The month of February is all about carnival and fêtes on the Côte d’Azur.  The mild weather, plentiful hours of sunshine and the abundance of blooming mimosa combine to create the perfect time to throw off the winter blues and jump brightly into spring.  Whether you like huge noisy spectacles or quieter local fairs there’s a fun event for everyone in February on the Côte d’Azur.

February Carnival Fêtes Côte d'Azur | Lou Messugo

Carnaval de Nice – Nice Carnival – Corso Carnavalesque

Nice Carnival is the biggest annual event on the Côte d’Azur and one of the biggest carnivals in Europe.  This joyful, noisy, colourful event takes place over 2.5 weeks from mid February to early March every year, with parades during the afternoon, called corso carnavalesque and evening (corso carnavalesque illuminé) every couple of days. Every year there’s a theme, such as sport, cinema, gastronomy etc and 20 floats are created with giant burlesque, satirical characters led by “big heads” (grosses têtes).  The King and Queen grosses têtes lead the parades and are on display on Place Massena during the carnival period.

Nice Carnival – Batailles des Fleurs – Flower Battles

One of the unique features of Nice Carnival is its “flower battle” parades – batailles des fleurs – where participants on floats decorated with flowers hurl tonnes (literally) of flowers into the crowds for the spectators to take home.  These take place during the day, never at night.  They follow the same theme as the main carnival floats but without the grosses têtes and less emphasis on satire/politics.

All parades (the corsos and flower battles) last a couple of hours.  This is a paying carnival with no free access unless you come in full fancy dress (not just a wig/mask). Ticket prices vary depending on whether you want to sit or stand, from approximately 5€ to 32€ and it is advisable to book online in advance.  For programme details and prices check here.

Photo thanks to Julie at Vaucluse Dreamer

Fête du Citron – Lemon Festival, Menton

At the same time as Carnival, the Fête du Citron in Menton also runs for just over 2 weeks from mid February to early March every year.  This colourful, original festival is all about lemons (and other citrus fruits).  It consists of two separate sections – an exhibition in the central park, les jardins Biovès, of detailed, giant static structures made out of oranges and lemons along the year’s theme, (open every day) and a series of carnival parades around the town (a couple of times a week). These parades feature large floats decorated with oranges and lemons in the particular theme of the fête interspersed with musical bands, dancers, folk groups and street entertainers. Entry is free for the static exhibits but by paid ticket only for the parades. You can check here for dates and times, and to book online.

february carnival and fêtes on the côte d'azur, fête du citron menton

Lou Queernaval – Gay Carnival, Nice

During the Carnival of Nice, one evening parade is dedicated to gay carnival, organised by the LGBTQIA+ community of Nice. Lou Queernaval is billed as the 1st gay carnival in France and has had a bumpy time getting established since its first appearance in 2015. It hoped to be back for good in 2019 but then Covid happened.  However, it has taken place in 2023 and 2024 and it looks like it will be a regular fixture during the February carnival and fêtes on the Côte d’Azur for ever more. This flamboyant, extravagant event, which ends up as one big dance party in Place Massena, is open to everyone and is free of charge.  For more information click here.

lou queernaval carnival in Nice

Combat Naval Fleuri – Flower Battles on Water, Villefranche sur Mer

The colourful and unique Combat Naval Fleuri in Villefranche sur Mer involves decorating traditional wooden fishing boats called Pointus with flowers (principally mimosa and carnations which are grown locally). The 20 or so boats then sail around the harbour, while the crews, dressed in traditional Provençal fishing clothes, throw flowers to the crowd! This rather wacky but utterly joyful festival has been brightening up winter on the Côte d’Azur since 1902. It takes place during the Carnival of Nice, usually on the Monday in the middle of the two weeks, and is completely free. The “battle” is preceded by a small carnival parade consisting of folk dancers and musical bands.

Fête du Mimosa – Mimosa Festival, Mandelieu

Spring comes early to the Côte d’Azur with the blooming of gorgeous golden mimosa flowers from late January.   This is celebrated in several fêtes in the region. Mandelieu calls itself “the capital of mimosa” and holds a Fête du Mimosa for a week during the second half of the month, consisting of carnival parades and the election of a Miss Mimosa (yes that still goes on even in 2019!)  For those who aren’t keen on the huge crowds at Nice carnival this is a smaller and more manageable alternative.  Check for exact times and prices here.

Fête du Mimosa – Mimosa Festival, Tanneron

On an even smaller scale you’ll find the fête du mimosa in Tanneron, a tiny village in the heart of Europe’s biggest mimosa forest.  The whole village is decorated with the bright yellow flowers, on cars, windows, signposts and more.  There’s a carnival parade, entertainment and stalls selling local produce.  This takes place on the 1st Sunday in February.

Festival International des Jeux – International Festival of Games, Cannes

And now for something completely different, the Festival International des Jeux.  Around the last weekend in February, Cannes hosts an international festival of games.  This enormous playful festival is open and free to anyone who likes games of any kind.  It covers board games (traditional and modern), video games, construction games, virtual reality, escape games, toys and just about every other type of game you can think of, for all ages from baby/toddler to adult.  Entry is free and you are welcome to try out and take part in all that is on display.  There are also conferences and competitions throughout the weekend.  Serious fun for all the family!  Click here for further information.

What do you think about all the festivals, fairs, carnival and fêtes on the Côte d’Azur in February?  Have you been to any of them?

Related Reading:

Rose Festival on the Côte d’Azur

Mid Summer Solstice and Fire

Lyon’s Fête des Lumières – France’s Biggest Winter Festival

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This post was updated in Feb 2024

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