This lemon festival is unique to Menton, it runs from mid February to early March. The exact date and theme varies each year (in 2019 it was ‘Fantasy World’) but what never changes is that over a million oranges and lemons are used to create amazing sculpture! At the end of the festival 90% of them are sold to locals at a reduced price.
- To avoid disappointment I advise buying tickets a couple weeks in advance on their website, there are also deals if you want to book a few different types of tickets.
- Menton is a small town and everything was within walking distance, even the train station.
- Even though it was February during the day it was sunny but at night it was very cold.
There are different aspects of the festival and they are not on everyday so it is best to factor that in when planning your itinerary:
Lemon sculptures during the day (Exposition des motifs d’agrumes)
€10 online, €12 on the day
This was easily my favourite part of the whole lemon festival (if you can only go to one thing i would recommend just booking this). The sculptures look very impressive in the sunshine and are huge compare to the ones seen in the parade. Security was very quick and organised, we didn’t have to que at all. There are a few stalls inside selling different souvenirs and lemon items as well as a few benches to sit down and enjoy the sculptures.
Photo tip: I would suggest going during the week, on a day that the parade isn’t taking place to avoid the crowds as much as possible. We arrived at 4pm and stayed for about an hour and a half, by 5pm it was very quiet because lots of people were leaving. This made it possible to take photos without other people in the background.
This display is at Biovès Gardens (Jardins Biovès) and open everyday from 10:00 until 18:00.
Garden of lights (Jardins de lumières)
€13 online, €13 on the day
This shows off the sculptures at night with different light shows, sound effects and music. There are also performances with live music and dancers throughout the night and some people dressed in costumes walking amongst the displays. It tends to be busy, but you can still get lots of amazing photos without many people being in them as it’s dark.
From 20:30 until 22:30, expect to spend roughly an hour.
Day Parade (Corsos des fruits d’or)
€25 (seating) €25 (seating) on the day/ €10 (standing) online, €12 (standing) on the day
The daytime parade is on Sundays and the night parade is every Thursday, they last for about an hour. We booked the night parade for the Nice carnival so decided to see this parade during the day. The citrus sculptures are different to the ones on display at Biovès Gardens, there are also lots of different dancers and performers.
I booked seated tickets however I would advise getting standing ones, as long as you don’t mind being on your feet for hours. There are no barriers so you can feel very involved with the parade and there were lots of people taking photos with the performers. We sat in the front row of C2, however the view looked the same from D or E. In the diagram below the longer route is for the day parade and the shorter one is for the night parade.
I had read that security checks were slow so we arrived an hour and a half early. Unfortunately it took 2 hours to get through security and we missed half the parade. My guess is the people who were still queuing behind us missed all of the parade. The problem was the main entrance is used for both seated and standing tickets so a lot of people are trying to get through and there is no organised system. And the fact that there are only 4 metal detectors that everyone has to filter through makes it a slow process… and they searched everyone. I advise avoiding the main entrance completely and getting there very early.
Other things to see in Menton
As well as the lemon festival Menton itself is a beautiful town to walk around and get lost in the picturesque backstreets. Even with the festival, the town itself did not feel too busy especially in the old town.
We stayed in a vintage house in the middle of old town. It only took 20 minutes to walk to the centre of town, 30 minutes to walk to either train station and the surrounding areas was amazingly quaint with unique houses and streets around every corner. Due to its proximity with Italy, the whole town has a mix of French and Italian influences.
I have another post detailing things to see in Menton: Unforgettable Menton on the French Riviera
I combined our visit to the Fête du citron with our trip to see Nice carnival. (A guide to Nice Carnival, France) This is a much bigger, grander spectacle however the lemon festival was more unusual. I would definitely recommend going to both as they overlap. To go between the two cities is very easy as there are frequent direct trains that take 40 minutes.