Not only is Lyon named the capital of gastronomy in France (and to some people, the world!), it is also home to one of the largest light festivals in the world, Fête des Lumières!
Find out what makes Lyon a city to add to your France itinerary in Winter.
What is Fête des Lumières?
Millions of visitors fill the streets of Lyon, France every year to witness the city dazzle in lights. La Fête des Lumières, or the Festival of Lights, illuminates the city for 4 days around the 8th of December to celebrate the Virgin Mary.
I’ve been trying to attend this festival since I moved to France. In 2015, it was cancelled out of respect for the events that unfolded in France. In 2016, I decided to go to Lyon too late so the price to travel from Nice to Lyon was out of my budget. Two Fête des Lumières later and with proper planning, I made it and it was magical!
The artists, organizers, and the city itself really embrace this festival. There are normally around 40 installations by artists ranging from students to the experienced. I was only able to attend one of the nights, so I was unable to view all of the installations, but I think I’ve managed to capture some gems to trigger your wanderlust.
The places listed in this article are some of Lyon’s largest and most popular spaces. Be sure to keep up with the official website to get details for the current year’s event.
Place des Terreaux
Place des Terreaux is a huge square in central Lyon. It’s surrounded by the Hôtel de Ville (city hall) and the art museum.
The theme in this location was “Enoha fait son cinéma” (translated to “Enoha makes her movie”) and it guided us down memory lane with visuals of westerns, sci-fi, and action. I even caught the Harry Potter theme music they played for like 5 seconds!
Fun fact: Most would say that true cinema was invented in Lyon, France by the Lumières brothers. If you’re interested in this history, visit the Lumière museum in Lyon.
Hôtel de Ville
The Éphémères installation took place in the courtyard of Lyon’s city hall. After watching the adorable short film in Place des Terreaux, I walked through the city hall’s grand doors to walk into an enchanted garden filled with lighted trees and calming, raindrop-like sounds.
Place de la République
Displayed at Place de la République, Les Pikooks featured snow owls effortlessly gliding above a fountain. The fountain can be seen below with the owls’ eggs and beautiful light displays. What’s pretty cool is that these owls are kites and right below them are artists guiding them. Can you spot them?
La Pelleteuse Aquarium
I came across this installation on my walk to Place de la République. Can you imagine? An excavator-turned-aquarium! Pretty awesome.
This installation at la Fête des Lumières was one of my absolute favorites! Rightfully named “Unisson”, the artists really did something magical by having sound and light vibrate in unison on the face of Saint-Jean Cathedral. At times, the vibrations even had a 3-D effect!
Saint Paul train station
Based on Homer’s Odyssey, this installation was displayed at the Saint Paul train station. The visuals animated the story in a captivating way while the hip hop and rock fusion music kept us lingering at the station watching the display on repeat.
Fourvière Hill’s “Time for Light” was able to be seen from the Saône and Rhône rivers that run through central Lyon. As I prepared to walk across the bridge to the old town, I noticed that the light display here was just beginning.
Tell me! Have you been to Lyon’s light festival, or perhaps a light festival anywhere else around the world? I’d love to hear about it!