Menton Carnival / Fête 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 Fête du Citron. It is the second largest winter event on the French Riviera after the famous Carnival in Nice.

    The festival first began in 1928 as a way to entertain aristocratic visitors and evolved into a celebration of gigantic proportions. Every year, 400 people design, create and build ten 30-foot-tall sculptures of fruit with 140 tons of lemons and oranges. The result is surreal and singular. Beyond the visual display of vivid orange and yellow sculptures, the fruits tinge the air with the heady smell of citrus.

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    What to Expect at the Fête du Citron

    Entire buildings, clock towers, trains, and castles made from lemons? Yes. Each February, this is precisely the stuff that you find on the town of Menton in the French Riviera.

    The Lemon Festival / Menton Carnival was founded in 1934 and attracts over 230,000 visitors annually. More than 300 professionals are involved, and 145 tons of citrus fruits are used. Each year the sculptures have a different theme.

    During the Menton Lemon Festival, all kinds of events are available. There are the Golden Fruit Parades where giant sculptures roll 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.

    Why Lemons?

    There’s a local fable in the French Riviera that when Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden of Eden, Eve took a lemon with her and buried in the spot that would become Menton. Whether or not you believe the myth, citrus fruit is at the heart of this French seaside town, leaving it awash in golden hues.

    Since the 15th century, the town’s residents have grown citrus trees. Menton’s valley benefits from a unique micro-climate that’s a few degrees warmer than the rest of the Côte d’Azur, making it especially good weather for citrus. Although the region is home to 100 different varieties of fruit, from kumquats to grapefruit, Mentonnais take special pride in their three lemon varietals: Santa Theresa, Villafranca, and Eureka. These Menton lemons differ from other varieties because of their elliptical shape, lack of bitterness, richer color tones and high-oil rinds that yield a more noticeable scent. Each year 150 metric tons are produced and it is claimed that Menton is the only place in the world where the lemons taste delicious eaten from the tree.

    The otherwise humble town wears its devotion to citrus on its streets, and in every restaurant. Visitors can expect to savor citrus jams at breakfast, take limoncello shots at the end of dinner, and walk the streets with lemon gelato in hand. Menton’s famed farmers even send their lemon oil to Grasse for perfume, and three-Michelin-star chef Mauro Colagreco, whose acclaimed restaurant Mirazur has brought Menton renewed fame, grows his own lemon trees in a small orchard.

    This local obsession with lemons reaches its peak in the middle of February when the city debuts the annual Fête du Citron.

    Lemon Festival Highlights

    The entire festival has four main parts: The Exhibition of Citrus Patterns, the Golden Fruit Parades, the Gardens of Lights, and the Evening Parades. Here are the details and schedule of each event:

    Exhibition of Citrus Patterns

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    Biovès Gardens will be filled with many large sculptures made of citrus fruits, available to view throughout the festival. The sculptures are unbelievable, some of them requiring almost 15 tonnes of fruit secured in placed one by one. A tradition carefully preserved since the beginning of the last century.

    Dates: February 12 to 27, 2022

    Schedules: Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm; on Thursdays from 10am to 7pm; on Sundays from 9am to 7pm (NOTE: on February 13, opening hour is 2pm).

    Location: Bioves Garden (main entrance in Casino Barriere)

    Golden Fruit Parades

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    On Sunday morning, parade sculptures are driven down narrow streets, eventually meeting on the seafront. Expect confetti, entertainers, brass bands, and dancing groups among the splendid floats of citrus fruit.

    Dates: February 13 and 20 and 27, 2022 (Sundays)

    Schedules: Parades start at 2:30pm and end at approximately 4pm

    Location: Promenade du Soleil (at the seafront)

    Gardens of Lights

    Light and sound displays at night light up the sculptues and make them even more striking. Be immersed in a world where the light and sound create a magical and delightful place of unbelievable splendor, and time seems to stand still.

    Dates: February 12, 15, 18, 22, 25, 2022

    Schedule: Open 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.

    Evening Parades

    Time to party! Accompanying the parade are 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!

    Dates: February 17 and 24, 2022 (Thursdays)

    Schedule: The parade starts at 9pm and ends at approximately 10:15pm. The fireworks on last day start at 10:30pm.

    Location: Promenade du Soleil (at the seafront)

    Insider Tips for the Festival

    Unfortunately, being smaller than NiceMenton 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.

    Video of Menton’s Lemon Festival

    Fête du Citron / Lemon Festival: 2022 Event Details

    Event Details: Festival

    Frequency: Yearly

    Dates: February 12 to 27, 2022

    2022 Theme: Operas and Dances

    Cost: Ticket prices vary. Get tickets here.

    Contact: +33492417676

    Social Media: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter #FeteDuCitron

    Website: Official website

    Transportation: Check out our guide to Nice’s airport transportation options.

    Similar Events: Check out our complete Monaco & the French Riviera events calendar.

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