Every year, Lyon hosts the amazing Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights). It takes place over a three day period on a long weekend. About a month ago, I headed south to Lyon with a friend to explore the city by day and the lights by night!
The Fête des Lumières website provides an idea of the different installations there will be ahead of time. Before arriving, my friend went through the info on the website to make a list of the installations she wanted to see. I didn’t have time to check out the website beforehand, but luckily all the hostels in Lyon are prepared with tons of pamphlets for the festival. There was also an app for the festival which was really helpful. It shows you where you are in the city and what installations are nearby, etc. However helpful this was, I’d be wary of depending on phones during festivals like this one. There are millions of people in town for this festival each year, so cell service isn’t always strong. Plus you want to save your battery for taking pictures and videos of the many installations!
The website that I linked above shows some really great clips from the Fête des Lumières. I brought my GoPro along with me and took tons of videos and stills. There are more than 70 light installations all over the city. A lot of them are clustered in the main parts of town – Vieux Lyon, or Presqu’Ile – but some are a little more spread out. For this, we made a game plan of which areas we were going to go. Each night the Light Festival is open from 8:00pm-12:00am. It sounds like a lot of time, but navigating through crowds can be very time consuming. Plus, you have to go through security at each entry point.
At night, the metro stations were only open at one entrance and exit so there was more control of traffic. Security also blocked off certain roads so that you could only access installations from certain directions. I felt like a sheep at certain points, being more or less herded to the larger installations. Despite the inconvenience, I was glad that they had so much security present.
The festival was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Every installation was so different from the next! There was an animated short film projected onto the Ferris Wheel in the center of the city, and a giant lit up elephant made out of plastic jugs. There was even a big heart that would chose a love song for a couple when they placed their fingers on a reader. Some installations moved, some didn’t. Each was usually accompanied by some audio or music. At one point we were walking along the river and heard music and saw a big crowd dancing on the bridge with some lit up balloons! This was a moving installation, called Les Lampadophores! They were a group of dancers , some connected to the big light-up balloons, dancing and singing along with some upbeat music!
I enjoyed each installation so much that its difficult for me to choose favorites. However, I think for me the biggest highlights of the weekend were seeing Evolutions projected onto Saint-Jean Cathedral, Deep Web light show inside Hotel de Region, and Platonium light fixture in the City Hall courtyard.
We went to see Platonium on our first night in town. The hanging pieces reflected light and changed with the music. From afar I thought it was beautiful, but as you approach it it’s equally stunning. There was a mirror at the bottom reflecting the light. Then beyond the main part of the installation the fountain in the courtyard was lit up with black lights!
We started off the second evening by going to see Deep Web. This was one of the further installations from the center of town, but the show was quite long which made it worth the walk. This show was made of lasors and directed light matching up with another set of dramatic music. It was mesmerizing! I recorded the show on my GoPro, and I think the video lasted almost 13 minutes! It truly did not feel like that much time passed, as I just stood there in awe.
Evolutions was the last show that I got to see on the last evening. What a way to end the light festival! This was an incredible projection. The show used the architecture of the church and warped and altered the image to create a really interesting narrative. This wasn’t quite as long as Deep Web, but it was nearly 10 minutes long as well.
Fête des Lumières was a very memorable weekend! I’m so thankful my friend told me about the festival and invited me to join her! It was incredible to see the city completely transform at night. All of a sudden the streets are lined with bright lights and lanterns, the ordinary buildings become projection screens, millions of people are walking the streets with light-up headbands and such! On top of the lights and installations, the city is chock-full of people and venues selling Vin Chaud to help keep you warm. Can it get any better?