Loving the Festival of Lights in Lyon

The Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières) in Lyon, France is simply incredible!

For four days each year the city turns into an open air theatre where designers, sculptors, architects, video makers, graphic artists and lighting engineers turn regular buildings into works of arts.   This year there are 70 displays with most of them taking place in the Old Town.

Perhaps almost as incredible as the light shows is the conception of the show which dates back to 1643!  During the plague religious authorities and prominent citizens prayed took a vow to pay tribute to the Virgin mary if the plague epidemic ceased. It did cease and ever since then the citizens of Lyon light a candle  and place it on their window sills to express their thanks to the Virgin Mary.  More than 400 years later, candles can still be seen in window sills on December 8th.  The Festival of Lights has morphed out of the candle tradition and now attracts around 4 million visitors in the four days it is held.

My favorite light show (so far, I still have many more to see) was the one at the Cathedrale Saint-Jean:
Cathedral at Festival of Lights Lyon France

Cathedral starts like this, just softly back lit. Then morphs into:
Cathedral: Festival of Lights in Lyon France
Cathedral:  Festival of Lights Lyon France
Cathedral: Festival of Lights in  Lyon France
Cathedral: Festival of Lights in  Lyon France
Cathedral: Festival of Lights in  Lyon France

Cathedral: Festival of Lights in  Lyon France

See why I love it so much?  I’m looking forward to visiting  the other light installations that I’ve missed!

Know Before You Go to the Festival of Lights in Lyon:

  • The Festival of Lights runs from December 6-11th this year.  It is always a 4 day event.
  • Pick up a copy of the Festival of Lights program which shows you all the displays with a map of their location. You can also download the Fête des Lumières app.
  • The Festival of Lights is for people of all ages.  I think children would especially enjoy it.
  • Book your hotel early, at least 4-6 months in advance.  I stayed at the charming and centrally located Grand Hotel des Terreaux, which was a great location for sightseeing and being in the heart of the Festival of Lights.
  • Dress warm, it gets chilly in the evenings.  Fortunately you can find mulled wine along with Raclette being served in the streets to help keep you warm.
  • Visit the Fête des Lumières website for further information.

Disclosure:  I was a guest of  Rhône-Alpes Tourism but as always all opinions expressed are my own.



  1. says

    Amazing lights indeed and gorgeous background! A dream for night shots ;-) That reminds me to take some pics of Parliament Hill as well with the lights.

    • says

      @Bruce – I can’t recommend the Festival of Lights enough, I loved it. I would definitely recommend going on the practice night, the light shows are still going on, but it’s much less crowded. I also really enjoyed the gourmet food hall in Lyon.

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