Menton is said to be the warmest town on the French Riviera,
which was the reason for its popularity during the Belle époque when British visitors and Russian princes flocked to the town and luxury hotels and villas were built in a magical setting. Although nowadays there are fewer visitors of this type, the town is still a pleasant resort which continues to live off tourism and lemons. Menton they call it “Perle of France”.
1.Menton Old Harbour
The Vieux Port or old harbor, enclosed by Quai Napoleon III and jetée Impératrice Eugénie, is used by pleasure and fishing boats. At the far end is a sculpture by Volti. Good view of Menton’s old quarter.
2.Menton Town Hall
The Salle des Mariages or wedding room in the Italianate Town Hall was decorated by Jean Cocteau on the theme of Orpheus and Eurydice.
3.Jardin Serre de la Madone
This large sloping garden was created over the years from 1942 and 1930 by the “gentleman gardener” Lawrence Johnston and has belonged to the Conservatoire du Littoral or coastal protection body since 1999. A soothing and refreshing atmosphere reigns in this botanical garden. There is a series of small and varied terraced gardens, reorganized according to their original habitat. The tall trees hide a small villa and large ponds.
4.Val Rameh Exotic Botanical Garden
This terraced garden contains over 700 plant species from Australia, Asia, and America, including citrus fruit, passionflowers, guavas, and avocados. Created by an Englishman in around 1930, it is managed and maintained today by the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle in Parish.
5.Parc du Pian olive grove
This vast olive grove contains over 500 to 100 years olive trees.
6.Maria Serena Garden
Charles Garnier built this villa for Ferdinand de Lesseps, the architect of the Suez Canal. The garden has a lovely collection of palm trees.
This villa was created in 1921 by the author of Sang et Lumières, Vicente Blasco Ibanez. The azulejos on the porch represent great names in Spanish literature and the gardens with their ceramic-clad summer house, benches and ponds have a particularly Spanish atmosphere.
This Baroque church with a two-story yellow and pale green façade is the largest in the region. The Latin Cross interior, inspired by the Annunziata basilica in Genoa, has been decorated in sumptuous style by Menton artists such Puppo and Vento. Note the funerary chapels of local and Monaco notables.
9.Russian Orthodox Church
This small Russian church was built by Danish architect Tersling in 1892. The interior is richly decorated with frescoes by Prince Gagarin and numerous icons.
10.Vieux Chateau Cemetery
The cemetery is composed of superimposed terraces, each devoted to a different nationality or region. In the rich Anglo-Saxon visitor’s section, note the tomb of Reverend Webb Ellis, the inventor of rugby, and also a few Russian princes with legendary names (Toubetzkoi, Volkonsky). There is a fine view of the old town, the sea, the coast, from Cap Martin to Mortola point in Italy.
11.Chapel of the Conception
The chapel of the White Penitents underwent considerable restoration work in the 19C. The façade has garlands of stucco flowers with a basket-handle pediment surmounted by the three theological virtues.
This pebble beach is backed by the seafront promenade and Quai Bonaparte, giving it a pleasant view of the old town. A monumental staircase leads up to the square in front of Saint Michel church.
13.Palais Carnolès Museum
The former summer residence of the Princes of Monaco contains a permanent exhibition of work by artists from the 12 to the 15C(Louis Bréa) as well as modern paintings (Picabia, Dufy, Gleizes, and Delvaux). The citrus garden contains contemporary sculptures.
14.Jean Cocteau Museum/Séverin Wunderman
This museum, the second dedicated to Cocteau in the town of Menton, opened in 2011, thanks to an exceptional donation from Séverin Wunderman 1938-2008. The American had accumulated works by Cocteau and other masters of modern arts (Picasso, Modigliani, De Chirico, Miro etc.), as well as a collection linked to Sarah Bernhardt. The exhibitions divide the immense collection into themes. Built on the seafront, the building designed by Rudy Riciotti is surrounded by a spectacular façade adorned with white cut-out forms.
15.Musée de Préhistoire
A fascinating insight into prehistoric people based on discoveries made during excavations by a local naturalist, Bonfils. The building was constructed in 1909 by the architect Adrien Rey. Menton folk arts and traditions are presented on the first floor, while the basement is given over to the history of tourism, including posters from the golden age of winter tourism between 1870 and 1914.
16.Musée du Bastion- Jean Cocteau
This historical museum is housed in a small 17C fort built into the seawall. Cocteau himself restored and transformed it between 1958 and 1963 with a view, in particular, to housing his romantic drawings, Innamorati; he wanted the series to be kept in Menton, with which he had fallen in love. The pebble mosaics on the outside of the building are also by the artist.