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A Guide to The Menton Lemon Festival – A Celebration of Citrus
15th February 2020
3rd March 2020
- 1 What is the Lemon Festival or Fête du citron?
- 2 When is the Lemon Festival?
- 3 Where is the Lemon Festival?
- 4 How do they celebrate the Lemon Festival?
- 5 Facts about the Menton Lemon Festival
- 6 Why do they celebrate the Lemon Festival?
- 7 What is the history of the Menton Lemon Festival?
- 8 The Lemon Festival 2020 Official Dates and Main Events
- 9 Menton Arts and Crafts Fair & Orchid Festival
- 10 Tickets for the Lemon Festival?
- 11 Visit 3 Festival/Carnival Celebrations at the same time!
- 12 Highly Recommended! – Viareggio Carnival!
- 13 How to get to the Lemon Festival?
- 14 How to get around the Lemon Festival?
- 15 Where to Stay for the Lemon Festival?
- 16 What to do and see in Menton?
What is the Lemon Festival or Fête du citron?
Every February, the quaint town of Menton in the French Riviera hosts one of the most popular events in France; Fête du citron or the Lemon Festival in English. Every year over 300,000 visitors attend this festival which is all about saying farewell to winter and welcoming in the spring. The Lemon Festival is a unique and colourful celebration of life, that celebrates citrus fruits!
The Lemon Festival is celebrated in the same way as a carnival with parades and floats, because it began as a carnival celebration, it is just called a festival by name. It is the second largest event in the French Riviera after Nice Carnival. The Lemon Festival has been taking place ever since 1928 and is organised by the Tourist Office.
When is the Lemon Festival?
The Lemon Festival occurs at the same time as Nice Carnival. The 2020 Lemon Festival dates begin on the 15th February and finish on the 3rd March 2020.
Where is the Lemon Festival?
The Lemon Festival occurs in the seaside town of Menton in the French Riviera. Menton sits on the Mediterranean yet is surrounded by Alpes Maritimes mountains. Menton is located in between Monaco and the Italian Riviera.
The majority of the Lemon Festival action occurs along the seafront on the Promenade du Soleil, as well as in the Biovès Gardens.
How do they celebrate the Lemon Festival?
The Lemon Festival is essentially a carnival celebration! It has processions with giant and elaborately decorated floats. Accompanying the floats are folk groups, musicians, brass bands, entertainers and confetti. The whole town has a vibrant carnival atmosphere with acrobats, fire-eaters, stilt walkers and so much more, who put on performances all throughout the town.
There are also lots of other events and exhibitions to check out like firework shows, live music, fruit exhibitions, market stalls, art shows and plenty of parties.
Facts about the Menton Lemon Festival
The Lemon Festival in numbers:
- 140 tonnes of lemons & oranges are used
- 20,000-man hours go into creating the floats and structures
- 20 days of carnival
- 300,000 visitors
- 13 citrus fruit displays
- 10 fruit floats
- 400 participants
- 200 artists
Why do they celebrate the Lemon Festival?
Menton celebrates the Lemon Festival because Menton is famous for its lemon – the Menton Lemon. The Menton Lemon is world renowned and prized by chefs for its rich essential oil. It is also a very bright yellow and its shape is not round but elongated.
There is an urban legend that the first ever lemon tree grew in Menton. They say that when Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden that Eve took a lemon with her. She held onto it until she had found the perfect spot to plant it. She eventually found a place that was so beautiful it reminded her of paradise and planted the first pip in the Bay of Garavan!
What is the history of the Menton Lemon Festival?
The Menton Lemon Festival dates back to 1896 when the town wanted to create a carnival to liven up the city during the winter. Originally the first celebrations had nothing to do with oranges or lemons but were closer to Nice Carnival’s celebrations.
Fast forward a few decades to 1928 and the town of Menton was the largest producer of citrus fruits in Europe, mainly due to its warm Mediterranean climate. But while the citrus industry was booming, the wealthy tourists were no longer visiting. So, the owner of the Hotel Menton Riviera (which still operates today) came up with the idea to host a free flower and citrus show in his gardens.
The event was so successful that the following year the Menton city council took over the event organisation and moved it into the towns public areas. The Citrus show and the original carnival celebrations merged into one big celebration that continued to grow in popularity year after year. Soon people began to use oranges and lemons to decorate their parade floats.
The Lemon Festival 2020 Official Dates and Main Events
- Saturday 15th February: 11am, Official opening of the 87th Lemon Festival
- Saturday 15th February: 2pm, The Citrus Patterns Exhibition opens
- Saturday 15th February: 8.30pm, The Gardens of Lights @ Biovès Gardens – Garden of Lights
- Sunday 16th February: 2:30pm, The Golden Fruit Parade @ Promenade du Soleil (seafront)
- Thursday 20th February: 9pm, The Night-Time Parade & Firework display @ Promenade du Soleil
- Friday 21st February: 8:30pm, The Gardens of Lights @ Biovès Gardens
- Sunday 23rd February: 2:30pm, The Golden Fruit Parade @ Promenade du Soleil
- Thursday 27th February: 9pm, The Night-Time Parade & Firework display @ Promenade du Soleil
- Friday 28th February: 8:30pm: The Gardens of Lights @ Biovès Gardens
- Sunday 1st March: 2:30pm: Golden Fruit Parade @ Promenade du Soleil
The Citrus Patterns Exhibition
- Dates: From 15th February – 1st March 2020
- Where: Biovès Gardens
- Cost: Adults: 12€, Children (aged 6-14): 6€
The Citrus Patterns Exhibition is amazing! The Bioves Garden transforms into a sea of yellow and orange colours in displays. It sees giant ephemeral structures and patterns created out of lemons and oranges. These displays are up ten meters high and require almost fifteen tonnes of citrus fruit. The structures are always inspired by the chosen theme!
Gardens of Lights
- Dates: 15th, 21st February & 1st March 2020
- Where: Biovès Gardens
- When: 8:30pm until 10:30pm
- Cost: Adults: 13€, Children (aged 6-14): 8€
The Gardens of Lights occurs in the same exhibition as the Citrus Patterns Exhibition, but instead is held at night time when the citrus structures are all lit up. It’s amazing seeing them again at night because the gardens take on a whole new enchanting perspective.
Golden Fruit Parades
- Dates: Sunday the 16th February 23th February and 1st March 2020
- Where: Along the Promenade du Soleil, (the seafront)
- When: 2:30pm until 4pm
The Golden Fruit Parade is a high energy and colourful celebration. The town is packed with thousands of people coming out to see the parade. The processions are floral with citrus-themed floats, brass bands, acrobats, folk groups, dancers, folk group wheels that spin and dance in between the citrus fruit floats.
Night-time Parades & Firework Shows
- Dates: Thursday, 20th and 27th February 2020
- Where: Along the Promenade du Soleil, (the seafront)
- When: 10:30pm
This is a night time parade that opens with an impressive drum show. There are plenty of lit up citrus floats as well as brass bands, folk groups, dancers, orchestras and acrobats. The night parade is always a good party! Following the parades there is an impressive fireworks display lighting up the night sky above Menton.
Menton Arts and Crafts Fair & Orchid Festival
While attending the Lemon Festival you must discover the local art and crafts of local artisans which is held in the Palais de l’Europe. The friendly locals are excited to show you their hard work and for you to purchase some gorgeous items. It’s also a great opportunity to savour the local cuisine and many citrus flavoured dishes that make up Menton’s gourmet scene!
Also on display at the Palais de l’Europe during the Lemon Festival is the Orchid Festival run by the Association of Orchidophiles and Epiphytophiles in France. A huge collection of fragrant and colourful orchids are on display as a wonderful addition to the exotic theme of the Lemon Festival.
Tickets for the Lemon Festival?
You must purchase tickets to all the events at the Lemon Festival. You purchase them online prior to the event here at the Office de Tourisme. You can also purchase them at the event from the Office de Tourisme, located on Ave Boyer. If you are buying tickets for the evening events though purchase in advance as the ticket desk may close before the event begins.
There are combination tickets if you plan on attending all the events which are cheaper to purchase than buying them separately. And remember even if you purchase a ticket to see the fruit display during the day, you must purchase a separate ticket to see it again at night.
Visit 3 Festival/Carnival Celebrations at the same time!
If you plan on visiting the French Riviera in February then why not immerse yourselves into the south of France’s carnival atmosphere. The Lemon Festival is held at the same time as Nice Carnival and the Mimosa Festival in Mandelieu. And why not attend all three celebrations because they are all close by and they all offer something different!
Nice Carnival is one of the best and biggest carnival celebrations in the world! It features six huge parades and loads of parties and events. To find out more about Nice Carnival you can read all about it here.
Highly Recommended! – Viareggio Carnival!
We highly recommend if you are already planning on attending carnival, that you extend your trip and visit two of the world’s best carnivals! Unfortunately, most carnivals take place at the same time, in the days prior to Lent. But Viareggio Carnival in Italy occurs not once, but five times in the lead up to Lent! So, it’s one of the only other pre-Lenten carnivals in Europe that you can also visit!
And what is more fun than celebrating carnival once, is celebrating it twice! Viareggio Carnival is one of world’s most renowned carnival celebrations, and rightly so because this Italian town puts on a carnival that is like nothing else in the world! What separates this carnival from the rest, is their awe-inspiring floats! Viareggio Carnival holds the title of having the ‘world’s best carnival floats!’ No other carnival even comes close!
And at Viareggio, carnival is just icing on the cake! Because this carnival takes place in gorgeous Tuscany, one of Italy’s best regions! A region that is famous for its art, architecture, history, culture, picturesque landscapes, great food, great wine and the best of Italian hospitality, that you can enjoy while experiencing the magic of this carnival!
How to get to the Lemon Festival?
By Air: The closest airport to the Lemon Festival is Nice Côte d’Azur Airport in Nice. For some flight quotes please check here.
By Train: There are two train stations nearby, Menton Station is only 200 meters away from Bioves Gardens and the seafront where the parades will occur. And Menton Garavan Station sits one kilometre away from the Italian Border and three kilometres from the festival. For European rail tickets please go here.
By Land and Sea: There are plenty of buses that travel from all over the country to the French Riviera. From the UK you can arrange a short ferry crossing from Dover-Calais to Dunkirk or Eurotunnel crossings from Folkestone-Calais. Or you could also sail from Portsmouth to Caen and return with Brittany Ferries from the UK. For some car rental quotes please check here.
How to get around the Lemon Festival?
The city of Menton recommends using public transport as the best way to get to the festival and there will be free shuttle buses provided for visitors which run from the entrance of town to the festival. If you are staying in the city there is plenty of local transport to get you around. The town is also small enough that you can get around and explore on foot.
Where to Stay for the Lemon Festival?
There are 30 hotels in Menton ranging from 1-4 stars. There are also five B&Bs, a campsite and you can always rent a private apartment. It is a good idea to book ahead of time as available rooms book up quickly. It is also possible to stay in Nice as well which has more accommodation options and is only a half hour drive away.
Check out some accommodation deals here.
What to do and see in Menton?
Menton, sitting on the sparkling Mediterranean Sea is a hidden gem in the French Riviera. Only 10 minutes from the Italian border it is easy to see the Italian influence over the towns cuisine, colours and architecture. It has been described as a more laid back alternative to the touristy Amalfi Coast.
Unlike the majority of pebbled beaches in the French Riviera, Menton has beautiful sandy beaches. The waterfront is filled with great things to do and see and there are many glamorous beach resorts throughout the town.
The city is home to many great museums like the Bastion Museum and the Jean Cocteau Museum, which is home to the works of Jean Cocteau. Menton has several gardens filled with exotic trees and subtropical plants like Jardins Biovès, Val Rahmeh-Menton Botanical Garden and Serre de la Madone. There are also many historic houses and cathedrals such as the Basilique Saint-Michel-Archange, a 17th century church with many historical artefacts.
This whole stretch of coast is filled with gems that you can discover through numerous day trips. Why not visit Monaco, the playground for the rich and famous. Or other pretty coastal towns like the glamorous Nice or Cervo, a cute village which climbs a steep hillside rise up from the sea. You could even tour some of the incredible lemon groves that are located in Menton.
Before you go
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