The attractive city of Lyon sits between the Rhône and the Saône rivers. France's second city may be less popular with visitors than other French cities, but Lyon is delightful, with spectacular Roman remains, a history that takes in silk weavers, merchants and traders, and a well-deserved reputation as France's second city for gourmet restaurants.
More about the fabulous city of Lyon
This is where Lyon began -– in the Roman city at Fourvière that stands high above Lyon. Two Roman amphitheatres, the forum and the Musée Gallo Romain, full of remarkable artifacts from 2,000 years ago, dominate the hill overlooking the city.
There's a superb musical festival here every summer, Les Nuits de Fourvière. In 2018 it runs from June 11th to July 30th.
From Fourvière you get a wonderful view over Vieux Lyon which clusters around the Cathédrale St-Jean. Finally finished in 1476 after four centuries of building, the cathedral has, amongst many other treasures, a remarkable 14th-century astronomical clock. At certain hours of the day the clock comes to life. A trumpeter plays, a conductor leads an imaginary orchestra and the Archangel Gabriel appears to the Virgin Mary.
Place Bellecour, built in the first half of the 17th century, is one of Europe's largest public squares. It's Lyon's main meeting place and the location for fairs and all kinds of public events, overseen by the lofty statue of King Louis XIV. The Place is at the heart of Lyon’s main shopping and restaurant areas.
The main tourist office is located here.
The area known as la Croix Rousse is intimately tied up with the history and fortunes of Lyon. The silk weavers who produced so much of the city's trade and wealth moved into the streets of La Croix-Rousse in the 18th century, building tall houses where they wove the silks that made Lyon rich. Today this former working-class area is becoming increasingly fashionable. It has local bistros, shops, markets and a great neighborhood vibe.
Lyon's Unique Traboules
Lyon is famous for its "traboules," secret passageways that connect parallel streets, like this one in the rue Juiverie. Step though a street doorway and you enter a maze of covered alleys which thread past Renaissance courtyards with staircases and romantic balconies. They were used during World War II to hide people from the German forces. Find out more about this slice of history at the Resistance and Deportation History Centre (CHRD), which, I must warn you, contains some frightening material about the War.
Lumière Cinema Museum
See where history was made. What is now the Lumière Museum was originally the family home, then the headquarters of the Lumière company that created the cinema industry. Apart from the old and beautiful equipment, there are plenty of films to look at, including the grainy, jerky, first black-and-white film ever made.
For a very good description of the museum, check out MechTraveller.
This ‘City Library’ mural covers the side wall of a building at the corner of Rue de la Platière and the Quai de la Pecherie beside the Saône river. It’s just one of the many huge murals, all different, that stop you in your tracks as you walk around Lyon.
Eat at Lyon's famous bouchons
Bouchons are the local Lyon restaurants. They are packed every night with diners going for classic dishes like pig's trotters, washed down with local Rhône wines.
Check out the great restaurants in Lyon, good value, quirky and those top places.
Musée des Confluences
The new Musée des Confluences (opened in December 2014), is an ambitious science and anthropology centre taking the vast themes of the story of mankind. It's a pretty ambitious piece of architecture as well.
Festival of Light
Lyon’s annual Festival of Light turns the buildings throughout Lyon into fantastical, magical sights. The dramatic Place des Terreaux is full of cafés and restaurants, has the Musée des Beaux-Arts on one side and the gorgeous Hôtel de Ville on another. Unmissable is the fountain by Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. It always takes place in December.
Parc de la Tête d'Or
Don't miss the gorgeous, vast Parc de la Tête d’Or: it's where Lyon goes during the summer to play. It has something for everybody: a zoo for children, carousels, a lake for peaceful picnics, a rose garden and flowers everywhere.
The Riverside in Lyon
Boat trips along the Rhône and the Saône rivers reveal a different city, particularly at night when the buildings are lit up and appear to float above the water.