Menton Day Trip
A Menton day trip should absolutely be on your French Riviera bucket list. In my opinion, beautiful Menton is the French Riviera’s best kept secret. The border town is the last stop on the Cote d’Azur before crossing into Italy, but is often forgotten by tourists compared to the much more famous and glitzy Nice, Cannes and Monaco.
This charming coastal town is home to my favourite old town of all the French Riviera villages and the hilly outlook of the pastel-coloured buildings across the water makes the town utterly picture-perfect.
Getting to Menton
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the best base for French Riviera exploration is most certainly Nice. Assuming that advice has been heard loud and clear, a day trip to Menton is super simple.
Buy a return ticket to Menton from Gare de Nice Ville (Nice Station) from one of the many ticket machines at the station. If the machines feel a little daunting, there is an information centre in the station where the staff will help you purchase a ticket. They’ll even do it on the machine for you to watch and learn for next time.
You can also purchase tickets online from the official SNCF website. There’s an English version of the site and its well-designed and easy to use.
A return ticket from Nice to Menton will cost around 11 euros per passenger and will take around 40 minutes of travel time. Simply hop on at Nice station, hop off at Menton and enjoy a ten minute walk to the waterfront where you can amble your way along the water’s edge around to the Old Town.
If you are slightly more price conscious and don’t mind spending a bit of extra time travelling, then the French Riviera bus lines are your best friend. The number 100 bus leaves from the Port of Nice (Le Port).
The bus ride is incredibly scenic as it traverses the rugged corniches of the French mountains and stops in other famous spots on the Cote d’Azur such as Monaco, Cap d’Ail and Roquebrune-Cap-Martin. The scenic route will take you around 75 minutes; much longer than the 40 mins on the train. The plus side, though? A one-way bus fare will only set you back 1.50 euros.
What to do on a Menton day trip?
Walk the Promenade du Soleil
On arrival at Menton Station, walk straight down to the waterfront, where brightly coloured umbrellas will be being methodically unfurled by vendors setting up their beachside eateries for the day.
Here, the beaches are pebbly, though not quite as dramatic as the large grey stones of Nice’s beaches and a little gentler underfoot thanks to the finer rocks.
The waterfront is a beautiful walk and the real highlight is when the walk arrives at the edge of the bay and turns a corner and the first glimpse of the vibrant colours of the Menton old town can be spotted against the rocky mountainside.
I found myself completely transfixed on the spot when I first saw the old town. It’s like being in front of a postcard with the mountains behind the saffron spires of the old town’s church towers and with the ever present Mediterannean Sea in front.
Stroll through the hilly Old Town
Exploring the old towns of the French Riviera is hands down the greatest free activity any visitor can do. There seems to be a never ending supply of winding alleys, cobble stoned streets and picturesque shuttered houses waiting to be discovered. Truly, there’s no need for direction or a map. Just allowing yourself to get lost amongst the laneways and uncover hidden treasures is all the direction you need here.
Menton’s old town is particularly special because it is set on a hilltop which may prove more difficult to walk up, but infinitely more rewarding when views of the Cote d’Azur peek through against the orange and yellow coloured buildings.
In the old town, there are a couple of fantastic churches standing tall against the sky including the Basilica St Michel and Chapelle des Penitents Blancs, both constructed in the 17th Century.
Eat Moules-Frites by the sea
When you’re in the French Riviera, I guarantee that you’ll see an abundance of locals and tourists alike sitting down at restaurants and eating mussels from a black pot by the handful.
These little ‘fruits de mer’ are usually cooked in white wine and though the pots look big, they’re still a light and fresh way to enjoy lunch by the seaside.
In Menton, the best prices for moules-frites around the waterfront that I found was just around the corner from the main beach and old town.
My mum and I wanted to share a pot and after stopping at a few places and being told ‘no sharing’ we found a lovely place with tables by the sea that allowed us to share the mussels for a mere 13 euros (compared to 18 euros each round the other side of the bay). Yum.
Visit the Cemetery of the old Chateau
Perched above the old town, sits a cemetery with a view. The Vieux Chateau cemetery offers up views of both sides of Menton and the striking blue water of its many beaches below. Indeed, from up here, visitors to the cemetery can see all the way around to Italy.
It is also fascinating to take a short walk through the many graves, many of which are crumbling and in need of repair. The cemetery itself is home to a few Russian princes and the man who is said to have started the game of rugby, Reverend Webb Ellis.
The French style of above-ground, raised graves is very picturesque; a style reflected in the New Orleans cemeteries I visited earlier this year.
Sample Menton’s famous citrus products
Last but definitely not least, Menton prides itself on its citrus products, so it would be remiss of me not to suggest you at least go into the touristy shopping area to sample a few of the town’s staples. Most shops will be handing out tasters of items such as limoncello or Menton-style Limoncello baba (cake soaked in Limoncello instead of rum).
Lemon or mandarin gelato is also readily available for those who aren’t keen on liqueur and there is an abundance of soap, olive oil, truffle oil and other delicious smelling products for you to enjoy.
There you have it. Menton is definitely a day trip you should plan to take when mapping out your time in the French Riviera. It is truly one of the most beautiful towns that the Cote d’Azur region has to offer with it’s uniquely coloured old town nestled in between the craggy cliffs of the rocky Provence-Alpes region and the turquoise beauty of the Mediterannean Sea.
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