Menton Is The Prettiest Town In France

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French Riviera Walks

How about this…

"Typical narrow medieval alley street in Menton in the South of France"

… a short walk through the prettiest town in France, topped off by a visit to one of the world’s most famous gardens, with splendid views over the Mediterranean Sea throughout?

"In Menton Vielle Ville seen from atop the hill"

Menton, in the extreme southeastern corner of France, combines the best of France – a downtown area of tastefully proportioned apartment buildings, Deuxième Empire street statues and well-behaved trees – with the best of Italy – an old town perched upon a hill featuring a maze of narrow medieval lanes – and is so well kept and immaculately preserved throughout that you suspect it is actually run by the Swiss.

Feel tempted?

"Clothes drying out by the window in Menton in the South of France"

Much of modern Menton was, in fact, invented by the English. Queen Victoria loved it here, as did her son Bertie (later to become Edward VII) and there is quite a lot of stuff in the town – beyond the names of streets and hotels – that serves to remind the modern visitor of Menton’s Belle Epoque heyday when the British high aristocracy and grand bourgeoisie regularly spent their winters here.

"A big statue commemorating England's Queen Victoria in Menton France"

The British heritage would certainly include Menton’s famous gardens, of which there are about half a dozen, scattered across the outskirts of town.

"Entrance and exit from the central station of Menton"

Now, Menton may not be a big city – it counts about 30,000 inhabitants – but since it is rather sprawly, once you leave the historic centre ville, it covers a fair amount of ground, and as a consequence, it is nearly impossible to visit all the town’s parks and gardens in a single day. Best really to concentrate on one or two.

And we decided to go for the Parc du Pian and the Val Rameh Botanical gardens, conveniently located next to each other in the northeastern corner of the town.

"The Winter Palace in Menton, South of France"

The Winter Palace in Menton

But first, time to explore the town a little.

From the train station, cross over to the Place des Victoires – the splendidly Edwardian “Winter Palace” in your back (no offence, Menton, but it actually looks a lot like the hotel in “The Shining”) – into Avenue Edouard VII.

Continue until you meet the coastal promenade, the Promenade du Soleil, and turn left. Walk back into town behind the Casino, leaving the modern Congress Centre (the “Palais de l’Europe”) on your left and walking right into Avenue Felix Faure past the roundabout until you turn left into Rue Barel.

"Henry Wadsworth Longfellow bust in Menton"

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Turn right into Rue de la Republique on the next corner and continue past the Town Hall – you are now in the heart of Menton’s 19th century downtown district – and eventually past the Karl Marx bust on your right (actually Henry Wadsworth Longfellow but the similarity is striking) into Rue du General Gallieni.

"A typical narrow medieval street alley in Menton France"

After the bend in the street, you will have arrived at the foot of the Old Town, the place where well-ordered French Menton turns into Italian Mentone, a sort of Montmartre on steroids. (The town actually changed hands several times between France and Italy and was, in between, part of the Grand Duchy of Monaco as well – before seceding and becoming, for a few years in the middle of the 19th century, an independent “free city”. A lot of turmoil, you might say, for what appears to be such a peaceful and sedate small town.)

Walk through the old town at leisure, but try to keep in an uphill direction until you reach the Place du Cimetière at the end of the cemetery. Several streets intersect here, but you should take the one leading to the right, called the Boulevard de Garavan. Continue down this road for another 15 minutes or so, the Mediterranean Sea (and some pretty posh real estate) on your right hand  side, until you reach the entrances to the Parc du Pian and the Botanical Gardens of Val Rameh, which are side by side.

"Trees of the same variety lined up uniformly in Parc du Pian in Menton"

Have a brief look at the park (there is not really that much to see, frankly) before taking the lane downhill that leads you to the botanical gardens, created in the early 20th century by a former British governor of Malta.

"The back of the Exotic Botanical Garden offices in Menton"

The garden is mainly famous for its large variety of exotic species that could not survive anywhere else along the northern coast of the Mediterranean but in the micro-climate of Menton, where the thermometer hardly ever falls below 50° F. (When we were there, in early February, the whole of Europe was in the icy grip of the coldest spell for years. Ukrainians and Poles were literally freezing to death, and even Paris had not seen temperatures above freezing for more than a week. Meanwhile, in Menton, people were sitting outside in street cafes enjoying their drinks in the balmy sunshine. Some guys just have all the luck, eh.)

"A quirkily cut hedge in the Exotic Botanical Garden in Menton"

There is a “walking by numbers” path through the garden that takes you through the various sections – a tropical landscape, a water plant garden, a bamboo forest and much more including a few, quite frankly, rather naughty looking protuberances.

One final piece of advice: resist the temptation of snatching an orange from one of the trees. They were obviously bred for looks rather than for flavour. (We did and it took me almost an hour to get rid of the taste in my mouth.) The Botanical Garden charges a fee of € 6 per head and is closed on Tuesdays.

"Bamboos growing in the Botanical Garden of Menton"

After visiting the garden, you can walk down to sea level and return to the town centre through the old harbour. There are also quite a few restaurants at hand ready to feed you if you feel a little peckish after all this walking.

So, for your next trip to the area – whether you are here to play golf in France or to receive your long overdue lifetime achievement award at the Cannes Film Festival or to break the bank in Monte Carlo – make that short trip to Menton. It is only 30 minutes away from Nice by train, and a round-trip ticket will cost you less than  10 Euros.

"Fishing along the coastline of Menton France"

You won’t regret it.

 More walks to do and sights to see in Menton HERE, HERE and HERE.

We’re sure you’d love the prettiest town in France, Menton, after a visit or two. We did and now live there. Get our free updates when we write more about this town. Subscribe by email or follow us on Facebook. And now we even have a dedicated site to All Things Riviera!

77 comments to Menton Is The Prettiest Town In France

  • Good luck in your search, Rich. If you need some advice later on, don’t hesitate to ask. And when you do get here in 2015, join our meet up groups, in Menton and Ventimiglia.

  • Rich

    Michael,

    Thanks for the recommendation for rooms in Menton. Most helpful. We’re planning our trips for 2015 and Menton is on the short list. Key to that is places we want to both visit and perhaps return. We’re quite interested in places to discover that we might want to eventually live six months of the year. Menton’s beauty and climate as well as small city charm may just fit that bill. Certainly, Menton’s local train and bus service to Italy and Nice et cetera is a strong plus as well.

    Cheers,

    Rich

  • I thought I’d follow up on your comment also for the benefit of those who are thinking of holidaying in the French or Italian Riviera soon or next year. We can recommend these sites (flats and rooms offered by friends of ours.) One is based in Menton (http://mentonholiday.com/), the other, with AirBnB (https://www.airbnb.it/s/Italian-Riviera–Ventimiglia–IM- and https://www.airbnb.it/rooms/116793?s=YN7Y) which can be a great base for those wishing to enjoy both Rivieras. We personally know the people who own these places and can guarantee they exist. Particularly for the AirBnB rooms, the couple who will be your host are really nice folks!

  • It’s great to know you enjoyed your stay in the Italian and French Riviera. And of course, we’re glad you shared our love of Menton! It is a very charming seaside town.

  • David Pipes

    We have just returned home to Australia having spent 10 days in the italian and French Riviera. Our day trip to Menton was the highlight of our trip. Having walked around the harbour we spotted an old church up a hill in the old town area. Wow we walked up a tiny street called Rue du vieux chateau to a old cemetry at the top of the hill. Breath taking views, fantastic, words can not explain how beautiful it was. We stayed at Diano Marina a lovely town, night time walks along the promenade and the quaint streets alive with people was wonderful. 20 mins walk from town was a most beautiful old town called Cervo. Tiny alleyways up through the old town past 2 tiny cafes led usto the most prettiest church we have seen. Not to mention the views…….. We want to go back to Menton next year so if any one knows details of renting or b&b for a week please contact me [email protected]. ..or if you own one and want to house swap in Australia let me know.

  • During the time the flat we now live in here in Menton was being renovated (for several months), we stayed in a small studio, quite centrally located. The main reason we chose this among the others was that the rent was very reasonable considering its location (very central), it’s clean and has a small kitchen where we could prepare our own meals. It is ideal for 2 persons for a week’s stay. I could send you more details via email, if you wish.

  • Bobbie

    Just heard about Menton the other day, and after seeing your photos I am adding it to the August /September 2015 itinerary. Can you direct me to a site for condos or house rentals. We will be there for a couple of weeks. Thank you for sharing your love of Menton.

  • Hello, Liz, if you arrive, say, lunch-time, one night in Menton is probably enough. It is also, however, a great base for making excursions along the coast to anywhere – to Nice or San Remo. Thanks for dropping by.

  • liz tavener

    We are walking from La Brigue to Menton in July, is there enough to see and do in Menton for 2 nights?

  • Thanks for your kind words, Rachel.

    There is a train that goes from Cannes to Ventimiglia (the first town across the border in Italy) roughly every 30 minutes, so this is something you may want to concentrate on. This is the best stretch of the French Riviera with towns such as Nice, Antibes, Villefranche-sur-mer, Monaco and Menton, all worth a visit. In fact, nearly all the well-known places with the exception of Saint Tropez which is much further to the west (and virtually inaccessible by public transport). You should, at least once, also take the bus ride from Nice to Menton (no. 100 on the Lignes d’Azur, €1.50 p.p. for a 70-minute journey) because you see so much more. Also look into the Train des Merveilles for some experience of the Riviera’s mountainous hinterland.

    Something else you should do is travel to Italy at least once, by which I mean further than to Ventimiglia. The best one-day trip for France-based visitors is Sanremo, only 15 minutes away via a frequent local train service from Ventimiglia.
    I am sure you and your husband-to-be will have a wonderful time and some unforgettable experiences.

    Best wishes

  • Rachel G

    Thank you for this wonderful article, Michael! My soon-to-be husband and I are planning our honeymoon to the south of France and Italy this September. We have never been to this area of Europe (we live in California, USA)! We will definitely put Menton on our itinerary.

    Could you suggest some other beautiful towns and cities (accessible via train, as we will have Eurail passes) that we shouldn’t miss?? We have 10 days, and want to make the most out of this trip! Thanks so much :)

  • Totally agree, Sanchia. Hope you have a great homecoming in June. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Sanchia

    I lived in Menton in the 60’s for six months and am returning June 2014 for a mere ten days. Cannot wait to see this beautiful city again, revisit favourite places and find new ones. One of the most beautiful places in Europe!

  • Thank you, Isobel. We are enamoured with Menton for sure. And next time you visit, do say hello. We are also in the old part of town, near the olive oil shop!

  • isobel

    You are most certainly correct Menton is not only the prettiest place in France it is the place we would rather be. Our love affair started many years ago when our boys were small, we used to save hard each year to have a Rail holiday with FTS…. until we found Menton, we had seen it only from the train on our annual trip from St Raphael to Ventimiglia.. so we booked one year to stay in Menton… I will never forget walking through the paved streets, very different to they are now and walking down onto the small port along the pier and looked up at the old town….. We made ourselves a promise that one day we would own a little place in the old town which we actually managed to do. A tiny apartment at the top of Rue De Vieux Chateau… opposite the walkway entrance into the old town… I would clean Webb Ellis Grave before All Saints day on our visit in October. So many beautiful memories of our children growing up and then when they did grow up and go to Uni and circumstances the little appartment had to go…. but we still continue to visit Menton as often as we can, preferring to drive down than fly…. I could write pages and pages of our many many stays in Menton, how we bought a camper and stayed a couple of times a year at the Fleur de Mai, camp site on the little road up to Gorbio, how the fire flies at night would entertain us, but our greatest joy of all sitting on a beautiful day in the Bar Du Cap sipping a glass of wine watching the people, the sites, the sounds and the smells… visiting the numerous restaurants and above all visiting the antique market on a Friday and the second Sunday in the month… oh I could write an epistle… enjoy your love affair with Menton if it is anything like ours it is a love affair that will die when we do, meanwhile we are counting the days to our next trip in June… meanwhile jealous very very jealous…. loved your article about my most favourite place on earth (I do have another second one but it is much further away)

  • So true, everything you said about Menton. We loved it so much on our first and second visits that we decided to move there for good! Thanks for dropping by, Pat.

  • We have rented a condo in Menton for the last 7 years & it is really the most beautiful town in France. We’ve travel widely & have done our homework! The sea,people & markets just bring us back year after year for a wonderful month. Don’t miss the restaurant in Gorbio, the Friday market in Ventamilla & a million other things! Just go & enjoy.

  • Yes, totally agree, Arnibajo. Menton is a beautiful town. You’ll surely come back! Thanks for dropping by here, too.

  • arnibajo

    I visited Menton for 9 days last summer to settle my son who is a student at Science Po, Menton campus. Truly it is a beautiful town, friendly people, fresh produce, enjoyable food trip, blue sea, interesting shops and of course the beautiful St Michel basilica. Villa Georgette is a homely, clean and a nice place to stay “a home away from home”. It’s easy to visit other places too by train or bus to Nice, Monaco & Vintimiglia.

    Definitely Menton is a place not to be missed!!!!!

  • I don’t know Vista Palace hotel so I can’t recommend. If you’re staying for more than 3 days, I advice you to look for a holiday rental. Roquebrune is fine. But due to works going on on the railtracks, trains to Monaco, Menton, Nice or Ventimiglia will not stop there. The works are to go on till end of March 2014. But buses will bring you there too. Thanks for dropping by, Magaly.

  • Magaly Carroll

    Michael,

    Is the Vista Palace hotel in Roquebrune a good choice to stay three days and visit Menton & Monaco from there? Any other suggestions? Thanks, m

  • Hi BB,

    If you’re staying for more than 3 days, I would advice you to take a holiday let, where you’ll have more space and freedom with a small child. Take a trip to Ventimiglia, which is only a few minutes away from Menton, and if you have the time, go to Dolceaqua, 7 kms from Ventimiglia. If you don’t have a car, you can take a bus (#100) to Monaco and even up to Nice for €1 euro pp each way (if you buy their “carnet for €10″ from the bus driver. Each of you have to have the ticket. Except the baby of course.) It will not yet be too prohibitively hot in June so you can do this walk starting from Monaco: http://easyhiker.co.uk/part-2-french-riviera-winter-walks/ and have a picnic along the coast or on Mala beach, where it is said Roger Moore loves to go every year. You don’t have to go away from Menton for the beach, of course, of which the Sablette is the best part. And thanks for dropping by.

  • BB

    My wife and I are taking our son there this June. He is gonna be 11 months old so that should make things interesting. Our past European trips have been sans children, but this trip is going to prove we can still be adventurous even with kids.

    Any tips/ideas for us?

  • You’d love it, Tassie, I guarantee. Thanks for dropping by.

  • Tassie Deb

    Looks gorgeous, we have never been there before, but heading there for a week in June 2014, getting more excited after reading your article.

  • Well. I have no idea how I happened to come across this post. When I saw “March” at first I didn’t notice that it was last year! Anyways, awfully glad I did! I just love the south of France, but have never been to Menton. I have a kind of mantra….always leave a reason to return to a place I’ve liked, and now I have one :) Lovely piece, thank you!

  • steve fuller

    glad that you liked Menton so much. We have been visiting there for years and love all of the gardens that can be visited. We always do the lovely walk from St Agnes to Gorbio. We have seen a few changes over the years but are always delighted by how lovely the town is, especially in winter.

  • Are you asking about walking from Menton to Italy? From Menton city centre, to walk to the first town in Italy would probably take you 1-2 hours. There’s a train station Menton-Garavan and from there, it would probably take you to the nearest Italian town in 30 minutes to an hour.

  • Gillian

    Sorry, I meant Menton.

  • Gillian

    How far is it to walk over the border into Italy? We are going to stay in Haut Cagnes and thought about a day trip to Merton by train. It looks so beautiful and we also wanted to set foot in Italy.

  • Toni

    Menton is beautiful !! I have a villa there and have been going there and speading the word for 10 years!! Photos are beautiful!

  • Wow I want to check this place out. Beautiful photos!

  • Thanks for dropping by, Cristina.

  • So colourful! Thanks for sharing

  • Joe

    I’ll keep that in mind Michael

  • You should, Joe. And try to catch their Lemon Festival. It’s supposed to be a big thing over there.

  • Joe

    Wow, Menton looks like a nice place to visit. Maybe I’ll go there sometime

  • You’d love it, Cherina. Guaranteed.

  • Paul Theroux must be a desert-loving type of guy because Menton has everything, sun, sea and lush nature plus a charming old city centre.

  • Beautiful photos of Menton! We had but just a day to explore there a few years ago and that was enough to put it on our “must-return-and-stay-longer” list. These photos remind me of why we made that vow. I am currently re-reading Paul Theroux’s Pillars of Hercules and was amazed at how negatively he portrayed this town. . .of course, he doesn’t often lavish compliments, does he?

  • I’d never heard of Menton but it looks so pretty. So colourful. Looks like the perfect place to just wander.

  • Andrew, what makes you think they’re not yet there? Nothing escapes from the Germans.

  • Built by the English, run by the Swiss, in France on the border to Italy. Seems like it needs a little enclave of German tourists cum expats to make it complete. It does look lovely though.

  • You’re excused, Debbie.

  • Oops, guess I didn’t read the last comment very well or Michael’s reply!

  • Can’t disagree with any of the comments here, Menton does look beautiful! I would love to spend time wandering her streets and stopping for a drink. I too loved all the colors! For some reason I think Menton is known for it’s lemons. Is this right?

  • Natasha, twice we missed that darned Lemon Festival having visited there a week early. Seems to be a big thing there although it seems they don’t grow that many lemons there anymore. They actually import their lemons for the festival, I heard. But whisper it.

  • Lisa, no tea nor croissant. We were just lucky enough not to have anything poured down our heads because we’ve been clicking away like crazy tourists at everything.

  • You seem to be making a habit of writing posts about places I’ve long wanted to visit – torturer! In the early 20th century a New Zealand writer called Katherine Mansfield spent some time there escaping the English climate for the sake of her consumptive lungs. And don’t they have a lemon festival in Springtime? That sounds fun. So many reasons to go and your photos have only confirmed it. This is a great post and I’ll be sure to utilise it when I make my third visit to this part of France next year AND go to Menton.

  • It really is beautiful! The photos are fantastic too.

  • Well, how lovely is this place? Adding another place to my never ending list! And who is that lovely person peering out their window down at you in the tiny street? Hope they invited you in for tea and a croissant.
    Salut!

  • Lucky you, Jilly. That town is our first choice to move to. We’ve been there twice, both times we came a week early for the Fete du Citron

  • It’ll be worth the trip, I can assure you, Alexa.

  • Wow. I am speechless. Menton looks lovely. The view of the downtown area is remarkable. It looks so peaceful! I hope to make a trip there someday.

  • Michael, Really love your account of Menton and your photographs. I’ve lived here for 20 years and love it as much today as I did when I arrived. No more. So glad you love it too! (Actually I live in Gorbio, just above Menton to be accurate)

    Jilly
    http://www.mentondailyphoto.com

  • We’ve been to Honfleur. It is pretty too, admittedly. Weatherwise, though, the South of France has one over Normandy. Thanks for dropping by

  • Claire

    It does look very pretty, but I have to say not as pretty as HONFLEUR, in Normandy > north west.

    That is my take on a fantastic french destination, houses covered in colombage, traditional, surrounded by the greenest green fields with miles of hedgerows as supposed to something more Mediterranean in the south.

  • Jerry

    Great reading.

    We always stay at Hotel Mediterranee..

    Thanks for the story..

  • Looks beautiful, will definitely have to add it to my list of places to go!

  • You really should get to this corner of France on your next visit, Jeff.

  • Totally, Jeremy. When we were there, we felt like as if we were actually in Italy instead of France. Well, it was really just a hop away from it.

  • This looks more like Italy than France. Great town!

  • What an enchanting destination to add to my bucket list of places to see in France!! Such vibrant architecture and beautifully landscaped gardens. Your pictures capture this town’s essence perfectly. Thanks for the wonderful journey!

  • Paris and the Cote d’Azur should be in your list when you do get to France, Annette.

  • This town looks so lovely with its orange and yellow buildings. I have never been to France, but it’s on the list ;)

  • james

    We’ll be there Tuesday on our way to the Lunigiana in Italy. Looks encouraging.

  • Chad

    Great photos! Now I have to add Menton to the huge list of places I want to see in southern France.

  • Outside Paris, it’s slightly less expensive, Flip. If you get back to France, make a visit to the Cote d’Azur. Weather there would be more to your liking.

  • If you can only go to one place in the Cote d’Azur, Jools, go to Menton and make sure to go beyond the the town centre.

  • Hahahaha, you won’t go wrong by trusting my judgement, Cathy. But it was really breathtakingly beautiful there.

  • wow.. looks really beautiful… i’ve only been to france once and i like it… though it is really expensive to travel in this place…

  • Jools

    It does look very pretty indeed. And that hedge is amazing! I’ve heard mixed reports about Nice, though enver been, so nice to know of a good alternative.

  • Well, I definitely trust your judgement that it’s the prettiest town in France — you would know! Looks very lovely. Interesting about the British heritage.

  • Hope you can visit it one day, too, Ted. But for their festival, I have to disappoint you. They have lemons instead of pretty women.

  • It’s a lovely town in the Cote d’Azur that you should visit next time you’re in France, Leigh.

  • Definitely a pretty little town. I love the architecture.

  • I’ve never even heard of Menton but it looks gorgeous.I love the warm colours on the walls.

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