France's third largest city, Lyon's cultural scene and sophistication rival even Paris. Lyon is the capital of Rhone-Alpes, and has a roots stretching back 2,000 years, with many of its early Roman origins still visible today. Lyon has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage city for its historic value, which demonstrates the continuous urban growth of the city. Today, the city features Roman architecture, including two amphitheaters, Renaissance neighborhoods like Vieux Lyon, and endless cultural experiences. Lyon is known for its gastronomy, shopping, cinema, and events, including annual music festivals, which have all helped make the city one of the most popular travel destinations in France.
The city of Lyon is situated on the peninsula (the Presqu'ile) formed by the convergence of the Saone River and Rhone River in east-central France. Lyon is hilly, with Fourviere and Croix-Rousse as the city's main hills, while to the east, much of the city lies on low flat lands.
How to get there
Saint-Exupery Airport is located just outside of Lyon, offering service to several European destinations, including EasyJet flights across Europe. The airport is connected to the city enter via trams and buses, which arrive at the central station, Lyon Part-Dieu and Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie. Train is a great way to get into Lyon from other destinations in France or Geneva, Switzerland. The TGV offers rail travel to Paris and Marseille in under 2 hours, as well as trains to London, Brussels, and other connections across Europe. There are also long-distance buses to Lyon, arriving at Perrache station.
When to visit
Lyon's Festival of Lights is the city's most popular event. Taking place annually in the weeks leading up to December 8, the festival is a religious celebration of the Virgin Mary, Lyon's patron saint. The tradition of candle lighting has grown to include professional light shows, including the city's largest one on Place des Terreaux. The festival is a major event, drawing attendance of up to 4 million, so Lyon can get crowded during this season. Winter in Lyon is also quite chilly, though January is the coldest month.
Summer in Lyon is considerably warmer, even reaching uncomfortably hot many days in August. For this reason, many local leave town during August, and the city is practically deserted. Tourists would do best to avoid August in Lyon, as many attractions and restaurants will be closed. Earlier in summer, however, are summer festival events, like the Nuits de Fourviere, the festival that begins in June, with Roman theaters hosting a variety of cultural events like concerts, theater, and cinema. In May, Lyon hosts the Nuits Sonores event, which is an electronic music festival.
What to see
Lyon features many historic sites, including Roman ruins and neighborhoods from the days of the Renaissance, especially in Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) along the Saone River. Some interesting features of Lyon are the traboules, which are passageways linking streets through a building or courtyard and are commonly found throughout the old town and Croix-Rousse. There are over 40 traboules in Lyon, dating back to the 4th century, though many are not open to the public. The passageways have been used to transport textiles, especially silk, and the covered walkways offer protection from all types of weather.
Another major attraction in Lyon is Fourviere basilica, known for its architecture and great views of the city. Constructed in 1872 of white marble, the basilica was dedicated to the city's patron saint, the Virgin Mary. St Jean Cathedral was built in Gothic and Romanesque styles beginning in 1180 and completed in 1480. The church boasts an astronomical clock, whose bells ring hourly between noon and 4pm. The basilica is also home to the Lamb rose window, an art piece showing St. Stephen and John the Baptist.
Croix-Rousse, known as :
"the hill that works" for its silk production and other industry, is home to some of the Roman ruins, including the Amphitheatre des Trois Gaules, which is a significant site in Christian history for being the site of the death of the first Christian martyrs of Gaul.
Museums in Lyon include Palais Saint-Pierre, Musee Gadagne, the International Puppet Museum, and Museum of Miniatures and Film Sets. The peninsula (Presqu-ile) is home to a good shopping district, the opera house, and the Place des Terreaux and Place Sathonay. Lyon is also known for its many parks, which includes Parc de la Tete d'Or, which is a very large park with plenty to see and do.
Where to stay
There are many hotels in Lyon to choose from, though the best ones book up way in advance for the Festival of Lights each December. Accommodation options include the Hotel les Carres Pegase, Hotel Victoria, Hotel Saint Paul, and LaTour Lyon. For a luxury stay, a few choices are the Cour des Loges and the Hotel Sofitel Lyon Bellecour. One youth hostel option in Lyon is the Auberge de Jeunesse de Vieux Lyon.
Last Updated on: November 3rd, 2017
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