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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.
When you visit Menton, you’ll find that this city has the best of everything: amazing food, beautiful beaches against the pure blue Mediterranean Sea, and a warm climate year-round. And best of all, it’s quieter than some of the 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!
Top Experiences and Tours in Menton
Top Menton Accommodation and Lodging
What to Do in Menton
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. The Historical Center is home to a maze of narrow and 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.
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 more than 100 years and created by the once Governor of Malta.
You should also try to see the rare plants of Jardin Serre de la Madone (74 Rte du Val de Gorbio, picture 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.
All Citrus at Menton’s Lemon Festival
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.
Since 1934, the Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival) takes place every February and it involves giant sculptures of lemons and other citrus fruits. The displays are also accompanied by parades, shows, music, and dances and it’s one of the must winter events in Southern France.
Visit the Basilica of Saint-Michel Archange
The Basilica of Saint Michel Archange (Place de l’Église, Menton) is one of the most beautiful Menton attractions and it reflects the city’s Italian history. A jewel of Baroque architecture, the basilica was commissioned by the Prince Honoré II of Monaco in 1619, with consecration in 1675. The facade, 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 and a façade that’s simply stunning, as well as a beautiful ceiling mural on the inside.
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 rich 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.
Visit the Museum Jean Cocteau – Le Bastion
The Museum Jean Cocteau (Le Bastion, Menton, closed on Tuesday) is one of the top Menton tourist 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.
This museum is set in the Bastion, a small fortress built in 1636. This historical monument was restored and re-designed in its entirety by Jean Cocteau himself to host his artwork.
The museum was first established in 2011 and contains more than 1,800 pieces of Cocteau’s work including graphic art, photographs, and films.
Spend a Relaxing Day on the Menton Beaches
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 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.
Visit the Cemetery du Vieux Château
If you walk uphill from Menton’s center, then you’ll arrive at the Cimitière du Vieux Château (Mnt 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 amazing views. When you stand up there, you’ll be able to 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 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 grave of the supposed inventor of rugby, William Webb Ellis.
Explore the Colorful Marché des Halles
Located between the fishermen’s port and the Baroque quarter in Menton is the Marché des Halles (Rue Pelisson, Menton). This local market is vibrant and busy and is the acknowledged gastronomical hub of the city.
The market 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 market is open year-round until the early afternoon (closed on Mondays) and offers a range of produce and local products.
Take one of the Beautiful Day Trips from Menton
The French Riviera is a fairly small region, and the towns are close together. That means that you can take some amazing day trips from Menton. 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 25 minutes.
Or you could go a little further, around 40 minutes on public transport, and enjoy the beaches, bars, and restaurants of Nice.