Lyon’s Festival of Lights

Once a year, when the sun goes down, a spotlight shines on France’s second city.

The Festival of Lights is a beloved tradition in Lyon, and every year more than three million tourists go to watch the city seethe and glimmer in a sensuous neon dance. The façade of the Basilica of Fourvière is painted in vivid LED designs, and floating lanterns shaped like fish and flowers bob up and down amidst wide-eyed visitors. “It’s like a fairytale, there’s no other word for it,” says one traveler in this video.

The festival began 160 years ago, as a way to honor the Virgin Mary. According to the myth, the villagers promised to build a statue to the religious icon if the town was saved from the plague. They kept their word, and later embellished upon the celebrations by filling their windows with candles on the 8th of December.

Now, the festival is a four-day exhibition of the greatest light displays in the world, and artists come from everywhere to show off their incredible luminescent creations.