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15 Best Things to Do in Menton, France

15 Best Things to Do in Menton, France

The colorful seaside town of Menton, France, is the pearl of the French Riviera. Located right on the edge of the Italian border, Menton enjoys a warm climate year-round and has a unique culture and architecture influenced by France and Italy. Menton tourist attractions range from peaceful sandy beaches to fantastic shopping and seasonal festivals.

Throughout Menton, you’ll find swaying palm trees, narrow streets lined with robust lemon trees, and colorful buildings reminiscent of the Italian Riviera.

In fact, it was part of Italy up until 1861. It was also once a beloved sunny escape for British and Russian aristocrats who built the massive Belle Époque villas you can still see around the city today.

Menton is famous today for its annual Fête du Citron, or Lemon Festival. The lemon festival lasts two weeks every February and is one of my favorite things about winter in the South of France. While the French Riviera is best experienced in the summer, if you find yourself in France in the winter, a visit to Menton specifically for this festival is worth it.

Menton encapsulates all that makes the French Riviera one of the most beautiful places in Europe. It sees the highest number of sunny days of any French city and exudes summertime vibes year-round.

As a resident of the Cote d’Azur myself, I can honestly say it is one of my favorite cities on the Riviera to visit. Below are my top recommendations for what to see and do in this charming city, so let’s get into it!

TL;DR

Category Our Pick
Most significant landmark Basilica de Michael Archangel
Best park Fossan Park
Free activity Fête du Citron (Lemon Festival)
Activity for kids Plage des Sablettes
Activity for adults Shopping in the Old Town
Place to eat Mirazur
Best place to stay Hôtel Vacances Bleues Royal Westminster

Things To Do In Menton, France

1. Fête du Citron

A sculpture made of citrus fruit at the Menton Lemon Festival in France
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

The absolute best thing to do in Menton is to attend the Menton Lemon Festival, called Fête du Citron in French. The festival happens each year in February, usually starting in mid-February and lasting for two weeks.

The whole town comes together, and different groups and organizations create mind-blowing sculptures and floats primarily made of citrus fruit. Many citrus farms are found throughout the region, and Menton celebrates their harvest.

The festival follows a fun theme each year and is celebrated throughout the city. Previous themes include rock ‘n’ roll, opera, and Bollywood. Several parades happen during the festival, but the main events happen in Jardins Biovès, located in the city center.

Here, you will find sculptures made of citrus fruits, local products for sale, and the orchid festival held in the Palais de l’Europe. One of the best parts of the festival is that most of the event is free! The only fee charged is to reserve a seat at the parade.

After enjoying all the events at the lemon festival, stop by La Suisse Bakery on Rue Saint-Michel for a personal-sized lemon tarte. The lemon festival causes quite a bit of traffic, so if you don’t want to deal with that, I suggest staying at the city center somewhere like Hôtel Vacances Bleues Royal Westminster.

If you can’t quite swing a February vacation, you can still experience Menton’s lemon culture on a guided tour of Menton. This spectacular excursion includes a visit to a citrus farm, lunch with citrus and liquor tastings, a guided walk through Menton and the Old Town, and options to visit the botanical park and enjoy a boat ride along the coast.

2. Jean Cocteau Museum – The Bastion

The exterior of The Bastion - Jean Cocteau Museum in Menton, France
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Address: Quai Napoléon III, 06500 Menton, France

Jean Cocteau was a famous French poet, filmmaker, and visual artist and is known as one of the most influential figures of the surrealist, avant-garde, and Dadaist art movements in the early 20th century. He was close friends with other famous creatives like Pablo Picasso and Coco Chanel and is most famous for his book, Les Enfants Terribles.

The Musée Jean Cocteau, or Jean Cocteau Museum in English, is housed in The Bastion, a historical monument located on the seaside. Jean Cocteau actually started work on the museum himself, but unfortunately, he did not live long enough to see the project to completion. He also designed Menton’s salle des mariages (wedding hall), where residents have legal marriage ceremonies.

The museum opened in 1966, starting with 102 works of art handpicked by Jean Cocteau himself. Over the years, the collection has grown to over 2,000 pieces. Visitors can guide themselves through the city’s art museum or tour the museum and the wedding hall.

See Related: Most Famous Historical Landmarks in France

3. Menton Music Festival

A classical concert being held in front of a church in Menton, France
Festival de Musique de Menton / Facebook

Throughout the French Riviera and most large cities in France, you’ll find that the summer months are a time of live music and celebrations. There’s hardly a better place to experience these summer vibes than the Menton Music Festival.

The music festival lasts for two weeks, starting during the last week of July. It is one of the oldest and most prestigious classical music festivals in all of Europe.

The Menton Music Festival invites the best classical artists from around the globe to showcase their talents. Performances occur throughout the old town, including the Palais de l’Europe and in front of the Basilica de Michael Archangel.

Several performances held in the public spaces of Menton are free to enjoy by all. Some larger performances held in the concert halls will require a ticket to be booked in advance. Overall, this is an amazing event for anyone visiting the French Riviera in the summer, especially if you are a big fan of classical music.

4. Jardin Serre de la Madone

Greenhouse And Pool In Jardin Serre De la Madone in Menton, France
OlgaBombologna / Shutterstock

Address: 74 Route du Val de Gorbio, 06500 Menton, France

The stunning South of France is known for its temperate climate, which makes it the perfect place for gardens and groves to thrive. The most remarkable garden in Menton is the Jardin Serre de la Madone, located in the Madone district of the city, tucked away in a picturesque valley.

The garden is a collection of rare plants, mostly hailing from the Mediterranean forest and South America. It all began with Lawrence W. Johnston, a British-American garden designer born in Paris with a passion for travel. He settled in Menton and brought back exotic plants from wherever he traveled.

Jardin Serre de la Madone features fascinating plants, unique sculptures, reflecting pools, and an overall relaxing ambiance. It has been a public garden since 1999 and is open daily. Since it’s not on the seaside, it’s very quiet and peaceful and a great place to escape the bustling coast.

5. Go Shopping in Old Town Menton

A narrow street in the old town of Menton, France
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

The Menton Old Town is one of my favorite places to bring visiting friends and family. I also go here when I want to buy a few gifts to bring back upon going home to Hawaii. While the whole old town and city center is filled with hidden gems, the best place for shopping is along Rue Saint-Michel.

Shops along this street range from small boutiques to kitschy souvenir shops and places offering locally made products. Items like lemon-infused olive oil and lemon soap are popular gifts to bring back from this French region.

If you love all things jam and jelly, I can’t speak highly enough about Maison Herbin. This family-run shop features some of the best and most unique flavors of any shop in the old town.

Between the old town and the seaside is the Marché des Halles, which is an open-air market that features products from local farmers, butchers, and fishermen from around the region. It’s perfect if you’re looking for items to enjoy during your trip.

6. Basilica de Michael Archangel

The exterior of basilica de michael archangel in menton, france
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

Address: Place de l’Eglise, 06500 Menton, France

One of the most stunning pieces of architecture in Menton is the Basilica de Michael Archangel. The church is located above the old town and is one of the top Menton tourist attractions.

While there are a few small side streets you can access the church from, you should take the stairs from Plage des Sablettes. The panoramic views are stunning, and the stairs are totally Instagram-worthy.

The Baroque-style church was built during the 17th century and features a large bell tower. The interior of the church is the real star of the show. It features gorgeous works of art, statues, a grand altar, and even an organ that dates back to the 1600s.

Next to the church is another church, the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, though this church is often closed to visitors. Basilica de Michael Archangel is free and open to visitors every afternoon except on Sundays, which is when mass is held.

7. Old Chateau Cemetery

View from the old chateau cemetery in Menton, France
Olga_Narcissa / Shutterstock

Address: Montée du Souvenir, 06500 Menton, France

While not your typical tourist attraction, Menton’s Old Chateau Cemetery is a peaceful site that holds deep religious and historical significance. The cemetery, built on the site of a former castle, is the final resting place for many British and Russian aristocrats, along with other notable individuals.

One of the most notable people buried at the Old Chateau Cemetery is William Webb Ellis, the creator of rugby. Others include Danish architect Hans Georg Tersling, German historian Alfred Woltmann, and Prince Paul Troubetzkoy. Beautiful terraces and villas surround the cemetery from another time.

While many visit the cemetery to pay respect to some of its most famous residents, many also visit to enjoy the panoramic views of the area and the gorgeous construction of the mausoleums. The cemetery can be accessed from the old town through stairs and narrow streets.

See Related: Visiting the Catacombs of Paris: Full Tour of the Tombs

8. Plage du Fossan

Plage du Fossan on the Mediterranean in Menton, France
Kirk Fisher / Adobe Stock

Located on Menton’s famous Promenade du Soleil, Plage du Fossan is the most popular beach in this seaside town. This pebble beach is an amazing place to enjoy the warm Mediterranean Sea, and there is no fee to visit. The beach is not sandy, so if you plan to go here, I recommend wearing water shoes and bringing beach chairs if possible.

This beach is convenient for those staying in Menton’s city center as it is accessible from multiple points along the main promenade. To the south of the beach is Fossan Park, equipped with jungle gyms, grassy areas, and a large walking path. It’s the perfect place for a morning jog along the promenade.

If waking up to unobstructed ocean views sounds dreamy, stay nearby at the Hôtel Vacances Bleues Balmoral. This charming hotel features sweeping mountain and ocean views as well as a rooftop solarium and a bar. And, of course, it is within walking distance of Plage du Fossan.

9. Plage des Sablettes

View of the old town and Plage des Sablettes in Menton, France
Brittney Liu / ViaTravelers

My favorite beach in Menton is Plage des Sablettes, located on the eastern end of the city near the Menton Garavan port. It is a small bay beneath the old town and is one of the few sandy beaches on this stretch of the French Riviera.

This beach is super calm and great if you have little ones. In the summer, it can get very crowded, so try to get there early to claim your spot.

One of my favorite parts of the beach, besides the calm and shallow water, is the stunning views of the old town and the city’s basilica. For the best pictures and views, walk along the Quai Impératrice Eugénie next to Menton’s port.

Along the beach are many bars and restaurants that serve dine-in and takeaway meals. Two of my favorites are Planet Sushi and Pecora Negra. They’re both convenient if you want to take it back to your spot on the beach.

See Related: The Ultimate Beach Packing List: What to Bring to the Beach

10. Have lunch on the Promenade du Soleil

Cafes and palm trees on the Promenade du Soleil in Menton, France
Guenter / Adobe Stock

Hands down, the best place to find a great restaurant that serves food and cocktails and has amazing views is along the Promenade du Soleil. The promenade stretches along the city and runs parallel to Plage du Fossan.

Along the promenade, you’ll find a huge variety of restaurants that serve everything from Mediterranean cuisine to Italian food and traditional French cuisine. Many restaurants also offer a large cocktail and dessert menu, so whatever you’re craving, you’re sure to find something to suit your wants and needs here.

The usual go-to for my family whenever we’re in Menton is La Tagliatelle. Their menu includes a long list of pizzas, pasta dishes, and daily specials. If you’re in the drinking mood, you’ve got to order the red house sangria!

I love food tours, and this small group gourmet food and wine tour of Menton is a great way to experience the coastal cuisine at its finest.

11. Have dinner at Mirazur

A colorful plated dish from Mirazur restaurant in Menton, France
Mirazur / Facebook

Address: 30 Avenue Aristide Briand, 06500 Menton, France

Located just on the edge of the French-Italian border, Mirazur is touted as one of the most incredible upscale restaurants on the French Riviera and is currently the only Michelin-rated three-star restaurant in the region. Mirazur has also been awarded the Michelin Green Star for its sustainability practices.

Dining and Mirazur is a true farm-to-table experience. The restaurant has its own two hectares of gardens, including herb gardens, fruit trees, and vegetable gardens. They also aim for zero-waste and try to return everything that is not consumed back to the land.

Chef Mauro Colagreco is at the head of the helm at Mirazur. The restaurant offers a nine-course prix-fixe menu that changes according to the lunar calendar. If a three-star restaurant is a bit out of your price range, Chef Mauro also designed the menu at the more casual Pecora Negra (mentioned earlier) on Plage des Sablettes.

See Related: Best Restaurants in Florence, Italy

12. Musée de Préhistoire Régionale

Artifacts at the Musee de Prehistoire Regionale in Menton, France
Virginia B / TripAdvisor

Address: Rue Lorédan Larchey, 06500 Menton, France

If you’ve had enough fun in the sun and are looking for indoor activities in Menton, the Musée de Préhistoire Régionale, or Regional Prehistoric Museum in English, is a wonderful place to start. The museum originally opened in 1878, when it was the first municipal museum of Menton.

The artifacts housed in this museum are estimated to date back to 300 BC to the 600s. These artifacts represent daily life as well as economic and cultural activities in the region between Ventimiglia (present-day Italy) and the French Riviera.

The museum charges a small entry fee and is open daily except Tuesdays and public holidays. It is located just four blocks from the beach, so it’s really easy to visit, no matter where you are in Menton.

13. Try Regional Food from the Cote d’Azur

A colorful display of regional food from Nice, France
No Diet Club / Viator

Food is part of the culture wherever you go in France. Menton has a unique influence of French and Italian food and some inspiration from other cultures due to its location and draw to foreign visitors. But if you’d like to try true regional food, go on a guided food tour with a local.

While Menton is a small city and doesn’t offer any food tours, you’ll find plenty of them in Nice, just a 40-minute train ride away. I love this tour by No Diet Club, which is a pair of Frenchies with a passion for food.

The best part of this tour is that guests will get to try an amazing mix of dishes specifically from the region as well as dishes that don’t originate here but are super popular with locals and visitors. One thing I highly recommend to try is socca; a wood-fired chickpea pancake that originated in Nice. If you’re a fan of Nicoise salad, try pan bagnat, which is basically a Nicoise salad in sandwich form.

See Related: Best Wine Regions in France

14. Villa Maria Serena

View from the terrace of Villa Maria Serena in Menton, France
Oleg Pokrovskiy / TripAdvisor

Address: 21 Promenade Reine Astrid, 06500 Menton, France

Constructed in 1886 by French architect Charles Garnier, Villa Maria Serena and its garden are truly sights to behold. While originally the summer residence of the Foucher de Careil family, Villa Maria Serena remains one of the most beautiful villas on the entire Riviera.

The villa was given to the city in 1947 and was then used to house aristocrats and socialites whenever they were in town. While the villa is absolutely stunning, the main draw for visitors is the garden. The garden features many varieties of palm trees, pines, Mediterranean trees, a pond, and many other tropical plants.

Villa Maria Serena is open to visit on a guided tour only. To make a reservation, be sure to visit the City of Menton’s website to find the contact information for the villa.

15. Day Trip: Monte-Carlo, Monaco

The front of Monte Carlo Casino in Monte Carlo, Monaco
Woodrow Matthews / ViaTravelers

While there are many beautiful places to visit in Provence and the Cote d’Azur, if there’s only one other place to fit in during your trip to Menton, it has to be Monaco. This glitzy little country is in the middle of Nice and Menton.

There are two main towns in Monaco: Monte-Carlo and Monaco-Ville. It’s only 20 minutes to get to Monaco by train or car.

Monte-Carlo is amazing to visit if you want to see the rich and famous out and about. You’ll see exotic cars, high-end shops, and luxury hotels.

Besides luxury shopping, the main thing to see in Monte-Carlo is the casino, open to visitors daily. Monaco-Ville is where the Prince of Monaco resides and gives off more of a quiet luxury vibe.

If you’re short on time but want to see all the country’s highlights, I recommend the hop-on, hop-off bus. The bus stops at all the main attractions in Monaco, including the train station, so you don’t have to worry about getting around. Though the country is small, it’s still pretty far to walk between Monte-Carlo and Monaco-Ville.

If you want to splurge, though, take a coastal aperitif boat tour. This private 3-hour tour departs before sunset, taking you to see Monte Carlo, Menton, Cap Saint Martin, and even Balzi Rossi in Italy. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience on the French Riviera.

FAQ

Is Antibes or Menton better?

Antibes and Menton are both stunning towns on the French Riviera. Antibes has a larger old town, which features ancient walls.

It also has more English speakers. Menton features colorful buildings and stunning panoramic views. Both have fantastic beaches and lots of dining and accommodation options.

What is Menton, France, known for?

Menton, France, is known for its colorful buildings, beautiful beaches, and amazing gardens. It also hosts the annual Menton Lemon Festival, held in February, which showcases sculptures and floats made from the fruit of local citrus trees.

How long should I spend in Menton?

You will need two days to see all of the top Menton attractions. If you plan to visit Menton during the Lemon Festival, that will take up at least half a day.

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