Lyon is the third largest city in France and centre of the second largest metropolitan area in the country. It is the capital of the Rhone-Alpes region and the Rhône département. It is known as a gastronomic and historical city with a vibrant cultural scene. It is also the birthplace of cinema.
Founded by the Romans, with many preserved historical areas, Lyon is the archetype of the heritage city, as recognised by UNESCO. Lyon is a vibrant metropolis which makes the most out of its unique architectural, cultural and gastronomic heritage, its dynamic demographics and economy and its strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe. It is more and more open to the world, with an increasing number of students and international events.
The Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières) is by far the most important event of the year. It lasts four days around the 8th of December. It was initially a traditional religious celebration: on December 8th, 1852, the people of Lyon spontaneously illuminated their windows with candles to celebrate the inauguration of the golden statue of the Virgin Mary (the Virgin had been the saint patron of Lyon since she allegedly saved the city from the plague in 1643). The same ritual was then repeated every year. The celebration has turned into an international event, with light shows by professional artists from all over the world. Those range from tiny installations in remote neighbourhoods to massive sound-and-light shows, the largest one traditionally taking place on Place des Terreaux, this festival attracts around 4 million visitors every year.