French Riviera Celebrates Carnival Season with Citrus and Olympic-themed Parades

The annual Carnival season in the French Riviera kicked off with vibrant parades in Menton and Nice, showcasing elaborate floats and sculptures made from citrus fruits. The festivities celebrated the upcoming Olympics in Paris and paid tribute to achievements in film, music, art, and sports.

As Europe prepares for the solemn weeks leading up to Easter, the French Riviera is alive with the vibrant energy of Carnival. The towns of Menton and Nice have taken center stage, hosting extravagant parades that captivate locals and tourists alike. From sculptures made of lemons and oranges to pop culture-themed floats, these celebrations pay homage to traditions rooted in medieval Mardi Gras, while also embracing contemporary themes and recognizing notable achievements. Let’s dive into the colorful world of the French Riviera’s Carnival season.

Menton’s Lemon Festival: A Citrus Extravaganza

Menton, a picturesque Mediterranean town, showcased its rich citrus heritage during the Lemon Festival, or “Fête du Citron.” The festival’s 90th edition, themed “From Olympia to Menton,” featured stunning floats adorned with sculptures made entirely of lemons and oranges. The citrus creations paid tribute to various Olympic sports, including tennis, rugby, badminton, boxing, swimming, equestrianism, and surfing. These larger-than-life figures, weighing up to 3 tons each, paraded down the seaside boardwalk, captivating onlookers.

Nice Carnival: A Pop Culture Spectacle

The capital of the French Riviera, Nice, embraced a pop culture theme for its annual Carnival season. The opening parade dazzled spectators with extravagant floats and mesmerizing lights. The parade’s king, Luke Skywalker from “Star Wars,” and his queen, Marilyn Monroe dressed as Superwoman, enthralled the crowd as they took their thrones in the central square. The mechanical puppets, adorned with bright lights, symbolized the fusion of classic and contemporary pop culture icons.

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Honoring the Olympics and Recognizing Achievements

Both the Lemon Festival in Menton and the Nice Carnival took the opportunity to celebrate the upcoming Olympics in Paris. Menton’s Lemon Festival paid tribute to the Games by creating sculptures of Olympic athletes using lemons and oranges. The floats and displays in Menton’s Les Jardins Bioves park showcased the evolution of sports from ancient Greece to the modern-day Olympic Games. Meanwhile, Nice Carnival honored achievements in film, music, art, and sports, creating a festive atmosphere that embraced the spirit of competition and creativity.

The Citrus Legacy of Menton

Menton, nestled between the southern Alps and the Mediterranean Sea, was once renowned for its lemon production. Although the region now has only 15 lemon producers, the Lemon Festival continues to celebrate Menton’s citrus heritage. The festival’s impressive displays require over 140 tons of citrus fruits, which are sourced from Spain due to local production limitations. Despite this, Menton’s tourism office emphasizes the importance of experiencing the taste of their lemons rather than merely admiring them on display.


The Carnival season in the French Riviera is a vibrant celebration of tradition, creativity, and community. The Lemon Festival in Menton and the Nice Carnival offer a unique blend of historical significance and contemporary themes. Through elaborate floats, sculptures, and parades, these festivities pay homage to the region’s citrus legacy and honor achievements in various fields. As the French Riviera gears up for Easter, these Carnival celebrations serve as a reminder of the joy and unity that can be found in shared cultural experiences.

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