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 Festival of Light displays with most of them taking place in the Old Town.
How Did The Festival of Lights Come From?
The Lyon Festival of Lights was first conceived in 1643! During the plague, religious authorities and prominent citizens prayed and 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. This festival has morphed out of the candle tradition and now attracts around 4 million visitors in the four days it is held.
Why Visit The Festival of Lights?
My favorite light show (so far, I still have many more to see) was the one at the Cathedrale Saint-Jean. Pictures really don’t do this wonderful festival justice. As they say, you have to see it to believe it. I highly recommend visiting, especially if you’re looking for something different from the usual Christmas markets that you will find in Europe at this time.
Cathedral starts like this, just softly backlit. Then morphs into:
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.
Where To Stay in Lyon
Villa Florentine is located in the heart of Lyon and offers a panoramic view of the city. The hotel is housed in a former convent and offers a restaurant, elegant rooms, and modern and spacious bathrooms. Guests can enjoy a daily breakfast in the breakfast room or on the terrace. The hotel has an onsite fitness center, a sauna, a steam room and a heated swimming pool.
Cour des Loges is located in Old Lyon and offers guests a spa, indoor swimming pool, sauna, hammam and massage treatments on request. Guests can enjoy daily breakfast as well as meals in a Michelin star restaurant. The hotel also offers a fitness center, a rooftop garden, and a concierge service.
Mercure Lyon Centre Beaux-Arts is located in central Lyon in a 19th-century building. The hotel rooms are spacious and are decorated in a modern art-deco style. Breakfast is served daily. There is also an option to have an express breakfast at the bar. The hotel also offers luggage storage.
Okko Hotels Lyon Pont Lafayette is located a 10-minute walk from the Opera de Lyon. The property is located in front of the Rhone River banks where bars and restaurants are readily available. The rooms have great modern deco and are spacious. Guests will have access to a coffee machine and an iPod docking station in their rooms.
Hotel ParkSaône is located on the banks of the Saône river in Lyon. The hotel offers an on-site restaurant, bar, and terrace as well as free wifi. The rooms are comfortable and offer private bathrooms that include free toiletries.
ibis Lyon Part Dieu Les Halles is located near the Halles de Lyon-paul Bocuse indoor food market. The hotel offers free wifi and is comfortable and spacious. Rooms for people with reduced mobility are available. A daily breakfast, which includes sweet and savoury dishes are served in the mornings. The hotel also offers a game area and a restaurant.
The Festival of Light in Lyon is a must-see. It is a magical experience.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Rhône-Alpes Tourism but as always all opinions expressed are my own.