Lyon City Guide
Scenically located on the banks of the Rhône and Saône rivers, Lyon captivates visitors with its winding cobbled alleys, splendid period buildings and quaint shops. Due to the historic significance of its architectural sites, the oldest quarter of the city has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. Lyon is a real magnet for anyone with an interest in history and culture, but the city also offers visitors eclectic shopping, cultural entertainment and fine dining. This city will capture your heart with its romantic atmosphere and laid-back vibe, so you really don't need an excuse to visit it at any time.
An open-air museum
The ruins of an ancient town have been excavated on the confluence of the two rivers, as a reminder that Lyon was an important commercial hub as far back as Roman times. Visitors are welcome to amble about and sit on the benches of the amphitheatre. In the 15th and 16th centuries the city was once again a thriving military, financial and cultural centre. As a result of its rich past today Lyon is a veritable open-air museum that has preserved sites from almost all eras. Splendid residential and public buildings dating back to different historic periods sit side by side on wide boulevards, vibrant squares and winding alleys.
Place des Terreaux, the 17th-century market square, is on top of many sightseeing lists. The square is the site of lively cafés and bars, but the main attraction is the magnificent Hôtel de Ville de Lyon, which houses the city hall. This ornately decorated building looks more like a palace than a mere town hall and it's an absolute must-see. No less impressive are the city's temples. The 15th-century cathedral serves an important function as the seat of the local archbishop, but what makes it interesting to visitors is its centuries-old astronomical clock. The real beauty, however, is the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. A mixture of different architectural influences and traditions inspired the architects who erected this church. Richly decorated with friezes and sculptures, the basilica is just as striking on the outside as on the inside.
While sightseeing in the old quarters of town you will be tempted by countless dining and shopping outlets. The medieval part of Lyon has several pedestrianized streets, all lined with attractive boutiques, antique stores and art galleries, as well as restaurants, cafés and bars. The most intriguing part of the old city are its secret passages. There are more than 300 but only about 50 are open to the public, and even those are hard to find unless you ask a local. You just never know what you might come across while exploring the city!
Shopping and dining
Lyon might be steeped in history but it certainly does not dwell on the past. The modern districts of the city strike a sharp contrast with the historic quarters. Modern Lyon is characterized by sleek, contemporary developments, as well as swanky restaurants and attractive shopping centres. The city is a great destination for shopaholics and foodies alike. The Part-Dieu mall is among the largest in Europe and with well over 200 stores on the premises, visitors are more than spoilt for choice. No less attractive is Le Centre Confluence, a brand new shopping and leisure centre that opened doors in 2012. Apart from stores, its also boasts sports and entertainment facilities.
Lyon has a fantastic culinary scene and with more than 2000 establishments in town, dining options cover everything from simple creperies to Michelin-starred eateries. The city is also famous for its chocolatiers. The most renowned of all is Bernachon, one of the few chocolate makers in Europe who creates hand-made chocolates from beans roasted on the premises. In the Bernachon shop and patisserie you can sample some of the finest chocolates in town, as well as a very tempting array of pastries.
Culture and entertainment
A little known fact is that the inventors of the cinema hail from Lyon. At the Lumière Institute and Museum you can take a glimpse into the early days of cinema and the life of the Lumière family. If you prefer the fine arts to the moving images, make sure to check out the exhibitions at the MAC, which is the ultra-modern local Museum of Contemporary Art. And if you fancy seeing a show, book tickets for a performance at the Célestins Theatre or the National Opera. Come in May and you can catch the five-day Nuits Sonores, an electronic music festival that takes place in the Confluence district.
Lyon has a vibrant nightlife and music scene. After sunset the city is brightly illuminated and a range of bars and nightclubs open to visitors. You can take your pick from traditional French, Irish, Latin American and many other venues offering live entertainment. After all, there's no better way to unwind at the end of the day than with a glass of wine and music. Enjoy your visit!