It is December 8th: year in, year out, the city of Lyon celebrates a major event, the Festival of Lights. During three days, it will light up the city, providing a fantastic show to visitors coming from accross the globe. These are three nights when innovation will meet popular tradition, giving birth to wonderful light shows on the most beautiful places of the city. It is the perfect opportunity to discover the richness of the architectural and cultural heritage of Lyon, classified as a World Heritage site by Unesco in 1998.
What are the origins of the Festival of Light?
Originally, the Festival of Lights was a religious festival. Initiated by the city of Lyon in 1989, it has become a real popular tradition that takes place every year around December 8th.
Since the Middle Age, the city of Lyon – whose inhabitants were mainly Christians – is devoted to the Virgin Mary. In 1643, the city is affected by plague. The inhabitants wished for the plague to stop and committed to pay tribute to the Virgin Mary if it happened. And it did. At that time, the aldermen’s vow was commemorated on September 8th, the day of the Feast of the Nativity.
Two centuries later, in 1852, the city of Lyon decided to rebuild the sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin. The cardinal ordered a statue which was to be inaugurated on September 8th. By misfortune, festivities were cancelled because of floods. The feast is reported December 8th: day of the Immaculate Conception.
According to tradition, everyone puts on their windows and balconies thousands of little lights – candles protected by little glass shades. These candle lights were lit every December 8th.
Later on, this beautiful event has been supplemented with performances and light shows creating unique designs of the historical monuments of the city. Over the years, the Festival of Lights has grown a global recognition thanks to various entertainment activities and sublime lights and sound shows projected on the walls of the most beautiful monuments of the city.
Shows and activities are now created by artists, designers, architects coming from all over the world. This magical universe attracts more and more visitors every year (3 millions in 2014). This event will make your experience an authentic unforgettable adventure, all this in joy and friendliness, under the heady scents of hot spiced wine and roasted chestnuts.
What are the “best places” to see ?
This year, the Festival of Lights will take place from December 8th to December 10th, every evening from 8 pm until 12 am. More than 40 installations are going to be set up in a restricted area in order to ensure your safety. This area includes the “Vieux Lyon” and its Saint John’s cathedral, the Place Bellecour, the Fouvière Gallo-Roman Theatres and Lyon’s city hall.
The Lyon transport network (TCL) will adapt its prices for this special occasion. On December 8th, the public transports will be free from 4 pm. The following days, a special ticket will be available at only 3 euros for an unlimited access from 4 pm until the end of the service.