Lyon Fête des Lumières: survival guide.
The Lyon Fête des Lumières is a perfect opportunity to experience the city’s culture and history. Here are 10 things you need to know about this year’s event.
1: What Lyon Fête des Lumières Is It?
Lyon Fête des Lumières Festival is the city highlight, everybody waiting for it. Is the moment where there is the most tourist around and you will have the chance to see a very old tradition adapted to nowadays. In fact, before beens a Festival, the act of lighting a candle was a religious tradition born in the 8th September 1643. Yes, not the 8th December. But let’s go step by step (is a long story, but I will explain it quickly, promise). The 8th September 1643 the most powerful people from Lyon (nobles and merchants) go in pilgrimage to the Basilique de Fourvière (yes, the big church on the top of the old town hill) for pray the Mary Virgin to save the city from the huge Plague that hit all Europe. And guess what, it works, Lyon is safe. As promised in case of a miracle, they will renovate the pilgrimage the 8th September of each year.
In 1852 a huge statue commissioned to the artist Joseph-Hugues Fabisch has inaugurated at the top of the Basilique de Fourvière… the 8th September, the day of the traditional pilgrimage. But a huge flood of the Saône river postpones the inauguration at the 8th December.
As the problems seems not ended, that day the weather is very bad: the religious authorities are close to delete the event, when the weather seems “miraculously” became better and the inauguration takes place. As a sign of thankfulness the Lyon inhabitants make an ancient act: light a little candle as a sign of appreciation for God mercy in their house windows. And from now then, each 8th December the city became a city of lights.
3: Where Lyon Fête des Lumières Is It?
Here you can find the official map.
There are 30 spots with an official Light artwork free to see.
The Festival is open air, mainly in the central area between Place Bellecour and Place des Terreaux called Presqu‘île (where is the Opera). The Lyon city is divided into 9 districts and during the Festival the main one involved is the district 2 so the Lyon 2 area (69002 is the postal code). So little suggestion, if you are looking for a place to stay maybe is a good idea to look something close to Lyon 2 (or even better in it).
The 4 main attractions are: Place Saint-Jean and Basilique de Fourvière (in the old town), Place Bellecour (Lyon 2) and Place des Terreaux (Lyon 2). This are the more problematic points (waiting in line longer than any other Festival spots) so I suggest you to do them as soon as possible, maybe at the start of the Festival or even the 7th December (in the final tips I will explain you better this point). Later you can do the other spots, less crowed anyway, and avoid the late night crowd that create huge lines in the 4 main spots.
The spots (in order of what I suggest to see first):
- Old town (4 spots, included the main Place Saint-Jean and Fourvière, 5 minutes by walk from Lyon 2 and 1). Must see, but go early cause the roads are littles and you can easily get stuck in line. I suggest it as a starting point).
- Lyon 1 (5 spots). Very close to the main Festival area.
- Lyon 2 Presqu’île (10 spots). The main Festival area.
- Parc de la Tête d’Or (3 spots. A must see, spectacular every year. But a little bit far from the center, better to dedicate 1 evening just to it).
- Lyon 3 (3 spots, very far one from the other).
- Lyon 7 (1 spot).
- Lyon 8 (3 spot).
My ideal Lyon Fête des Lumières itinerary? Start from vieux lyon metro, make Old town 3 spots (Place Saint-Jean included), cross the bridge to Place de Terreaux (second main spot), make the spots in Lyon 1 and go south crossing all the Presqu’ile with Place Bellecour as a final spot (3th main spot, but so big that you will hardly being stuck into the crowd). If you have extra time/nights, make a tour at Parc de la Tête d’Or, is worth it (but very cold, so cover yourself, the humidity of the Park lake the night kill your bones!).
Here you can find the full light artworks list with their position: https://www.fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr/fr/edition/edition-2022
4: How To Get to Lyon Fête des Lumières?
Let’s be honest. During this Festival the public transport is suggested just if you go very early or if you come back very late. Otherwise, you will find yourself in line and maybe waiting too much for jump in. You can think of take the city bike sharing, but same problem: with 1,8 millions tourist in this 4 days and just 5000 bikes sound hard to be sure to find one available. So, my suggestion? A nice, warm, slow and no stress walk to the city center is at the end the best option. Lyon is smaller than you think and you can make a stop for a hot coffee or wine along the road. Take your time and you will get the same amount of time that waiting in line for a metro or a bus available.
Nice note: if you are too tired at the idea of coming back home by foot remember that the Lyon public transport work Friday and Saturday evening until 2 a.m. and usually on this occasion is not too much complicated use it. Take the closest metro (place bellecour, hotel de ville in Place des Terraux and Vieux lyon have one metro stop very close to the festival). The ticket is 1,90 euro (for sure cheaper than a taxi) and the public transport is totally safe during the Festival (just be aware of pickpockets, but they are in every crowded place).
Note also that if you want to visit the city during the day, you can buy this special public transport ticket in every vending machine at the metro stations (menu also in English):
“TCL en Fête” 3,30 euro : unlimited travel from 4 p.m. to the end of the service.
Other unlimited travel tickets: “24h” 6 euro, “48h” 12 euro, “72h” 16,50 euro.
“Ticket famille” family ticket for 24h illimited travel for a group of 5 people composed as minimum from 1 adult and children (from 4 to 17 years old). The group need to travel always together and you don’t need a proof of the family relationship.
Remember to validate every time your ticket when you take the public transport (metro, tram, bus) also if you have an unlimited travel ticket.
More info: www.tcl.fr.
5: What Will Happen At Lyon Fête des Lumières?
At the Festival you will have some spots that are open access and other (the main ones) that usually ask you to wait in line to have access at the lights artwork spot. You have mainly 2 types of artwork: animated light projection on monuments surfaces (Place Saint-Jean and Fourvière for example) and on site artwork in a form of a huge sculpture (of various types). You can find a list of all the artworks here.
From Thursday 8th December to Saturday 10th December: from 8 p.m. to 00 (midnight).
Sunday 11th December: from 6p.m. to 10 p.m.
Note that the Festival creates special themed itineraries, maybe this one dedicated to the family can interest you.
Please note that some artworks will be available also once the Festival ended (until the 31 December). The artworks available for extra time are:
6: How Much Does It Cost To Attend?
Is totally free. But little tips: bring with you some spare coins as you can find around many temporary sellers where you can buy the traditional hot wine (vin chaud) and snacks (hot dog, crepes or chestnuts for example) for a price between 2 and 5 euros and many accept just cash. And you will need a lot of hot wine for warm yourself, believe me!
7: What Should You Bring With You?
- warm and comfortable clothes
- gloves scarf and wool hat
- comfortable shoes suitable for long walks
- a water bottle
- a map of the festival (free, withdraws in the information points, one is located in front of the metro stop vieux lyon).
- hand wipes, to clean from chestnut ash and hot dogs sauce
- cash to pay at street kiosks
- a good photo machine or a good mobile phone for memorable souvenir photos
- 2 public transport tickets purchased in advance (avoids long queues)
- portable umbrella (you never know…)
8: Things To See And Do During Lyon Fête des Lumières
During your stay in Lyon please don’t waste your day and use it to discover a nice town with a huge historical past.
Here some place that I suggest you to visit:
- Musée Cinéma et Miniature.
A hidden gem. In the old town, a huge selection on three floors of all the original objects from the main movies of the last 30 years. Some examples? The “Back to the future” overboard and the Nike’s, “Jumanji” animals, “Spiderman” and “Batman” costumes, “The mask” and “Missis Doubtfire” mask, and many more. Totally underrated, worth every single euro of the ticket (12,50 euro). 60 Rue Saint-Jean, 69005 Lyon. https://www.museeminiatureetcinema.fr/en/
- Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.
With a standard ticket (8 euro) you can see original artworks of Perugino, Veronese, Rubens, Delacroix, Ingres, Renoir, Manet, Monet, Gauguin, Picasso ou Matisse. 20, place des Terreaux, 69001 Lyon. https://www.mba-lyon.fr/fr
Théâtre Gallo Romain de Lyon-Fourvière
A free entry perfectly preserved original roman theater. Lyon was the capital of the Gaul, and you can sit in this theater for having a wonderful view of the city. There is also a nice Museum of the Lyon Roman past and if you love history is a must see (museum entry ticket is 7 euro). 6 rue de l’Antiquaille / 17 rue Cléberg. Free entry everyday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. https://lugdunum.grandlyon.com/fr/Decouvrir/Les-theatres-romains
- Bouchon, a tipical restaurant.
Food is in the Lyon DNA from always. You can’t visit Lyon without eating in a Bouchon, a typical restaurant. Here is the official list.
9: Tips For A Successful Lyon Fête des Lumières Experience
-Wear warm and comfy clothes
-See first the old town
–Go early and by foot at the Festival!
–See all the artwork the 7th December night without the crowd! Even if the Festival starts the 8th, the night before all the artworks are already on, cause they are being tested for the big day. Take notes if you have young kids or you want to avoid the crowd, they are all visible cause open air in public space.
-If you want to visit the Artworks in the Parks, remember that they close the access 30 minutes before the final closing. So go early! And the artwork in Lyon 8 (Manufacture des Tabacs) will not take place on Sunday!
-Bring some cash with you
-Use the day to discover Lyon
The Lyon Fête des Lumières is an incredible celebration of culture and history. Be sure to check it out!
p.s: if you don’t want to miss any news about Lyon events, remember to subscribe at my weekly newsletter here (just scroll down until you will see the newsletter form).