Points of interest

Experience Menton’s spectacular Fête du Citron

Experience Menton’s spectacular Fête du Citron Celebrate the coming of spring in the gorgeous Côte d'Azur. Discover one of France’s most unique and remarkable annual celebrations. When winter fades and the springtime sunshine rolls in, a town in the French Riviera plays host to an extraordinary annual festival

When winter fades and the springtime sunshine rolls in, a town in the French Riviera plays host to an extraordinary annual festival that uniquely celebrates the changing of the seasons.

Fête du Citron

Where in France: Menton, Alpes-Maritimes, Côte d’Azur
Distance from Calais: 1,255km / 11h 45m

Celebrate the coming of spring in the gorgeous Côte d'Azur.

What is the Fête du Citron?

Visitors are left staggered by the sheer number of oranges and lemons used in the displays
Visitors are left staggered by the sheer number of oranges and lemons used in the displays

The Fête du Citron (also known as the Carnival of Menton) is an annual celebration of the leaving of winter and the coming of spring, where the entire town of Menton becomes coloured with locally grown oranges and lemons. The fruits are collected in abundance and used to make impressive structures and displays that are paraded through the town for a period of two weeks.

The use of the fruit not only represents the bounty provided by the changing of the seasons, but the pride the town has in the quality of its produce. In fact, the lemons grown in Menton are rather unique and sought after. They are recognised by their particularly bright shade of yellow and for being more elongated than round, as well for being prized by chefs because of their rich, essential oils.

Menton’s lemons are unique in their colour, shape and flavour
Menton’s lemons are unique in their colour, shape and flavour

How it all began

Legend has it that Eve herself planted the first lemon tree in the Bay of Garavan - chosen because of its natural beauty and ideal weather. It’s even said that the town of Menton itself stemmed from a single lemon seed.

The first display of flowers and locally-grown citrus fruit is believed to have been made by a hotel in Menton in 1928. After being admired greatly by guests and locals alike, the theme began to be adopted by other local businesses, growing year on year. Not before too long it was an event that the town became known for, with floats, carts and impressive structures being decorated with the brightly coloured local produce.

It was in 1935 that the festivities were given the official name of ‘Fête du Citron’ (Lemon Festival) and since then the event has steadily grown in popularity. Today the festival truly is an unmissable occasion that every Francophile should experience.

Fête du Citron 2019

2018’s Bollywood theme produced some dazzling displays
2018’s Bollywood theme produced some dazzling displays

There’s a different theme to the festival each year, with past examples such as ‘Bollywood’ and ‘Broadway’. 2019’s festivities will run from February 16th to March 2nd, with around 160,000 visitors expected to appear for the two-week festival that will feature a ‘Fantastic Worlds’ theme.

Each day of the festival has a unique itinerary, with exhibitions, tours, fairs and a variety of shows. See the festival’s official site to discover the full program of planned events.

Menton’s gardens

The town’s gardens are where visitors can find the most impressive displays
The town’s gardens are where visitors can find the most impressive displays

The town prides itself on its beautiful gardens throughout the year, but they receive special attention during the Fête du Citron. Visitors can find the most extravagant and impressive displays such as towers, huge statues and life-sized buildings in public parks, just like Jardins Biovès (Biovès Gardens).

Visitors should make sure to experience the gardens during both the day and night, as the structures are even more magnificent when combined with lightshows and soundscapes that help to bring them to life.

Orchid and craft fairs

During the festival, Menton’s grandiose ‘Palais de l’Europe’ hosts an orchid and crafts fair, from within its own grounds. At the orchid fair, visitors can expect to see one of the world’s most impressive orchid gardens as the flowers begin to bloom for the first time in the year. The craft fair is where local artisans present their sculptures, ceramics and glass-blown pieces. Visitors also have the chance to sample delicious, local dishes such as ‘un bouquet de fleurs de courgettes’, a delicate courgette flower in a light and fragrant batter.

Nearby festivities

Nice Carnival is another sensational festival worth experiencing
Nice Carnival is another sensational festival worth experiencing

Menton’s Fête du Citron isn’t the only celebration in the French Riviera during the early spring period; the Nice Carnival and the Mimosa Festival are also unmissable celebrations to enjoy whilst in the Côte d'Azur.

Nice Carnival easily matches the size and spectacle of Fête du Citron and dates as far back as 1873. 2019’s carnival will run from the 16th to the 28th of February and will feature a theme of ‘King of Cinema’ as the year marks Victorine Studios’ 100th anniversary. The studios are based in the Côte d'Azur and have famously been graced by the likes of Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and Jacques Demy.

The Mimosa Festival is also in the nearby French commune of Mandelieu-La Napoule and is another annual event that heralds the coming of spring. The story goes that ‘Mimosa pudica’ (the plant that mimosa is extracted from) was introduced to the region after Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia in the mid-1800s. It was then destroyed by the unusually harsh winter of 1929, before being reintroduced two years later with a celebration, which was the birth of the festival. In 2019, the occasion is set to run from the 20th to the 27th of February and boasts the theme of “The Adventures of Marco Polo”.

So, for those looking to welcome the springtime sun in style, why not do so by heading to Menton and witnessing the stunning Fête du Citron? Book your tickets with us in advance to get the best price.