A show like nowhere else on earth
Before the end of the year, the Festival of Lights invites you to come and admire the illuminations that set the banks of the River Saône and the narrow streets of Old Lyon burn with a thousand lights. Combining popular tradition and technological innovation, this unique event goes back to the 19th century. Back then, the residents of Lyon placed candles in their windows to celebrate the installation of a statue of the Virgin Mary on Fourvière Hill. The tradition took a step further in 1989 when the council decided to illuminate the city's architectural heritage sites, rivers and hills.
Every evening, from 8 o'clock, watch in amazement as the city centre takes on a new identity thanks to the illumination and imagination of designers from all over the world. Lighting technicians, designers, video producers and visual artists will fill you with wonder on every street corner with installations that showcase the beauty of city's heritage.
Before joining the throngs and wandering around the city, make sure you are wearing a good pair of walking shoes. Then wrap up in gloves and hat and summon up your patience if you intend visiting the most spectacular sites. Only a limited number of people can attend each projection.
Festival of Lights
From 6 to 9 December 2018
Lyon city centre
What is there to see at the 2018 Festival of Lights?
To make the most of the festival, draw up an itinerary in advance. This year, several dozen artists will take over the winding streets of Old Lyon. At Place Antonin Poncet, designer Helen Eastwood and her partner Laurent Brun will bring out your inner child with their interactive installation, which you just have to take part in. Blow on their work and light up a cascade of coloured balls representing dandelion heads.
A bit further on in Place Louis Pradel, Nicolas Paolozzi invites you to step inside the lair of a gigantic creature inspired by the depths of the ocean. Entitled “Abbys”, this structure of shifting light plunges you into the fascinating universe of bioluminescence, the light energy produced by some deep-sea organisms.
Continue to famous Place Bellecour and then walk along the banks of the River Saône. Admire all the illuminated buildings, with Fourvière Hill in the background. This magical scene will blow you away. Cross over the Saône and head to Place Saint-Jean. A moment of sheer poetry awaits you in front of the cathedral of the same name. On the facade of this Gothic monument, artistic duo Ucubo will project a contemplative digital fresco mixing flowers and colour pigments.
The magic continues at the Odeon, the Roman theatre on Fourvière Hill. Do as the locals do – buy a small lantern and take part in the creation of a gigantic sparkling fresco. Do not forget to look up, the Grand Théâtre will be aflame with colour. Time to move on now to the slopes of La Croix-Rousse. With roast chestnuts and mulled wine, a winter festival atmosphere takes over this artists' neighbourhood. Follow the locals down flights of steps and along traboules –secret passageways through old buildings – to more intimate installations full of charm which set hidden dwellings alight. Your stay in Lyon will be all the more magical for doing so.