Lyon has been a flourishing trading city since Roman times. It owes that continuous prosperity to its strategic location at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. The city was known especially for the silk trade, but it also held important financial institutions and an early printing industry.
Lyon was founded as Lugdunum
in 43 BC. Under Roman rule it was connected by a network of roads, and it even held the headquarters of the Imperial government.
After the fall of the Roman Empire, Lyon subsequently became part of Lotharingia, Burgundy, the Holy Roman Empire and (the Kingdom of) France respectively. From the 16th century onwards the city expanded beyond its traditional quarters at the Croix-Rousse and Fourvière hills.
Visit September 2008
The city of Lyon has enough on offer to satisfy anyone visiting for a weekend break. It’s a very lively ànd liveable city, with plenty of attractive restaurants, terraces, squares, small parks and (four) riverside(s).
Because of the hills and the city’s size you’ll have to pack good walking shoes as you will easily set back several kilometres.
On my first day here I explored the current city center and the Croix-Rousse hill. I immediately halted for lunch on one of the terraces at the square in front of the Hôtel de Ville. This is a great place, a bit like the market squares in Belgium. Then I walked on (and up) to the former silk workers neighbourhoods. Not a whole lot is left of that now, it’s mostly a residential area. One relatively small section still has terraced roads.
The next day, a Sunday, I got started at 8 a.m. and made my way to the other hill: Fourvière. This part of the city, on the left bank of the Saône, feels more monumental than the area I walked in yesterday. Crossing the bridge your eyes immediately turn to the landmarks Fourvière Basilica and St. Jean Abbey. To get there it’s best to take the funicular railway. The service to Fourvière is suspended for the moment, so I had to take detour and walk from there. I passed the large Roman theatre and had a quick look. Most impressive however is the Fourvière Basilica. I am not that keen anymore on visiting churches and cathedrals, but this is a sight not to be missed. Its exterior is like a fairy tale castle, while the interior is full of large mosaics.
Down at the foot of the hill is a neighbourhood called Vieux Lyon, where it is possible to see some of the old courtyards and passageways used by the silk workers (traboules).
France’s nomination dossier for this site points out a large number of separate buildings within the historic area. I did have trouble finding a number of them – the city center is quite large (after all, Lyon has half a million inhabitants) and the monuments are sometimes a bit hidden between or behind shops and restaurants.
More photos can be found in the Picture Gallery
|Thibault Magnien (France):|
The historic centre of Lyon comprises a huge area in the city and shows the evolution of the place from the Roman time to the current days passing by the increasing presence of trade in the city expansion. One of the major places of the site are the Roman remains on Fourviere Hill and that comprise above all the Odeon, used for music, the theatre and several buildings that were composing a small town two millenniums ago. The museum located on the site is very well set up with huge collections of Roman artifacts and give a lot of explanations. While visiting this place, give a look at the centre of the Odeon. You can see a great colorful mosaic made with different minerals from several places of the world known at this time.
Relatively close from the Roman site, you will be able to admire the well-known Fourviere Cathedral, built at the end of the 19st century and unique by its shape and to enjoy one of the best views over Lyon. Taking the funicular to leave the hill, you will reach the Renaissance area and walk through the different buildings built by wealthy merchants several centuries ago. To finish with, the Presqu'île, the Peninsula over the river, is full of ancient building especially near of the Place Bellecour.
| Date posted: March 2012|
|John Booth (New Zealand):|
As in Strasbourg, in Lyon I bought a day ticket which covered buses, trams, funicular, trolleybus and metro all for 4.50 euros. This way I managed to visit in one day the ornate Hotel de Ville, the sites on Fourviere Hill, the cathedral, several churches, the Temple and other architectural monuments and the huge Place Bellecour. Also interesting was the Embroidery Museum on the Presq'ile.
| Date posted: May 2010|
|Monica Tasciotti (Italy):|
I’ve been to Lyon a couple of times but only on my last visit I had the time to go to the Fourvière hill. The view of the city from the back of the Basilica is magnificent (and the Basilica itself worth a visit even if it is only from the end of XIX century) but what I liked most was the Musèe de la Civilitation Gallo-Romaine in the complex of the Parc Archéologique de Lyon Fourvière where you can also visit for free the beautiful and well preserved Roman Theatres (Grand Théatre and Odéon). I had no idea that this museum had so many, big and wonderful mosaics! They reminded me of those in the Tunis museum, also there I was struck by these outstanding works dating from the Roman empire. You can reach the museum with a funicular railway to be taken near St. Jean Cathedral down in the Vieux Lyon (here, don’t miss to look inside the buildings), then a short walk just on the right, facing the Fourvière Basilica. I’ve also taken a look to the interesting Musée de Beaux Arts that houses one of France's richest collection of art masterpieces and been to the splendid Hotel de Ville where I had the chance to be invited to a gala dinner! Once I’ve also been to the famous Paul Bocuse’s “Abbaye of Collonges” at Collonges, 5km north outside the city of Lyon where there’s a incredible huge “carillon”. It’s a mechanical pipe organ dating 1900, whose sound is the equivalent of an orchestra of 110 musicians! You can eat there only for receptions, but you can experience his cuisine at the nearby Auberge. For cheaper and still good meals, head to Rue Mercière in Lyon, a pedestrian street where you can find several “bouchon” (authentically Lyonnais establishments). I also suggest Brasserie Georges near Perrache Station. Especially with children ask for the ‘Ile flottant’ dessert and wait for a special treatment! Hope to go again and visit the rest of the Fine Arts Museum and the Lumière Institute.
| Date posted: April 2010|
|Ian Cade (England):|
I really enjoyed Lyon. It was the first proper visit I have paid to a major French city outside Paris, and gives a great impression of French culture.
The Presqu’ile area, between the Saone and the Rhone, has broad boulevards and large public squares with some great buildings and fountains, including the very impressive fountain by Bartholdi (of Statue of Liberty fame) in front of the town hall. I also liked the printing museum in this area.
The area of Old Lyon on the bank of the Saone is great, with a very impressive Cathedral and winding streets. These are all linked by Traboules; covered passages with fantastic spiral staircases. You will have to keep your eyes peeled to see them, and to get into many you have to press a buzzer but they are great fun to explore. There is a great example at the Printing Museum.
Above this is the Fourviere area topped by basilica that can be seen from all around the city. It is comparable to Sacre Cour in Paris, however this has to be the most ludicrous place of worship I have visited. It is a double decker church. The lower tier is nice, however the top level is covered in very garish decorations, and really should not be missed. Nearby are the remains of the Roman theatres (Graeme’s photo below) I was surprised to find that these were actually free to enter and made a great place for a picnic.
The area of old Lyon has some great restaurants. Bouchons are the authentically Lyonnias establishments, and we had a great meal in one of them. A severe warning to Vegetarians though; you will find the going very hard here. It took us about 30 minutes to find a place with a meat free dish, let alone menu, however the more carnivorous ones amongst us will be spoilt for choice. I can strongly recommend going down to Brasserie Georges near Perrache Station. It is a full blown Art Deco treat, a massive eating hall with no expense spared decoration. It also brews its own beers, a real treat.
Lyon was a delight and gave me a great introduction to Metropolitan France outside Paris.
| Date posted: October 2006|
|Graeme Ramshaw ():|
Spent a weekend visiting a friend in Lyon in May 2005 and what a lovely city! Suffering from comparisons to Paris for centuries, I think Lyon wins out in many respects. The food, while simpler, is heartier and is served in the more comfortable confines of the local 'bouchon.' The people are generally more outgoing and more tolerant of those of us who make an attempt at speaking French. And finally, the city is a wonderfully eclectic array of elements, boasting Roman amphitheatres, medieval alleyways, grand palaces, and modern accoutrements, all gloriously straddling the confluence of the rivers Saone and Rhone. This is not to say that I do not like Paris,far from it, but for those seeking a more relaxed and, in some ways, authentic introduction to French urban life, Lyon should be the city of choice.
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