The spectacular Lyon Festival of Lights is an annual event that promises to leave you nothing less than awestruck with quirky animations and projections on the facades of historic buildings. Cynthia Caughey Annet from american-in-france.com recommends a few picturesque days in Lyon in the run up to the festive period. The best bit? It’s all free…
The Festival of Lights is held in Lyon between 5-8 December 2014. The people of Lyon place candles or little candle lamps in their windows in honour of the Virgin Mary. The origins of the festival date back over 150 years, to 1852 when a statue of the Virgin Mary on Fourviere Hill was to be inaugurated. The event was postponed several times due to bad weather conditions and rescheduled for 8th December. However, on that day the city was hit by a terrible storm. It passed quickly and the people of Lyon spontaneously lit their candles and came out onto the streets to celebrate.
Thus the Festival of Lights was born. The people of Lyon continue the tradition of lighting a candle in their front windows today but, over the years, it has been transformed into a major four-day festival attracting more than 4 million people each year. Lyon illuminates its finest architecture with fantastic lights, shows and music. The ‘light architects’ are chosen during an annual competition so it is well worth a trip to Lyon for the event.
With the Lyon Festival of Lights taking place in December, the event ties in nicely with a spot of Christmas shopping at the annual Lyon Christmas market. It usually takes place in the last few days of November until Christmas. I spent the night and then took the metro to the Christmas market which was staged in the square in front of the Perrache train station. It’s one of the bigger Christmas markets in France, but still a very manageable size. They had everything from glassware, breads, toys, Christmas decorations, specialty foods, and even a pancake stand that had cake with maple syrup in it. Yum! If you have the opportunity to be near or in Lyon in December, stop off at this fun and festive market. You might pick up a few deals.
Most of the action takes place in the centre but the installations also reach Vieux Lyon and the fringes of Saône. Visitors can opt for a themed walk with routes mapped out on the main website.
- Book your accommodation early. 4 months in advance if possible.
- The metro is a good way to get around the city to see the light shows but after 9pm the lines get long due to security controlling traffic in and out of the metro stops.
- Wear good shoes – there is a lot of walking involved but most of the shows are in the old town centre.
- A festival of lights boat tour is a wonderful way to take in some of the lights – especially when they glisten and reflect in the water. Cruises run both day and evening at either 2pm or 11pm from €10. You can book here.
- The Fête des Lumières walking tours are in French.
You will struggle to find a Lyon hostel at such a late date – but if you’ve left it til now, your best bet is to look to the neighbouring towns of Massieux, Bourgoin-Jallieu or Solaize.
Thanks for the images from Flickr Fulvio’s photo. Please note, all images were used under the Creative Commons License at the time of posting.