If you’re thinking about visiting the French Riviera, you need to check out the stunning town of Menton. Located on the border with Italy, Menton has a unique blend of French, Italian, and even a splash of Portuguese that makes it a beautiful place to spend a few days.
If you’re not sure what Menton has to offer, don’t worry; I’ve got you covered with the 18 best things to do in Menton.
Whether you want to soak up the rays on the beach, hike up to jaw-dropping viewpoints, or be surrounded by amazing botanical gardens and green spaces, there’s a little something in Menton to suit every kind of traveler.
1. Be Wowed by the Val Rahmeh-Menton Botanical Garden
First up, we have a showstopper of a botanical garden. Thanks to Menton’s year-round sunshine and warm weather, there are some truly amazing gardens all around this area. The best one to visit, however, is the Val Rahmeh-Menton Botanical Garden.
Built in the 1800s, this botanical garden feels like you’re stepping into another world. With over 1,700 species of tropical plants covering 1.5 hectares of beautifully manicured ground, the Val Rahmeh-Menton Botanical Garden is well worth visiting while you’re in Menton.
As the botanical gardens are organized according to tropical zones and climates, you can feel like you’re in the rainforest one minute and in the arid desert the next! It’s a super entertaining place to visit and the ideal way to soak up the southern French sunshine while learning more about the natural world!
2. Check Out the Many Piers and Marinas
In Menton, some of the best places to hang out are actually on the piers and around the marinas. There are a few different piers and launch points all along the waterfront, each with its own distinct vibe.
They’re all great for wandering down and getting amazing views, either out into the Mediterranean or back towards Menton itself.
If you’ve spent any time on the French Riviera, you’ll know that it’s home to some truly insane mega yachts and boats. You can wander through the marina, admiring these multimillion-dollar crafts, and imagine what life might be like on one of these amazing boats.
You can also find pleasure cruises around the bay and along the Cote d’Azur from these ports and marinas. So if you fancy a couple of hours at sea or want to have a romantic sunset cruise to end your trip to Menton, this is where you need to go.
3. Visit Basilique Saint-Michel-Archangel
What’s a visit to a European town without a visit to a stunning church or cathedral? Well, Menton doesn’t disappoint with the beautiful Basilique Saint-Michel-Archangel. Built all the way back in 1653, this Baroque-style church is home to a 17th-century organ and a clock tower that’s a huge 35 meters tall!
Inside, the Basilique Saint-Michel-Archangel is filled with cavernous ceilings, imposing pillars, and tons of Catholic opulence. Even if you’re not religious, it’s hard not to be wowed by the sheer scale of the building in such a small town, as well as the impressive architecture and decor.
In fact, Basilique Saint-Michel-Archangel is arguably one of the biggest churches on the whole of the French Riviera, so it’s well worth a visit. If you’re unsure of where to find it, you can see the mighty clock tower from most parts of Menton; let that guide your way through the maze of streets in Menton’s Old Town district.
4. Wander Around the Old Town
As with many French and Italian towns, Menton’s Old Town area is a labyrinth of characterful cobbled streets where it’s easy to get lost for hours. Each sidestreet produces yet another sidestreet until you’re miles away from where you started. It’s great.
The winding streets of St. Michel are locally known as the start of the Old Town on the western end of the Promenade du Soleil. However, it goes on for quite a long way, and you can easily spend at least half a day exploring all the different alleyways and side streets along the way.
Carve out plenty of time to explore this area, which has its roots in Medieval times. It’s like stepping back in time! Within the Old Town itself, you’ll find tons of shops, boutiques, cafes, and restaurants to check out, but they are sometimes a little more expensive due to their location.
5. Bring Your Camera for the Cimitiere du Vieux Chateau
It might sound a bit morbid to visit a cemetery while you’re on vacation, but when the cemetery has views like this, a visit to the Cimitiere du Vieux Chateau is going to be high on your Menton to-do list. It’s a short and scenic hike through Old Town to get to this stunning burial ground.
Known as the Cemetery of the Old Château in English, it’s a popular viewpoint for tourists and locals alike, offering panoramic views of the bay and town below. From here, you can also see Italy, which is pretty cool as well as all the major sights in Menton.
If you’re interested in medieval history, you’ll be intrigued to see the former site of a medieval castle that accompanied the cemetery. It’s certainly a scenic resting place! Of course, it is an actual cemetery, so be respectful while you’re there.
6. Shop on Rue Saint-Michel
If you want to grab a whole lot of souvenirs and check out local boutiques, you’re going to want to check out Rue Saint-Michel in the Old Town. it’s full of unique stores where you can get one-off pieces or grab your souvenirs along the way.
There is a mix of tourist-friendly shops and local spots so you might be able to get all your new clothes, souvenirs, and foodie gifts all in one place. Housed inside medieval-era buildings, it’s a picturesque place to shop until you drop!
7. Relax on Esplanade Francis Palmero
Looking for a beautiful promenade that’s less hectic than Promenade du Soleil? Head across to the Esplanade Francis Palmero. This amazing little stretch of land is a mix of a pedestrian-friendly promenade and a cute garden area, so it’s a great place to relax and check out the views of the bay.
You’ll often find a gaggle of tourists vying for the best photo from Esplanade Francis Palmero as honestly, it’s one of the best photo spots in the whole of Menton. You can get great views of downtown Menton, the beach, the Promenade du Soleil, and even all the way to Italy on a clear day!
It’s not as much of a hike to Esplanade Francis Palmero as it is to get up to the Cemetery, so if you’re low on time or don’t fancy getting a sweat on going up the hill, this is a great alternative viewpoint.
8. Dive Into History at the Musée de Préhistoire Régionale
If you’re looking to get your fill of culture during your visit to Menton, then you might want to check out the first-ever museum in the town, the Musée de Préhistoire Régionale. Harking all the way back to 1878, this museum is dedicated to all things prehistoric, archeology, and natural science-based.
Specifically, Musée de Préhistoire Régionale deals with the finds and history of the actual region around Menton.
As the area is a predominantly agricultural region, there are a lot of exhibits to do with the fishing and farming culture, so if you’re interested in more of an anthropological slant, this is definitely going to be the museum for you.
It’s an affordable day out for the whole family as tickets only cost three Euros. So, if you’re looking to stay out the peak of the summer French Riviera sunshine for a little while, the Musée de Préhistoire Régionale is a cool way to spend a couple of hours.
9. Admire the Serre de la Madone Garden
Menton isn’t exactly short of beautiful natural spaces between the botanical gardens and the miles of beaches, but if you’re looking for something a little more stylized, then you need to check out the Serre de la Madone Garden.
This gorgeous garden was created in the 1920s, so there are a lot of references to the Art Deco movement and classical design features like multi-level terraces, water features, tranquil seating areas, and much more.
It’s easy to spend all day in this serene oasis as it spans an incredible six hectares. Located in the Quartier de la Madone at the eastern end of the Promenade du Soleil, it’s easy to get to and has a calm and relaxing vibe in the Gorbio Valley.
Definitely, a spot to visit if you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the beach or the city vibes of Nice or Monaco.
10. Soak up the Sun on Plage des Sablettes
Who doesn’t want to kick back and relax in the sun on a beach in the French Riviera? It’s the kind of thing that you dream about when planning these kinds of trips and it’s also a great free thing to do if you’re trying to explore on a budget.
Les Plage des Sablettes is probably considered the “main” beach in Menton. While there are others like Plage de Fossan towards the eastern side of Menton, Plage des Sablettes is your quintessential long stretch of sand where you can have a proper family beach day in the French sunshine.
Bring a book and soak up the rays, have a paddle in the clear Mediterranean waters, or have a picnic with your friends and family members. Plage des Sablettes is always a hive of activity, and it’s where a lot of locals and tourists alike seem to hang out in their downtime.
11. Jump on a Food Tour
With French, Italian, and Portuguese influences, Menton is a huge mixing pot of amazing cuisines and eateries. As there’s so much fresh fish and seafood on their doorstep, it’s one of the best places to indulge in the quintessential tastes of the Mediterranean.
One of the best ways to experience Menton’s unique gastronomic culture and food scene is by jumping on a food tour. This way you can be guided around all the local hotspots and secret favorites that you probably wouldn’t be able to find on your own or in any guidebook.
As Menton is on the French-Italian border, there is also a wide range of delicious wines, cocktails, and aperitifs to enjoy along the way. Wine tours and vineyard tastings are still hugely popular in this area, despite it being so close to the coastline.
12. Roam the Promenade du Soleil
If you want to see the beating heart of Menton, then chances are good that you’re going to spend some time on the Promenade du Soleil. Spanning 2km from the Old Town to Quartier de la Madone, the Promenade du Soleil runs along the waterfront, passing beautiful beaches, marinas, and stunning architecture along the way.
Whether you’re looking to get between tourist hotspots, fancy a little jog on your vacation, or just want to have an after-dinner stroll in the warm weather, Promenade du Soleil is the ideal place to do so.
Along the promenade, you can find a whole range of shops, bars, cafes, and restaurants where you can refuel or just kick back, relax, and watch the world go by.
13. Buy Tasty Souvenirs at Les Halles
Let’s be honest, who doesn’t love visiting amazing markets while they’re on vacation? I love it so much. Not only do you get to see and buy all the tasty local produce, but you also get to hang out with locals and get a real feel for the place you’re visiting.
In Menton, the main market is Les Halles, housed in a stunning late-1890s-era building. Traditionally a fish market, Les Halles is now home to all kinds of fresh produce and food vendors.
As Menton is so close to the border with Italy and is known for its citron flavors, it’s a great place to pick up some lemon oils, limoncello, and more lemony gifts and treats.
If you’re in Menton in May, you’ll also get to take advantage of a whole weekend where the town celebrates gastronomy and market culture with workshops, culinary classes, and more! It’s a vibrant celebration that’s completely delicious!
14. Discover Beautiful Art at the Musée des Beaux-Arts
Okay, so this is a super cool museum that is housed in the former Monagasque Summer Palace. So, the architecture is incredible and even if you’re not into art, you can appreciate the beauty of the building itself and the surrounding grounds.
Inside the museum itself, you can find a wide range of pieces from a large swathe of art history. With pieces from the 13th century all the way up to contemporary artists from in or around Menton, the Musée des Beaux-Arts has an impressive collection for what’s actually a relatively small museum.
If you don’t want to spend all your time inside – and with the Riviera sunshine, why would you – head outside to the manicured sculpture garden? Wander around the pristine grounds and take in striking sculptures from a wide range of artists, all from different time periods.
15. Check Out the Famous Fete du Citron
So, if you know nothing else about the town of Menton, you’ve probably heard about the absolutely insane Fete au Citron that happens every February. Now, a festival dedicated to lemons and oranges sounds like a food festival, right? Well, yes and no.
At the Fete au Citron, you’ll see dozens of elaborately designed floats and stands made up entirely of lemons and oranges. There’s definitely a carnival vibe to these floats, with some of them being shaped like giant lions, giraffes, and even the Taj Mahal. Out of lemons. It’s unreal.
Of course, prices and crowds do hit a maximum during mid-February when the festival takes over the whole of Jardin Bioves in the heart of Menton. However, it definitely needs to be seen to be believed!
16. Chill Out in Jardin Bioves
If you’re looking for a quiet and relaxing spot to while the hours away when you’re in Menton, one of the best places to do so is the Jardin Bioves. As it’s right next to Menton Station, it’s a convenient place to relax while you’re waiting for your train or if you want to be surrounded by greenery without leaving the center of town.
In February, this park is transformed for the iconic Lemon Festival, but Jardin Bioves is beautiful all year round. If you face one way, you have views of the mountains and if you turn around, the park leads you all the way down to the waterfront.
You can easily wander along the park if you want a scenic way to get from one end of Menton to the other, or you can chill out on one of the many benches and eat your lunch, people-watch, or admire the many fountains.
17. Get Some Culture at the Jean Cocteau Museum
Do you love architecture and art? Well then, you can have the best of both worlds at the Jean Cocteau Museum.
It’s honestly hard to miss this modern gallery and museum thanks to its striking white pillars that curve around in interesting ways. If you’re looking for cool and artsy Instagram locations, this is a great option!
The museum itself is all about celebrating the artwork of Jean Cocteau. His unique single-line drawings have become iconic for a reason! Cocteau was a playwright, sculptor, visual artist, art critic, and much, much more.
The thing that connected all of his passions was a penchant for Surrealism. Everything he did played with reality and had a kooky and quirky edge to it.
If you’re looking to grab some culture while you’re in Menton and want to learn about one of France’s favorite artistic sons, you need to check out the Jean Cocteau Museum, located right by the Plage de Fossan. Time-wise, you should probably carve out at least a couple of hours to appreciate this museum to its fullest, but you can also take your time and stretch the experience out for longer.
18. Eat at a Michelin-starred Restaurant
Okay, so this isn’t exactly a cheap thing to do while you’re in Menton, but it is one of the best things you can do while you’re in the area. The three Michelin star restaurant, Mirazur, has actually been voted as the best restaurant in the world and has the highest number of stars a restaurant can hold.
As you might expect, prices are high and waiting lists are long, so you’re going to want to book this table as far in advance as you possibly can. The cuisine is classic French haute cuisine, led by head chef Mauro Colagreco.
As you might expect, there’s a huge range of wine pairings and the menu is super creative and artistic, so it’s a whole experience, not just a meal.
The restaurant itself is set high up on the hillside on the outskirts of Menton, so it’s secluded, private, and most importantly, has unparalleled views out across the Mediterranean Sea.
So, if you’re heading to Menton for a special occasion or want to treat yourself, a dining experience at Mirazur is undoubtedly one of the best things that you can do in town.
How to Get to Menton
One of the best things about Menton is how accessible it is. It’s on the direct line from Nice along the stunning Cote d’Azur, and the journey takes around 35 minutes and costs anywhere from 3 to 12 euros, depending on the time of day and how far in advance you buy your ticket.
This line also goes through Monaco, so you can easily do a day trip to Menton from Monaco or vice versa! So, without further ado, let’s dive in and find out more about the 18 best things to do in Menton, France.
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Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.