Visiting Lyon in December is like taking part in a big Hollywood production. There are lights, cameras and a lot of action. Filled with thousands, if not millions, of light bulbs, the small city lights up and simply buzzes with life for four unforgettable days whilst celebrating its biggest and most popular creation, the Festival of Lights.
A major annual event in the city, the festival attracted over four million tourists in 2011 alone. This year, projection equipment was set up in 66 different locations, using new technology and processes to give the city's historic buildings, streets and even hills a new dimension.
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This year’s main attractions included The King of Dragons, made from recycled materials and LED screens, Spanish designer Agatha Ruiz de la Prada's romantic heart, and a spectacular symphony played on the three facades of Lyon's main square, Place des Terreaux.
The festival dates all the way back to 1643, a difficult period in Lyon when the plague was decimating the population. According to legend, the Virgin Mary saved the city from the plague and, to thank her, a statue was built. On that day, the whole city was lit by candles that the locals had put on their windows.
It is in this French city that you can walk through 2000 years of history, stroll through the different districts chosen by UNESCO as part of World Heritage, and see everything from Roman architecture to today’s finest creations.
Discover the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, the roman-era theatres and museums such as the Fine Arts Museum, one of the largest art galleries in France.
Getting around is both easy and pleasurable by bicycle, and at just one euro per person and per kilometre, it's an extremely affordable option. Or you can opt for Lyon's city card; it's cheap and provides free access to all museums, the public transport and even a free guided tour around the city. A one day pass for an adult is 21.00€. The best way to plan your trip is to visit www.onlylyon.org, the city's official tourism office site where you can plan the your whole trip, including a look at the best restaurants.
Where to eat and what to try
Lyon is known as the French capital of gastronomy, due in part to the presence of many of the country's finest chefs in the city. Also, two of France's best known wine-growing regions are located nearby: Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône.
Traditional local dishes include rosette lyonnaise and saucisson de Lyon (sausage); andouillette (a sausage of coarsely cut tripe); and coq au vin (chicken in wine).
The food market, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, is the perfect place to buy the ingredients for you to rustle up these famous dishes yourself.
Inside you will find meat from renowned butcher Maurice Trolliet and the best Bresse poultry from Les Volailles Clugnet, along with the most delicious of French cheese in the hands of La Mere Richard (now her daughter), the "Queen of Lyonnaise Artisan Cheese" – whose Saint Marcellin cheese is savoured throughout the country and beyond.
Where to stay
The new four-star Novotel hotel located in the heart of the new Confluence district between the Rhône and Saône rivers is full of luxury and near the leisure and shopping districts. The price per night starts at around 165€.
If what you are looking for is a hotel in the heart of Lyon, then choose the Elysee Hotel Lyon situated very close the the Town Hall. A double room is available for 75€ per night.
For a more economic option, turn to www.hostelbookers.com incredible hostels in the heart of Lyon from just 30€.
Report: Andrea Caamano, Picture Editor