What to Visit in Lyon

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The city is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Lyon was historically known as an important area for the production and weaving of silk and in modern times has developed a reputation as the capital of gastronomy in France. It has a significant role in the history of cinema due to Auguste and Louis Lumière who invented the cinematographer in Lyon. The city is also known for its famous light festival ‘Fete des Lumières’ which occurs every 8 December and lasts for four days, that valued Lyon the title of Capital of Lights (not to be mixed up with Paris the city of lights).

 

Founded by the Romans, with many preserved historical areas, Lyon is the archetype of the heritage city, as recognised by UNESCO.

Lyon is now a vibrant metropolis which starts to make 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.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Historic Site of Lyon was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998. In their designation, UNESCO cited the “exceptional testimony to the continuity of urban settlement over more than two millennia on a site of great commercial and strategic significance”. The specific regions composing the Historic Site include the Roman district and Fourvière, the Renaissance district (Old Lyon), the silk district (slopes of Croix-Rousse), and the Presqu’île, which features architecture from the 12th century to modern times. Both Old Lyon and the slopes of Croix-Rousse are known for their narrow passageways (named traboules) that pass through buildings and link streets on either side. The first examples of traboules are thought to have been built in Lyon in the 4th century.

Seeing

Lyon may not have world-famous monuments such as the Eiffel tower or the Statue of Liberty, but it offers very diverse neighbourhoods which are interesting to walk around and hide architectural marvels. As time goes by, the city also becomes more and more welcoming for pedestrians and cyclists. So a good way to explore it may be to get lost somewhere and enjoy what comes up, and not to always follow the guide…

Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon)

After Venice, the Old Lyon, a narrow strip along the right bank of the Saône, is the largest Renaissance area in Europe. Its current organization, with narrow streets mainly parallel to the river, dates back to the middle Ages.

The traboules are a typical architectural feature of Lyon’s historical buildings. They are corridors which link two streets through a building, and usually a courtyard. Many traboules are unique architectural masterpieces, largely influenced by Italy and especially Florence.

Fourvière, Saint-Just

Fourvière was the original location of the Roman Lugdunum.

•    Panoramic viewpoint, place de Fourvière

Next to the basilica is the panoramic viewpoint, with the best view over the city. If the weather is clear, Mont Blanc can be seen in the distance.

•    Metal tower

Next to the basilica stands a smaller (86 m, 282 ft) replica of the Eiffel Tower, completed in 1894.

•    Roman theatres

These two well-preserved theatres are the most important remnant of the Roman city of Lugdunum. The Gallo-Roman museum was built next to them. The summer festival “Nuits de Fourvière” takes place here every year.

Croix-Rousse

Croix-Rousse is known as the “working hill”, the main silk production area. On the slopes was the Roman Federal Sanctuary of the Three Gauls, which comprised the amphitheatre (built in 19) and an altar (built in 12 BC).

The neighbourhood is still one of the most densely populated in Europe.

•    Amphitheatre des Trois Gaules

Documents say that it was the largest theatre in Gaul at that time, but nobody knows exactly how far it extends under the neighbouring buildings, nor what remains from the Roman era after centuries of construction.

Museums and Galleries

•    Museum of Fine Arts

•    Museum of Contemporary Art

•    Lumière Institute  – Living museum of cinema. Located in the Lumière brothers’ house, this museum presents an interesting history of cinema through various items and film excerpts and other early cinematic and photographic artefacts. Also worth seeing for the lovely architecture.

•    Gallo-roman museum of Fourvière. The second largest museum in France, it has all kinds of things relating to Rhone-Alps history.

•    Miniature and Movie scenery Museum. Created by artist Dan Ohlmann, this private gallery shows about 120 miniature models of all kinds of scenes: houses, restaurants, workshops, schools, etc., from Lyon or elsewhere, historical or contemporary.

Parks and Gardens

•    Park of la Tête d’Or : Completed in 1862, this 105-hectare English-style garden is one of the largest and arguably one of the most beautiful urban parks in France. The highlights of the park include the large greenhouses, the botanical garden, the rose garden and the “African plain” in which animals wander in a natural-style environment.

•    The right bank of the river Rhône has recently been turned into a 5-km promenade with various landscapes and great views over the Croix-Rousse and Presqu’Ile areas.

 

Gastronomy

For several centuries Lyon has been known as the French capital of gastronomy, due in part to the presence of many of France’s finest chefs in the city and its surroundings. This reputation also comes from the fact that two of France’s best known wine-growing regions are located near Lyon: the Beaujolais to the North, and the Côtes du Rhône to the South.

Lyon is the home of very typical and traditional restaurants serving local dishes, and local wines: the bouchons.


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