The Fête des Lumières, or Lyon Light Festival, 2019 runs from the 5th to the 9th of December and takes place all throughout the streets of Lyon. What is the Fête des Lumières? Read about it here.
According to the official website of the Fête des Lumières, last year in 2018 we had over 1.8 million visitors to Lyon to see the lights. 100,000 of those were from abroad, although I bet this year that number will be even higher!
This incredible event is the highlight of the year in Lyon, and even though the city is really busy, there’s so much great stuff to do here. Because it’s so busy, it’s important to be organized and plan ahead!
Lyon Light Festival: Top 5 Things To Do
Here are my top 5 must-dos while visiting Lyon for the Fêtes. These are things to do during the day, since of course in the evening you’ll be busy enjoying the lights! Curious about the history of the festival? Click here to find out why we celebrate the 8th of December here in Lyon.
1. Walk around the Old Town
Vieux Lyon, or “Old Lyon” in English, is our beautiful medieval quarter nestled at the base of the Fourvière hill. This area is full of grand houses from the medieval and renaissance eras, and it’s a truly unique and special part of town.
Covered in secret passageways that cut through the large city blocks, or “traboules” as we call them, this is a magical and mysterious part of the city.
I highly recommend getting a guided walking tour, there’s so much history here that it’s always useful to learn from the experts!
Tour operators are by and large tiny independent businesses and often even just one person. If you can book directly with a tour provider, please do so. Sites like TripAdvisor/Viator and especially GetYourGuide take massive commissions! TripAdvisor is useful for finding good stuff to do, but take the extra clicks to find the person’s website or contact information to make sure your money is going to them.
2. Discover Lyon’s Museums
We have so many great museums here in Lyon.
Is fine art your thing? Check out the Musée des Beaux-Arts. Modern art? We’ve got you covered at the Musée d’Art Contemporain. Culture and anthropology in an example of some crazy modern architecture? Check out the Confluence Museum.
For more uniquely Lyon museums, check out the Musée Gadagne, which is housed in a massive Renaissance house in the old town and is home to a museum of Lyon and a marionette museum (why not?), or the Maison des Canuts, a small museum up in my neighborhood that explores the 19th Century silk industry.
For those who want something more serious, there’s the museum of Resistance and Deportation, which will take you through Lyon’s dark World War II history. Awful fact: Lyon was simultaneously the headquarters of the Gestapo and the French Resistance. Enjoy the Fête des Lumières and learn about the Nazi occupation on the same holiday!
3. Explore the Cité de la Gastronomie
This brand new gastronomic center just opened up in October and houses permanent exhibits devoted to nutrition and cooking. While of course, it focuses on Lyonnais cuisine and famous chefs, there’s also a lot of cool general information to be found here.
Alongside permanent and temporary exhibitions devoted to food, there are also cooking demonstrations and other fun activities. It has a whole area for kids as well, but don’t let that stop you from playing in it.
The Cité de la Gastronomie is housed in the unbelievably gorgeous Hôtel-Dieu complex, which also has just been newly renovated (opened in the summer of 2019). This building was Lyon’s ancient hospital and was left decrepit for a decade before being totally redone.
So, it must be said that this place does have a price tag, 12 euros for entry and another 12 to see the cooking demonstration, but it’s still a neat thing to do. It’s brand new and they are obviously still finding their feet, and I think that getting to explore the building makes the slightly unfinished vibe worth it.
Looking for places to eat during the Fêtes? Check out my guide to Lyon restaurants here.
4. Visit the Fourvière Basilica
You can’t really come to the Fête des Lumières without visiting our most dramatic landmark. This gorgeous building towers over the Old Town and the city itself. I can without a doubt say that this is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve ever been to.
Not only is the outside gorgeous and unique, but the inside is insanely opulent. Covered in brightly colored mosaics, this place is seriously bling. You can climb the tower and visit the crypt if you’re into that sort of thing.
It’s quite a hike to get up here, but all the stairs are good for you since you’ll probably be eating and drinking like a monster the whole time you’re here. It’s hard not to! If you aren’t into stairs, or the weather is poor, you can always get the funicular up the hill.
5. Lyon Light Festival Wine Tastings
Last but not least, and sure to be the highlight of your trip, come do a wine tasting at Lyon Wine Tastings! Lyon is smack dab in the middle of a few of France’s greatest wine regions, including Burgundy and the Rhône.
Throughout the Lyon Light Festival, I’ll be hosting twice daily tastings. You can join me for either a decadent fondue lunch with 5 local wines or my flagship afternoon tasting featuring 7 wines and a detailed overview of the wine regions that surround Lyon. Click here to book your tastings.
Either tasting will be a fantastic pre-game to enjoying the gorgeous spectacle that is an evening wandering through the Fête des Lumières!