One of the most colourful festivals of France is the annual Menton Lemon festival. The Fête du Citron, is held during last weeks of February in the coastal resort of Menton, on the French Riviera in between Monaco and the Italian border. Each year a giant carnival procession fills the streets of Menton as the town welcomes over 200,000 visitors to visit the famous giant statues made entirely from lemons and a few oranges. These giant models are paraded through the streets followed by street entertainers, colourful bands, drummers, masked dancers and throngs of people. The 2021 Menton Lemon festival in France will be the 87th edition of the festival and will take place from 13 to 28 February 2020.
History of the Lemon festival Menton
As it seems with all good events (the Tour de France being a perfect example), the background to the Menton Lemon festival was marketing and commerce. At the end of the 19th Century, a group of hotel owners in Menton decided to put on an event during the winter season to try and attract more visitors to the town. So, drawing on the popularity of the nearby Nice Carnival, a carnival parade was created through the centre of Menton. The event became a firm fixture in the town's annual calendar and even drew the attendance of Queen Victoria in 1882. For much of this time, the festival mainly involved huge paper-maché figures, street bands and confetti made from flower petals.
At the end of the 1920's, Menton was becoming a major export centre of Lemons throughout Europe. One of the Hotel owners came up with the idea of creating a separate spin-off exhibition of Lemons and flowers in the gardens of his hotel. It proved a masterstroke and in 1929, the Lemon parade started in earnest, with a collection of carts decorated with lemons and oranges.
By 1935, the 'Lemon festival' had become so popular the local Mayor decided to change the name of the event to the Menton Lemon Festival and give further prominence to the marketing of the town's famous produce, by creating an exhibition of Lemon, Lime and Orange trees in the Biovès gardens in the centre of the town.
Famous festivals of France: Menton Lemon festival
Today, the Menton Lemon festival is a huge event, involving over 300 organisers, artists and security personnel; as well as over 150 tonnes of Lemons. During the 2 weeks of the Lemon festival in Menton, over 200,000 visitors from all over the world attend this famous festival in South France.
The main event is obviously the Lemon and orange statues in the Jardins de Biovès. But perhaps the best time to visit the festival is during the "Golden Fruits Parade" which takes place in the afternoon on each Sunday (14th, 21st and 28th Feb 2021).
Every Thursday night there is the famous Corso Nocturne, which involves a night time candle-lit procession followed by a firework display. The sub-text to this event is that the young men of the town would subtlety try and blow out the candle of one of the girls they admired, in the hope that they would receive a welcome kiss as reward for re-lighting their "amour".
Finally, on each Friday evening from 8.30pm, the Jardins de Biovès are lit up for the spectacular "Jardins de Luminères" (13 to 28 February 2020). This is a great French festival event for kids.
Lemon Festival Menton, France
The town of Menton is situated in a lovely bay overlooking the Mediterranean sea. It's location on the French Riviera and it's mild climate has always made it a popular destination for tourists, stretching back into the mid-19th Century. A lot of rich aristocratic visitors from Northern Europe, built fabulous villas in the town and the number of hotels swelled to accommodate all of the visitors.
The famous French artist and film-maker, Jean Cocteau, lived in Menton and even decorated the Wedding Room in the local town hall. The Jean Cocteau Museum is located in Menton and celebrates the 50 years of his work.
Menton Lemon festival holidays
If you are planning on visiting the Menton Lemon festival, then accommodation could be a bit of an issue, with the local hotels usually booked-out months in advance. A good alternative is to rent an apartment in the town and surrounding area. On Go South France, we have a good selection of Menton holidays apartments to rent during the Lemon Festival.
Check out our listing of Menton Lemon festival holidays apartments to rent for the 2021 Menton Lemon festival in France.