“Fête du Citron” – Lemon Festival Menton
Started in 1933 as a fruit show, the Lemon Festival Menton has grown to be so much more and is now an internationally renowned event, drawing around 200,000 visitors to a joyful fruity festival every year.
But the Menton lemon has always been unique. It’s a very bright yellow, elongated rather than round, and prized by chefs for its rich essential oil.
If you’re still unconvinced about the appeal of a lemon-based gathering, this is no botanical show.
Each year is themed. Look into the program to this year’s theme.
While Menton is proud of its internationally-famous product, it doesn’t always take its festival too seriously.
A unique tradition in a historic setting
The Menton Lemon Festival is one of a kind.
Legend has it that the lemon tree first took root in Menton when no less than Eve herself chose the beauty of the Bay of Garavan as a paradise in which to plant this golden fruit.
According to the story, Menton grew from a pip to become the prime lemon-growing region in Europe.
An exhibition of flowers and citrus fruit first started in the early 20th century and was so successful that the event soon took over Menton’s winding streets.
The vibrant carnival atmosphere
At the heart of the festival, magnificent lemon-themed parades take place day and night, with stilt-walkers, fire-eaters, musicians and acrobats providing a spectacular performance.
This year’s floats will feature creatures of the deep – dolphins, whales, giant squid and fantasy fauna will take over every festival venue, with citrus-scented works of art, all created from carefully-placed oranges, lemons and glorious Mediterranean flowers.
See more from Menton’s tourist office, and prepare to be astonished by the artistic uses of a little yellow lemon.
Gardens full of light and colour
Menton’s gardens are a well-loved attraction all year round.
During the festival, the Biovès Gardens take on dazzling hues of yellow and orange, the colours of a Riviera sunset.
See these ephemeral sculptures by day, then come back in the evening for magical, spotlit gardens of enchantment.
The Gardens of Light take on a new look, illuminated as the sun goes down and filled with great sounds.
Hotels near the festival
It’s, of course, a good idea to book well in advance as all available rooms tend to be sold out very quick for this period.
An alternative is to stay in Nice with many more possible accommodations for your stay.
An excellent 4-star hotel in Menton, the popular Hotel Napoleon, right on the seafront, has a cosmopolitan feel.
The Orchid Festival in Menton
If your tastes are more exotic, alongside the Lemon Festival, the lovely Palais de l’Europe hosts the Orchids Festival.
The Orchids flourish in their garden, rivalling one another for colour, fanciful form, and seductive scent.
Like the carnival, these striking blooms will be ready to take you on a journey to fantasy land.
At the Arts and Crafts show, local artisans present their skilled work: sculptures, glass blowing and engraving, ceramics, and of course, citrus flavours added to the local dishes that make up Menton’s gourmet appeal.
Don’t pass up on the chance to taste the region’s specialities – maybe “un bouquet de fleurs de courgettes”, delicate courgette flowers in a light and fragrant batter.
A lot to love about Menton
For a start, its position on the edge of a crescent bay, perched between Monaco and the Italian Riviera, produces a perfect microclimate, with more than three hundred days of sunshine per year.
With the soaring Alpes Maritimes mountains behind you and the azure of the Mediterranean in front, you could ski in the morning and bathe in a warm sea in the evening.
Add to that its imposing Italianate architecture, its mouth-watering French cuisine – and no pesky mosquitoes!
No wonder then that this part of the Côte d’Azur has always been a massive draw for visitors.
The lure of nearby Monte Carlo and Nice makes Menton an ideal base for a tour on the French Riviera, and those in the know come back all year round for its fabulous festivals.