Where to Stay on the French Riviera—Might I Suggest Menton?

Trying to find a spot to land on the French Riviera? Check out Menton. It may be my favorite French Mediterranean town of all (and I’ve spent a lot of time around these parts!).

The Old City of Menton. Photo credit.

The Old City of Menton. Photo credit.

Some people travel broadly, I travel deeply; that is, I return again and again to Southern France, specifically, the sweep of its Mediterranean coastline, from the Spanish border to the Italian. Though I still need to get to know the stretch between Marseille and Toulon better, I can say that I know Nice-to-Menton stretch better than anywhere else in the world.

And while I love it all, I love Menton the most.

We recently stayed at the Residence Les Citronniers, which is in the Pierre et Vacance chain of vacation-apartment rentals. Normally, we rent directly from owners, but this place–basically, a hotel filled with vacation efficiency apartments instead of mere hotel rooms–seemed like just what we wanted: five minutes from the beach, a 10-minute walk from the Old Town, and with plenty of great shops all around.

Take a look:

 

My little kitchen! Bonus: A dishwasher.

My little kitchen! Bonus: A dishwasher.

Yes--it's a Murphy Bed (which folds down over the couch). The bed is tres confortable, as is the couch.

Yes–it’s a Murphy Bed (which folds down over the couch). The bed is très confortable, as is the couch.

View from our little balcony—a garden across a quiet street.

View from our little balcony—a garden across a quiet street.

It’s about half the size of the one-bedroom apartment we rented in Montpellier (read about my rental sagas, here), but we liked it twice as much. I swear–sometimes I think Dave and I are like cats: Small, snug spots are fine by us.

No, it’s not the kind of luxurious villa you brag about on Facebook, but it’s cute and affordable. Of course, the beauty of this spot is Menton itself. Check out something I noticed quickly about this apartment:

At first, I thought the tile in my kitchen was kind of a goofy color.....

At first, I thought the tile in my kitchen was kind of a goofy color…..

But then, I realized that the blue and orange echoed the colors of Menton in an abstract, color-block way.

But then, I realized that the blue and orange echoed the colors of Menton in an abstract, color-block way.

Check out the beautiful color scheme of this building--a lot of Menton shares these colors.

Check out the beautiful color scheme of this building–a lot of Menton shares these colors.

More orange-yellow Hughes in Menton....

More orange-yellow hues in Menton….

We stayed in Menton for a week, and if you’ve never been, I cannot recommend it enough. Here’s why:

• Menton has all the advantages of a big city–nice, independent shops (I saw absolutely none of the usual global clothing chains you find everywhere), a fabulous daily indoor food market, terrific cafes, butchers, and traiteurs–but none of the big-city stress. It’s less glitzy than Cannes, less frantic than Nice, but there’s much more going on here than in Cap d’Ail, Beaulieu, or Villefranche.

• I can’t say enough about the market there. In fact, I have absolutely no restaurant recommendations to give whatsoever, as we ate every single meal “in” thanks to this fabulous market.

The daily market in Menton. Why go out to eat when you can get great, fresh, simple food and take it back to your little studio to cook?

The daily market in Menton. Why go out to eat when you can get great, fresh, simple food and take it back to your little studio to cook?

Inside the market at the cheese counter: My happy place.

Inside the market at the cheese counter: My happy place.

I love it when you can find a butcher who takes a lot of time to talk to you, as this one did. I went to him four days in a row for great meat.

I love it when you can find a butcher who takes a lot of time to talk to you, as this one did. I went to him four days in a row for great meat.

• Menton is the last city on the French Riviera before you get to Italy. On the street, I heard as much Italian spoken here as French–and many of the cafés and delis definitely swung Italian. If you love Italy, but happen to speak French, it’s a great way to get that Italianate feel and still be understood wherever you go….

Check it out: There are more Italian names on this apartment directory than French names. No French town I've ever been in feels more Italian!

Check it out: There are more Italian names on this apartment directory than French names. No French town I’ve ever been in feels more Italian!

• Menton’s climate is nearly always sunny–it’s said that the temperature is generally 2 degrees warmer here than elsewhere on the Riviera, and gets more sun per year than any city in France.

• The beaches are pleasant–very mellow compared to places like Nice. They’re pebbly, yes, but it’s the Riviera. There’s a more gravelly beach (easier to walk on, but not quite sand) to the east of the main beachfront (go past the port, on the way to Italy).

• The Old Town is amazing–one of the most beautiful “veille villes” I’ve seen–and NOT tarted up with too many trinket shops (a few, yes, but it’s also a “real” town). Even outside of the Old Town, charm is everywhere: Belle-Epoque, Italianate buildings and in general, a surprisingly calm city.

• The city is rimmed by mountains–the Alpes Maritimes–which are stunning to look at as you splash around in the sea!

I love the martime Alps that rim one side of the city!

I love the Maritime Alps that rim one side of the city!

• This place felt less trampled than other spots I’ve been on the Riviera (though I still wouldn’t come here after July 14!).

In short: It all comes together in Menton: Sea, mountains, sunshine, history, charm, civic beauty, Franco-Italian sensibilities. Pure enchantment. Believe me, I’ve spent a lot of time on the French Riviera, from Nice to Menton, and Menton might be my favorite of all.

Have you been? I’m happy to tell you more about this city! Just leave a comment or question below. I’m especially happy to tell you about the Residence Les Citronniers–it was perfect for us, but it’s not for everybody! Just ask.

PS: I’ll post a few super-easy things I cooked here–stay tuned! Or, be sure to sign up to get all my posts delivered in your inbox–see email sign-up box on the right sidebar.

 

 

 

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13 comments to Where to Stay on the French Riviera—Might I Suggest Menton?

  • Absolutely stunning! I was just checking train/bus/plane schedules. But 14 juillet is just around the corner..
    Maybe in September? The colors! The light! I would stay in a closet…I like small spaces too 🙂
    Please show more.
    Thanks for showing. Is it better than Colliure?
    Miam miam

    • Wini

      Oh, you’ve asked such a difficult question: Is it better than Collioure? Well…I love both towns. But: Menton feels more “real” to me. Collioure is amazing, but it is mostly a resort. Menton has its resort side, but it’s still a very active, everyday town where people live and work outside of the tourist trade. And I love that.

      Still…Collioure….Well, I love them both.

  • Cathy Roth

    What a coincidence that this arrived in my mailbox today – just when my two girlfriends and me are arranging our 13 day September trip to Provence/Cote d’Azur! We will be ending the trip in Nice but have three days to explore other areas of the coast. We are renting apartments/b&b’s on the trip and are looking to fill these loose nights with something with some charm or splash, a chateau or something for a night (or two)! If anything comes to mind, we’d love to hear about it. Thanks for sharing your great experiences in Menton. Maybe we add that to our list.

    Amicalement,
    Cathy

  • Wini

    Wow. Sounds like a great trip! I generally rent apartments in France, so not sure I can help with Chateau ideas. If you have your heart set on a chateau, just for fun, research the Chateau Eza, up in Eze Village. Beautiful views!! Splashy and elegant. I’ve never stayed there, but I have spent time in the lounge overlooking the sea, and it’s enchanting.

    Cap Ferrat is a lot of fun if you have a car. There, the Plage Paloma is a fabulous beach, with its views back to the cliffs of Beaulieu.

    And Beaulieu is gorgeous, again, because of the cliffs. There are some very fancy hotels on the seaside in Beaulieu you might look into for something splashy.

    I love Menton, though I wouldn’t call it splashy.

    A great thing to know is this: You can’t go wrong. It’s a thrilling stretch of the world, no matter what. Enjoy!!

  • Nancy LoBalbo

    Cher Winnie, you’ve sold me on staying in Menton! In the past we have generally stayed in the Languedoc, in Aix-en-Provence (where we have friends to bunk with)or Toulouse (with family). We have visited Menton and areas of the Riviera like Hyeres and La Lavandou but unless we were invited to stay with friends we always thought that accomodations were were to pricey on the Riviera. I’d love to know more about the Residence des Citronniers. It sounds like something we would enjoy. Sorry to read about ‘saga’ of staying in Montpelier. We often visit Montpelier when we are in the South but generally only a night or two in a hotel so we can enjoy the Place d’Opera and the fine restaurants and winding streets. Anyway, look forward to hearing details re: Residence des Citronniers.

    • Wini

      Bonjour Nancy–thanks for the reply.

      About Residence les Citronniers: It’s fabulously located on a street with some really nice food shops (plus a supermarket). It’s about 7 minutes to the great indoor market, and about 6 minutes from the beach.

      The rooms are small by American standards, but I never, ever mind that. Ours was nicely refurbished with great appliances (including a dishwasher)–though it had just two burners on a cooktop (no stove), it was everything I needed to cook some terrific meals! The room was immaculately clean upon arrival; as you know, when you rent a residence, they don’t clean every day. We did pay extra for a “mid-week” cleaning (which gives a change of towels), but you wouldn’t have to, as there are brooms and buckets in a closet. Keep in mind, they’ll give you your towels and sheets upon arrival (they’ll be in the room), but you’ll have to make the bed yourself. That really bothered some people on review sites–they obviously don’t understand that “residences” are not hotels. The hotel staff were very pleasant.

      Now, the ONLY down side I saw to the place was this: The hallways are incredibly dated with some really worn and stained carpeting. They need updated! I know that this would give someone a very bad first impression, so I want to tell everyone that right off: Close your eyes until you get into your room, which is simple but charming and has everything you need for a fun stay. Overlook the hallways.

      Another bonus: Laundry facilities on the first floor! Yay.

      One more thing: We had a room that overlooked the Rue Urbana (on one side), that had a nice garden across the street. I think this is the best side to be on, as it’s quiet, but with a great view. So, ask for that if you can!

      I think that’s all for now. I thought it was great–we spent about $70 or $80 a night (I can’t remember exactly), but it was a really reasonable price, given its great location and the fact that you save so much money by not eating every meal out!

      Hope this helps!

      Let me know if you have more questions!

      Best,
      Wini

  • Eniko Del Greco

    Dear Wini, so nice to talk to you again, since the last time I moved I now live in my country of ancestry, Budapest, much closer to la belle France… Menton has been on my radar for years, it is the jewel in the crown on the Riviera for me for all the reasons you mentioned, and more plus they take lemons seriously,ha ha .. so delighted you promote it, coming from you especially means a lot, can you please tell me more about your rental, Residence Les Citronniers,there we go with the citrus again! is it pet friendly, I travel with my Westie girl, if not, I must find another. Fingers crossed, the French are pet friendly and never disappoint in this way. Merci, belle journee.

    • Wini

      Hi Eniko: Nice to hear from you, and thanks for your note. I’d love to see Budapest someday….Lucky you for being that much closer to France.

      YES! The Residence is pet friendly! For further thoughts on this residence, see my reply to Nancy LoBalbo’s comment, below.

      Thanks for writing, and let me know if I can answer more questions for you,
      Best,
      Wini

  • Rick

    That kitchen looks really small. How (or what!) do you manage to cook in it?

  • Eniko Del Greco

    Dear Wini, merci, I knew it !!! I had a feeling my Westie would be welcome, she is simply gorgeous, and will charm those Frenchies… and so Menton it is.. next year, if not sooner. Like you I want to go deep, not wide. Thank you also for the sharing of the lovely cooking, the way you prepared your meals, very inspiring, and delicious. This is ideal for us. And considering my apt in Budapest is tiny sans oven, and I get by … I am not complaining with the accommodation in Menton either. One more question how far is it from the station? Have a lovely day, thank you Wini.

    • Wini

      As long as you don’t have too much luggage, you can easily walk from the station to the Residence les Citronniers. About 10 minutes.

      If you go, report back–and feel free to ask more questions.

  • Terry

    I assume Menton would be a good place to visit in the fall after summer holiday season is over. Terry

    • Wini

      YES! Go to Menton after the summer vacation rush.

      I will say that once when I visited seaside France in September (we went to Collioure, near Spain, on the Mediterranean coast), the locals seemed really worn out–the people in the cafes and shops just seemed weary. It didn’t ruin our trip or anything, but it was interesting–like they had just been through the wringer and were itchin’ to get away themselves.

      That wouldn’t stop me from visiting Menton in September, however! I think it would be ideal, frankly.

      Report back if you go!

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