Menton, also known as a “Pearl of France” is a cute little town situated on the French Riviera, along the Franco-Italian border.
This popular resort for the aristocracy in the 1800s is also famous for its gardens, beaches, a scenic port, fine restaurants, and the Lemon Festival organized every February in the Casino Gardens in the center.
The following itinerary should allow you to see its most interesting sights in just a couple of hours.
- Promenade du Soleil
- The Casino Barriere
- Jardins Biovès
- The Marché des Halles
- The Jean Cocteau Museum
- The Bastion Museum
- The Cathedral of Saint Michel
- The Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs
- The Old Cemetery
We will start our tour from the Promenade du Soleil, an amazing promenade where you can stroll and enjoy the sea and beautiful views, or some of many great restaurants alongside.
The Casino Barriere, a small version of the famous casino in Monte-Carlo, with a cozy terrace that is an ideal place to have a drink, is very hard to miss at this gorgeous promenade.
In front of it, on the opposite side of the sea, there is a huge park Jardins Biovès, the venue for the “Fete du citron” Lemon festival in February and March. Huge sculptures, entirely made of tons of lemons and oranges, each year following a different theme, make this event unique and truly spectacular. Try to see the gardens also in the evenings, when the sculptures are illuminated and accompanied by music, performances, refreshments and local citrus-made products.
Down the promenade, towards the old port we will find the Marché des Halles, one of the most beautiful market places in France, offering some fine examples of French food. This historic covered market was built in 1898 by a local architect and is open every day from 5 am in summer or 5:30 am in winter until 1 pm.
Right opposite it, there is the Jean Cocteau Museum (Musee Jean Cocteau Collection Severin Wunderman) opened in 2011.
Jean Cocteau, a poet, an artist, a film director, and a close friend of Picassoe, liked Menton very much and left many traces here.
The largest one is his museum, an amazing square building, with curved white pillars interspersed with dark glass, which offers, depending on the current exhibition, drawings, paintings, ceramics and film clips of this multi-talented artist, collected and donated by his greatest fan Sévérin Wunderman.
Right next to it, there is the Bastion Museum, which Jean Cocteau was given full range to decorate. His marvelous stone mosaics outside the Bastion walls and the lively eccentric works inside this small museum gave a special new look to the gloomy old fortress, built overwater in 1636.
Cocteau also painted the Wedding Room at the Mairie (Town Hall) in the 1950s and, transformed it into a giant work of art.
The Baroque Cathedral of Saint Michel, with its bell tower, was built in the 17th century by the town’s residents after an outbreak of the Black Death in gratitude for their survival. The decoration around the altar and ceiling frescoes are impressive, and there is also an interesting 17th-century organ inside. The Festival of Classical Music of Menton is celebrated in this church every August.
In front of the Saint Michel basilica, there is the Chapelle des Pénitents Blancs, a chapel belonging to the White Penitents, Catholic laymen. It is a jewel of Baroque art, built between 1680 and 1687, with a beautiful facade and tower.
Quite close to this place, and definitely worth climbing is the Old Cemetery, offering some very interesting graves of many British and Russian aristocrats, but more importantly a breathtaking, fabulous view of Menton.
We will end our tour here. If you have more time, you will certainly enjoy wandering around, sneaking into its narrow streets, sweet shops and adorable restaurants. Whatever you choose, Menton will not leave you indifferent.