11 festivals of light around the world like Vivid
Can’t get enough of Vivid Sydney? Here are a few more festivals like Vivid to add to your schedule this year.
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Once upon a time Paris was the only city that really had a claim to the title City of Light. Today, though, the French capital has more than a few rivals.
Not least is Sydney. For three weeks every year, Vivid Sydney makes the capital of New South Wales disco ball bright. Even the iconic white sails of the Opera House are reimagined as everything from butterfly wings to jellyfish.
And it doesn’t stop there. Cities all over the world now host regular light festivals, designed to put their landmarks and attractions in the limelight, spotlight, and pretty much all other kinds of light – from lasers to strobes. Here are a few of the best.
Niagara Falls Winter Festival of Light
- When: November to January (November 3 2018 to January 31 2019)
- Where: Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada
- Cost: Free, but donations encouraged
The frothy, white waters of Niagara Falls turn neon at night throughout this two-month festival. The Niagara Parkway is also made bright by more than two million lights, coiled around trees and teased into sculptures. The Dufferin Islands also feature light installations that can tower up to six metres tall.
Berlin Festival of Lights
- When: 5-14 October 2018
- Where: All over Berlin
- Cost: 15 euros
Berlin can never be accused of being a colourless city. Its street art is amongst the most famous in the world. Every October, the city takes it up a level. Blazing lights are projected onto the walls of the city’s monuments like temporary graffiti. Open air concerts, parties and talks also feature in the festival’s programme of events.
Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival
- When: 24 December 2018 to 28 February 2019
- Where: Harbin, China
- Cost: $30-$50, depending on the theme park
Harbin turns into a kaleidoscopic of colour during the annual International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival. It’s one of the largest snow and ice festivals in the world. For the event, three huge theme parks are carved out of ice and illuminated. Ice lantern fairs take place and visitors go winter swimming, stay in ice hotels, and take Siberian tiger safari tours.
Parrtjima Light Festival
- When: 28 September 2018 to 7 October 2018
- Where: Alice Springs
- Cost: Free, but you have to register your interest
For two weeks from September to October, the countryside of Alice Springs becomes fiery with light. The MacDonnell Ranges glow green, purple, red and pink and Alice Springs Desert Park turns into an outdoor art gallery. The whole thing is dedicated to bringing to life the culture, stories and artworks of the indigenous Arrernte community.
Image: Enlighten Canberra
- When: Every March
- Where: Canberra
- Cost: Free
For 10 nights in March, the Australian capital lets its hair down by hosting Enlighten Canberra. The city’s iconic landmarks are made over with light projections, live bands take to festival stages, canopies of colourful lanterns hang over street food markets, and a huge fireworks night called Skyfire explodes over Regatta Point.
Festival of Lights Lyon
- When: 6-9 December 2018
- Where: Lyon, France
- Cost: Free
Lyon is famous around the world for its food, but for four nights a year, the city puts on a feast for the eyes as well as the stomach. More than 50 light installations illuminate the city during the Fête des Lumières. One of the highlights of the event is the Candles from the Heart display, which is held in aid of charity at the Odeon of the Fourvière Roman Theatre. More than 70,000 candles are kept ablaze there for the full four nights of the festival.
Portland Winter Light Festival
- When: February (7-9 February 2019)
- Where: Portland, Oregon
- Cost: Free
Light installations snake their way around the entire city of Portland for three days every February. Artworks from the past have included a giant fire breathing dragon, an enormous sunflower that looked a little like a psychedelic black hole, and a huge heart sculpture filled with fire. En route between artistic areas, visitors can duck into food markets, drop in on lectures, and watch illuminated dances and opera performances.
- When: 1 September 2018 (Bendigo), 13 October 2018 (Geelong), Melbourne and Ballarat 2019 dates TBC
- Where: Melbourne, Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong, Victoria
- Cost: Free
For one night each a year, Melbourne, Bendigo, Geelong and Ballarat are transformed into colourful wonderlands, with buildings in each city illuminating at night, art displays installed around the cities and interactive exhibits to check out. Unlike most of the other festivals, the Melbourne and Ballarat events are held during the summer months.
Image: I Amsterdam
Amsterdam Light Festival
- When: 29 November 2018 to 20 January 2018
- Where: Amsterdam
- Cost: Free
Every year, people from all over the world visit Amsterdam to catch a glimpse of the city’s infamous red light area. For two months a year, though, there are lights of other colours that capture the attention of tourists. Amsterdam Light Festival sees the waterways and monuments of the city illuminated in all the colours of the rainbow and then some. There’s a new theme every year, and some of the world’s top light artists contribute works.
Image: Winter Lights Festival
Reykjavik Winter Light Festival
- When: Every February
- Where: Reykjavik
- Cost: Free
Reykjavik’s Winter Light Festival is designed to offer a little respite from the dark nights of the Icelandic winter. The line-up sees light installations set up across the city, and animated by dance and music. Other highlights include Pool Night, where the city’s thermal pools are open for free, and Museum Night, which sees museums staying open past closing time and putting on a programme of dances, lectures and live music.
White Nights Festival
- When: 26 May 2018 to 23 July 2018
- Where: St Petersburg
- Cost: Ticket prices vary, depending on what you see
Don’t let the name of this festival mislead you, it’s as colourful as they come. Held during the season of the Midnight Sun, the White Nights line-up includes everything from refined opera and ballet performances to animated carnivals and explosive fireworks.
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