This year the 86th annual Lemon Festival in Menton, the most ‘Italian’ city in France, will take place from February 16th through March 3rd 2019. The theme for this year’s lemon festival - known locally as la Fête du Citron - will be ‘Fantastic Worlds’ (Des Mondes Fantastiques).
This year the festival's theme is 'Fantastic Worlds'
In this post, we will tell you a bit about the town of Menton, one of France’s prettiest hidden gems, before we run through the events of the Menton Lemon Festival 2019 and the history of the festival. Then we’ll tell you about some other local events, as well as things to do in the French Riviera and the other places you can visit while you’re there.
THE TOWN OF MENTON: A HIDDEN GEM ON THE FRENCH RIVIERA
Menton is just a 10-minute drive from the Italian border, and it is easy to observe the Italian influences in the town’s architecture, colors and cuisine. If you were looking for a more laid-back alternative to the very touristic Amalfi coast in Italy, Menton is a great option. Furthermore, unlike many of the pebble beaches on the French Riviera, Menton has a beautiful, sandy beach. We believe that the abundance of citrus fruits, the sparkling Mediterranean Sea, the quality of life and the delicious cuisine make Menton one of the loveliest hidden gems in France.
Views over the Mediterranean and Menton habor
History of the Menton Lemon Festival
For centuries in Europe, Menton has been famous for its lemons. In 1928, an hotelier from the Hôtel Riviera decided to organize an exhibition of flowers and citrus fruits in the hotel’s gardens. It was a resounding success and the next year people took to the streets with carts decorated with orange and lemon trees. The local council saw the festival’s potential for helping to increase tourism in the region during the low season. They liked the citrus fruit theme, which reflected the warm pastel colors of the town, and thus 1935 saw the inauguration of the first official Lemon Festival in Menton.
Main Events of the Menton Lemon Festival 2019
The Lemon Festival will run from Saturday, February 16th through Sunday, March 3rd 2019. We’ve listed the times and places of the festival’s main events below. Most of the action takes place along the seafront, on the sun-drenched Promenade du Soleil, and in the Biovès Gardens. You can buy tickets for these events from the official website (but if you’re on one of our tours, we will take care of this for you). There are combo tickets that are cheaper than buying tickets separately if you plan to attend several events. If you haven’t bought tickets in advance for the evening events, we warmly recommend arriving early, as the ticket desk may close before the events begin.
- Saturday, February 16th at 20.30 at the Biovès Gardens – Garden of Lights
- Sunday, February 17th at 14.30 at the Promenade du Soleil (seafront) - Golden Fruit Parade
- Thursday, February 21st at 21.00 at the Promenade du soleil - Night parade followed by fireworks
- Friday, February 22nd at 20.30 at the Biovès Gardens – Garden of Lights
- Sunday, February 24th at 14.30 at the Promenade du Soleil - Golden Fruit Parade
- Thursday, February 28th at 21.00 at the Promenade du soleil - Night parade followed by fireworks
- Friday, March 1st at 20.30 at the Biovès Gardens – Garden of Lights
- Sunday, March 3rd at 14.30 at the Promenade du Soleil - Golden Fruit Parade
One of the colorful floats in the Golden Fruit Parade
The Citrus Motifs Exhibition
The Citrus Motifs Exhibition at the beautiful Biovès gardens is open to visitors throughout the festival. Cross from one fantastic world to another as you appreciate the 13 themed exhibits that line the gardens. The local exhibitors and citrus fruit growers will be there to accompany you on this journey through the Menton Lemon Festival’s Fantastic Worlds theme.
Date & cost : Throughout the festival - Adults: 12€, Children (aged 6-14): 6€
Garden of Lights
On selected nights during the festival, the Citrus Motifs Exhibition in the Biovès gardens becomes a place of magic and enchantment, as lights and mystical sounds give the citrus fruit exhibits a whole new look. The lemon festival’s Garden of Lights has become very popular among locals and tourists alike and is an absolute must-see.
Date & cost : February 16th & 22nd and March 1st - Adults: 13€, Children (aged 6-14): 8€
An exhibit in the magical Garden of Lights at the Biovès gardens
Other events in Menton during the Lemon Festival
Arts and Crafts Fair, Palais de l’Europe
Discover the local art and crafts of local artisans at the Palais de l’Europe, who will be happy to show you their work and tell you more about it. There will also be an opportunity to savor the citrus flavors and local cuisine that make up Menton’s gourmet - a true smorgasbord of delights!
Orchid Festival, Palais de l’EuropE
Also on display at the Palais de l’Europe during the festival is a large collection of orchids. The Association of Orchidophiles and Epiphytophiles in France runs the Orchid Festival as a wonderful addition to the exotic theme of the Lemon Festival. They invite visitors to envelop themselves in the wonderful fragrances and colors of their orchids.
Date & cost :
Both are open throughout the festival (16 Feb – 3 March) at the Palais de l’Europe.
Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays & Saturdays : 10am to 6pm
Thursdays & Fridays: 10am to 7pm
Sundays: 11am to 7pm
Entrance to these events is free.
Day-trips in and around Menton
There are many guided tours and excursions that form part of the Menton Lemon Festival. Visitors can discover more of the town of Menton and visit the lemon groves, towns and villages in the surrounding areas. In our France Just For You itineraries, we will be happy to recommend some very nice day-trips from Menton, so our travelers will not need to worry about booking separate tours. Otherwise, to find out more information about the locally organized excursions, visit www.feteducitron.com.
events and festivals on the French Riviera
Menton Classical Music Festival
Apart from the Lemon Festival, Menton also has an outdoor classical music festival in the summer spanning two weeks at the end of July and beginning of August. Enjoy beautiful arias and symphonies with the Mediterranean Sea and a starlit sky as the backdrop.
If you’re visiting the French Riviera in February, it’s most likely you will fly into Nice International Airport, which has its own carnival going on from February 16th to March 2nd. It’s an excellent time to fully immerse yourselves in the south of France’s carnival atmosphere.
A festive atmosphere and one of the huge floats at Nice Carnival
Like the Lemon Festival in Menton, the Nice Carnival also has a theme each year. The theme for 2019 is ‘King of Cinema’, marking the 100th anniversary of the Victorine Studios, the most important film studios in France. Over the past century, the studios have welcomed legends such as Marcel Carné, François Truffaut, Jean Cocteau, Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen and many other renowned international directors to the Côte d'Azur.
The Nice Carnival will include six parades – some during the day and some at night - consisting of 17 floats. More than 1000 dancers and musicians from across the globe will help bring this marvellous event to life! Experience the traditional floats covered in flowers, and admire the performers and their exotic costumes based on the ‘King of Cinema’ theme.
A night-time parade during Nice Carnival
Monaco Grand Prix
The independent city-state of Monaco is just a half-hour drive or train ride away from both Menton and Nice. It is famous for its extravagant casinos, yacht-lined harbor and its biggest, most prestigious event of the year, the Monaco Grand Prix Formula 1 race, which has run through the streets of Monaco since 1929. This year the Monaco Grand Prix will take place from May 23-26, 2019. It’s an exciting time to visit Monaco and the district of Monte Carlo offers many luxurious hotels, boutiques, and restaurants in which visitors can enjoy and appreciate this opulent city. For information about tickets for the Monaco Grand Prix, visit the event’s main website.
Monaco Grand Prix racing track
Cannes Film Festival
This event probably needs no introduction and is arguably the second most significant event in the global movie industry after the Oscars. Cannes is about a half-hour train ride away from Nice (a big longer in the car because of toll roads) and an hour and a quarter from Menton. This year the Cannes film festival will take place May 14-25, 2019. An ideal plan, if you love a bit of glitz and glamor, is to combine a visit to Cannes and the Monaco Grand Prix, and when you want to escape the tourist crowds, head over to beautiful Menton or up to the lovely, green hilltop village of Mougins (just 15 minutes’ drive from Cannes) for some peace and quiet.
We hope this post has inspired you to visit the beautiful French Riviera and explore some of its hidden gems! At France Just For You, we pride ourselves in knowing all about the regions we cover in our tours.