As December descends, Lyon transforms into a dazzling dreamscape for La Fête des Lumières. From 7 through 10 December, the city becomes a canvas of light, a spectacle that transcends time and tradition.
Picture yourself wandering through illuminated streets, witnessing the magic of centuries-old rituals mingling with modern art installations.
Lyon in December isn’t just a trip; it’s a luminous adventure waiting to unfold.
Unveiling the Roots
Back in 1643, Lyon faced a menacing plague, prompting the city’s leaders to make a pact with the Virgin Mary at Fourvière – a cathedral I highly recommend visiting, it must count as part of the most stunning ones in France.
I want to get married there.
Anyways, the deal was simple: annual pilgrimages up the hill if Lyon remained plague-free. Fast forward to 1852, when a statue was to be unveiled on 8 September, but was delayed due to a river flood. When the skies finally cleared, the people of Lyon spontaneously lit candles in their windows, giving birth to La
Fête des Lumières.
Today, this tradition has evolved into a dazzling festival where, from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. (6 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Sunday), the entire city comes alive with light.
From monumental projections to intricate displays, each corner of Lyon tells a story of its past and present through a symphony of lights.
Where to satisfy your festival cravings
While the city dazzles, let your taste buds join the celebration. Head to Parc Blandan for a cosmic feast at Toys in Space. Indulge in churros, crêpes, and hot dogs, all served with an eco-friendly flair. For a more refined experience, gather around the masterpiece Evanescent on Place Bellecour. Six handpicked restaurateurs offer a gastronomic journey, from savory buckwheat pancakes to succulent burgers.
Don’t miss the Foodtruck des Lumières on Place Gabriel Péri, where local ingredients elevate raclette bowls, hot dogs, and Lyon’s renowned wine into a festival of flavors.
Beyond the Lights
Lyon isn’t just about the lights; it’s a city that invites exploration. During the day, lose yourself in the secret passageways called traboules, unlocking the mysteries of Old Lyon. Take a culinary pilgrimage to the city’s bouchons, where traditional Lyonnais dishes await, and immerse yourself in the vibrant energy of the city’s neighborhoods, la Croix Rousse being my favourite – that’s where I’ll be staying for the weekend during the Festival of Lights.
As night falls and the lights take center stage, find your way to the banks of the Saône River for a romantic stroll or head to Place des Terreaux for an impromptu dance under the stars.
Lyon is not just a destination; it’s an experience waiting to be savored, a spectacle of lights and life that
will leave you enchanted.
So, pack your bags, embrace the luminous charm of Lyon, and let La Fête des Lumières guide you through a weekend of magic, history, and culinary delights.
If you’re looking for more tips and places to check out when you’re not at the light festival, check out my post that spells out how to spend a weekend.
See more about France here in Dispatches’ archives.
Charlotte Laborie grew up in England, Belgium and Switzerland. Charlotte then moved to Paris and graduated from Sciences Po Paris. She is still based in Paris, where she works in marketing.