Menton - The first City behind Italy
Menton ist the most eastern French city at the Côte d'Azur. The city is beautifully picturesque with attractive beaches and a cozy oldtown. The price level is very low. Menton is one of the top-favourites at the Côte d'Azur. In the following text there is a detailed description of the city.
Situation of the City
Those who talk about the cities at the Côte d'Azur will mean known city names as Nice, Cannes, Antibes, of course Monaco and maybe also Toulon or Marseille. There are barely people who ever heard about the small city Menton. While every year, millions of tourists drive up and down the Promenade d'Anglais in Nice, there is hardly anyone driving alongside the Promenade du Soleil, thus the sun promenade in Menton. Myself, I have to confess that I also left Menton behind for three times before I discovered this small city during my fouth holiday at the Côte d'Azur.
Why is the city Menton marked with a lemon on many maps? While menton is isolated by a high mountain chain, at the east and at the west of the city there are numerous cultivations lemon and oranges.
Those who drive alongside the Mediterranean coast in western direction coming from Genua (Italy), thus pass first the Riviera dei Ponente and then the Riviera dei Fiori, will find somewhen
Ventimiglia as the last bigger Italian place and will then cross the border between Italy and France. Menton is the first French place after the Italian border and therewith also the first and/or eastern French place at the Côte d'Azur.
Those who drive alongside the promenade from the old harbour in Menton for approximately 2 km, will be suddenly on Italian territorry; so close Menton is Menton at the Italian border. Consequently, the Italian influence to the French small city is respective. In almost all shops, hotels and restaurants Italian is spoken; everywhere in the city are numerous italians spread. Sometimes one even forgets that one is actually in France and not in Italy.
History of Menton
The history of Menton goes back up to the 12th century. In the middle of the 14th century, Charles Grimaldi took the power of the city. Menton was supposed to remain under the governance and administration of the Monaco-family up to the year 1860, before Charles III of Monaco released the city to Napoleon III. Ever since, Menton belongs to the French Department Alpes Maritimes.
After the release of the city, it took not much time until the tourism sector developed in the city. Numerous hotels were built in the city , but during the First World War, those hotels were rearranged to hospitals.
The city suffered a hard drawback during the Second Worldwar when Menton was first occupied by the Italians and then by the Germans. When the city was deliberated by the end of the Second Worldwar, Menton was destroyed and it took up to the middle of the 60ies until menton was rebuilt. Since then, the tourism in Menton continues to grow strongly. Today, Menton has approximately 30.000 inhabitants and is therewith one of the bigger cities at the Côte d'Azur.
Tourism in Menton
As already mentioned, most of the visitors at the Côte d'Azur simply pass Menton; who wants to have a stop immediately at the first place after having passed the border, when the famous metropolis Monaco, Nice and Cannes are not far. But Menton is a beautiful dream place for having vacations at the Côte d'Azur, also very cheap, that indeed has not been discovered yet by the international tourism but by the French and Italians.
Menton is located right at the sea and is protected at the back by some mountains heighted approximately 500 m. Due to its protected situation, menton is the warmest holiday resort of the whole of the coast. This is also noticeable in the water temperatures. Contrary to the famous cities at the Côte d'Azur as Nice, Cannes and Antibes, Menton is a holiday resort for those who have less money. There are numerous hotels in the city and all of them are clearly cheaper than in the other resorts of the Côte d'Azur.
For those who come from Germany by car to the Côte d'Azur, I can highly recommend to have a stop in-between in Menton. Those coming from Munich via Innsbruck, the Brenner-Pass, cross Italy up to Genua, will be in Menton in approximately 9 hours on a stratch of approximately 800 km. Also those who are going to continue driving far more will be pleased to have a stop in Menton.
Hotels in Menton
As already mentioned, Menton is a bathing resort at the Côte d'Azur for those people with less money. There is a four-stars hotel in the city and numerous other hotels with one to three stars. The price level is clearly lower than it is the case in the other cities at the Côte d'Azur.
I have lived in the Hotel Royal Westminster. The Royal Westminster is, on one hand, located right at the boardwalk, the Promenade du Soleil, and on the other hand, right at the Avenue Felix Faure, where there are numerous shops and the pedestrian area of the oldtown begins.
Actually, I only asked for a room in this hotel "just for fun", as by looking at it from the exterior it was clear to me that this hotel is not of my price level. This is also the reason why I had to aks twice if the price for a double room per night is really of 90 €. Those who wanted to have a room with a view to the sea has to pay an extra charge of 23 €.
The hotel is not, as the name suggests, really royal, but everything is clean and posh. The service is excellent, the rooms are very nicely arranged with some wonderfully comfortable beds. What else can one ask for? Maybe for a breakfast; it is an excellent buffet-breakfast bur very expensive. On the pedestrian area in front of the hotel there are cheaper possibilities to have breakfast.
From the hotel, one is in one minute at the beach and as fast also on the pedestrian zone; I never lived so conveniently before. Right in front of the hotel there is a supermarket and a Schlecker-drugstore; here, one can buy drinks and food up to 08.00 p.m.. A bank is also available at a distance of 50 m.
Those who come by car can park the car in the underground car park of the city hall (Hotel de Ville). For approximately 10 € per day (including hotel discount) one can use the garage as many times as wanted.
Going Out and dining Menton
In Menton, there are two "areas" where there is party in the evening. When I was there for the fisrt time, I of course went to the place where all tourists go to that is the area of the oldtown and the harbour. There are mainly national French restaurants but also some restaurants of other nations.Every price category is represented, from cheap up to very expensive. Once I had a pepper steak in a good restaurant that cost without the drinks nearly 25 €. it was delicious, but much too expensive.
But there is a restaurant in the oldtown I can highly recommend: The Moroccan restaurant's name is Le Darkoum, that already got several awards. The restaurant is located amidst the pedestrian area, thus in the Rue St. Michel (no. 23). At first sight it seems to look like any other restaurant of this area, but those who pass it several times will see that contrary to the other restaurants, this one is nearly always crowded.
For those who like North African food I recommend to visit the Le Darkoum. No matter if one order cous-cous or another specialityone gets excellent food and one will surely get stuffed. Also the prices are still within the frame. Those who are lucky and sit at the very edge will enjoy to watch the thousands of passing people.
So far the oldtown. Numerous restaurants are also located close to the harbour and at the Baie de Garavan. But there, also during the high season it is very quiet except the days when young artists perform a concert right at the harbour. Those who really want to have party in the evening should not abstain from having a walk outside the oldtown and alongside the Promenade du Soleil.
behind the casino, restaurants and bars string together. Any 100 metres, there is a restaurant with a live-band. I was surprised to see some very good artists singing just like that on the street during a week day. Female samba dancers were mainly dancing to the music and also French ladies in front of the restaurants right on the street and entertained the guests of the restaurants. Those who go to this area for dining, will not only get a perfect evening programme but will also save a lot of money: the prices of the restaurants there are a good third of the prices of the restaurants located in the oldtown. Of course, there are also a lot of Natürlich gibt es auch zahlreiche breweries where one can enjoy only a beer or a coffee but also experience the evening programe.
Where else is party in Menton in the evenings? Late in the evening, not earlier than when it gets really dark, life really flames up at the end of the Promenade du Soleil, right in front of the oldtown at the sea, at the Esplanade Francis Palmero. Here, a small flee market takes place where the artists sell their artworks, painters portrait you and merchants sell any kind of trash. But also those who will not buy anything will be impressed by the ambiente and atmosphere in the late evening.
As Menton is not a touristical centre as Nice or Cannes, the hotels og the city are never booked out. In any season, one can spontaneously get to menton and one will always find an hotel. of course, the exceptions are the week-ends as the Formula 1 week-end in Monaco or in San Remo.
Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz