Menton: the pearl of light on the Côte d’Azur

Nestling between the mountains of the Côte d’Azur and the sparkling waters of the Mediterranean, Menton is often referred to as “The Pearl of France”. This charming coastal town, with its colourful facades, cobbled streets and lush gardens, is a veritable showcase of beauty and serenity. Whether you’re a culture-loving traveller, a food lover or simply looking for a peaceful place to get away from it all, Menton offers an unrivalled experience. In this article, we’ll take you through the winding streets, golden beaches and bustling markets of this exceptional city. Get ready to discover all the treasures Menton has to offer!

Understanding the past to better appreciate the present

Like a richly illustrated history book, Menton is a living testimony to the eras through which it has passed. Its strategic position on the French-Italian border gave it a central role in regional power struggles, leaving a fascinating architectural and cultural mosaic as its legacy. Ligurian, Roman, Saracen and even Piedmontese influences mingle in its narrow streets, taking visitors on a journey through time. In the Middle Ages, Menton was a stronghold defended by its castle. It also experienced a period of independence in the 19th century before finally rejoining France. But what makes Menton truly unique is its ability to blend its rich heritage with a burgeoning modernity. Belle Époque palaces bear witness to its glamorous past as a popular destination for European high society. Today, walking around Menton, you can feel this blend of history and the contemporary. Understanding its past gives a new depth and appreciation of this town, which continues to write its history while cherishing its roots.

Menton’s must-sees

  • The old town: Strolling through Vieux Menton is like stepping back in time. Its narrow, winding cobbled streets are lined with houses with colourful facades, offering a dazzling contrast with the deep blue of the Mediterranean. The church of Saint-Michel, perched at the top of the hill, is a veritable jewel of Baroque art, offering breathtaking panoramic views over the town.
  • The old port: Nestling at the foot of the old town, Menton’s old port is the beating heart of the city. With its brightly-coloured fishermen’s boats and lively terraces, it’s a must for experiencing the authenticity and charm of Menton. In the mornings, you can watch the local fishermen unload their catch of the day, while the end of the day is marked by the ballet of sailing boats returning to port, all lulled by the gentle scent of the sea.
  • The port of Garavan: Further east and adjacent to the Italian border, the port of Garavan is a modern contrast to the old port. It is Menton’s largest yachting harbour, welcoming luxury yachts from the four corners of the Mediterranean, as it does in Saint-Tropez. A stroll along its quays offers magnificent views of Vieux-Menton, especially at sunset when the golden light illuminates the old town. As well as its impressive views, the port of Garavan is also surrounded by restaurants and cafés where you can sample local specialities while enjoying the view.
  • The gardens of Menton: Thanks to its exceptional climate, Menton is home to some breathtaking exotic gardens. The Jardin Serre de la Madone and the Jardin Val Rahmeh are havens of peace, where tropical and Mediterranean plants coexist in harmony.
  • The Musée Jean Cocteau: Located near the port, this modern museum dedicated to the versatile artist Jean Cocteau houses an impressive collection of his works, reflecting his deep relationship with the town of Menton.

Every corner of Menton tells a story, every monument a reminder of its glorious past and rich culture. Taking the time to discover these must-sees means fully immersing yourself in the soul of this Mediterranean city.

The beach and the sea

While Menton’s rich history attracts visitors, its beaches are a haven for anyone looking to relax and enjoy the natural beauty of the Mediterranean. Crystal-clear waters line sandy and pebble beaches, offering sublime views of the surrounding mountains.

  • Plage des Sablettes : Located at the foot of the old town, this sandy beach is one of Menton’s most popular. Families love its friendly atmosphere and calm waters, perfect for swimming.
  • Promenade du Soleil: Running alongside the sea, this promenade is the ideal place for a morning stroll or jog. The benches dotted along the way offer breathtaking views of the sea, and it’s also the venue for many local events and festivals.
  • Water activities: For those looking for a bit of adventure, Menton offers a multitude of water activities, from sailing to paddle boarding and scuba diving. The clear waters of the Mediterranean reveal a rich and colourful underwater world, inviting you to explore.

With its picturesque setting, azure blue waters and relaxed atmosphere, Menton’s coastline is an irresistible invitation to relax and discover the sea.

Local gastronomy

When you think of Menton, it’s impossible not to mention its wealth of gastronomic delights. Set between the sea and the mountains, the town boasts a rich and varied Mediterranean cuisine that will delight even the most demanding palates.

  • The Menton lemon: A true emblem of the town, the Menton lemon is renowned for its sweet, fragrant flavour. It is the star of many dishes and desserts, but also of the famous Lemon Festival, which attracts thousands of visitors every year.
  • Socca : This cake made from chickpea flour and olive oil is a speciality of Nice, and is also found in Menton. Crunchy and tasty, it is usually eaten straight from the oven at local markets.
  • Pissaladière, tapenade and other delights: Menton’s cuisine is full of specialities based on anchovies, olives and other Mediterranean ingredients that are reminiscent of the flavours of the South.
  • Seaside restaurants: Enjoy a meal with your feet in the water while sampling fresh dishes such as salade niçoise, courgette flower fritters or a tasty bouillabaisse.

Discovering Menton also means immersing yourself in a culinary journey where each dish tells a story, a tradition, a know-how handed down from generation to generation.

Events and festivals

Menton, though peaceful, is a town that vibrates to the rhythm of its many events and festivals, making every visit unique and memorable.

  • The Lemon Festival: Menton’s most emblematic event. Every year in February and March, the town is decked out in yellow and orange to celebrate its flagship fruit. The programme includes impressive floats, ephemeral gardens and an electrifying atmosphere that fills the streets.
  • The Menton Music Festival: Since 1950, this festival has attracted music lovers from all over the world to listen to the greatest names in classical music in the majestic setting of the square in front of the Saint-Michel-Archange basilica.
  • Les Rencontres Philosophiques de Menton: For those seeking to nourish their minds, these meetings offer debates and discussions on major philosophical themes, bringing together intellectuals, artists and the general public.
  • The Christmas festivities: In winter, Menton sparkles with a thousand lights. The Christmas market, ice rink and illuminations transform the town into a veritable Mediterranean fairytale.

Whether you come for the art, the music, the culture or the simple joy of living, Menton’s events promise unforgettable moments and enriching encounters.

Practical tips for visiting Menton

If Menton dazzles with its beauty and charm, a well-prepared visit will help you make the most of all it has to offer. Here are a few tips to make your stay even more memorable:

  • Best time to visit: Although Menton enjoys a pleasant climate all year round, spring and autumn are particularly recommended for avoiding the summer crowds while enjoying mild temperatures.
  • Getting around town: Menton is easily accessible on foot, especially the historic centre. However, to explore the surrounding area, consider hiring a bike or using efficient public transport.
  • Accodomation: From luxurious Belle Époque hotels to more intimate B&Bs, Menton offers a wide choice of accommodation. Remember to book in advance, especially during festival periods.
  • Local specialities to bring back home: Don’t leave Menton without a few gourmet souvenirs! Lemon confit, local olive oil and, of course, the famous lemon tart are a must.
  • Respect the environment: Menton boasts clean beaches and lush gardens. Help preserve its beauty by avoiding litter and respecting protected areas.

With these tips in hand, you’re ready to dive into the Menton adventure, making every moment a precious memory.

Menton, a city bursting with colour

Menton, the jewel of the Côte d’Azur, is more than just a tourist destination. It’s an intoxicating blend of history, culture, nature and gastronomy, all bathed in the mild Mediterranean climate. From the winding streets of the old town to the vibrant festivals that celebrate its heritage, every corner of Menton offers a unique experience. Beyond its golden beaches and lush gardens, it’s the soul of Menton that captivates. A soul forged by centuries of history, diverse influences and unwavering local pride. Whether you’re a traveller in search of adventure, a music lover, a gourmet or simply someone looking to get away from it all, Menton welcomes you with open arms. When you leave this town, one thing is certain: the radiance of Menton, with its colours, flavours and melodies, will remain engraved in your heart, enticing you to return again and again.

More information on the town’s website


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