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Spotlight on Menton: one of the Riviera’s unexpected pleasures

02 Sep 2020

Drive an hour east along the coast from Parc du Cap, and you will discover Menton. This charming lemon-scented town is located on the edge…

Drive an hour east along the coast from Parc du Cap, and you will discover Menton. This charming lemon-scented town is located on the edge of the French Riviera, close to the Italian border. It has its own little micro-climate and beautiful beaches, with backdrops of bright blue seas and stunning hills. Menton truly lives up to its slogan: ‘My city is a garden.’

A once popular winter destination for genteel Brits, today Menton remains a quieter spot than Nice or Cannes. It is best known for its lemons and artist Jean Cocteau, both of which draw international crowds. However, there is a lot more to this unassuming corner of the Côte d’Azur. In this blog, we share eight activities to enjoy on a daytrip to Menton.

Squeeze into the Lemon Festival (13th – 28th February 2021)

Each year, over 200,000 visitors descend on Menton over 15 days to enjoy citrus-themed parades, light-filled gardens and exquisite craft fairs. There’s nothing quite like it.

Visit the Jean Cocteau Le Bastion Museum.

Cocteau was an artist, film director, poet and close friend of Picasso. His most famous work is the novel, Les Enfants Terribles, which he wrote while recovering from an opium addiction. This small but fascinating museum is dedicated to many of Cocteau’s great works. He was also involved in the Bastion’s restoration, so the setting is fitting. (The new Jean Cocteau Severin Wunderman Collection Museum is currently closed for renovation work.)

Explore the medieval Old Town and marvel at Menton’s pretty pastel buildings in the Old Port.

The architecture is similar to Cinque Terre, with faded pale yellows and dusty pinks cascading down the hillside. The harbour is a particularly peaceful part of this town, predominantly home to small fishing boats. Further, the steeply set Old Town is capped by an atmospheric cemetery. You can spend hours wandering the streets.

Stroll along the Promenade du Soleil and dine in one of the many great restaurants.

The promenade stretches about 2km along the seafront and is flanked by pebbled beaches similar to Nice. On the other side there are countless restaurants serving up delicious seafood, all with Italian influences. You’re spoilt for choice.

Relax on the beach under a parasol.

Thanks to its micro-climate, Menton has plenty of sunshine and warm temperatures. Plage des Sablettes is particularly beautiful, surrounded by the Italian mountains and colourful Menton houses. This 350metre beach is located between the two ports of Menton: the Old Port and the port of Garavan. There are many pleasant spots for swimming, sunbathing or enjoying a game of volleyball.

Climb up to the Basilique St Michel Archange.

This grand 17th century Baroque church sits on top of the hill overlooking the Old Town and the Port. Stunning outside and in, the church has an olive-green façade, 35m-tall clock tower and 53m-tall steeple. In front, an attractive square is decorated in pretty black and white pebble mosaics. Moreover, the view from the climb of the glinting blue Mediterranean Sea is breath-taking.

Wander through the Val Rahmeh-Menton Botanical Garden.

Owned by the National Museum of Natural History, this is an exotic botanical garden not to miss. Work your way through 1.5 hectares of tropical foliage, shaded avenues and cool fountains. Discover plants from tropical and subtropical countries, including Greece, Africa, the Canaries, China, Mexico, New Caledonia and New Zealand. You’ll even find an endangered species – the Sophora toromiro, a tree which has disappeared from Easter Island.

Glam up at the Menton Arabian Horse Championship (26th – 27th June 2021).

Possibly the most stylish horse show on the circuit, this championship is the first major show of the European showing season. International competitors vie for awards such as Best dam in Show, Best French Horse and Most Beautiful Head in each class. With displays, acrobatics and shows, this spectacular event in the waterfront Stade Rondelli makes for a wonderful day out.

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