Menton, France

Menton, France Travel Diary

Menton is a beautiful little city on the French Riviera, two towns over from Monaco and right on the border of Italy. To the west, it borders the town of Roquebrune, and to the east Ventimiglia, Italy.

I ended up visiting three times during my 2 months in Villefranche-sur-Mer. The first time, I went with no particular plan in mind other than wandering around and taking pictures of whatever caught my eye. I had a great time exploring the city and found a few spots I knew I wanted to return to and shoot in the early morning light.

The beachfront, and especially the Plage des Sablettes area was my favorite spot.

There’s a really nice boardwalk that runs along the beach with pergolas and benches to relax on, shops that sell beachy stuff, and private beach clubs.

There’s also lots of palm trees, one of my favorite subjects!

And the prettiest little lifeguard tower on the Riviera

Early mornings are always my favorite time to shoot. The image below is from my second visit when the light was incredible, the sea calm, and the coast of Italy hazy in the distance. You could tell it was going to be a hot day.

Once it got too hot to be in the sun, I loved getting lost in the winding streets of old town. Many are so narrow that the sun is blocked out a lot of the time, so it can be a bit cooler there.

And there are nice views from up there too.

There is a lot of beautiful architecture and details everywhere in the city though, not just in old town.

Below: Moorish-inspired architecture at Le Grand Hôtel d’Orient, a former luxury hotel for wealthy vacationers during the Belle Epoque period, now apartments with some available as vacation rentals.

Below: The now closed Hotel Mondial. Love the facade details:

Menton has a subtropical microclimate and supposedly averages 316 days of sunshine/year. They are known for their citrus fruit and there’s a lemon festival in February-March every year with absolutely mind-blowing sculptures made out of citrus fruit. I was there in June, so I missed that, but there was a horse show happening one of the times I was there, and they had this little citrus creation in the arena.

Of course they also use the citrus for things other than sculptures. On my first visit, I came across Au Pays du Citron, a cute little shop with all things lemon (and some mandarin, orange, etc. as well). One of the girls in the shop asked if I wanted to try the limoncello, and wow, it was the tastiest limoncello I have ever had. Dangerously good! I went back on another visit and bought an ice cream (more of a granita, really) which was also delicious. Definitely make a stop there if you’re in town (and like citrus). Au Pays du Citron, 22 Rue Saint-Michel.

On another visit, I stumbled upon the most magnificent vintage store / indoor flea market – L’usine Centre D’Antiquite Brocante – with room after room filled with cool, surprising, and also some slightly frightening stuff.

I love browsing stores like that although I hardly ever buy anything. I do regret not getting at least one of the block printing stamps I found there though. 3 Rue du Général Gallieni.

I kept looking for ice coffee everywhere on the Riviera, nobody had it, and then I stopped in at this one restaurant in Menton where they said they did! I was so excited until they brought me this not very cold, and quite expensive, glass of whipped cream with the tiniest touch of coffee. Lesson learned: If you want an American-style ice coffee in France, go to Starbucks.

Ice coffee

The artist Jean Cocteau spent a lot of time in Menton, where he among other things decorated the Salle des Mariages at City Hall. It’s supposedly really cool, and you can visit (for €2) as long as there isn’t a wedding going on. I tried, unsuccessfully, to get in and see it at least twice on each of my 3 visits to Menton. One time, there was a wedding in progress, the other times, it was “just closed” according to the staff. 🤷‍♀️ Jean Cocteau himself is quoted as saying: “See your disappointments as good fortune” so perhaps I should consider myself lucky… ?

There is a Jean Cocteau / Séverin Wunderman Collection museum, which was “temporarily” closed in 2018 (as of February 2024, it’s still closed), after storm waves flooded the basement and part of the ground floor, damaging several pieces as well as the building itself.

The building was designed by French architect Rudy Ricciotti and it’s hard to miss. Do you think it’s cool-looking or just peculiar? I think it’s kind of cool!

Part of the collection was moved to the nearby Bastion, a small 1600s fort in the harbor. I didn’t go in, but the fort is pretty, and there are some fun mosaics by the artist outside.

There is of course a LOT more to see in Menton, and there are so many things I didn’t see but wanted to. Oh well, next time!

Before I left the US, I bought “Travels through the French Riviera” by Virginia Johnson, the most beautiful guide book I’ve ever seen. Hardcover, filled with great information, and illustrated with her watercolor paintings throughout. Highly recommended both as a guide book and a gift!

Getting to Menton

If you’re staying in Nice, Menton makes a great day trip. You can take the #100 bus from Nice (or Villefranche-sur-Mer like I did, since I was staying there), or the train. The train is faster, but the bus ride is spectacular. It travels along the Basse Corniche, which runs along the sea the entire way and the scenery is amazing. Sit on the right side on the way to Menton for the best views, and get off the bus at the Casino stop in Menton. It’s very close to the beach and you can stroll along the water to the Cocteau Museum, Plage des Sablettes, Old Town, etc. The bus is super affordable too, tickets are €2.50. Definitely my favorite way of getting there unless you’re in a hurry.

You could of course also take your yacht if that’s your preferred mode of transportation. 🙂

Have you been to Menton? What did you think? If you haven’t been and have questions, post them in the comments below, and I’ll do my best to answer them.

If you love a particular image in this post that you don’t see in my store, and would like it as a print, just get in touch and let me know which image it is, and the size you would like. I’m happy to make a custom print when possible.

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