Headed to the French Riviera and looking for all the best things to do in Menton, France? You’ll find everything you need to know right here – including how to get there, where to eat, how long to spend, and of course, my favorite things to do in Menton!
Just like Villefranche Sur Mer, Menton felt like a quaint little paradise. It was less crowded, less touristy, and way less expensive than the larger cities of the French Riviera, namely Nice, Cannes, and Monaco. There’s a reason it’s known as the ‘pearl’ of France!
Out of all the day trips we took from Nice, Menton was by far one of my favorites. As soon as we stepped foot into the Old Town, I could tell I was going to love this little coastal resort area.
And I fell in love instantly with all the fun things to do in Menton (almost like I did in Villefranche Sur Mer – I swear, the tiny towns along the coastline were some of my favorites on our entire South of France road trip!).
This charming little town, located on the French Riviera just before the Italian border, is like a breath of fresh air compared to some of the more touristy spots further west. And it’s no wonder why. With its Mediterranean climate and picturesque old town, Menton is a feast for the senses.
The architecture is a mix of French and Italian influences, the food is to die for (you have to try a lemon tart – Menton is famous for its lemons!), and the vibe is just so effortlessly chic. Menton was one of our favorite day trips from Nice, so don’t miss it!
Read Next → 15+ Epic Day Trips from Nice, France (best beaches, small towns, and even a striking turquoise canyon!)
Planning a Trip to Menton, France
Where is Menton?
Like the small village of Villefranche-Sur-Mer, Menton is a town in the French Riviera in southeast France. It’s basically on the Italian border, and get this – you can even walk across the border from the Old Town in about 40 minutes (although we unfortunately didn’t do so).
Menton is the last stop on the coast of France and only a 10 minute drive to Italy! So even if you’re planning a trip near the Italian border, you can still check out a bunch of these things to do in Menton!
Since it’s sooo close to the border, Menton has a strong Italian influence. Expect cheaper prices, to hear some Italian on the streets, and get ready for some bomb Italian food (hello fresh pasta and seafood). Totally fine by us since we were desperately missing Italy after spending 3 days in Cinque Terre just the week before.
It’s a bit further away from the villages of Provence, the calanques of Cassis, the ritzy yachts of Marseilles, and the ridiculously stunning Verdon Gorge (my absolute favorite).
How to Get to Menton
Thankfully, getting to Menton is super easy, especially if you’re coming from nearby Nice like we did and most visitors are.
Nice is only a few miles away from Menton (and super accessible), yet it feels a world away! You could go from the hustle and bustle of Nice to the charming and quaint atmosphere of Menton in less than 45 minutes.
There’s a few options to get from Nice to Menton:
Train: Just a 40 minute and 4€ train ride from Nice-Ville to Menton, with trains leaving every 30 minutes. In Nice, you’ll wanna head to the Nice-Ville train station (Gare de Nice Ville), and take the regional TER train towards Menton. Some trains end in Ventimiglia, across the border in Italy, so be sure to stay alert and get off in Menton!
Get off at the stop right after Monaco (the last stop before heading into Italy). Heading back towards Nice, look for the train towards Grasse. You’ll go directly from Nice-Ville to Menton (with no connections). Super easy!
The train hugs the coastline for most of the ride, so look out the window for those great views of the sea. Pro tip: sit on the right hand side of the train for the best views from Nice to Menton!
You could book your tickets in advance, but there’s no real need to. We visited in the high season (mid-July) and had no problems buying our tickets at the train station directly before hopping on a train to Menton.
Driving to Menton: If you’ve rented a car (hey, maybe you’re taking a bunch of day trips from Nice or setting off on a much-longer South of France/Provence road trip), you can of course drive from Nice (or wherever) to Menton.
Driving gives you more flexibility and thankfully parking is relatively easy to find. AND there’s a lot of it – check out Parking George V!
However, it’s not the most convenient or even the least expensive (surprisingly!). While it takes about the same amount of time to drive as the train (about 35-40 minutes), if there’s any traffic or construction delays it’ll undoubtedly take much longer. Of course you’ll need to worry about parking, highway toll roads, navigating from Nice to Menton, and driving down narrow streets in the Old Town.
Small Group Tour: This day tour looks awesome – you’ll spend time in Menton and stop for some beautiful panoramic views over Monaco. Plus a quick hop across the border to check out an authentic Italian market in Italy!
I love taking guided day tours when I wanna see a lot of cool stuff in a day and don’t wanna worry about logistics (getting train tickets, finding the station, deciding what exactly to do in each place, etc). Small group tours are so easy, the guides always know the best spots, and they fill you in on interesting/important history!
One downside is you don’t get to plan your own itinerary. If there’s specific things to do in Menton on your list, you may not have enough flexibility with a guided day trip.
Uber/Taxi: If all else fails (or you’re just sick and tired of the trains), you can always take an Uber or taxi from Nice to Menton. They’ll both cost significantly more than the train/bus (and I mean at least €50 or so each way, possibly way more).
In my opinion, unless you’re spending a night or two in Menton and have a lot of luggage, there’s no real benefit to an Uber or taxi.
Getting to Menton from other nearby spots in the French Riviera:
- From Ventimiglia: Ventimiglia is located directly over the border, and is actually in Italy! It’s the last stop on the train line before crossing the Italian border into France. You can easily take the TER train from Ventimiglia (towards Grasse) to Menton, and it’s only 2 stops away!
- From Nice Airport: It’s possible to go directly from Nice to Menton via the Nice Airport Xpress on Line 110 Monaco-Menton. This bus service operates every day, although there’s only 4 departures a day that continue on to Menton. If those times don’t work (check out the schedule above), you could take the Airport Xpress bus to Monaco (departures every hour from 8:15-20:35) and then ride the TER train one stop to Menton.
- From Cannes: You can easily take a TER train from Cannes to Menton, although it’ll be a much longer ride (about 90 minutes or so) and a bit more expensive (€8 – €22). Perfect for a day trip though!
Getting Around Menton
Once you make your way to Menton, you can totally get around on foot! The Old Town and beaches are easily walkable, and there’s no reason to need any other transportation. You can walk to practically everything in less than 15 minutes from the train!
If you’re planning to visit one (or a few) of the gardens on the outskirts of town (like Jardin Serre de la Madone), you’ll probably wanna take a quick Uber or taxi ride. Unless you feel like walking 45 minutes or so uphill, which I don’t recommend in the heat of summer!
When to Visit Menton
Given how majestic the French Riviera is, is there really a bad time to visit Menton?! Nope! It’s actually the warmest of all the coastal towns on the French Riviera, and has the most hours of sunshine – there’s over 300 sunny days a year here! No wonder Menton’s the only place in France where lemons can grow on trees year round.
With that being said, there are some things to consider when deciding when to visit.
Unlike its more popular neighbors (I’m looking at you, Nice, Cannes, and Monaco), the city is mainly calm and quiet – even during the high season of summer! EXCEPT during the Lemon Festival! Yes, Menton’s got a lemon festival, how stinkin’ cute is that?!
A Little About The Lemon Festival in Menton
The “Fête du Citron®” (Lemon Festival) takes place each winter in Menton, from February to early March. And it’s exactly as it sounds – a full 15 days celebrating (and saluting!) all things citrus and lemons! The festival is what originally brought Menton its fame and fortune, and is a favorite event for thousands of people around the world each year. Quite possibly the best of all the things to do in Menton!
If you’re planning a visit during the Lemon Festival, you’re in for a real treat. Over 145 tons of fruit is carted in, and used for decorations around the parks and squares. Expect huge sculptures and floats made of hundreds of thousands of lemons (and other citrus fruit) – in the past there’s been a mock Taj Mahal, a cheeky camel, a three-story Eiffel Tower, and even a juicy, giant Buddha.
The theme varies every year, so you really never know what you’re gonna get! Plus a wild and crazy costume parade, night displays, and even fireworks – they really go all out here. Don’t miss some lemon juice and limoncello! All super fresh, of course!
While we didn’t visit during the festival, we tried to feast on whatever lemony things we could. We even found a bench decked out in beautiful lemon tiles! How fitting is that?!
Fall/Spring (Shoulder Seasons)
In my opinion, late-spring (May) and early-fall (September) are the perfect seasons to visit Menton. The weather will be mostly beautiful and sunny, temps not as high as summer (in the high 60s, low 70s), and there’ll be less crowds.
Do note there may be some rain in fall – storms and rainy days are not uncommon. October is by far the wettest month, followed by November and then September. While it typically won’t shower all day, expect short downpours. The perfect excuse to cozy up in a cute cafe and people watch.
Summer (High Season)
June through August see’s large crowds, higher hotel costs, and hot temps (but not unbearably so), especially in July and August. I’d skip an August visit since this is when the French and Italian plan their weekend getaways to the coast. Plus the intense humidity won’t be fun… at all.
While the village never gets crazy-crowded (like Nice and Cannes do), there’ll definitely be the most number of visitors in July and August. For reference, we visited Menton in the morning in mid-July, and I was shocked at how busy it was – both in the Old Town and on the beach. That’s high season for ya! I definitely recommend getting an early start, especially if you wanna visit other nearby coastal towns on the same day.
If you’re planning to visit during the Menton Music Festival (held each year for about 2 weeks from late July to mid-August), secure your accommodations well in advance. It’s one of the oldest and most prestigious music festivals in all of Europe, and it gets busy, busy, busy.
Winter (Low Season)
Want to check off all these things to do in Menton without the crazy crowds? November through March is Menton’s low season (besides the Lemon Festival of course). You’ll find fewer crowds, cheaper accommodation, and milder temps. Expect it to be very quiet and quite peaceful!
While it never gets truly cold (the high temps hover around 60°F), if you wanna take advantage of the beaches in Menton, I’d skip a winter visit. The coldest month of the year is January, with average lows of 42°F and highs of 55°F, although sunny days are not uncommon! There’ll be some rain in December, although by January and February it’ll be mostly dry and sunny!
If you’re visiting for The Lemon Festival (February to March, check the exact dates in advance as they change slightly every year), you’ll wanna book your accommodations way in advance. There’s a reason why it attracts more than 200,000 visitors every year. It’ll be wildly crazy and traffic will be horrendous, but I swear, it looks like such a good time.
How Long to Spend in Menton
If you’re looking to relax in town and spend a few hours on the beaches in Menton, you could easily spend all day here. While the town is small, there’s enough things to do in Menton to fill up the better portion of a day.
Spending your day relaxing at sidewalk bistros, sipping on limoncello and tasting lemon raviolis and lemon tarts, cooling off for dips in the sea, and drinking Italian wine sounds like my kinda afternoon. There’s no reason to rush around here!
On the flip side, if all you’ve got is a few hours, you could easily explore the town and see the beach for a bit. We actually visited Menton before visiting both Villefranche Sur Mer and Monaco that day, and while I wish we had slightly longer to spend in Menton itself, we made the most with the time we had!
Where to Stay in Menton
Menton is clearly divided into the Old Town and its more modern, posh side. While they’re very different, the areas are only a few minutes away from each other (walking!), so choose your favorite hotel!
- Hotel Napoleon: Not only is the location perfect (close to the Old Town and the sandy beaches), but the entire hotel was inspired by Jean Cocteau (a famous modern artist in Menton). There’s a pool overlooking the sea, plus a luxurious garden for breakfast. AND there’s a private beach – what more could you want?!
- Villa Genesis Boutique Hotel: New and modern, and so effortless chic. This boutique hotel just opened in 2019, with a private garden, crazy comfortable beds, and an outdoor pool. Plus private parking – a huge deal!
- Hôtel Vacances Bleues Balmoral: There’s a garden overlooking the sea, a solarium, and air-conditioned rooms. Plus both beach and mountain views right from the property. And it’s literally across the street from the beach right on Promenade du Soleil. In such a cute building, too!
Best Things to do in Menton
Okay, so there aren’t a ton of things to do in Menton. But that’s the beauty of this tiny village! You can completely relax and just wander without feeling guilty that you’re accidentally missing out on a whole bunch of things. No FOMO over here, thankfully!
Relax at the Beaches in Menton
You’re in the French Riviera – of course taking a dip in the Mediterranean is one of the best things to do in Menton. Unlike other spots in the Cote d’Azur, Menton has some sandy beaches (most beaches you’ll find on the coastline are mostly pebbles and very rocky). Take advantage of this!
The town has both public beaches and private clubs, with the most popular being Plage des Sablettes. It’s located right in front of the historic Old Town center, and the bay is so calm since there’s breakwaters protecting the harbor on either side. Plage des Sablettes is the largest beach in Menton, and actually has the warmest seawater. And it’s easily the most scenic – you get the colored buildings of Old Town as a backdrop!
If you’re more of a private beach club kinda gal (or guy!), check out La Cabane Plage, La Dolce Vita, La Festival Plage, and/or La Sauvage. They’ve got fun tropical atmospheres with some of them serving snacks and drinks right along the beach.
Regardless of where you choose to relax/swim, I recommend heading to the beach first thing in the morning as it gets crowded – understandably so.
Wander Old Town
Just like other French villages, Menton’s got its own medieval and hilly Old Town. And wandering through the Old Town (packed with pastel-colored homes and winding streets) is easily one of the best things to do in Menton. It kinda feels like floating in a sea of yellow — of course after seeing photos I wore my flowy, yellow dress! And I fit in just perfectly!
Here you’ll find stone walls, cobblestoned streets, gorgeous arches, and potted plants. It’s all ridiculously charming – I could have walked around for hours! A picturesque, postcard setting with narrow streets and tunnels, colorful buildings, and leafy plazas. My kinda place! Plus it’s got the Basilica de Michael Archangel and its stunning 18th-century bell tower – up next on this list of things to do in Menton.
All the homes and buildings are painted in gorgeous shades of pinks, reds, peaches, and yellows, and I was completely obsessed. The streets might even be more narrow than in nearby Villefranche Sur Mer! Don’t miss Rue Piétonne and Les Marchés, two streets in Menton with a bunch of cute shops and cozy restaurants. The Old Port is right next to Old Town, so you can easily visit both.
Basilica de Michael Archangel
Be wowed by the Basilica de Michael Archangel, a magical 17th-century baroque church with a 53-meter tall bell tower right in the heart of Old Town Menton. And it fits the setting perfectly – with its lemon-yellow color and light green facade. It’s by far one of the most beautiful churches in the entire region! With its Italian influence, you’ll probably feel like you stepped foot over the border into Italy for a hot minute or two.
It’s built right on the edge of the hill, so you’ll need to climb up a set of stairs (which are rather impressive I might add). A great early morning workout, with views of the sea of course – we are in the French Riviera afterall! I don’t recommend heading up to the church in the late afternoon sun – it’ll be far too hot and sticky and just not very enjoyable.
Since the church is so tall (and kinda dominates over the entire city), you can easily spot it from other points in town. I heard the ornate church is especially beautiful at night, but since we visited Menton in the morning, I didn’t get to see it all lit up.
Vieux Port de Menton (Menton Old Port)
Like other coastal towns in the French Riviera, Menton’s got its own marinas full of all-things nautical. The most popular of the two is the Vieux Port de Menton (Old Port), super charming and authentic. It’s actually a former fishing port, so you’ll see plenty of traditional ‘pointu’ fishing tugs and boats alongside the more modern recreational boats.
Whenever we’re passing by a bunch of boats (regardless of where we are), we like to play a game of which one we’d buy and try to make guesses as to how much they cost. We’re always terribly wrong, haha. And since the Old Port is within walking distance to the city center and all the shops/lemony treats, you can easily visit before/after.
If you’ve really got a thing for boats, you can also check out Port de Garavan, one of the largest ports on the French Riviera! It’s further from Old Town, but still has great views of the mountains and colorful buildings. Plus all the boats of course!
Try alllll the lemon things!
Menton is known for its lemons – so of course the town is full of lemon treats and citrusy souvenirs. Try as many as you can, including lemon tarts (we had a great one from Mitron Bakery), eclair citron meringues (lemon eclairs with meringue), lemon mousse filled with lemon caramel (sounds amazing), homemade lemonade, iced granitas… the list goes on! You can even have lemon-zest raviolis for lunch — yum! One of the best things to do in Menton for foodies!
As far as souvenirs go, there’s lemon soap, lemon candies (like bonbon à la confiture de citron), lemon and lime jam, and limoncello to buy. Plus so much more.
Jean Cocteau Museum
Need a break from the sun? I gotchu. Visit the Jean Cocteau Museum and learn about the famed, multi-talented French artist who made Menton his home. The whole modern-art museum is dedicated to him, and is housed in a really cool two-story trapezoidal structure by Rudy Ricciotti (the same architect who designed the MuCEM museum in Marseille).
Check out the permanent collection (full of pieces related to Cocteau) plus the temporary exhibitions, which focus on artists Cocteau was friends with and collaborated with, like Picasso and Coco Chanel – so cool! By far one of the best things to do in Menton for art and architecture lovers!
Eat some Italian food!
You’re only a few minutes away from the border, so of course the Italian food’s absolutely legit here in Menton. TAKE ADVANTAGE! After about 10 days in France, we were desperately missing fresh pastas and pizzas. Menton to the rescue!
Since the town is right on the water, it’s no surprise that fish and seafood make up the majority of menus around here too. A few spots to check out:
- Mirazur: A 2 Michelin star restaurant with stunning panoramic views of the bay, a relaxed atmosphere, great service, and dishes inspired by the French Riviera. There’s a reason it was voted the best restaurant in the WORLD in 2019/2020. It sounds pricey and it is – perfect for a special occasion. Try the signature dish, Langoustines in a Dashi Broth, or the creative fixed-price menu.
- Côté Sud: Two words: Burrata Spaghetti. Cote Sud, near Menton’s port, is on the cheaper end of the scale serving up great pizzas, grilled seafood, fresh fish, and calamari.
- La Piazzetta: Great spot for some seafood pasta and Italian charcuterie, filled with burrata, figs, and cured meats, located in a pretty square.
Old Chateau Cemetery
You didn’t think a cemetery visit would be one of the best things to do in Menton, now did you?! I mean, YOU CAN SEE ITALY from here! Since the Italian border is just 5 miles from Menton, from this high up, Italy is easy to spot. And the views from up here are some of the best in all of Menton – you can see the city with its gorgeous terracotta rooftops, the nearby mountains, and Menton’s port below.
Pay your respects at Old Chateau Cemetery (Cimetière du Vieux Château) – one of the most beautifully located cemeteries I’ve ever seen! It’s worth every single step to the very top of Old Town. Check out all the little details and statues – totally makes for a nice escape from the beach for a little while.
There used to be a castle up here (it was since destroyed) – but now there’s a cemetery instead. And a few “famous” people (including William Webb Ellis, the creator of rugby) plus some British and Russian aristocrats and royalty are resting here.
Stroll by the Sea
Since Menton’s right on the coast, there’s plenty of seaside walks right in town. Grab an iced lemon granita from one of the Old Town vendors and get in your steps for the morning.
Here’s Menton’s two best walking promenades (in my opinion!):
- Promenade du Soleil: This curving seaside boulevard stretches for a few miles, so of course you don’t need to walk the entire thing! Here you’ll find restaurants and beach bars overlooking the sea, palm trees lining the street, and gorgeous views. The best of the leisurely life in Menton! Make sure to wear a hat and slather on that sunscreen – there’s no shade over here. We went for a walk on Promenade du Soleil for a bit before checking out Old Town and the beach! If I lived here, I could totally see myself taking long walks here on the regular.
- Esplanade des Sablettes: A great place for a stroll! And it’s new and modernized – the path was completely redesigned in 2019, and there’s now shops, restaurants, and bars. Plus free wifi and misting stations – much appreciated on crazy hot days!
Jardin Serre de la Madone
Once you’re done lounging on the beach and exploring the town, head on over to Jardin Serre de la Madone! It’s a serene oasis of exotic and rare plants and succulents from around the world, including a terraced garden, reflecting pools, and a Mediterranean forest. This enchanting garden was designed by American botanist Lawrence Johnston and built between 1924 – 1939.
Expect to see Himalayan tropical oaks, two immense Podocarpus trees, Washingtonia filifera trees, a large Magnolia delavayi, and an exceptional Nolina. Plus a strawberry tree!!! Definitely not your everyday backyard plants! Plus a cypress-lined road leading right to the property. The garden is timeless and the perfect place to explore for an hour or two.
You need to add this garden to your South of France road trip – it’s one of the best in the French Riviera! And one of the best things to do in Menton for plant and garden lovers. We unfortunately didn’t have time to visit, but I’m adding it to my list of things to do in Menton for next time (and yes, we will go back – it was one of my favorite towns in the Cote d’Azur).
If you walk all the way out to the Old Port, pass the boats, and turn left, you’ll see a rocky jetty. This is by far the best spot for photos in Menton! You’ve got not only the turquoise waters in front of you, but all the colors of Old Town. Including the famous Basilica de Michael Archangel peeking out on top. Come in the early morning for the best light.
We unfortunately missed this spot as we were visiting in a heatwave and temps were easily 90F… so we were trying to find shade for most of our visit to Menton, haha.
Hope this helps you plan the perfect day trip from Nice to Menton! Which of these things to do in Menton are you adding to your list?! Any questions?! Ask away down below in the comments!