Ah, Lyon and its Festival of Lights... This is quite simply one of the biggest festivals in Europe with no less than 3 million visitors! Around a religious festival dedicated to Mary, celebrated on December 8 since the events of 1852, the city is illuminated with thousands of lights in the windows and is the scene of a vast light and sound show. A striking spectacle to be seen during night-time walks through the city, notably on the unmissable squares such as the Terreaux, always a marvel, the Saint-Paul station, the Saint-Jean cathedral, the Célestins theatre or Bellecour. In short, a perfect opportunity to spend an unforgettable weekend in the capital of the Gauls.
The Festival of Lights, a unique route and grandiose events
This year, to celebrate its comeback after the Covid-19 pandemic, Lyon has decided that its 2021 Festival of Lights will be participatory and supportive. The public will be able to admire 31 artistic creations placed all over the city, 18 of which are completely new. The festival will once again be grandiose. This ephemeral show will therefore return to its initial duration of four days and will once again thrill all the senses of the visitor. It must be said that visual artists, stage designers, stagehands, video artists, designers and architects are putting on a real show on this occasion: without doubt the biggest event in the capital of Gaul.
During the Festival of Lights, the main places of life are dressed in light. The most grandiose animations take place in the mythical settings such as the Saint-Jean cathedral, the Fourvière hill or the Place Bellecour. An interesting possibility is to start from the famous Bellecour square. From there, you can go to the Terreaux by going up the rue de la République. You can also cross the Bonaparte bridge and focus on the Old Lyon, classified as a Unesco World Heritage site, and the Saint-Jean district and its cathedral. You can also tackle the slopes of the Croix-Rousse and the Fourvière hill: the bravest will climb on foot. While the romantic ones will take their other half for an unforgettable cruise on the Saône.
Finally, you should know that the illuminations are not limited to the official program. The inhabitants do not hesitate to hang garlands on their balconies, to put candles on them, while the most resourceful ones project light on the walls themselves. So don't hesitate to get lost and marvel at every street corner. Not to be missed either, the city's new initiative: the Lumignons du Cœur operation. On this occasion, Lyon residents and visitors will be able to make a gesture of solidarity towards a charity, the GAELIS association (Groupement des Associations et Élus étudiants de Lyon Indépendants et Solidaires), which fights against student poverty. So we're heading for the Place des Jacobins. This square in the2nd arrondissement will be transformed into a garden of light. And passers-by will be able to buy luminous lights for €2 to support the association.
If all year round, Lyon deserves to be visited, the Festival of Lights is a unique opportunity to take a trip there... illuminated of course!
Walks, architecture and shopping
Its weekend will also allow you to take advantage of its days to soak up Lyon's charm... If Fourvière is the ideal place to pray, walk and admire Lyon with a sensational panorama from its heights, the Old Lyon is the main site of visit of the city. Easily accessible, it has few streets, almost no squares, but countless traboules, these covered passages between houses. A tip for visiting if you leave from Place Bellecour to go to Vieux Lyon. Go to the left on the Quai Tilsitt and cross the Saône on the Saint-Georges footbridge. Walk up rue Saint-Georges (on the right) towards place de la Trinité, before arriving at place Saint-Jean. From here, the traboules trail begins and getting lost in the buildings becomes the pleasure of discovering staircases, courtyards, little corners of paradise... Then head for the Presqu'île, comprised between the Rhône and the Saône, the Confluence and the slopes of the Croix-Rousse. The Presqu'île is the "shopping area" around the rue de la République (rue de la Ré' for the Lyonnais!) which you must discover in a maze of streets opening onto superb squares (Célestins, Jacobins, Terreaux and Bellecour). The Bellecour square has become over time the heart of Lyon. Around the square, you can admire the beautiful facades of buildings rehabilitated thanks to the intervention of Napoleon Bonaparte. Another monument, unknown to the Lyonnais in the south-east of the square, a statue of the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, aviator and author born in Lyon. From square to square, going back up to the Terreaux, the district of the town hall and the Opera rehabilitated by Jean Nouvel, you should stroll around the Place des Célestins (Italian-style theatre), the Place des Jacobins (with its magnificent fountain), walk along the Rue Mercière, get lost in the Rue Lanterne and stop off at the Musée de l'Imprimerie (printing museum) and the Musée des Beaux-Arts
Bobo" atmosphere and wine bars
But it is not here that you will feel the heart of the city beating. You have to continue a little further north, at the foot of the slopes of the Croix-Rousse, to discover the Place Sathonay and the Place Fernand-Rey, undoubtedly the most pleasant places on the Presqu'île where the real Lyonnais meet, so close to and so far from the hustle and bustle of the Presqu'île.
Facing the hill that prays - Fourvière -, the Croix-Rousse is the hill that works. For if the whole world knows the Croix-Rousse, it is largely thanks to the canuts. In the 19th century, the factory (tens of thousands of looms) no longer had enough space in the city and moved into buildings designed "to measure" (high ceilings) to accommodate the looms. Since then, there is no more weaving in the Croix-Rousse, which is also called Le Village. A village that enjoys a peaceful atmosphere. Since the end of the last century, it is one of the "bobo" districts of Lyon where people come to do their organic market on the main boulevard, to recharge their energies, but also to have fun in the pubs, wine bars and café-theatres.
A gourmet destination
It is impossible to talk about Lyon without talking about gastronomy. The city has an international reputation, due in large part to a phrase coined by the culinary critic Curnonsky, who said of Lyon in 1935 that it was the "world capital of gastronomy". Another image that is inseparable from Lyon is that of the late Monsieur Paul Bocuse (whose historic restaurant is in Collonges-au-Mont-d'Or, north of Lyon), undoubtedly the greatest chef of the 20th century. But why this title, not necessarily justified today, and this success? Certainly because Lyon is geographically located at the crossroads of the richest French terroirs in terms of high quality products: Burgundy, Bresse, Charolais, Dombes, Dauphiné, the Rhône Valley, Auvergne, etc., all contribute their fruits, vegetables, lake and river fish, meats, not to mention the wines and liqueurs that are also part of the French meal. The other richness of Lyon, which has largely contributed to the reputation of the city, are the famous "Lyon mothers". At the end of the 19th century, these women were the cooks of wealthy merchants and when they returned home, they put their know-how at the service of the common man by using less noble products, especially offal. Thus, the cuisine of the "bouchons lyonnais" is of an incredible quality, made with products that have now become true local specialties: calf's head, sapper's apron, pig's trotters, kidneys, sausages to cook ... without forgetting the famous quenelles. Enjoy your meal!
When is it held? The festival takes place on the first weekend of December. This year, it will take place from 8 to 11 December 2021. From 7pm to 11pm on Wednesday 8 and Thursday 9 December and from 8pm to midnight on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 December
How to get there. By car, bus or train, everything is possible
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