Lyon’s Festival of Lights 2018 will run from 6th December until 9th December
Lyon will once again be transformed into a theatre of lights for the annual Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights), which will take place from 6th December until 9th December. To mark the 20th year of historic Lyon’s status as a UNESCO world heritage site, this year’s festival will celebrate the architectural beauty of the city more than ever before.
When presenting this year’s Festival of Lights at a press conference, Mayor of Lyon Gerard Collomb highlighted that the event represents ‘a moment of sharing and emotion’ (‘un moment de partage et d’émotions’).
The Fête des Lumières is the perfect opportunity for families and friends to come together to share in the spectacular light displays.
But equally as important for the town council is the need for the festival to cause as little damage to the environment as possible. Indeed, the Fête des Lumières only uses 0.1% of the annual energy consumption of the city’s urban lighting.
This year’s festival is definitely not to be missed: it will be as spectacular and emotive as ever, whilst encouraging audience participation in a way not seen before.
This year’s event is particularly significant for two reasons. First, this year’s Fête des Lumières light displays will be focused around the Presqu’Île and the Old Town, other than a few new additions, such as Jean Macé train station.
Second, many of this year’s light displays will also focus more on crowd-participation. One of such displays is Wish Blow at Place Antonin Poncet, in which the audience must all blow to light up a series of orbs.
What is the Fête des Lumières?
The Fête des Lumières is a world-renowned festival of lights that takes place annually in Lyon. Each year, millions of visitors flood to Lyon to see the light displays- more and more daring as the years go by- that adorn the city’s most famous sights.
Artists from all over the world come to the city to transform it into a magical, ephemeral universe.
The Fête des Lumières has been part of the community since 1852. Today, the festival remains as popular as ever amongst the Lyonnaise, who still light candles in their windows to mark the festival.
The first light shows took place on 8th December 1852. That day, Catholics were getting ready to place the bronze statue of the Virgin Mary on the bell tower of Fourvière church. But the event and fireworks were cancelled due to a storm. Despite this, the people of Lyon still lit candles in their window, and then took to the streets to admire other’s lights.
It was from the 90s that Lyon’s council began illuminating the city’s bridges and buildings, and ever since the show has become more and more extravagant.
Despite the cancellation of the festival in 2015 due to security concerns provoked by the terrorist attacks in Paris on 13th November 2015, the city has since restored the event to its full force.
When is the Lyon Lights Festival?
The Fête des Lumières will run from Thursday 6th December until Sunday 9th December. The displays will be open from 7pm until 11pm on Thursday and Sunday, and from 9pm until 12am on Friday and Saturday.
It’s fitting that the Fête des Lumières takes place on 8th December, as not only is this when the first festival of lights took place- even though that one was clearly much more low-key, with just a few candles in residents’ windows- rather, it is also the day of the Virgin Mary.
Where is the Fête des Lumières taking place?
This year, there will be nearly 80 light creations embellishing the city. The displays will be centred principally in the Presqu’île and Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), so districts 1, 2, and 5.
This year, the display at the Tête d’or park in the 6th district is back, and there will even be small displays in places such as Jean Macé train station, the airport, and Part-Dieu shopping centre.
An important note: there will be a security perimeter all the way around the festival (excluding, for example, the display at Jean Macé). There are around 40 points of entry for pedestrians from the security perimeter, but no cars or bikes will be allowed into the security perimeter whilst the festival is on. It will also be forbidden to park on many of the roads inside the security perimeter.
Lyon’s Festival of Lights 2018 Highlights
‘Présages’ (‘Omens’) at the Parc de la Tête d’or by Marie-Jeanne Gauthé and Géraud Périole
This display will feature giant gold balls on the floor, majestic birds flying in the sky, and fireflies hanging in trees along the edge of the lake. It also tells a story, as a strange figure arises from the water, threatening the tranquility of the surroundings.
Reflets’ (‘Reflections’) at Fourvière Hill by Damien Fontaine
Both ancient and contemporary images of Lyon will be reflected onto buildings from the Palais de Justice to Saint-Jean cathedral to create an abstract picture.
‘Pigments de Lumière’ (‘Light Pigments’) at Saint-Jean cathedral by Carole Purnelle et Nuno Maya
Saint-Jean Cathedral will be lit up with a selection of abstract paintings, created by diffusing pigments, inks, and flowers in water, to produce a psychedelic mix of colours.
‘Une petite place pour de grands rêves’ (‘A small place for big dreams’) at Place Bellecour by Moetu Batle and David Passegand
Bellecour square will represent a child’s dreams, featuring the Anooki – two characters inspired by Inuits, and an illuminated wheel.
‘Pavillon’ (‘Pavilion’) at Place des Terreaux by Sebastien Lefèvre
At the Place des Terreaux, there will be a large twinkling canopy.
Fête des Lumières 2018 Special Events
You can buy tealights, known in French as ‘les lumignons’, at 2€ each, to put in your window. The profits from the sales go to the charity Docteur Clown, which funds the visits of clowns, jugglers, and professional magicians to hospitalised children.
Twenty thousand tealights will also be used in a display at Place Sathonay, lighting up the statue of Hippolyte Blandan, in aid of Docteur Clown.
Lyon’s Basilica will also hold religious services throughout the festival. Most of the churches in Lyon are opened at during the festival.
Practical Information: Lyon’s public transport free of charge
On the Saturday evening, you can ride the TCL metro and funicular lines free of charge. On the other evenings, you can ride from 4pm until the end of the service for 3€ with the special Fête des Lumières ticket.