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Tourist Places To Visit In Menton
The mellow town of Menton is located in the Provence-Alpes-Cote d’Azur region of south-eastern France and is surrounded by hills on one side and the Mediterranean Sea on the other side. Situated along the Franco-Italian border, Menton has been nicknamed the ‘Pearl of France’ and boasts a charming combination of architectural delights, quiet streets and warm friendly locals. The mountain slopes of the city grow tons of lemons and oranges each year, most of which end up becoming a part of the popular annual Lemon Festival. Most of Menton’s appeal lies in its sleepy ambience and unpretentious atmosphere. Spending even a single day strolling in the lovely gardens or admiring the exquisite architecture of Menton’s churches is truly a day well-spent. Read on to know all about the best places to visit when in Menton.
Jean Cocteau Museum
Composed of different forms of artworks that include paintings, drawings, ceramics, films and photographs, the Jean Cocteau Museum was built in 2011 after the art collector and Cocteau-expert Severin Wunderman donated his multi-million-dollar collection of Cocteau’s works to Menton; his only condition was that this collection be showcased in a museum dedicated to the famous artist. Today, this museum is known to be the largest public resource of Cocteau’s works in the world and contains about 1800 art pieces. The building itself is a futuristic-looking architectural masterpiece, and admission to the museum includes entry to Musee du Bastion as well – a 17th-century bastion that was redesigned by Jean Cocteau himself over a period of two years.
The magnificent architecture of this 17th-century Baroque-style church is a prime example of the Italian influence on Menton. Completed in 1653, the building is flanked by a 35 metres tall clock tower and a 53 metres tall steeple that was added much later in 1701. The outer square in front of the basilica features beautiful pebble mosaics that form a pathway to the church in the form of a coat-of-arms. The best time to visit the basilica is in the morning when it's relatively cool enough to hike up the stairways to the church that begin from Promenade de la Mer.
Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden
Unlike other towns on the French Riviera, Menton is more about its greenery and rich gardens rather than its fancy boutiques. The Val Rahmeh Botanical Garden is one such location that was originally built by Lord Radcliffe, then governor of Malta, for the local rich aristocracy and nobility to relax in when visiting the French Riviera. It is located high above the slopes of Menton and dates back to the year 1905; the French Museum of Natural History has been the owner of the gardens since 1966. Lord Radcliffe was extremely fond of tropical fruit, and he made use of Menton’s balmy microclimate to bringing in tropical and subtropical fruit plants from Japan, America and various other tropical countries. Visitors will be able to find exotic fruit-trees like kiwis, bananas and avocados all over Val Rahmeh. Out of 700 different species, the rarest one here is the Sophora toromiro from Easter Island but which is now extinct everywhere else in the world.
Old Château Cemetery
On a site higher than the basilica, once stood Menton’s medieval castle. The castle was eventually replaced by a cemetery that is now one of Menton’s most visited tourist spots. The area offers astonishingly beautiful views of the city, the harbour and the surrounding hills. The cemetery is the laying ground of wealthy British and Russian vacationers from the Belle Epoque era. However, it is most known for being the place where William Webb Ellis, the inventor of the rugby sport, is buried.
Musée de Préhistoire Régionale
Unlike what the name suggests, the Regional Museum of Prehistory showcases artefacts and exhibits not just from the prehistoric era but also from different parts of French history. Visitors can learn a lot about pottery, shipwrecks on this coast, weapons and even glassware. The prehistoric artefacts include items discovered from the caves around Nice and from diggings around Alpes-Maritime. However, the main attraction here is the l’Homme de Menton; the fossilized body of a man from the Paleolithic era that dates back 10-50 thousand years and was discovered in the Cave of Cavaillon in 1872. The original specimen is in Paris though and this museum holds a complete cast of his body.
Jardin Serre de la Madone
The garden Serre de la Madone originally belonged to the American botanist Lawrence Johnston, who had already established his name in the botanical world through his French garden in England. Spread over 22 acres, Johnston created this garden in the Gorbea Valley a little outside Menton with plants from all over the world including Burma, China and South Africa. The climate in this part of the French Riviera is exceptionally sunny and supports thriving species of exotic plants like bamboo, umbrella pines and succulents amidst Mediterranean forests, which are sectioned off with hedges, walls and terraced gardens. The garden was recently restored to its former glory after being abandoned for decades, and there are now guided tours available here every day at 3 pm.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts is located in an 18th-century lavish building known as Palais de Carnoles, which used to be the summer residence of the Monaco princes. The museum came into being when the curator of the National Art Museum from Monaco, Charles Wakefield Mori, donated his personal collection of modern art to this city in the year 1959. Visitors can observe art pieces by Picasso, Chagall and Salvador Dali; an amazing sculpture garden decorates the palace grounds that opened here in 1994. Apart from different types of sculptures, there are also more than a hundred species of citrus trees here.
Église Russe de Menton
Russian nobility has long been drawn to the French Riviera, and the Imperial Russians visited Menton in such numbers that they built their own orthodox church here in the late 19th-century. The church features exquisite architecture with a characteristic onion dome and the interiors boast a splendid iconostasis made from Tuscan Carrera marble. The church building is attached to a four-storey mansion known as La Maison Russe, which served as a charitable foundation for the ill and needy Russians on the French Riviera.