Nestled in a bay at the French-Italian border lies the small town of Menton famous for its annual Fête du Citron (the Lemon Festival). Less known than Nice or St.Tropez this charming French Riviera town offers a laid-back experience of both the French & Italian Riviera.
Menton has a population of under 30 000 inhabitants but like almost every town at the French Riviera there’s a casino and a sunny promenade by the sea. The proximity to Italy means that you’ll hear a lot of Italian on the streets. Unlike with some other towns there’s no pressure here to do all the sights because there isn’t that much to do really. But don’t get me wrong, there’s still plenty to see here but since the town is so small you can do it all without the rush. Or you don’t have to and you can just enjoy the sun & the beach guilt-free. 🙂
My advice is to take your time in Menton and just enjoy yourself. Walk by the sea, browse the stalls of the local market full with fresh fruit and vegetables, try limoncello from the local type of lemon in the shop Au pays du citron, have lunch, take numerous photos of beautiful pastel coloured buildings, walk around the old town and breathe in the fresh air. But if you really want to do some sightseeing then here’s what you can explore in Menton.
- Basilica St.Michel
If you walk uphill from the main street Rue St.Michel you’ll come to this elegant baroque church after you’ve climbed a wide stairway. The annual Music Festival takes place here too. The interior of this 17th century church is really lovely and you should look for St.Devote’s chapel inside since Menton was under the rule of Monaco (there’s a Grimaldi coat of arms too on the square) a long time ago.
- Chapelle des Penitents Blancs
At the square just above St.Michael’s church is this lovely church which was once the headquarters of an old religious confraternity
- Museum Jean Cocteau Collection Severin Wunderman
A newly built museum (opened in 2011) near the sea-front and the market. It displays the works of a very versatile artist. You can get a combined ticket for this museum and for the old Cocteau museum in the Bastion tower
- La Salle des Mariages in the Town Hall
Cocteau’s paintings decorate the small room for civil wedding ceremonies. If you’re lucky it’ll be open for viewing or you might ask the staff to let you in.
- The Bastion museum
Before the new museum was opened this is where you came to see the works of the French artist Jean Cocteau. It’s also interesting to just walk on the walls and take in the view of the yachts in the port
- Les Jardins Bioves in front of the Palais de Europe
A lovely park near the casino. It’s closed off during the Lemon Festival and you have to pay the entrance fee to see the original fruit sculptures
There are some other interesting sights too such as the Russian church, the cemetery on the hill above the old town which offers great views or the Prehistoric museum.
If you visit in February/March during the carnival time (there’s a big Carnival in Nice) then you might enjoy the Lemon Festival. It’s a big extravagant festival where you can see huge floats made entirely of lemons &oranges which represent certain famous landmarks or events . There’s a new theme for each year and so far the visitors have marvelled at the Egyptian pyramids, the champagne bottles, the Greek temples, the Olympics and many more made of citrus fruit. To find out more about this year’s programme check the site http://www.fete-du-citron.com/?lang=en. You won’t see lemon groves in the town because they’re in the hills around it but you will see a couple of lemon trees by the main road when you descend to town from the highway. Unfortunately despite my numerous visits to this town I still haven’t been here during the Lemon Festival. But I have tried the special Menton lemon 🙂
Apart from the lemon shop there’s also an interesting jam shop where you can see the production of the jam and try some delicious jam too. And a sweets shop! Of course, there are numerous souvenir shops selling hand-made soaps, lavender bags,postcards and other things along the main pedestrianized street Rue St.Michel where you can find cafes too. And don’t forget the beaches!
You are only a few kilometers from Italy (the first town is Ventimiglia) and only 9 km from the small country of Monaco. Also, Nice is only 29 km away. So, if you choose this town as your base for exploration of charming Côte d’Azur you won’t make a mistake.
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