La Fête du Citron is the World's Fruitiest Festival

Lemon Champagne | © Laurent Carles / Flickr
Lemon Champagne | © Laurent Carles / Flickr
Photo of Holly Howard
5 February 2018

If you’re a foodie fan of all things tangy, then you’re in for a treat! Each year, the city of Menton on the Côte d’Azur hosts its traditional Lemon Festival, La Fête du Citron, for 20 days to inject some sunshine into the winter months and celebrate its lemon-producing heritage.

February is the month to get fruity

The first day of the festival changes annually, but for most of February and into the start of March, Menton will be overhauled with hues of yellow and festive cheer. 2018 marks the 85th year of this colourful festival, with the theme being ‘Bollywood’. Previous years have included, ‘Broadway’, ‘Around the world in 80 Days’ and ‘The islands of the world’. There is a full programme of events, from fruit parades to massive fruit sculptures in Biovès Gardens.

Red Lion at the Lemon Festival | © arnaud grappy / Flickr

140 tonnes of fruit

A staggering 140 tonnes of fruit gets used in the Lemon Festival, from sculptures to demonstrations. One piece alone can be created out of up to 18 tonnes! The festival also hires 12 people whose sole job it is, over the 20 days of celebration, to change any lemons that have gone bad, keeping everything looking sharp and fresh.

Who started this colourful celebration?

Menton’s Fête du Citron dates back to 1895, when a group of hoteliers suggested to the municipality that they start a parade in order to provide some colour and entertainment to the city during the winter months. Only a year later, the event looked to be cemented in its calendar and history, being so popular with royalty and the wealthy happily spending the colder months on the French Riviera.

Menton, France | © Jacques Dufrenoy / Flickr

It wasn’t until 1935, though, that lemons became the focal point. At this time, Menton was the leading lemon-growing region in Europe and so the event grew, first with simple carts showcasing lemon and orange trees to today’s magnificent parades and sculptures.

Festival highlights

The highlights of this fruit festival include its opening day (for 2018, this is Saturday 17 February at 11am) and the two big parades, the Golden Fruit Parade and also the Night-Time Parade, which is followed by fireworks. The festival is also organising a Holi Party, which derives from the Indian celebration of ‘Holi’, marking the arrival of spring. This event will be on Esplanade Francis Palmero (Saturday 24 February from 3.30pm).

Lemon Festival | © Laurent Carles / Flickr

Visit and stay

Menton is the last stop in France before hitting the border of Italy. This means it has a gorgeous climate most of the year, Italian-inspired cuisine with all the best French elements and a stunning situation on the Mediterranean yet not far from the rolling hills behind. Travel to Menton by plane to Nice Côte d’Azur Airport or make it a stop on your route if you’re exploring the French Riviera by car.