemon shortbreads); they are delicious!

Pichade is a kind of anchovy pizza typical of Menton that can be enjoyed as a starter, hot or cold! It is a variation of the Pissaladière Niçoise, which is distinguished by the addition of tomatoes.

Barbajuan is similar to Indian samosas – small brick sheets stuffed with meat. In Menton, it is a ravioli stuffed with a vegetable typical of the region, chard.

Last but not least, don’t miss the homemade jams by Maison Herbin (2 Rue Palmaro) made from local citrus (lemon-lavender, sweet orange, fig-orange blossom…). You can taste the jams on-site before purchasing personalized jars. They are a real pleasure for the eyes and senses and also make a great souvenir!

Learn more about Menton’s culture and local specialties with this top-rated Menton food tour that explores the Marché des Halles and some gourmet shops, with tastings along the way.

11. Scuba Diving and Snorkeling in Menton

Photo Courtesy: Palmes Beach Menton – Manawa (c)

In winter or summer, dive into the Mediterranean Sea and discover the superb seabed of the French Riviera from Menton!

Whether it’s your first experience or you’d like to improve your skills, a professional team will help you progress and will accompany you in complete safety. You’ll have the chance to dive down to a depth of 6 meters! – Click here for more information and booking

Do you prefer snorkeling? Equipped with flippers, mask, and snorkel, admire the breathtaking scenery of the Mediterranean seabed! Swim in the middle of protected natural waters and discover the colorful marine animals that inhabit the Mediterranean Sea: fish, anemones, and starfish – Click here to book this snorkeling excursion from Menton

12. Rent a Boat in Menton (with or without a skipper)

Why not craft your own boat tour with your family or friends? Rent a boat in Menton, with or without a skipper, and plan a day out admiring the city from the water or visiting places like Villefranche-sur-Mer, Cap Ferrat, and Cap d’Ail. With its azure waters, colorful towns, and natural wonders, the French Riviera is the ideal destination for sailing.

The boating season in the French Riviera runs from April to October. Given that Menton is a very popular holiday destination, there are plenty of boats available to rent. Keep in mind, however, that during the high season in the summer, there are many tourists in the city, so I recommend booking well in advance to find the perfect boat for you. And if you don’t have a boat permit, don’t hesitate to ask for the services of a professional skipper – Click here to rent a boat in Menton

13. Beautiful Day Trips from Menton

Eze - France

The French Riviera is a fairly small region, and the towns are close. That means that you can take some fantastic day trips from Menton.

If you are wondering what to see in Menton beyond its boundaries, you can get to Eze-Village in about half an hour using public transport and take in the Medieval ambiance, or immerse yourself in the glitz and glamor of Monte Carlo in only 25 minutes by train.

Or you could go a little further, around 40 minutes on public transport, and enjoy the beaches, bars, and restaurants of Nice.

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