Looking for things to do in Menton?
Menton is a town located on the French Riviera, mostly known for its spectacular yearly lemon festival.
But when many think about the French Riviera, Menton is a town that is often forgotten or neglected.
And while Menton is mostly known for being a very calm and sometimes boring city, there are plenty of things to do in Menton, and there are certainly things to see that are well-worth visiting if you’re around the area or along the French Riviera.
While Menton, the last town on the French Riviera before the Italian border isn’t the number one choice for most tourists, it has plenty of things to offer and is definitely worth adding it to your list of things to do on the French Riviera.
In this post, we’re sharing a complete list of the top things to do in Menton, as well as places to visit and see.
Jean Cocteau Museum
One of the things to do in Menton is visiting the Jean Cocteau Museum.
Jean Cocteau loved Menton, and during a stroll along the seaside of the town, he came up with the idea of turning a 17th-century bastion (1636) on the seafront of Menton into a monument to his work.
The building wasn’t being used, so Jean Cocteau restored the building all by himself. Cocteau spent a lot of time in Menton in his later years, and this is why Menton today has the largest public resource of his work in the whole world.
The Jean Cocteau museum established itself in 2011, after Séverin Wunderman, a Cocteau expert and collector donated his multimillion-dollar collection of the artist’s works to the city of Menton in 2003.
In the Jean Cocteau museum, you’ll find roughly 1,800 pieces, which come in all formats and shapes. These include everything from photographies, graphic art, film, drawings, and more.
The Saint-Michel Basilica is among the most popular things to do in Menton.
The basilica is a baroque church with beautiful details and wonderful architecture which shows that Menton has belonged to Italy for the most part in history.
Its interior is absolutely breathtaking, and so is the outside.
The first stone of the basilica was set in 1619, but it would take until 1653 when the Saint-Michel Basilica of Menton was completed.
Not surprisingly, you’ll find this basilica in the old town of Menton. Further, a tower was added to the basilica which was built in 1701, boasting a whopping 53 meters in height, allowing for total control over the village and Mediterranean.
Inside of the basilica, you’ll find a stunning 17th-century organ, and moreover, the Festival of Classical Music of Menton is celebrated in this church every August.
Plage des Sablettes
If you enjoy the beach, the wonderful Mediterranean sun, and the azure blue waters, you have to add Plage des Sablettes to your list of things to do in Menton.
Plage des Tablettes is the best beach of Menton, and it is located in a bay, just beneath the Saint-Michel Basilica.
It is a marvelous sandy beach which also has a diving/watersports center where you can explore shipwrecks and drop-offs.
Plage du Fossan
Another beach you must visit if you are on the French Riviera and wonderful about things to do in Menton (if you enjoy the beach) is to visit Plage du Fossan.
This beach stretches almost half a kilometer and has both sand and pebbles. The beach is one of the few non-smoking beaches on the French Riviera.
Plage du Fossan is a public beach which means you won’t have to pay anything to access it, you can just roll out a towel and enjoy the wonderful sun.
Jardin Serre de la Madone
This beautiful garden has to be among your plans of things to do in Menton.
It is a nine hectares park located on steep terrain, not far from the coast.
The garden has sub-tropical gardens with traditional Mediterranean forests, such as umbrella pines, as well as reflecting pools, and much more of course.
It truly is a must-visit if you’re interested in gardens and plans, or, if you just want to enjoy the calmness of the beautiful nature.
The garden was built by the wealthy American Lawrence Johnston. He has already built a French garden in England, but now, he looked up the perfect spot in the French Riviera, more specifically Menton, and arranged the Jardin Serre de la Madone
In this garden, you’ll find everything from succulents, pine trees, exotic plants, as well as plants from all over the world.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
This stunning museum is definitely well-worth visiting and should be on your list of things to do in Menton.
The museum is located in an 18th-century building by the name of Palais de Carnolès, which is a former summer house and summer residence of the Princess of Monaco.
The building is art itself, with beautiful details and architecture.
Charles Wakefield Mori is the person who made the Musée des Beaux-Arts in Menton a reality.
He is the curator for the National Art Museum in Monaco, and in 1959, he donated his very own collection of modern art to the city of Menton.
His personal collection included pieces from artists like Chagall and Picasso.
Moreover, you’ll also find a beautiful garden of sculptures which was opened in 1994. The sculpture garden includes both modern and classical sculptures, including a whopping 137 different citrus tree species.
Is it even possible to talk about Menton without mentioning the Lemon festival?
It is what Menton is mostly known for, not only their huge production of lemons but also their incredible event which includes parades and much more.
Since the 1400s, Menton has one of the largest producers of citrus fruit, and an important reason for that is the perfect location of Menton, the great soils, and the warm climate of the French Riviera.
In February, the annual lemon festival of Menton takes place, and it attracts lots and lots of people every year.
In terms of visitors, is ahead of the Monaco Grand Prix. The Menton lemon festival continues for three weeks.
The lemon festival includes everything from dancing, musicians, large sculptures decorated with lemons and citrus fruits. Every year, the lemon festival has a specific theme.
The lemon festival of Menton truly is something out of the ordinary and truly is an experience out of the ordinary.
Église Russe de Menton
This is a Russian church of Menton which was built in the 1890s, similar to the other cities on the French Riviera which attracted the Russian nobility.
Just like other Russian church, this is a very beautiful church with amazing colors, details, and architecture. The interior, is, as always, even more breathtaking.
A must-visit if you enjoy architecture and want to learn a bit more about the history of Menton.
Marché des Halles
Want to shop some fresh and local French products? How about visiting the Marché des Halles?
The market holds traditional Mediterranean local products, including locally grown fruit, flowers, spices, and more.
From Tuesday to Sunday, you’ll find cheese, fruit, vegetables, pastries, and meat here.
Of course, since citrus is such a huge part of Menton’s history, you should look out for traditional Mentonnaise products from citrus fruits.
The market can be found when strolling down the main pedestrian street of Menton, between the old port and the old city of Menton.
If you’re curious to see how the lemons that Menton produce comes to use, visiting Herbin Confiturerie should definitely be on your list of things to do in Menton.
It is located just an alley off Rue-Saint-Michel.
Herein is a family-run store which makes artisanal jam, and other products. The store is open for tours on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays from 10:30.
The British have always been great fans of marmalade and confiture, and so the marmalade craft was actually brought to Menton by the English aristocracy.
The best part is that due to Menton’s huge production of citrus fruit which can be turned into marmalade (and other things as well), the marmalade craft has actually had quite a large effect on Menton.
If you visit the Herbin Confiturerie, you’ll learn that they use roughly 400kg of fruit a day to make 1,500 individual pots of marmalade and “confiture”.
The owner Jean-Claude Bineau, which has gotten the title ”master jam-maker” will walk you through a guided tour and tell you more about the history of Menton’s fruit production, and their production process.
Eat and drink
With influences from both Italian and French cuisine, due to its location, eating and drinking should definitely be on your list of things to do in Menton when you visit.
The Menton cuisine uses, as you’d expect lots of locally grown vegetables, olives, tuna, anchovy, and fruits.
Moreover, Provence is a world-famous location for producing rosé wines, and so the rosé wines can’t be more locally produced.
Wine is often part of the meals in Menton, and that’s not so strange considering how big the wine production in the south of Franc his, and how important it has been in the history.
There are some tourist traps in Menton, but try to look up the very traditional French restaurants when looking for a place to eat, because only then will you be able to taste true Menton cuisine.
Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden
Now, visiting a garden isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, especially not when on vacation, but if you enjoy the calm of nature, and the beauty in plants and trees, you’ll love visiting the Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden.
The Val Rahmeh is not your typical garden, though. It is located on the slopes above Menton, and it has been there for more than 100 years. The garden was initially built by and for the rich aristocracy who wanted a beautiful garden to relax in when retreating to the French Riviera.
Val Rahmeh was once a Governor of Malta and is the founder of the garden. He enjoyed tropical fruit a lot, and therefore, you’ll be able to find everything from kiwis, avocados, and bananas. Lastly, the Val Rahmehbotanical garden has the only European specimen of the Easter Island tree Sophora toromiro, now extinct on the island.
Musée de Préhistoire Régionale
The préhistoric museum of Menton should be on your list of things to do in Menton if you enjoy learning about history and the past.
The name, however, can be a little misleading, since the museum talks about all different parts of the history of the French Riviera and Menton, not only the prehistoric parts.
You’ll be able to learn about everything from shipwrecks, pottery, glassware, weapons, and more.
The biggest attraction of the prehistoric museum of Menton, however, is “l’Homme de Menton” which is a fossil body belonging to an upper Palaeolithic, which is thought to be between 10k and 50k years old.
The body was found in the Cave of Cavillon in 1872, and the original can be found in Paris, however, the prehistoric museum of Menton has a complete cast of his body.
Au Baiser du Mitron
If you want to experience some true traditional Mentonnais cuisine, or more correctly bread, you should definitely visit the Au Baiser du Mitron boulangerie.
This bakery showcases traditional bread from the Côte d’Azur, area, and Provence.
All loaves of bread are baked in a traditional four à bois oven from 1906, using 100%, and all ingredients used are natural.
If you think the baguettes in the local supermarkets are true French loaves of bread, visit here and you’ll think again.
Salle des Mariages
I’ve already shared the tip of making the Jean Cocteau museum one of the things to do in Menton when you visit, but Jean Cocteau has done other things in Menton as well.
In fact, in the late 50s, Jean Cocteau was given the permission to decorate Menton’s Wedding Hall in the Hôtel de Ville for two years.
He was given free hands to do what he pleased, and his design can, of course, be found today in the Salle des Mariages, including things like the interior details, but also the furniture.
Cocteau included things like faux-leopard rugs and carved wooden doors.
The Salles des Mariages has brightly-colored murals which certainly is something completely different from what you’re most used to seeing. Moreover, you’re also going to see very interesting paintings on walls and roofs.
If you want to embrace true Mediterranean cuisine in top-class standard, as well as other types of food, this is the place to visit.
Le Mirazur offers a complimentary stunning sea view and a view of the Menton town as the restaurant is located a bit up. The restaurant is located in a 1930s villain has been awarded a twinset of Michelin stars, which goes to prove the amazing cuisine created here.
Walk to Italy
Menton is the last town of the French Riviera before crossing the Italian border and coming to Italy and the first own which is Ventimiglia.
Being able to say that you’ve been in two countries at the same time is always fun, and if you spend some time in Monaco, as well, you’ll be able to be in three countries in one day.
From Menton, you’ll be able to see the Italian border from the Sablettes beach, and by a roughly 30-45 minute walk, you can get to the Italian border.
If the sun is gazing, walking for a long time can be tiring, but the views are stunning, and if sea breezes are present, it will be very pleasant to walk along the coastline.
Old Château Cemetery
Above the basilica of Menton, you’ll be able to find the place where the medieval castle of Menton once was.
Now, the castle of Menton that was built in medieval times is gone, but today, it is the site of a cemetery which offers absolutely stunning views of the town and the Mediterranean.
Visiting this cemetery should therefore definitely be on your list of things to do in Menton.
You’ll also be able to enjoy the beautiful mountains right behind you as well, creating a beautiful contrast from high mountains to low waters.
At this cemetery, you’ll be able to find the graves of many wealthy aristocrats, both Russian and British, which lived under the Belle Epoque.
The gravestone that belongs to William Webb Ellis is especially famous, as he is the man who invented the game of Rugby in the early-19th century.