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Lyon Sparkles In Light

What started out as a religious festival in honour of the Virgin Mary has become one of Lyon’s – and, by extension, France’s – standout cultural events. Worship of Mary the mother of Jesus in the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region goes back a long way, its origins steeped in the Middle Ages. During the plague which ravaged France in 1643, for instance, the city was placed under her protection.

To uncover the roots of the Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights), you have to go back in time to 8 December 1852, the date on which a statue of the Virgin was unveiled. Executed by the sculptor, Joseph-Hugues Fabisch, it was placed in the Chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière. The event was widely celebrated in the city and, in keeping with the traditional way of marking important commemorations in those times, the facades of well-to-do homes were lit up with candlelight. What might have been just an isolated event in Lyon’s history was later reenacted each year on 8 December, when the nativity of the Virgin is celebrated, gradually becoming the festival of lights which we know today. Over time, the religious nature of the festivity has been replaced by one more akin to cultural entertainment, while the candles have been replaced by grand spectacles of light designed by renowned artists, and the celebration itself has been extended from one to four days.

The festival has grown so popular over the years that it now attracts up to 4 million visitors who flock to Lyon, eager to witness for themselves the huge, charming and magical display of light. This can be daunting for newcomers arriving in the city to discover and enjoy the Fête des Lumières. We advise you to book your accommodation in advance and to be patient when attending the various light shows, as you are bound to encounter large crowds. What we can guarantee, however, is that you will be amazed by the earnestness with which the Lyonnais celebrate this festivity, and by the sheer number and quality of the visual displays, most of which are held in the old town and around Lyon’s major landmarks.

What’s More…

Apart from visiting Lyon for its Festival of Lights, which this year runs from 8 to 11 December, we recommend you take the opportunity to discover some of the city’s other charms, too. Be sure to visit its historic centre or Vieux Lyon, designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1998, where you can breathe the medieval atmosphere, visit Roman ruins – most notably the Roman Theatre of Fourvière – and do a spot of shopping at the Carré d’Or. Cuisine is another of the city’s fortes, and has earned it international accolades. Indeed the city features such standout chefs as Paul Bocuse and Eugénie Brazier. So, make a point of dropping in on at least one of the countless bouchons, as restaurants are known in Lyonnais parlance, and treat yourself to their excellent local cuisine.

Come and experience first-hand this stunning festival of lights – book your Vueling here.

Text by Los Viajes de ISABELYLUIS

Images by Fulvio Spada