From the traditional lumignons (small candles) lighting up Lyon’s balconies, to the various visual and interactive shows that are put on around the city, the early days of December is an absolute must for anybody looking to discover Lyon. 

Held annually for the past 30 years, the Fete des Lumieres, or Festival of Lights sees the creative city consumed by an array of light displays and vivid colours to celebrate the best talent in visual artistry. 

Over four nights, millions of visitors will descend upon the city to see over 50 illuminations from different designers light-up buildings, streets, squares and parks. 

If you’re keen to join the crowd, here’s a breakdown of everything you should know to witness the winter festival.

Fête des Lumières is Free

Make no mistake about it, the Festival of Lights is free to attend and open to all. All you need to bring is a warm jacket and an appreciation for art. 

Grab a Velo’v, the bike-sharing system run by the city, and head to one of Lyon’s galleries and museums that put on an annual show during the Festival of Lights to entice visitors.

Fete des Lumieres Lyon

Religion Reinvented

The tradition started in 1852 when the city’s residents spontaneously lit candles in a gesture of solidarity on December 8 after the official ceremony to inaugurate a Virgin Mary statue on Fourviere Hill had to be cancelled. The tradition endured but evolved when shops started to compete to put on the best light show, and the event has been growing ever since.

The festival originally started out as a religious festival and even today it honours the spirit of community and giving back, with a different charitable organisation selected to take part each year. 

Visitors are encouraged to purchase a traditional lumignons throughout the four days. On the final day, all are set alight at the ancient Odeon of Fourvière and all the money raised from the sales are donated to the chosen charity.

Fete des Lumieres

Don’t Miss The Christmas Market At Place Carnot

Given that the festival is in December, it only makes sense to visit the Christmas Market at Place Carnot. Discover artisan crafts, grab some roast chestnuts and mulled wine or head to one of the pop-up events that have featured Foie gras, candle customising classes and Michelin starred food workshops, all during the Festival of Lights.

Fête des Lumières de Lyon Place Bellecour

Permanent Installations

Among the permanent collections, one not to miss is Thank you, Monsieur Paul”. The display was added to the city in 2015 to pay tribute to a famous son: Paul Bocuse, the famous chef. 

The monumental mural is installed opposite the entrance to Les Halles, Lyon’s food market which also bears his name. At night, videos and lights bring the fresco to life, lasting ten minutes to showcase the highlights of his career as the world’s best-known Michelin-starred chef.

Fourviere Hill Lyon France Festival of lights

Musical Events

Tease another one of the senses with Lyon’s impressive music scene. Almost working intrinsically, Lyon puts every effort into making sure there are plenty of musical events around the city during the Festival of Lights, all with a fantastic atmosphere. Enjoy the James Bond symphony at the Lyon Auditorium, performed by the National Orchestra of Lyon. If that’s not to your taste, dive into some heavy metal at the Rock n Eat’ bar or hit up Le Petit Salon Club for some clubbing.

Fête des lumières Lyon

Recommended Routes To Take For Fête des Lumières

There are a number of recommended routes to take that will allow visitors to see the best displayed peppered about the city. One route sets off from Place Antonin Poncet on the banks of the Rhône and sees visitors make their way towards Bellecour to arrive at the illuminated Ferris wheel to see the city-wide light show from the best seat in the house. 

Ride on Bellecour’s wheel where you can see for miles over Lyon’s peninsula.Spot famous landmarks across the city, like Croix Rousse Hill and the Rue de la République and watch as the sunset and the lights illuminate the sky.

Next, head for Place des Célestins where the theatre is always a source of inspiration for lighting designers, as well as the fountain at Place des Jacobins.

On the final night, you’re better off walking along Rue de la République to take in displays at the Opera House and Place Louis Pradel, followed by the Hôtel de Ville. From here, walk to the Musée des Beaux-arts, onwards to La Martinière and then onto Place Sathonay where the lighting of the fresco of the Lumignons du Cœur will take place.

Keen to see the city’s famous light show? Check out the other events in Lyon.

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