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The French Riviera is famed for its grand villas and palaces. But what’s the point of such architectural decadence if you don’t have an even grander garden - many of which were created by European nobility and American nouveau riche. The natural beauty of the Côte d’Azur, enhanced by the lush, tropical vegetation of palm trees and exotic flowers tamed by man. Probably the most famous garden town in this region is Menton, whose special microclimate allows everything to thrive and bloom. Listed below are some of these botanical gems, however if you need more of a fix, the Menton tourist office can provide directions to other gardens in the vicinity such as Fontana Rosa and Villa Maria Serena.
Menton, right on the Italian border is an easy 35 minute train ride from any one of the Sunlight Properties holiday rental apartments in Nice; or why not rent your own beautiful holiday villa and garden in the South of France, click here to view our villas.
To learn more about Menton and whether you would like to rent a luxury holiday villa in this elegant seaside town, click here.
Built by the eccentric, archaeologist Theodore Reinach, the building was designed as a faithful reconstruction of an ancient Greek villa. Authentic techniques and precious materials were used throughout to create lavish inlaid furniture, mosaics, and frescoes. The villa, which sits beautifully beside the sea contains original ancient Greek ornaments and a sculpture gallery. Apparently Theodore was such a stickler for authenticity that he would even hold ‘symposiums’ where the women were banished and the men would recline on loungers, attended to by servants whilst they held their discourse. The architecture, and also the furniture surprisingly appear timeless. Impasse Gustave Eiffel, Beaulieu Sur Mer. Open daily: 10am-6pm/7pm; and Nov-Feb: Mon-Fri: 2pm-6pm & Sat-Sun: 10am-6pm. Entry €10. www.villa-kerylos.com To find out more about the town of Beaulieu Sur Mer, click here: Beaulieu Sur Mer To view our villas to rent in this town, click here.
The aristocratic Lascaris Palace was built in 1648 for Jean Baptiste Lascaris Vintimille, who was the ‘Marechal’ to the famous Duke of Savoy. Flemish tapestries abound, but the magnificent vaulted staircase and the extraordinary ‘trompe l'oeil’ fresco depicting the fall of Phaëthon are the highlights. Occasionally this special place is the venue for classical concerts. This is a short walk from our holiday rental apartments in the Old Town of Nice, click here to view some of these apartments. 15 rue Droite , Nice. Open Wed-Mon: 10am-6pm. Entry Free (€5 guided tour, including Vieux Ville).
The prominent rocky outcrop – ‘le Rocher’ is the site of the lovely Old Town of Monaco and suitably also the Grimaldi Royal Palace. First built in the 13th century, it has been enlarged and altered over the centuries. There are beautiful frescos from the 16th and 17th centuries, gilt furniture, paintings and tapestries on the scale befitting the monarchy of Monaco. Concerts take place in the Cour d’Honneur. The changing of the Guard occurs outside the front entrance daily at 11:55am.
From one of our holiday rental villas in Cap d’Ail, it is simple to get to the adjacent principality of Monaco, click here to view our villas. Place du Palais, La Condamine, Monaco. Open Daily: Apr-Oct 10am-6pm. Entry €8 (includes audio guide). www.palais.mc
This spectacular Belle Époque palace, constructed at the end of the 19th century and inspired by the Villa Ephrussi de Rothschild, was the winter residence of European aristocracy until it was given to the city of Nice to house the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire (Museum of Art and History) - French, Italian, and Dutch masters line the walls. The palace gardens are set with towering palm trees and are a real delight and only a short walk from our holiday lettings in the Carré d’Or , click here to view our apartments in this quarter.
65 rue de France , Nice. Open Wed-Mon: 10am to 6pm. Entry Free. www.nice.fr/Culture/Musees-et-expositions/Villa-Massena
This fortress was built by the Grimaldi family in 1309 and withstood centuries of sieges before becoming a palace for Baron Grimaldi in 1620. It now houses an eclectic mix of museums, from modern art to olive trees. The standout features are the Renaissance courtyard, the ‘illusionist’ painted ceilings, and a wonderful 200 year old pepper tree. Place Grimaldi, Haute de Cagnes. Open Wed-Sun: 10am-12pm & 2-5pm/6pm. Entry €4. www.cagnessurmer.fr/culture/chateau_musee.php To find out more about the town of Cagnes, click here: Vence, St. Paul de Vence & Cagnes. To view our villas to rent in this town, click here.
Set on Pointe des Pendus (Hanged Man's Point), the Château de la Napoule is a fascinating mix of Gothic, Moroccan, Romanesque, as well as the bizarre elements added by its eccentric owner – the American sculptor Henry Clews. Clews, along with his wife turned this 14th century castle into the reality of their fantastic imaginations. The couple died in the 1930s and are entombed in the tower crypt. The windows were deliberately left open to allow their souls to escape and to then "return at eventide as sprites and dance upon the windowsill." Ave Henry Clews, Mandelieu-La Napoule. Open Daily Feb-Oct: 10am-6pm; Nov-Jan: Mon-Fri 2pm-5pm; Nov-Jan: Sat-Sun 10am-5pm (Guided visits available at set times). Entry €6, gardens only €3.50. www.chateau-lanapoule.com To view our holiday villas to rent in this area, click here.
In the 1930s and 40s, an American, Major Lawrence Johnston, a gentleman gardener bought a choice estate in the village of Gorbio, 10 km west of Menton, and spent two decades creating the Serre de la Madone - one of the horticultural masterpieces of the coast. He brought back exotic plants from his many trips to South Africa, Mexico, and China, and planted them in a series of terraces, with little pools and stone steps, and exquisite views. His garden has been reopened by the town of Menton, and both the villa and garden restored. It has become a must see destination for enthusiasts of rare and exotic plants.
This exceptional property of 11,000 M was first created at the end of the 19th century by Menton aristocrats. It was owned by a number of notable individuals including Lord Radcliffe the former governor of Malta. In 1957, the aptly named Miss Maybud Campbell began work on the construction of this botanical masterpiece. The garden is only a 5 minute walk from the sea, and is highly regarded by botanical connoisseurs due to its rare ornamentals and subtropical plants. The garden has exquisite waterlily pools and fountains and attracts over 15,000 visitors a year. Ave St. Jacques, Menton. Open Wed-Mon: 10am-12.30pm & 2pm/3.30pm-5pm/6.30pm. Entry €6. www.jardinvalrajmeh.free.fr
A private garden open to visits by appointment only through the Menton tourist office. It was designed by the writer and artist Ferdinand Bac, and is reputed to have the oldest Carob tree in France. The garden is filled with little features: rotundas, bridges, atriums, obelisks, etc. strategically placed to exploit the magnificent water views. It was restored with the assistance of the state and is classed as a historical monument. This is one of the Sunlight Properties team’s favourite places to visit in Menton, the gardens are beautiful and the views exquisite. Rte de Colombieres, Garavan, Menton. Open Daily between Jul 1 & Aug 9. Guided Tour €10.
www.jardins-menton.fr/Jardin-des-Colombieres-jardin We have some beautiful holiday villas to rent close by, click here to view.
The monastic garden, surrounding the Franciscan abbey is one of the oldest gardens in Nice and has been maintained in the same configuration since 1546. The site of the monk’s potager, the garden is also famous for its medicinal plants, rose garden, terraces and beautiful views over Nice. 164 ave Des Arenes de Cimiez , Nice. Open Mon-Sat: 10am-12pm & 3pm-6pm. Free Entry. Our holiday apartments to let in Massena are s short bus ride from this lovely spot.
Beatrice Ephrussi de Rothschild was an extraordinary woman with a passion for art and travel and the financial means to achieve her desires, one of which was the creation of her ‘dream villa’ on the Riviera, combining Moorish and Italian architectural elements. The French garden is designed to resemble the prow of a ship and at parties the staff wore sailor suits to enhance the illusion. There are various themed gardens: Florentine, Japanese, English, etc. Completed in 1912 Beatrice spent only 4 years there. Following the death in 1916 of her beloved husband she never lived there again. There is a little tea salon where you can sit in the garden and take in the sumptuous views – we at Sunlight Properties love this spot, it’s quite sublime! To view our holiday villas to let in Villefranche Sur Mer and St. Jean Cap Ferrat , click here. 1 ave Ephrussi de Rothschild, St. Jean Cap Ferrat. Open Daily: 10am-6pm/7pm; and Nov-Feb: Mon-Fri: 2pm-6pm & Sat-Sun: 10am-6pm Entry €12.
In the setting of a gorgeous 2,000 M² Japanese garden, discover an exceptional collection of Bonsai from all over the world that have been loved and nurtured by two generations of the same family. It also contains the largest (seems an oxymoron we know) Bonsai forest in Europe. To view our holiday villas to let in Biot , click here. Musée du Bonsai. 299 Chemin du val de Pome, Biot. Open Wed-Mon: 10am-12pm & 2pm-6pm. Entry €4. www.museedubonsai.free.fr
Capital of the perfume world since the 16th century, there are three main perfumeries still operating: Fragonard, Molinard and Galimard. Large tracts of land were employed to cultivate acres of lavender, jonquils, roses, aromatic herbs and jasmine. Today most of the flowers are imported, but Grasse maintains its reputation through its creation of scent. Vast numbers of flowers are required – to make 1 litre of jasmine essence, a ton of flowers are required. The excellent but disturbing book by Patrick Süskind appropriately titled “Perfume” was partly set in Grasse. Today you can visit the perfume laboratory at Fragonard’s to learn about the creation of perfume and to also concoct your own fragrance. Grasse is well served by numerous trains direct from Nice. Fragonard is probably the most famous perfume house in Grasse.
To view our holiday villas to let in Grasse click here. 20 blvd Fragonard, Grasse. Open Daily: 9am-6pm (closed 12.30pm-2pm Nov-Feb). Free guided tour in English, products at factory prices. www.fragonard.com
Opened in 1933, is this extraordinary garden mixing sculpture and plants, with an impressive collection of succulents planted into the rocky mountainside. The most spectacular of which is a ‘hypertrophied organ’ designed to store large reserves of water. At the base of the garden is a prehistoric cave, 60 metres below ground, with spectacular stalagmites and stalactites formed over the millennia. The location means you enjoy beautiful views over the entire principality of Monaco. Blvd du Jardin Exotique, Monaco. Open 15th May to 15th Sep: 9am – 7pm; 16th Sep to 14th May: 9am – 6pm or until nightfall. Entry €6.80. www.jardin-exotique.mc
Designed to replicate a full size landscape of mountains, hills, waterfalls, beaches, and streams, all in miniature, within 7,000 M. The design respects the strict principles of Zen -harmoniously combining stone, water and vegetation. Ave Princesse Grace, Monte Carlo. Entry Free. Open 9am until sunset.
This small but perfectly formed garden displays all sorts of exotic species. Situated on the Southwest face of the cliff edge, small paths weave around grassy mounds, works of art, and water features. This beautiful spot blooms all year round due to its special microclimate and enjoys lovely views over the water. Monaco Ville, Monaco. Entry Free. Our holiday villas in Cap d’Ail are perfectly located to explore all that Monaco has to offer, to view our selection, click here .