Flashback to 2013: La Fête des Lumières

In a week and a half, the population of Lyon will triple for four days. Hotels have been sold out for months, and good luck getting into a restaurant in Vieux Lyon.


La Fête des Lumières!

Lyon has more than one claim to fame (the invention of cinema, the silk industry of Croix-Rousse, and Paul Bocuse, to name a few) but the Fête des Lumières is by far the most important annual event.

I didn’t know what to expect from the Fête des Lumières (which literally means “festival of lights” in case you were wondering). I kind of imagined lots of little tea lights in windows. That’s part of it; Lyon residents do sometimes put little candles in their windows. But it’s more like an artistic explosion of colorful moving light all over the Lyon that transforms the city into a magical alternate universe fueled on vin chaud for a span of four days.

Here’s a look at last year’s Fête des Lumières.

Fete des Lumieres Croix Rousse

We left home in Croix Rousse…

Fete des lumieres louis pradel

And ended up at Place de Louis Pradel. All those wheels were whirling and transforming. It was like being inside a psychedelic grandfather clock.

Fete des Lumieres rue de la republique

We walked down Rue de la République (aka Main Street)…

Fete des lumieres place machinFete des lumieres place machin 2

And ran across this. How to describe it? Not exactly a video… but fluid images that faded in and out of each other, constantly transforming, set to music.

Fete des lumieres rue de la re arches

These arches on the pedestrian street between Cordeliers and Bellecour stayed up for the holiday season. It was easier to photograph them after the Fête des Lumières, when there weren’t ten million people milling about in the street spilling vin chaud everywhere.

Oh yes – vin chaud is sold liberally on the street in flimsy plastic cups the size of a mouse’s thimble. You must drink vin chaud at the Fête des Lumières. This is not optional. Try not to spill it on yourself.

[Of course, I understand that you might not like vin chaud as much as I do, or you might choose not to consume alcohol. I bet you can find some chocolat chaud for sale as well, or bring a thermos of your own delicious concoction.]

Fete des lumieres reflectionsfete des lumieres reflections 2

I like when things are reflected in perfectly still water, so I very much liked this striking installation next to Printemps.

Fete des Lumieres grande roue

The main attraction at Place Bellecour was a short film projected onto the Ferris wheel.

Fete des lumieres place bellecour

It was kind of dark. Someone was chained up in a dungeon. Or something to that effect.

Fete des lumieres hotel de ville

We looped back up to Hôtel de Ville, where an adventure sequence featuring le Petit Prince was splashing across at entire building, set to dramatic adventure music of course.

Fete des lumieres parc de la tete d'or

The next evening, we descended the other side of the Croix-Rousse mountain to the Parc de la Tête d’Or.

Fete des lumieres parc de la tete d'or screens

There were large shadow screens with moving scenes silhouetted in them.

Fete des lumieres red lanterns

I took approximately three gazillion pictures of these red lanterns. None of them capture how breathtaking they were in real life.

Fete des lumieres lanterns and treesFete des lumieres tree silhouettesFete des lumieres jellyfish lanterns

They reminded me of jellyfish. (What do you call a group of jellyfish? A school of jellyfish?)

Fete des lumieres parcFete des lumieres sortie

We only had two nights in Lyon during the Fête des Lumières (we were in Switzerland!) so there were many exhibitions we missed. I’m excited to have double the days to visit the lights this year. Can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with for 2014.

If you’re coming to Lyon for La Fête des Lumieres, you can read a few of my suggestions here. If you have questions, feel free to get in touch!

You can see photos from the 2014 Fête des Lumières here.

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