Menton isn’t the first place that comes to mind when you think of the south of France. But, nonetheless, it’s a very beautiful place and well worth visiting.
We stumbled upon it because we were looking for somewhere to go for a holiday during my second trimester of pregnancy. I didn’t want to go anywhere too hot, and I wanted to be able to do a spot of sightseeing without walking for miles. And I wanted to go somewhere pretty too, so Menton it was. (We have this Telegraph list of the best beach holidays in France to thank for our find).
We stayed at the Princess et Richmond Hotel on the Promenade du Soleil, because who wouldn’t want to be 1 MINUTE from the beach? During our stay, I spent a lot of time googling what to do and where to eat, so the least I could do is write up my own recommendations now we’re back. I hope you find them useful!
What to do
1. Visit Jardin Exotique Val Rahmeh
I was totally blown away by this incredibly beautiful garden. We were staying on the west side of Menton so to avoid walking 40 minutes there in the heat, we took a taxi, which I really recommend as there’s lots of walking to be done when you get there. I understand you can have formal guided tours, but we just took ourselves around the numbered trail and really enjoyed it. Aside from being a garden lover’s idea of heaven, it’s also an Instragrammer’s paradise so take your camera.
Need to know: The garden opens from 10.30am, shuts at 12.30pm for lunch, and then re-opens at 3.30pm – so don’t get caught out. Entry cost €13 in total for the two of us. Also – they don’t sell water so go prepared.
2. Walk up to the Basilique Saint Michel
If you were feeling more energetic than I was you could spend a lot of your time in the south of France seeing the sights from on high. But even I had the strength to get up here – the steps up to the church aren’t bad at all and it’s well worth the stroll (and there’s a railing too for the wobbly among us). Not only is the church beautiful, inside and out, but the views up there are lovely too. I can’t get enough of brightly coloured buildings and cute alleyways, so I was snapping away like my life depended on it. When you’re done, rather than going back on yourself and down the steps, walk past the church and down the little residential streets back into town. You’ll see so many bright buildings with excellent shutter/window boxes co-ordination that you’ll want to go home and paint your house.
3. Hit the beach
An obvious one but it really is one of the best things to do in Menton. The sea is glorious and, because it’s not the world’s most well-known holiday destination, there’s room for everyone. It’s a pebble beach so I recommend wearing flip flops down to the water as, unless your feet are a lot stronger than mine, you’ll need them for the stroll back to your towel. We couldn’t find anywhere to hire umbrellas so we bought one in town for about €15 instead. Not to sound too much like your mum but the sun is strong here so a little shade will definitely come in handy. See also: water, suntan lotion and a hat.
4. Visit Serre de la Madone
Yep, it’s another garden. It’s what Menton’s known for because they’re just so damn good at them. I thought it would be tricky to follow Val Rahmeh but this place is just as lovely. Exploring the garden involves climbing through the various levels and taking in the huge variety of flowers and plants until you get to the lovely villa towards the top. There are maps available to help you round, but you can also just follow your nose.
Need to know: Transport of some kind to this jardin is a must. Not only is it a steep journey, there’s also very limited pavement on the way up. The extremely helpful lady working there was kind enough to try to find us a taxi, or otherwise there’s a bus from just outside. (Check departure times as they’re not very frequent). There’s no lunchtime closing here, so you can go any time between 10am and 6pm. Tickets cost €16 in total for the two of us, plus €1 for the map. They also sell drinks and offer water!
Where to eat
We had many-a lovely meal during our week in Menton – here are the top six I’d recommend.
1. Cote Sud, 15 Quai Bonaparte
Good, reasonably priced food right by the marina, and served by friendly staff. We had the wild boar padella followed by the chocolate brownie and tiramisu and left extremely full but content.
2. Le P’tit Resto, 19 Avenue de la Madone
Homemade, extremely tasty food in a little traditional french restaurant. This place was just behind our hotel so very convenient after a tiring day, but it’s also worth visiting if you’re staying more centrally. I enjoyed the boeuf bourguignon and frites, whilst my husband had a steak with gorgonzola sauce (yep, he’s enjoying all the foods I specifically cannot have whilst pregnant).
3. The Love Hut, 649 Promenade de la Soleil
Tasty and interesting vegan food overlooking the sea. We treated the starters as tapas and had the sushi, dumplings, endives with hummus, and fries. Leon then had the fried tofu with rice too (because he has more room than I do), and then we shared a banana split (because everybody knows dessert goes in a separate stomach anyway). It’s a very chilled out place and the fruit juices are delicious.
4. Le Bistrot des Jardins, 14 Avenue Boyers
Our best meal by far. The setting is so cute – and unsurprisingly in a little garden. The staff were incredibly helpful and patient with my slowly-returning memory of A-level French. We both had the asparagus, then I had the St Pierre fillet, whilst Leon had yet another steak. Pudding was fresh pineapple in spices for me, and tiramisu for Leon (he’s a man of habit, and why not). I can’t recommend this place enough, so do go.
5. Le Bruit Qui Court, 31 Quai Bonaparte
I don’t know if we just got lucky or if the people of Menton are all just very nice, but the staff here were great. It’s another lovely place by the marina, serving good French food. Warning: the ravioli bake starter is HUGE but right tasty. The fish mains are simple but very nice and healthy. The highlight for me was the fromage frais with a fruit coulis I had for pudding – I have never enjoyed what is essentially yogurt so much in my life.
6. Les Enfants Terribles, 1 Quai Bonaparte
Living in London has taught me to be dubious about centrally positioned, large restaurants. We Brits assume that means they’ll be overpriced and mediocre. But that’s not the case in Menton, or certainly not here. The sole was the best I’ve ever had, and Leon’s steak also went down a treat. They serve MEGA ice cream sundae puddings, which you just have to try. But take my advice: when your partner suggests that you have one each, gently insist that you share. If you finished your dinner like a good girl/boy, you won’t have room for a whole one, trust me.
Have a lovely time in Menton, my friend. And say hello to the sea for me.