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Cheese tasting in the Halle de Lyon, © Vincent Formica / Office du Tourisme de Lyon


Lyon

Guignol et Gnafron, © Vincent Formica   Lyon at night - Opera in centre © Vincent Formica and Lyon Tourist Office

St Antoine Market (c) Vincent Formica / Lyon Tourist Office


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Built on silk and socialism, Lyon even now combines luxury with earthy directness. Few other cities give such quick, generous rewards. The air, light and sense of good living lift the spirit immediately on arrival. Tall, dignified, Italianate buildings, ochre-tinted, line the streets and riversides. It’s a delight to explore the lanes and squares and find the curious traboules - medieval shortcuts through courtyards and beneath houses.
  Above all, today's Lyon has an unpretentious enjoyment of the good things in life. The city has great shops and is full of excellent restaurants. In France it's considered the country's gastronomic capital, and is known especially for a cosy, unpretentious but gourmet style of restaurant called bouchons, serving a small, well-prepared menu of high-quality local specialities.
  A fondness for food and drink, and an anarchic resistance to authority, are also the hallmarks of Lyon's very own boozy, loveable rogue, Guignol, a puppet much seen in local theatres and street shows. Lyon is packed with good museums, too - notably Fine Arts and Modern Art, Roman history, Puppets, Printing, and of course, Silk. Another is devoted to the Nazi occupation and the Resistance. All tell chapters in the city’s dramatic story.


 Get the feel

Lyon has a great sense of history and continuity, with Roman ruins and extensive Renaissance and modern quarters alongside one another. The Celts dedicated their settlement here to Lug, God of Light, and under the Romans the town kept the name Lugdunum.
  In later centuries its bourgeoisie grew rich on fine silks and embroideries. The canuts, downtrodden workers who made those luxuries, created the city’s enduring culture of defiance and rebellion, its role in the  Revolution and the Resistance, and in more recent times, its radical city politics.
 
Today an air of enjoyment, innovation and art pervades the city. Even in the midst of the chic shopping streets, there's a sense of the surrounding countryside, the nearby green hills and vineyards.

 What, why, where

Lyon is strikingly located at the meeting point of two big rivers, the Saône and the Rhône, in eastern France within sight of the Alps and at the gateway to the South. The two rivers run parallel on either side of the city centre, which is known as the Presqu'île ("peninsula").

It was an important Roman city - and a large Gallic settlement before that. From the Middle Ages onwards, it was a leading manufacturing centre for textiles, especially silk. Its underpaid, ill-treated silk-workers (locally known as canuts) gave the city a rebellious, proletarian reputation. Today, Lyon (and its conurbation) are France's second city, with a population around 1 million.
  Lyon is a World Heritage City, proudly preserving an awesome historical legacy, especially from the medieval and Renaissance periods.

Lyon's long-established reputation as the gastronomic capital of France, and a tradition of rich, high-quality cooking, derives from its location at the meeting point of pastoral, vineyard and wildlife areas. Lyon lies on the borders of Burgundy and the Auvergne. The city's 'local' wine is Beaujolais, from vineyards on its north-western edge, while good quality Rhône Valley wines come from just south.

 Getting started

The main Greater Lyon tourist office, or Office du Tourisme et des Congrès du Grand Lyon, is in place Bellecour (daily 9am-6pm).
www.en.lyon-france.com

Lyon City Card, valid 1, 2 or 3 days, gives unlimited access to the city's public transit, free entrance to 18 museums and exhibitions, lots of shopping discounts, a river cruise and more. The card costs €24 (adult) for 1 day, 2 days is €33, or €42 for 3 days. Prices are usually reduced for online buyers.
www.lyoncitycard.com

 Compass points

Presqu'île
The centre of Lyon lies on a long slender peninsula between the two rivers, the Presqu'île
. (The Saône to the west, the Rhône to the east.) This is the busy shopping and entertainment area, and most of the museums are here.
  The
Presqu'île's large central square is Place Bellecour, but Place Terreaux, to its north, is city centre's most popular focal point. Pedestrianised Rue de la République, the main shopping street, links the two squares.
  South of Bellecour is Perrache, Lyon's main city centre railway station.

Right bank
On the
Saône's right bank, beautifully preserved Renaissance quarter Vieux Lyon, rises onto the slope of the landmark Fourvière hill.

Croix-Rousse
Where the peninsula broadens and climbs away from the city centre, it becomes the historic working-class district of Croix-Rousse, formerly the centre of Lyon's silk industry.

Left bank
20th-century districts, with museums and entertainment and a huge covered market, lie on the Rhone's Left Bank, including the modern commercial centre of Lyon, Part-Dieu.

 Getting around

An efficient, inexpensive public transport system provides a comprehensive network of train, tram and bus services. Lyon City Card (see above) gives free access to the whole system, including the Fourvière funiculars.
Lyon public transport website: www.tcl.fr

Lyon’s 'Velo'V' scheme allows you to use a payment card to pick up a bike at any of dozens of racks around the city centre and leave it at any other. Maps showing the racks are available at the 'Velo'V' payment points. Registration is only €1.50 for a day, 5€ for a week, and the first 30 minutes of each hire is free - long enough to get almost anywhere in central Lyon.
Velo'V website: www.velov.grandlyon.com/

 Eat and drink in Lyon

At mealtimes, Lyon comes into its own. The city is renowned for its restaurants, chefs and local ingredients. There's a strong tradition of local dishes and local wines, and small restaurants - bouchons - with simple set menus of local fare.
  A dozen Lyon city restaurants have 1 Michelin star and Mère Brazier
has 2 stars There are several more Michelin starred restaurants close to the city, including Auberge du pont de Collonges - Paul Bocuse, the distinguished establishment at Collonges which has had 3 Michelin stars ever since 1965 - over 50 years.
  There's more about eating in Lyon at:
www.en.lyon-france.com/Eat

House wine is usually from the hills of Beaujolais, just beyond the city limits, or from two other great wine regions close to the city - Burgundy to the north and the upper Côtes du Rhône to the south.

 Hotels in Lyon

There's a huge range of places to stay, especially around the main train stations Perrache and Part-Dieu. All types of accommodation can be booked on the tourist office website: www.en.lyon-france.com

 Getting to Lyon

Air - Lyon is easily accessible, with direct flights to Lyon (St-Exupéry airport) from several UK and other international airports.
Train - TGV trains cover the distance from Paris to Lyon in just 2 hours. There are also direct Eurostar services from London.

 Must-see

 Vieux Lyon 
Several bridges, including the the pedestrian Passerelle du Palais de Justice, cross the River Saône from the city centre to 'Old Lyon'. The two main streets of  Vieux Lyon - Rue du Boeuf and Rue Saint Jean - run parallel to the river and cling to the foot of Fourvière hill. Between them, or leading off, are fascinating narrow, cobbled streets and small traboules - passageways through private property. Numerous buildings have impressive facades, and you're welcome to push open the doors into magnificent medieval and Renaissance courtyards.

 Musée des Confluences 
The confluence of the Saône and Rhône creates the presqu'île on which central Lyon stands, and the merging of the two great rivers is one of most impressive the sights in the city. At the tip of the peninsula this breathtaking glass structure is a masterpiece of modern design and architecture. Inside are fascinating and imaginative exhibitions on themes bringing together art, science and society. In addition, the space hosts concerts, theatre, music and entertainment.
museedesconfluences.fr

 Cathédrale St Jean 
One of the city's most striking buildings is the impressive cathedral in Vieux-Lyon. It embraces architectural styles ranging from a 12th-century Romanesque apse to an elaborate 15th-century Gothic façade decorated with medallions. The interior has fine stone carving and beautiful stained glass. Its highlight is the entertaining and fascinating 14th-century astronomical clock.
http://cathedrale-lyon.cef.fr/

 Fourvière 
This hill, site of the original Lyon, rises behind Vieux-Lyon. On its summit stands the city's most prominent landmark, the ornate 19th-century Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. It can be reached by funicular (leaves from outside the cathedral), and while the basilica itself proves less remarkable than expected, it commands an immense panoramic view over the city.

 Musée des Tissus  (Fabrics Museum)
This prestigious museum housed in an
18th-century mansion offers a gorgeous visual experience, with one of the world’s greatest collections of historic tapestries in fine silks. Its neighbour, the Decorative Arts Museum, displays high-quality antique silver, majolica and furniture.
www.musee-des-tissus.com

 Guignol 
Guignol is Lyon's traditional puppet show, a
self-mocking look at local life and local characters. Guignol himself - and his best mate Gnaffron and wife Madelon - are supposedly argumentative, dishonest, truculent and too fond of a drink. Performed in streets or theatres, for children and adults, it can be either farcical slapstick or biting satire - or both. Théâtre Le Guignol, in Vieux-Lyon, is the small, atmospheric main venue for performances.
www.guignol-lyon.com

 Musée des Beaux Arts  (Fine Arts Museum)
A former abbey on the Presqu'île, is the setting for one of Europe’s major collections of antiquities, sculpture and 15th-20th century art, notably Impressionists. Be sure to allow time to enjoy the lovely courtyard and cloisters.
www.mba-lyon.fr

 Musée Gallo-Romain 
(Museum of Roman Gaul)
Lugdunum, initially based on Fourvière hill overlooking the site of the modern city, was a large Gallo-Roman town with ready access to the Mediterranean via the River Rhône. Impressive and important archaeological finds made among its extensive ruins are displayed in this partly underground museum at the site. The museum celebrated its 20th anniversary last year, in 2016.
www.musees-gallo-romains.com/lyon_fourviere/

 Buy it

Stylish fashions and top-quality local gourmet specialities are Lyon’s shopping highlights.
The main shopping streets are focused on traffic-free Rue de la République.
You can buy direct from the few surviving silk workshops, like Atelier de Soierie.
Across the Saône, one of Europe's largest malls is in the  Part-Dieu complex
One of Europe's biggest and best produce markets is the indoor Halles de Lyon, named in honour of the chef Paul Bocuse.

 Events and Festivals

Les Nuits de Fourvière / Fourvière Nights
3 June - 31 July 2017
This great annual extravaganza of performing arts, based at the Roman Amphitheatre on Fourvière hill, is a summer highlight for the city.
www.nuitsdefourviere.com

Beaujolais Nouveau Day
16 November 2017
A
first chance to taste the new vintage of Lyon's favourite wine, the release of the new Beaujolais is celebrated by restaurants and enthusiasts with parties, tastings and Beaujolais-themed dinners.

Fête des Lumières / Festival of Lights
7-9 December  2017 (tbc)
A major event of the Lyon year. The city becomes magical with illuminations and light installations, windows are lit with candles, a lantern procession winds through the streets, and there are concerts and other events.
www.fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr

 In the Know

A la Lyonnaise: Dishes 'in Lyon style' are based on shredded onions cooked in butter.
What's on: There's a lot happening every night in central Lyon, from nightclubs to high culture.
On the stage: At the Opéra de Lyon, world-class opera, ballet and concerts by resident and guest companies are staged in a state-of-the-art auditorium, one of the most important in France.
www.opera-lyon.com
Maison de la Danse, on the East Bank, is one of Europe's leading modern dance venues.
www.maisondeladanse.com

 Lyon Basics

Where is it?
  In eastern France, south of Burgundy,
  on the river Rhône. About 90 minutes' drive
  from the Swiss and Italian borders.
International phone dialling code:
 
00 33 (+ drop initial 0 from local number)
Time zone:
  Central Europe (=
GMT/BST + 1 hour)
Money:
 
Euro
(€).


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Lyon
Updated January 2017.
Text © Focus Guides and Andrew Sanger.
Images © Vincent Formica and Office du Tourisme de Lyon and Rhône-Alpes Tourisme, and are used with permission.
All rights reserved worldwide.
Permission to use: This guide may be freely PRINTED ONLY for personal non-commercial use. Unless a LICENCE has been obtained it may not, in whole or in part, be COPIED nor used for any COMMERCIAL purpose.
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