Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
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Article written by Elisa - Travel Writer & Local in France
The Lemon Festival in Menton
La Fête du Citron – Menton Lemon Festival is a colorful event that takes place every year in the charming town of Menton on the French Riviera. One of the best French festivals in wintertime, the Lemon Festival in Menton is a unique celebration of the locally-grown citruses, which are so beloved by locals that they host this carnival-like festival every February.
Menton is one of the best places to visit in France in February. Stepping into Menton during the magical Fête du Citron is the perfect way to experience a one-of-a-kind event and the authentic atmosphere of a French festival. Walk around impressive citrus sculptures and marvel at colorful parades!
Menton’s Lemon Festival dates 2024 are Saturday 17 February, to Sunday 3 March 2024.
Are you curious to know more about La Fête du Citron in Menton? Keep reading this quick guide to discover all about it!
The Lemon of Menton
The protagonist of the festival, the lemon of Menton, isn’t a lemon like others. It has the GPI (protected geographical indication) status from the European Union, which means that the quality of this lemon is outstanding.
But how did the famous golden fruit first take root in Menton? Legend says that the first ever lemon tree grew in town due to Adam and Eve’s ousting from the Garden of Eden.
Eve took with her a golden fruit, but Adam begged her to throw it away, fearing God’s punishment. Eve agreed to one condition: leaving the fruit in a heavenly-looking location, the Bay of Garavan, where the town of Menton would eventually be built.
What’s so special about Menton’s lemons? They are very bright yellow, with an elliptical shape rather than round. These lemons are also rich in essential oil in the peel, which makes them particularly fragrant.
History of the Menton Lemon Festival
Although the first Menton Lemon Festival was held in 1934, its idea dates back to 1895, when a group of hoteliers asked the municipality to throw a parade to provide winter entertainment for tourists. The parade of “big heads” with confetti-throwing and the flower processions became so popular that Menton decided to set up this event for the years to come.
The lemons entered the parade scene in 1928 when a hotelier of the town had another brilliant idea: an exhibition of citrus flowers and fruits in the beautiful Hôtel Riviera. This new event was extremely successful, and the following year, the citrus exhibit was moved into the town’s streets.
In 1934, the City Council properly organized the first Lemon Festival, with lemons decorating the parade floats, which were enriched by street animations, night parades, and more.
Main Events during the Fête du Citron, Menton
Since 1959, each year’s festival has had a different theme, with all the lemon sculptures and parades following it. Among the most popular past themes were the 1995 “Disneyland in Lemon Land” and the 2019 “Fantasy Worlds.”
With the 80th edition, the festival got an official mascot: John Lemon. With a cheeky face and a mischievous demeanor, John Lemon became an instant hit, going from being a cuddly toy to a living-and-breathing lifesized figure that takes part in the Festival’s parades.
Here’s all you can do and see in Menton – La Fête du Citron.
1. Citrus Sculptures and Patterns
Menton’s Biovès Garden (Avenue Boyer) becomes an exhibit area with colorful sculptures created from lemons. Following the year’s theme, some artistic structures are up to ten meters high and weigh more than 15 tons!
2. Lemon-Based Products and Crafts
Everywhere in town, you can purchase local art and crafts made from the local lemons ( limoncello, lemonade, orange wine, olive oil with Menton lemon, jams, etc.). Stop by the Menton eateries to taste citrus-flavored dishes.
You can also visit the Salon de l’Artisantat at Palais de l’Europe (8 Avenue Boyer), where lemon and citrus fruits, in general, will obviously be represented in multiple variations. Here, you can also buy the famous Menton earthenware.
3. The Orchid Festival
The garden of the Palais de l’Europe is where you can admire a wonderful display of colorful orchids. Elegant and fragrant, this flower has more than 25,000 species! This beautiful exhibition is free to visit.
4. Corso des Fruits d’Or (Golden Fruits Parade)
The Festival’s main event, Le Corso des Fruits d’Or, takes place on the Promenade du Soleil. Citrus-themed floats with acrobats and dancers create a fantastic spectacle.
This year, the Corso des Fruits d’Or will occur on Sundays 18 and 25 February 2024 and 3 March 2024, from 2.30 p.m. to 4 p.m. To access the parade, you will need to purchase a ticket on the website of the Festival.
5. Corso Nocturne (Night Time Parade)
When the night falls, there is another parade in the same location! The Corso Nocturne is even more impressive thanks to the drum and fireworks shows. To attend, you need to purchase a ticket.
This year, the Corso Nocturne will occur on Thursdays 22 and 29 February 2024, from 9 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. To access the parade, you will need to purchase a ticket on the website of the Festival.
How to Get to Menton
Nice is the main travel hub near Menton. Check out this travel guide to discover how to get to Nice from Paris, France, and abroad.
Once in Nice, you can easily arrive in Menton: the two towns are only 30 km from each other, and the travel time by train is 40 minutes – Click here to buy your train tickets to Menton
Another great option is renting a car at Nice Airport (NCE) or the train station and doing a French Riviera road trip with a stop in Menton. If you are wondering how to rent a car in Nice, check out DiscoverCars, a site comparator that will find the best car deal for you. If this is your first time renting a car in France, check out our top tips for car rental in France.
Where to Sleep During Menton’s Lemon Festival
Menton is a hidden gem in the French Riviera, sitting on the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and close to the Italian border and the Italian Riviera. Menton boasts a beautiful mix of Italian and French influences in its cuisine and architecture, and it is a popular destination to visit during the second half of February for the Fête du Citron and the mild weather.
Due to the popularity of Menton – Fête du Citron, the best hotels sell out very fast, so booking well in advance is key for having a pleasant vacation.
These hotels in Menton are charming and with a good location:
- Hotel Napoléon (top suggestion)
- Hotel Lemon (budget)
- La Fabrique à Poupées (mid-range),
- Villa Genesis (luxury).