Jean Cocteau Museum in Menton

Vieille ville de Menton.jpg

For Jean Cocteau fans, Menton is Mecca, with a huge museum dedicated to the unpredictable artist, plus several other nearby sites (with interactive map below).

The Jean Cocteau Museum in Menton is the newest major museum on the Cote d’Azur (2011) and one of the most architecturally daring… But maybe a little too daring as it was badly damaged in a mild earthquake in 2018 and still hasn’t reopened…  But you can still get your Jean Cocteau fix with a couple of smaller sites in Menton, and then the Tattooed Villa, and then Fishermen’s Chapel as you wind your way back to Nice…

How to get to Menton:  From Nice, take bus 601 to Menton which will cost 2.50€ and take around 90 minutes (but the scenery is superb), or take the coastal train for 6€ which will take 50 minutes.

Jean Cocteau Bastion Museum

The tiny nearby Bastion Museum was a dilapidated ruin until Jean Cocteau got a hold of it and completely restored it inside and out, turning it into his own museum. Whimsical paintings grace the arches and alcoves, and the outside is lovingly decorated with mosaics made of thousands of local pebbles.

Hours:  10am-noon and 2pm-6pm, closed Tuesdays and holidays.

Tickets:  Free!

The Menton Marriage Hall

And as long as you are in Menton, why not make it a Cocteau triple-header…

The decor of the Marriage Salon in the Menton Town Hall (Hotel de Ville) is also a gift to the city by Jean Cocteau, and everything you see in the room was designed and signed by the artist. It’s decor makes it a favorite for Riviera weddings, and it’s definitely worth a peek.

Hours:  Monday-Friday, 8:30am to noon and 2pm-4:30pm, except for one hour on Thursday afternoons at 2:30pm, when it’s closed for a guided tour sponsored by the Menton Tourist Office (which you can get in on if you speak French, and sign up at the tourist office in advance…) Closed weekends.

Tickets:  2€ for adults but only 1€ for students, teachers, seniors over 65 and free for children under 18 and handicapped persons.

And on the way back to Nice…

Villa Sainto Sospir in Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat

Villa Santo Sospir, interiorUpdate: closed for renovations with new owner… But in the meantime you can see a photo exhibit of the Tattooed Villa at the National Museum of Monaco through October 15, 2023

The fantastical Villa Santo Sospir is known as ‘The Tattooed Villa’ because Jean Cocteau methodically covered every surface with his boundless creativity.  When a young socialite friend invited Jean Cocteau to spend a few days at her recently acquired villa, he came and …stayed for 11 years! Made restless by the newly painted white walls, he first made a drawing over the fireplace.  Then he couldn’t stop, eventually covering every surface in the villa. Here is the full story by Margo Lestz: The artist who came to dinner and never left.

How to get there:  If you are coming back by bus, get off at the Pont Saint Jean stop and cross the street to transfer to bus #15, which comes every 20 minutes, but this bus only takes you half the way there, then it is a 25 minute walk.  Or… walk down by the Royal Riviera Hotel to catch the gorgeous paved path to the Village of Saint Jean (15 minutes), and from there it is another 25 minutes to walk to get to the villa, which is on the tip of the presque-isle, near the Grand Hotel Cap Ferrat.  Or …just take an Uber, the address is 14 avenue Jean Cocteau.

If you want to explore the area a little more, here is my itinerary for a day trip to Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat that includes Villefranche, below.

Fishermen’s Chapel in Villefranche-sur-mer

And to complete your Jean Cocteau experience, on the way back stop in Villefranche-sur-mer to see the wonderful little Jean Cocteau Painted Fishermen’s Chapel.  This 16th century chapel was dedicated to Saint Pierre, the patron saint of fishermen,  but was being used to store fishing nets during the period when Jean Cocteau was a regular visitor to the village.  He decorated it inside and out, and when he was done he dedicated his gift to his friends, the local fishermen.

How to get there:  Take the bus which will cost 1.70€ and take around 20 minutes from Nice, or take the coastal train (which will take 5 minutes and cost 2€ from Nice), where you will arrive at one of the most beautiful train stations on the French Riviera.  The chapel is right on the bay, you can’t miss it.

Hours:  10am-noon and 2pm-6pm in winter, and 10am-noon and 3pm-7pm in summer, closed Tuesdays plus mid-November to mid-December and Christmas day.

Tickets:  3€ for adults but free for children under 15.

This map was created with Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

Photo credits: Jean Cocteau museum by Tangopaso, Menton Citadelle by Berthold Werner, Chapel by Lorenzo Piccardo; Villa Santo Sospir by Dina Sigtrix all licenced under creative commons.

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