Menton’s Lemon Festival / Fete du Citron
Every winter one of France’s most popular events is held in Menton on the French Riviera: the Lemon Festival, also known as the Carnaval de Menton or Fete du Citron. It is the second largest winter event on the French Riviera after the famous Carnival in Nice.
The Lemon Festival / Menton Carnival was founded in 1934 and is the only event in the world to attract over 230,000 visitors annually. More than 300 professionals are involved, and 145 tons of citrus fruits are required. Each year the sculptures have a different theme.
Entire buildings, clock towers, trains, and castles made from lemons? Yes. Each February of the Lemon Festival, this is precisely the stuff that you find on the town of Menton in the French Riviera.
During the Menton Lemon Festival, all kinds of events are available. There are the Golden Fruit Parades on the Promenade du Soleil every Sunday. It was here that giant sculptures were scrolling down the street with musicians, folk groups, and majorettes.
Then there are processions of the evenings, and then fireworks across the bay — the Biovès Gardens host the Light Gardens, which displays the artworks in light and sound displays. The Palais de l’Europe offers several exhibitions near the Gardens, including the Festival of the Orchid, in which you can pick up jams inspired by the citrus fruit, jellies, honey, soap, and perfumes.
Local bands play throughout the day, and the Palais de l’Europe is home to the night shows. There are various guided tours of the Palais Carnolès, the most extensive collection of citrus fruit in Europe, from pomace trees to kumquats. There are also several guided tours of the palace, for example, from the jam factory and the citrus grove.
The entire festival has four main parts: The Exhibition of Citrus Patterns, the Golden Fruit Parades, the Gardens of Lights, and the Night-time Parades.
Exhibition of Citrus Patterns
Biovès Gardens will be given bright colors of yellow and orange sunlight during the festival. The scenery is unbelievable, some of them requiring almost 15 tonnes. These temporary sculptures are made every year, with the fruits placed one by one, take thousands of hours. Go into the Biovès Gardens and discover these massive golden fruit sculptures, following a tradition carefully preserved since the beginning of the last century.
|Dates: February 15 to March 3, 2020|
Location: Bioves Garden (main entrance in Casino Barriere)
Schedules: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm; on Thursdays from 10am to 7pm; on Sundays from 9am to 7pm (NOTE: on February 15, opening hour is 2pm).
Golden Fruit Parades
The city gets busy on Sunday morning with coaches and cars coming and going. The multitude moves around and going down narrow alleys and eventually meeting on the seafront. It is the festival day! Confetti is spread over a blue sky background. Entertainers, brass bands, wheel, spinning, and dancing groups are among the splendid floats of citrus fruit.
|Schedule: February 16 and 23 and March 1, 2020 (Sundays) from 2:30pm to 4pm |
Location: Promenade du Soleil (at the seafront)
Gardens of Lights
The patterns are glowing, and unique sounds are associated with strange light beings. A new look, a new perspective takes on the terraces. The arrangements extend upwards and surprise with the play of light. In a world where the light and sound create a magical and delightful place of unbelievable splendor, time seems to stand still.
|Schedule: February 15, 21, and 28, 2020 from 8:30pm to 10:30pm, the recommended time is around 9:30pm after the lights have been fully set-up. |
Location: Bioves Garden (main entrance in the front of Casino Barriere), in central Menton.
The town seems to hold its breath up until dusk. Everything is too quiet. Then, some of the drums show some impatience in the distance, followed by the trumpet. Suddenly, there appears from nowhere a float loaded with citrus fruit, then another. Time to party! Brass bands, bands, folk groups, dancers, and a spark of splendor add to the parade worthy of the most ambitious street festivals!
And for a finale: fireworks!
|Schedule: February 20 and 27, 2020 (Thursdays) from 9pm to 10:15pm, fireworks of last day at 10:30pm. |
Location: Promenade du Soleil (at the seafront)
Video of Menton’s Citron Festival
Unfortunately, being smaller than Nice, Menton is severely affected by the invasion of guests during this time. There are traffic jams everywhere, and crowds of people march down the narrow streets and along the promenade.
In case you think that this event is a big waste of food (we do too!), know that you can stock up on cheap fruit as it’s all for sale after the festival (there’s also plenty of citron-related products for sale throughout the festival).
If you are going to the parades, make sure you get there at least 90 minutes early as there are security checks and it’s tough to get around the city center, especially if you have a pushchair and children.
Avoid the weekends, as they’re packed. The least-crowded times to go are weekday mornings.