Lyon’s Most Colorful Event - Fête des Lumières

Posted on 07. Jan, 2013 by in Destinations, Europe Travel, France

St-Jean Cathedral

I’d heard about the Fête des Lumières from several French friends throughout the year - according to them, it was a must-see that I wouldn’t regret traveling 2.5 hours to get to.

Good enough, I said. I never need an excuse to attend a great festival anyway!

Cue December 8th, 2012. Wearing just about every layer I own in order to survive the freezing, snowy weekend Lyon was about to go through, I explored the dozens of different lighting exhibitions spread around the city center. And honestly, I was blown away.

The Fête des Lumières is the result of a rainbow having a baby with a maniac LED machine high on LSD - colors, patterns and videos everywhere, taking you to a different world where every single surface, square, or building is the perfect scene for an elaborate light display. See for yourself!

Photos of Fête des Lumières

Place du Maréchal Lyautey

Pont Wilson

Place de la République

Colline de Fourvière, projecting some of the most famous paintings in the world.

Place Bellecour

Hôtel-Dieu - an ode to everything that’s written, from love letters to prescriptions.

Place de la Bourse

Place Louis-Pradel - colors change every few seconds, completely yat random!

Place Bellecour - bikes are spread around the Magic Cube, and the energy produced by bikers triggers a firework.

Rue de la République - Christmas spirit central!

My favorite one of all? That’s easy. The light show on the Saint-Jean Cathedral, called les Chrysalides de Saint-Jean, was beyond amazing. An incredibly well-spent 5 minutes that far made up the hour wait in below zero weather!


08 LES CHRYSALIDES Cathédrale Saint-jean -… par france3rhonealpes

Facts and tips about Fête des Lumières:

  • The origins of the festival aren’t quite as festive as today’s light displays: it goes back to 1643, when Lyon was hit by the plague and everyone and their mother lit a candle outside their window, praying the Virgin Mary to spare them from the epidemic. Every December 8th since then, a procession of locals go all the way up to the statue on Fourvière Hill to lit a candle.
  • The festival is always held on the same date - December 8th - but festivities last a few days prior and after.
  • To facilitate transportation to the festivities, Métro, tramway and buses are available at a discounted price, and are free on December 8th.
  • In numbers, the Fête des Lumières is 4 million visitors, 80 light displays and 8 million candles sold, and a low €3000 lighting bill due to eco-friendly LED bulbs.
  • Book in advance - I can’t stress this enough! Hotels are completely sold-out months before the festival, and I was so last-minute that I had to book a motel 30 minutes outside the city. PLAN AHEAD!
  • All activities are free of charge - all you need is a lot of patience and warm clothing!

Have you been to the Fête des Lumières? Are you planning to go next year?

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13 Responses to “Lyon’s Most Colorful Event - Fête des Lumières”

  1. Caro

    07. Jan, 2013

    Aaah Lyon! This is absolutely a city I must visit in my next visit to France, can’t believe I haven’t made it there yet! I really dig the bicycle powered one, nuts!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      08. Jan, 2013

      You should! Lyon is GREAT. So many foodie options and obviously great festivals!

      Reply to this comment
  2. Nick Rutten

    07. Jan, 2013

    Posts like this always make me regret the decision to completely skip Europe on my RTW trip. I’m from the Netherlands though, so I’m sure I’ll have a chance to see more of France someday! I’ll be sure to check this out.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      08. Jan, 2013

      Oh well the Netherlands aren’t that far :-) You can still make it!

      Reply to this comment
  3. Laura @Travelocafe

    07. Jan, 2013

    This is so cool! I didn’t know about this festival before. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      08. Jan, 2013

      I hope you can make it there one day - it,s fantastic!

      Reply to this comment
  4. Andrea

    07. Jan, 2013

    Oh wow - the displays are fantastic!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      08. Jan, 2013

      They really are! My photos don,t even do justice.

      Reply to this comment
  5. Vera

    08. Jan, 2013

    I’m sold! I’ve only heard about this event recently, although I didn’t think it was for me. Now I feel it sounds (and looks) really cool, and so does the whole set-up, from the free metro to the low power bill:) I’m really not good at planning ahead, but I might make a personal super-human effort to make an exception… Where’s a will, there’s a way, right:)

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      08. Jan, 2013

      If you,re still in France next year you should definitely go!

      Reply to this comment
  6. Cheryl

    17. Jan, 2013

    Lovely photos! Such a pretty festival. Berlin does the festival of lights every fall and I caught it this year … and well, it was amazing too!

    Reply to this comment
    • Marie-Eve Vallieres

      19. Jan, 2013

      I didn’t know there was a similar event in Berlin. I may have created a new travel need!

      Reply to this comment
  7. Megan

    06. Feb, 2013

    I was there this year and you’re right, it’s incredible. I had no idea what to expect and was completely blown away. Your photos are incredible.

    Here’s my recap: http://hellobougeotte.blogspot.fr/2012/12/okay-i-am-long-overdue-in-posting.html

    Reply to this comment

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