For many, the Côte d’Azur is a symbol of all things fancy. With its sleek, shiny yachts, its tiny, high-end boutiques and its towering yet elegant hotels, the French Riviera is a place for the elite. More frequently visited by families or Instagram influencers, there are few budget travellers who venture to this part of the world – unless they’re merely passing through.
But amongst the glitz and the glamour lie some hidden gems. The smaller, lesser-explored areas of the coast are often the richest in culture, seeping with tradition. The coastal town of Menton is possibly the most unique example of this, located only 2.5km from the Italian border – this mash-up of cultures is evident in every corner. Its rustic Italian colour palette yet typically French shutters are only the beginning.
So, how should you spend a day in Menton? Read on to find out.
From most towns along the coast, Menton is easily accessible by train; because of this, it is often a popular stop-off point for people travelling to Italy from the Southern regions of France, and vice versa. The trains are modern, air-conditioned and (generally) on-time. A single ticket from Cannes costs roughly 10EUR, and can be bought from any station. The journey time from Cannes is between 1h20 and 1h30 – but with a route that hugs the coastline, with a front-row view of the glittering sea, you’ll wish it lasted longer.
The best way to see anywhere is always on foot, and Menton is no exception. With the train station only a 20-minute walk from the centre, it’s easily accessible, leading through beautiful, winding streets and down towards the harbour. You will never tire of exploring here, when turning every corner leads you into a warren of cosy streets. Break away from the tourist trails, and discover the ‘local’ Menton.
Fresh fruit from the market
Markets are a marker of Southern European life, laden with fresh, local produce. In Menton, the stunning Marché des Halles is open every day, from 6am to 1pm; this covered market is home to an endless selection of meats, fruit, vegetables, and traditional products. Menton is particularly famous for its lemons, so expect to find them in everything – from desserts to cosmetics. Oh, and if you happen to visit in February, then don’t miss their lemon festival.
If you’re travelling on a budget, grab some snacks and head towards the promenade for a light but delicious lunch.
Pizza? In France?
The Italian-French mixture doesn’t stop at the cobbled streets and simplistic architecture: food in Menton has a decidedly Italian feel to it, with pizza and pasta dishes adorning almost every menu. La Martina restaurant is particularly known for its Italian cuisine, and is one of the most frequently-visited restaurants in town. Expect also to find a lot of fish – head for Le Petit Port for freshly-caught seafood and good wine.
Climb up to the basilica
The Basilique Saint-Michel-Archange is the most imposing, impressive building in town, and sits atop a hill overlooking the port. Often home to many events and shows, the church is an ideal setting for music and art lovers – not to mention anyone interested in Baroque architecture. It was built in 1653, and echoes the bright tones of the houses which surround it.
Shop for a souvenir
The Provence region is well-known for its artisan soaps and cosmetics, and this is apparent throughout the store-clad streets of Menton. Hand-crafted ceramics are also typical of this area, with delicate patterns and designs carefully painted onto beautiful bowls, plates, and flowerpots.
If sophisticated, sassy beachwear is more your thing, then take a look at Boutique Maylee. Its style is classic Riviera, with an abundance of floaty dresses and swimming attire.
From its delicious cuisine to its unique blend of architectural styles, Menton should be a town at the top of everyone’s bucket list – even if you’re just passing through.