The ancient capital of the Gauls, Lyon was founded in the 1st century BC. The city has carried on developing ever since, and nowadays offers a remarkable architectural heritage. Let's set off to discover this city steeped in 2,000 years of history and home to many UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Lyon is famous for its historic centre, with treasures to amaze any visitor. Stroll around the picturesque streets of the old town, Vieux Lyon, spend some time in the Renaissance quarter, and admire the Cathedral of St. John. This Gothic building is notable for its four towers, 13th-century stained glass windows, Flamboyant Gothic Chapel of the Bourbons, bishop's throne and 14th-century astronomical clock. Don't miss the famous traboules, the inner passageways between streets that run through one or more buildings, containing tucked-away galleries, inner courtyards, ancient façades... The must-see Rue Saint-Jean is the main street in Vieux-Lyon, with a string of beautiful residences like the La Chamarerie mansion, the House of Lawyers or the Laurencin mansion.
Lyon also has a significant Roman heritage, exemplified by the remains of the Roman theatres. Located on the Fourvière hill, within the archaeological park which hosts the famous music festival Les Nuits de Fourvière every summer, they consist of a large theatre, the oldest Roman theatre in France, and the small theatre, the Odeon. Nearby, the Lugdunum Gallo-Roman Museum exhibits remarkable collections of sculptures, mosaics, jewellery and ceramics, as well as the famous Claudian Table, a bronze plaque inscribed with a speech given by the Roman Emperor Claudius in the year 48. At the top of the lush green hill is the majestic Basilica of Our Lady of Fourvière, which overlooks the city. Built at the end of the 19th century, it has a richly decorated interior, as evidenced by the mosaics depicting the story of the Virgin. From the esplanade, you can enjoy a marvellous view over the city, and also over the Alps on a clear day. Continue to the Heights Park (Parc des Hauteurs), which offers many viewpoints over the Saône and the city.
Another of Lyon's hills, La Croix-Rousse, offers a village atmosphere at the top (le plateau) and picturesque slopes (les pentes). It was once the neighbourhood of the canuts, the specialist silk workers who made Lyon famous in the past. An ideal place for a stroll, La Croix-Rousse is full of sights to see, with its House of the Canuts, dedicated to the history of silk-making in Lyon, typical traboules, pretty shops, frescoes and trompe-l'oeil paintings like the impressive Wall of the Canuts. At the bottom of La Croix-Rousse, on Rue de la Martinière, you can admire the magnificent and unmissable Lyonnais Fresco.
Between the Rhône and the Saône, the Presqu'île invites walkers and shopaholics to discover its commercial streets lined with boutiques and its beautiful squares, including Place des Terreaux, Place Bellecour - the biggest in Lyon! - Place des Jacobins and Place Louis Pradel. Rue Mercière is an ideal place to indulge in Lyon's culinary specialities thanks to its many restaurants. In the midst of an urban renewal programme, the Confluence quarter dazzles visitors with its ultra-modern creations. The museum is a must-see, for its unusual architecture as well as its collections about the history of Earth and human evolution.
To unwind, nothing beats a walk in the Tête d'Or Park. A breath of fresh air in the city, featuring green spaces with century-old trees, a lake, a rose garden and a free zoo, this immense park attracts walkers, joggers and rollerbladers. The banks of the Saône and Rhône rivers are also ideal for pleasant strolls, as is Barbe Island in the middle of the Saône, where the remains of a Romanesque abbey will delight lovers of old buildings.
Lyon is also a major gastronomy destination. The authentic specialities served by the "bouchons" (small restaurants typical of Lyon), lovely brasseries and great Michelin-starred restaurants are proof of this. Located at 102 Cours Lafayette, in Lyon's 3rd district, the Halles de Lyon - Paul Bocuse is a covered food market with shops and restaurants offering excellent local products. This is the place to be for gourmets and anyone who loves good food.
When it comes to art and culture, Lyon offers a wide range of museums. You have the Museum of Fine Arts and its exceptional collections of paintings and sculptures; the Museum of Textiles and Decorative Arts, which houses the largest collection of textiles in the world; the Museum of Contemporary Art; the Puppetry Museum, which will delight children and adults alike; the Miniature and Cinema Museum with its incredible collection of objects used for special effects; the Museum of the Lumière Institute to discover the beginnings of the silver screen, and many more. Lyon Aquarium and Mini World Lyon are sure to please younger visitors.
The Festival of Lights in December is a magical and unforgettable experience. At night-time, the city's bridges, monuments and buildings are aglow with coloured lights. A magnificent spectacle not to be missed!