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Lyon's Festival of Lights

While Paris is known as the city of lights, Lyon steals the spotlight for a few days during December each year, drawing thousands of tourists as it boasts incredible light displays across the city center for its Festival of Lights, or Fête des Lumières as it is affectionately known amongst the locals.

From December 8-11 each year, Lyon comes alive with incredible exhibitions of light, sound and colour. It's a tradition that has been carried through decades in the famous south-eastern French city.

Light displays at Place de Terreaux, Lyon. Credit:

The festival began in 1852 when the inauguration of the Virgin Mary statue on Lyon's Fourvière Basilica was postponed to early December due to the flooding of its sculptor's workshop, Joseph-Hugues Fabisch, on September 8th that year.

On the day of the inauguration, December 8th, heavy rainfall threatened the scheduled celebrations and illuminations that followed, but as evening came the skies cleared. The locals placed small lanterns (lumignons) outside their homes and on their window sills and the ‘Fête des Illuminations’ was born!

In 1999, the name was changed to Fête des Lumières and the event was regarded officially as a festival! It continues in full stride today.

The statue of Virgin Mary atop the Lyon Basilica. Credit: Eymardian Places

One unmissable element of the Festival of Lights is the Montée aux flambeaux procession, where lanterns are carried uphill to the basilica. It begins at the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral square around 6.30pm on December 8th each year.

Other unforgettable destinations during the light festival include the Place des Terreaux (pictured bottom right), Place des Célestins, Place des Jacobins, Grand Hôtel-Dieu and Cathedral Saint-Jean (where the procession begins).

While the details of this year's festival are yet to be released, each year usually has one special theme or display as the centrepiece.

In 2019, the festival had grand exhibitions of ocean-themed illuminations with whales, jellyfish and all other kinds of marine creatures lining the streets!

Check out some of the incredible displays in recent years by clicking on the video below.

With France Travel Solutions's recent unveiling of the destinations on the French Winter Christmas Delights tour, you too could explore the wonder and magic of the beautiful Lyon with your loved one next festive season.

Lyon is the first destination on the French Winter Christmas Delights tour, and you'll get a full two days to relish everything that the city has to offer. From Lyon's amazing gastronomy and local wines from the Rhône region, to embracing the charm of a traditional French bouchon restaurant, there is something for everyone to enjoy in Lyon.

If you love the sound of wandering through Lyon's brightly lit streets or simply observing from a distance with a glass of wine in hand, you'll love everything else that the French Winter Christmas Delights tour offers. Click the link to see the full itinerary here.

Winter is not your preferred travel season? No problem! France Travel Solutions has a variety of specialised tours to suit your needs. Click the link here to see the list of our other tours that run through the warmer months!

Don't hesitate to get in contact with Maud if you have any questions or want more information on our services here at France Travel Solutions.

Until then, happy traveling!


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