The most Italianate and the warmest town on the French Riviera has become famous for the colourful Menton Lemon Festival. A major event on the French Riviera, the celebration attracts no less than 230,000 visitors in Menton each February who marvel at the impressive sculptures and parades.
The Lemon Festival of Menton
Every February, the little town of Menton on the French Riviera runs one of France’s most popular events: the Lemon Festival (Fête du citron).
Organised by the Tourist Office towards the end of February, the event has been taken place since 1928. Today, each festival uses 120 tonnes of citrus fruit to decorate its gigantic structures and floats.
The festival has now become the second largest event on the French Riviera, after the Carnival of Nice and before the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Monte Carlo. It is held around the same time as the carnival of Nice.
Each year, the festival is organised on a given theme: Disney, Music of the World, Spain, etc.
- In 2013, the 80th edition of the Lemon Festival was “Around the world in 80 days: Menton, the secret port of call”.
- In 2014, the 81st edition of the festival took place from the 15th February to the 5th March and was themed on a novel from Jules Verne: 20,000 leagues under the sea.
- In 2015, the 82nd edition was dedicated to ‘the tribulation of a lemon in China’.
- In 2016, the 83rd edition paid tribute to Cinecittà, the Italian cinema of the 50s and 60s.
- In 2017, the 84th edition was dedicated to Broadway and musical comedies.
- In 2018, the 85th edition was dedicated to Bollywood.
- In 2019, the 86th edition takes place from 16 February to 3 March and is themed on “Des mondes fantastiques” (Fantastic Worlds).
The exhibition of citrus patterns at the Biovès Gardens
The long and narrow Biovès Gardens next to the casino are walled off for the occasion and feature an impressive display of large wire-framed structures and sculptures built from thousands of citrus fruit (lemons, grapefruit and oranges). This dazzling display of sunshine colours require nearly 15 tonnes of fruit and thousands of hours of creation and handling.
The gardens are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm and on Sundays from 9am to 6pm. Admission is €10 for adults (2017) with concessions applicable to groups and children.
At night time, the citrus structures at the Biovès Gardens are lit up to create a magical atmosphere with the addition of unusual sounds. Admission is €13 for adults (2017) with concessions applicable to groups and children.
The Golden Fruit Parade
Each Sunday afternoon, colourful citrus fruit floats parade along the pebbly beachfront of Promenade du Soleil, accompanied by dancers, folk bands, fanfares and confetti.
The parade takes place on Sundays at 2.30pm. A closing ceremony is organised on the last Sunday at 8.30pm with fireworks on Esplanade Francis Palmero.
In 2017 the night-time parade takes place on Thursdays 16th february and 23rd february at 9 pm along the Promenade du Soleil. Buy your tickets here.
The Menton lemon
The little town of Menton is located 30 km east of Nice where steep mountain cliffs and terraces slope dramatically to the Mediterranean Sea. The location of Menton is unique in France: the last coastal town before the Italian border is protected from the cold winds of the Alps by the surrounding mountains and therefore enjoys the warmest winter in the South of France (Corsica excepted) with more than 300 days of sunshine per year. This explains why this is the only place in metropolitan France where lemons are grown.
Until the 1930s, Menton was Europe’s largest lemon producer. The local production went into decline until recently, when about 15 citrus growers preserved the tradition. Today, some 5,000 trees produce more than 150 tonnes of lemons yearly in Menton and the neighbouring communes of Roquebrune, Sainte-Agnès and Castellar.
The lemon varieties which grow in Menton have names such as Santa Theresa, Villafranca and Eureka. According to the Tourist Office, the shape of a Menton lemon is “more elliptical than round with a bright yellow colour. It is also characterised by generous branches bearing up to fifteen fruits, while there are less than five to a branch on most lemon trees. The research together with the INRA reveals that the lemons grown in the Menton region are rich in acid and essence, with a high essential oil content in the peel”.
Menton is therefore famous for its lemon tart (tarte au citron) and many shops in the old part of town sell lemon-related products: gingerbread, almond paste, boiled sweets, wine, vinegar, jam, soaps, candles and perfume…
The Menton lemon is used by many great chefs who appreciate its flavour: Ducasse, Robuchon, and Bocuse.
Menton is nicknamed the “Pearl of France”. Located at the border with Italy and 30 km from Nice, the little town (pop. 30,000) is part of the Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur region.
Find out more about Menton.
Where to stay for the Menton Lemon Festival
This map will help you find your accommodation in Menton according to location and prices:
How to get to the Menton Lemon Festival
Menton is the last French town before the Italian border. It is accessible from Nice by the A8 motorway or by following the Corniche Roads through Monaco (30km).
The closest airport is Nice-Côte d’Azur (40km) which is France’s second airport after Paris. Many international flights land here.
From Nice and Italy, Menton is easily accessible. The railway station in Menton is 200m from the Biovès Gardens. Trains take 30 minutes from Nice and 2h30 from Genova (Italy).
Menton Lemon Festival: English-French Vocabulary
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs
- carnival = carnaval (m)
- citrus fruit = agrume (m)
- Festival = festival (m), fête (f)
- fireworks = feu d’artifice (m)
- float = char (m)
- French Riviera = Côte d’Azur (f)
- garden = jardin (m)
- Italy = Italie (f)
- lemon = citron (m)
- lemon tart = tarte au citron (f)
- Mediterranean Sea = Mer Méditerranée (f)
- parade = défilé (m)
- town = ville (f)
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