Menton, the Pearl of France, is a lovely town that confines with Italy. It is where the Cote d’Azur coast begins, and you can immediately feel that relaxing Mediterranean atmosphere characteristic of the area. With its little stores that sell soaps and lemon fragrances, French cafes, bathing suits and white cotton clothes.The area of Menton used to be included in the Principality of Monaco, under the Grimaldi rule, but both Menton and Roquebrune seceded from Monaco in 1848 due to issues related to taxes on lemon exports. They were then placed under the protection of the Italian Kingdom of Sardinia, but with the Treaty of Turin in 1860 they were annexed to France as a reward for the country’s participation in the war against Austria. During the Second World War the territory was again captured by Italy during the invasion of France in 1940 and annexed to Italy until 1943, then liberated from Nazi control in 1944.
Old Town that overlooks the bay includes a lovely piazza with a baroque basilica for Saint Michel Archange built in 1619. You can walk up to the basilica following the narrow French streets, it’s not a very long walk up but there are quite a few steps!
The Bastion Museum decorated by the artist Jean Cocteau was built as a defense for the port. It is located next to the old port and in the recently built Musee Jean Cocteau, which hosts an exhibit of the artist career and also temporary exhibitions. Close by is also the covered market, where you can find all kind of French delicacies! Stop at the cheese counter to taste all of the wonderful goat cheeses, and the best Camembert there is.
Above the old port you can find many nice restaurants, such as Petit Port and Cote Sud, which I highly recommend (but you should book a table if you go, especially during the summer). Also stop at ice cream parlor Sofia, which is one of the best in town.
Les Sablettes is a long strip of beach which starts from the old port to get to the new port Garavan. Along the strip is a series of beaches, both public and private, and also some very nice beach restaurants such as Les Sablettes, Panama Plage and la Dolce Vita. Here is another nice ice cream parlor where you can actually make your own ice cream and top it with chocolate, sprinkles, and more!
Moving towards Roquebrune you will find the area of the Casinò, in front of a lovely park, and here you can find some nice bars such as La Cigale (which used to be the best pastry shop in town, but has changed a little with the new owner), Sicilienne is a very new opening in the Casino square and sells some really good Sicilian specialties (try the raviola in the morning, a croissant filled with ricotta, and arancini for lunch).
The town also hosts one of the best high end French restaurants in the area, Mirazur is owned by chef Mauro Colagreco and is located just before the Grimaldi Italian border. Right after the coast line Italian border is the area of Balzi Rossi, here you can find a lovely restaurant with a view on Menton owned by chef Giuseppina Beglia. Here is also an incredible prehistoric museum where you can see all the findings in the area and visit the caves, to see the drawings that were made on the wall by Cro-Magnon men. If you walk down following the Via Julia Augusta you will find an exquisite beach called La Spiaggetta dei Balzi Rossi.
The area is known for its amazing lemons, this is why each year they celebrate the Fete du citron during February. A lovely event with lights, parades, flowers and fruit, and many many lemons! In summer time instead they organize the Festival de la musique, and organize some lovely concerts at night time in the streets of Menton.