Looking for how to take a day trip to Menton? You’re in the right place – read on for details!
You know how you see somewhere that just looks so adorable in pictures, and when you go it somehow really is that adorable in real life?
That’s how I felt about Menton.
We took a day trip to Menton from Nice on our very first trip to the French Riviera and absolutely fell in love. (After all, one of the best things to do in Nice is explore the surrounding countryside). I came back again recently, after having visited many, many cities and villages around southern France, and Menton still made my heart skip a beat.
This city is just so. dang. pretty.
Menton has a colorful and quaint Old Town that sits right on the Mediterranean Sea. The main beach in town is one of the best beaches along the entire French Riviera, there are gardens all over the city (thanks to Menton’s micro-climate that makes it excellent for growing things), and all kinds of citrus products are grown in the surrounding areas.
In this post, I’m going to share exactly how to take a day trip to Menton, including how to get here, how much time you need, when to come, and the best things to do.
How to Take a Day Trip to Menton from Nice (Or Anywhere along the French Riviera Coastline)
How to Get to Menton
If you’re basing yourself in Nice, by far the easiest way to get to Menton is by taking the train. Nice’s train station (Gare de Nice-Ville) is just a short, 15-minute walk from Old Town, and it’s very easy to buy tickets and hop on a train to Menton.
Trains usually run a few times an hour, so check the schedule ahead of time, but usually there’s one leaving within a few minutes of arriving at the station.
You can buy your ticket from a stand in the train station or you can scan the QR code on the ticket stations and buy on your phone. Most of the time I just buy a physical ticket in person because it’s easy and straightforward to use (and you can change the language to English). A ticket will cost just a few euros.
There are two train stations in Menton – you want to get off at Menton, not Menton Garavan.
Make sure you insert your ticket into the orange validate machines to get the ticket timestamped before entering the platforms. After you buy your ticket and validate, you will need to check the monitors above the turnstiles for your platform.
The monitors will display the final destinations of each train (usually places like Ventimiglia, Cannes, or Grasse), and then underneath the final destination is a scrolling list of the cities the train will stop at en route. You’ll need to check that scrolling list to find your stop, and figure out which platform to go on.
Because this train line runs along the coast, stopping in many cities and villages, it is really easy to take the train to Menton from other spots like Monaco, Antibes, Eze-sur-Mer, Villefranche-sur-Mer, or Cannes.
In general, I wouldn’t recommend driving to Menton – it’s just so easy to take the train, and you don’t have to deal with traffic, tolls, or parking.
However, if you do happen to have a car, there are a few advantages, mainly that you can easily visit a couple of the gardens in Menton that are farther away from the city. If you didn’t have a car, you’d have to either take a fairly long bus up, or get a taxi or uber.
But, if you have a rental car anyway (there are some villages that are easier to visit with a rental car versus taking public transit), then this lot and this lot are a couple of good parking options in central Menton.
Want to drive yourself around Southern France but haven’t booked your rental car yet? You need to do that ASAP! I always book cars using either RentalCars.com or DiscoverCars.com – I find that they have the best prices and most options for rentals.
What to Do in Menton
From the train station or parking lot, start walking east and south towards the Old Town, admiring the beautiful buildings and the relaxed way of life in the village.
1. Walk Through Rue Saint-Michel
Start your day in Menton by strolling along Rue Saint Michel, where you’ll find a bustling pedestrian area brimming with unique shops and boutiques. It’s the ideal spot for picking up lemon-themed items, which Menton is famous for.
Check out Place aux Herbes too. It’s a quaint square surrounded by eateries, complete with a quaint carousel that adds a touch of whimsy.
2. Relax on Plage des Sablettes
Plage des Sablettes sits underneath the picturesque backdrop of Old Town and has pristine, clear waters perfect for swimming.
Thanks to a human-made jetty, a significant portion of the beach and its swimming areas are shielded, so that the water stays calm and relatively shallow all the way out to the rocks.
While the beach isn’t truly sandy, it’s filled with very fine pebbles that are comfortable enough to walk on barefoot. Just behind the beach, a promenade lined with restaurants and shops is easily accessible when you need a quick bite or a leisurely meal.
Between the beach and the Old Town is the Quai Bonaparte road, which continues east to become the Porte de France. Along this road is a wide pedestrian promenade, which offers incredible views back over the beach, the palm trees, and Old Town.
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3. Admire the View from the Harbor Rocks
For an incredibly picturesque spot in Menton, head out onto Quai Impératrice Eugenie and follow it to the rocky jetty that guards the cove by Plage des Sablettes. The views from here, especially looking back at the town, are truly second to none.
There are plenty of places along the jetty where you can sit, let your feet dangle in the water, and just bask in the sun. We lingered here for quite a while, just enjoying the breeze and the stunning view back towards the beach and the city.
4. Walk Up the Famed Zig-Zag Staircase
One of the most unique features of Menton’s Old Town is the series of zigzagging stairs that start at street level and climb up to the square in front of the basilica.
These stairs blend perfectly with the Mediterranean vibe of the city and draw even more attention to the majestic basilica perched on top of the hill.
5. Basilica of Saint-Michel Archange and The Chapel of the White Penitents
The Basilica of Saint Michael Archangel towers over Menton’s skyline, a prominent feature of the city. Built in the late 1600s, it blends seamlessly with the city’s golden tones, featuring a tall steeple and a detailed interior.
Adjacent to the basilica is the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception, also known as the seat of the Brotherhood of the White Penitents. This group, formed in the Middle Ages by laymen, focused on charitable acts and assisting the less fortunate.
While the chapel might be smaller in size compared to the basilica, its elegance is undeniable. The exterior is detailed and eye-catching, and the interior is even more striking, with red walls, black and white tiled floors, and ceilings adorned with gold leaf.
Stopping in the square to admire the basilica and chapel (and visiting the inside if they are open) is definitely a must-do in Menton.
6. Explore Menton’s Old Town
Menton’s Old Town, also known as Vieille Ville, is a favorite spot in the city, with its colorful buildings in shades of pink, red, yellow, peach, and tan, all set along cobblestoned streets.
You’ll find streets lined with potted plants, revealing quaint archways and tucked-away corners throughout Old Town.
Rue Longue is the main street through Old Town, running closest to the sea. This street is a bit wider and is so, so charming. This is also the street that intersects the zig-zag stairs by the basilica.
From Rue Longue or the square in front of the Basilica, several narrower streets branch off, winding and crisscrossing up the hill through Old Town.
7. Cimetière du Vieux Chateau
The Cimitière du Vieux Chateau, or Old Castle Cemetery, sits atop the hill in Old Town Menton, and is built on the remnants of an ancient castle. Now, it serves as a serene final resting place for both locals of Menton and some notable foreigners, like William Webb Ellis, known for inventing rugby.
It’s a beautiful spot to explore, with its breathtaking panoramic views stretching down to the Italian coastline. The cemetery is known for its large, ornately decorated tombs, complete with statues, busts, and medallions, making it a place of both solemnity and remarkable beauty.
8. Discover the Jardin Botanique Val Rahmeh
While there are several options of gardens to visit in Menton, the one you absolutely cannot miss is the Jardin Botanique Val Rahmeh, just an easy 15-minute walk from Old Town. The garden was developed starting in 1905, this enchanting garden boasts more than 1700 types of Mediterranean and tropical plants.
During your visit, you’ll stroll around the villa’s exterior and follow the marked path through the gardens and grounds. On this path, you’ll see a variety of unique flowers, yucca plants, and trees like fig, olive, palm, and avocado. Enjoy the serene ponds and coastal views while exploring the garden’s beauty.
- Hours: April to October: 9:30am-6pm, November to March: 9:30am-5pm, closed Tuesdays
- Entrance Fee: €7 for adults, reduced fees for children and seniors
9. Have More Time in Menton? Here are a few other spots to visit:
Jardin d’Agrumes du Palais Carnolès: A small, free, public garden filled with over 137 varieties of citrus trees that surrounds the former palace of the Prince of Monaco.
Serre de la Madone: A charming garden filled with unique plants and beautiful blossoms. Closed Mondays
Musée Jean Cocteau – Le Bastion: This once-forgotten fort now showcases the art of the renowned French painter, Jean Cocteau, who played a significant role in transforming the Bastion into a museum adorned with his creations. Closed Tuesdays
Les Halles Market: A charming Provencal market selling all kinds of fruits, vegetables, and local goods, including many lemon-themed items. Closed Mondays
Other Helpful Information
Best Time of Year (and the Week) to Visit
Menton is a gorgeous destination all year long, but each season brings its own set of pros and cons. During winter, the town sees fewer tourists, making it peaceful, though the cooler climate might not be ideal for beach activities. February stands out with the vibrant Lemon Festival, offering a unique and lively experience.
Summer in Menton is truly enchanting, characterized by warm weather and inviting sea temperatures, perfect for beachgoers. However, this also means the town is bustling with visitors. The transition from September to early October offers a sweet spot with lingering warmth and fewer crowds, making it an excellent time for a visit.
Keep in mind that many attractions, including gardens, museums, and markets, are closed on Mondays or Tuesdays. So, if these are on your must-see list, planning your visit for another day of the week is a good idea.
If you have some flexibility in your schedule, I’d suggest trying to experience Menton on a sunny day to fully appreciate the town’s vibrant colors and the sea’s brilliance. (Other villages like Eze or Saint-Paul-de-Vence are totally fine to visit on a rainy or cloudy day).
How Long Do You Need in Menton?
While you can do some things in Menton with half a day, I’d plan for a full day to really enjoy Menton, see her sites, and relax on the beach or at the harbor viewpoint.
Where Else Should You Visit on the French Riviera?
After Menton, there are so many other day trips to take on the French Riviera. The Principality of Monaco is nearby and always a hit. La Turbie, a small French village, offers great views of Monaco and has a huge Roman monument.
Eze and Saint-Paul-de-Vence are charming with their cobblestoned streets and art galleries. Getting farther into the rural countryside, there are many vineyards and wineries that you can visit on a wine tour from Nice.
And if you are staying in Nice, Villefranche-sur-Mer is close by and is an adorable, colorful fishing village, and the coastal walk along Cap Ferrat is something special.
Further along, Antibes has a lively atmosphere with a rich history, Cannes is known for its luxury, and Grasse is famous for its perfumeries, where you can even create your own fragrance.
I’ve visited each of these cities and villages and loved them all.
Taking a Day Trip to Menton – The Wrap Up
Spending a day in Menton is an absolute treat – from the sun-drenched beaches to the colorful Old Town to the beautiful gardens. Menton continues to be one of my favorite spots on the French Riviera – I basically walk around the city making heart eyes at all the adorable spots. I’d recommend it in a heartbeat!