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‘I visited one of Europe’s quirkiest festivals and it’s a gem’



From the running of the bulls in Pamplona,Spain to the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge, Europe is home to some pretty impressive events.

With Eurovision, the Euros and the Summer Olympics just around the corner, 2024 is set to be a busy calendar year.

But if you’re looking for a slightly smaller event, there’s plenty of European festivals that offer a glimpse into local culture.

In February, I travelled to Menton in southern France and visited its annual Fête du Citron. Described as “a unique event”, the town’s lemon festival certainly lived up to its billing.

A yearly carnival, the Fête du Citron celebrates Menton’s lemon and citrus fruit industry. Menton is thought to have the ideal climate for lemon cultivation and 60 tonnes are produced in the seaside town each year.

If you thought a carnival on the French Riviera would be a little stuck-up, think again. Menton’s lemon festival was a chaotic celebration of dancing lemons, wrestling citrus figurines and confetti cannons.

The town’s central park, the Jardins Bioves, is the centre of the festival with several huge sculptures crafted from citrus fruits.

This year’s theme was the Olympics and the park was taken over by bright yellow wrestlers, rowers and swimmers looming above the buildings.

Menton’s lemon statues are great fun and between the sculptures, you’ll find small stalls serving lemonade, cakes and other lemon-themed treats.

We visited on a Thursday, just in time for the festival’s night carnival. Menton’s streets were taken over by huge lemon-themed floats, carnival dancers and mechanical sculptures.

This isn’t a peaceful event. Performers fire confetti at the crowds, the music is loud and the audience is in the mood to celebrate. It’s great fun with plenty of activities for children but you might want to bring a raincoat to protect your clothes from the confetti.

While it’s free to visit the sculptures, you need to buy a ticket for the carnival parades. I recommend purchasing a ticket online ahead of time as the queues can be chaotic on the day.

Menton can be an expensive city but as the festival takes place in February, I found accommodation wasn’t that pricey. I stayed in nearby Nice which is just half an hour from Menton by train.

Before leaving Menton, make sure to pick up some candied lemon or chocolate covered orange as a souvenir.

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