The most Italianate and the warmest town on the French Riviera has become famous for the colourful Menton Lemon Festival. A major event on the French Riviera, the celebration attracts no less than 230,000 visitors in Menton each February who marvel at the impressive sculptures and parades.
The exhibition of citrus patterns at the Biovès Gardens
The long and narrow Biovès Gardens next to the casino are walled off for the occasion and feature an impressive display of large wire-framed structures and sculptures built from thousands of citrus fruit (lemons, grapefruit and oranges). This dazzling display of sunshine colours require nearly 15 tonnes of fruit and thousands of hours of creation and handling. The gardens are open from Monday to Saturday from 10am to 6pm and on Sundays from 9am to 6pm. Admission is €10 for adults (2017) with concessions applicable to groups and children.
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At night time, the citrus structures at the Biovès Gardens are lit up to create a magical atmosphere with the addition of unusual sounds. Admission is €13 for adults (2017) with concessions applicable to groups and children.
The Golden Fruit Parade
Each Sunday afternoon, colourful citrus fruit floats parade along the pebbly beachfront of Promenade du Soleil, accompanied by dancers, folk bands, fanfares and confetti. The parade takes place on Sundays at 2.30pm. A closing ceremony is organised on the last Sunday at 8.30pm with fireworks on Esplanade Francis Palmero. In 2017 the night-time parade takes place on Thursdays 16th february and 23rd february at 9 pm along the Promenade du Soleil.
The Menton lemon
The little town of Menton is located 30 km east of Nice where steep mountain cliffs and terraces slope dramatically to the Mediterranean Sea. The location of Menton is unique in France: the last coastal town before the Italian border is protected from the cold winds of the Alps by the surrounding mountains and therefore enjoys the warmest winter in the South of France (Corsica excepted) with more than 300 days of sunshine per year. This explains why this is the only place in metropolitan France where lemons are grown.
Until the 1930s, Menton was Europe’s largest lemon producer. The local production went into decline until recently, when about 15 citrus growers preserved the tradition. Today, some 5,000 trees produce more than 150 tonnes of lemons yearly in Menton and the neighbouring communes of Roquebrune, Sainte-Agnès and Castellar.
Menton is therefore famous for its lemon tart (tarte au citron) and many shops in the old part of town sell lemon-related products: gingerbread, almond paste, boiled sweets, wine, vinegar, jam, soaps, candles and perfume…
The Menton lemon is used by many great chefs who appreciate its flavour: Ducasse, Robuchon, and Bocuse.