|Located at the crossroads
of Northern Europe and the Mediterranean, travellers have often
passed through Lyon but not always given this city
the attention it deserves. Two hours from the alpine ski
resorts and three hours from the sea,
Lyon, the capital of the Rhône-Alpes region
and the second largest contributor to the French economy after Paris,
is more than worthy of a detour on the way to the sun or the ski
In December 1998, Lyon became one of only a few urban centres on
the UNESCO World Heritage List. The city’s
major asset resides in the way that it has developed, enabling each
of its districts to conserve their own distinctive architectural
hallmarks. Lyon, as a city is characterised by contrasts in its
setting, between its two hills, the Fourvière and Croix-Rousse
and between its two rivers, the Rhone and the Sâone. Lyon
also demonstrates its mixed heritage, by displaying traits of a
typical northern French town in some areas, while other features
bear witness to its Latin heritage.
The city’s history begins on Fourvière Hill,
where vestiges of the original Roman city are still evident. The
Romans named Lyon Lugdunum, meaning the ‘city of light’.
This tradition continues to the present day, every evening throughout
the year, more than one hundred sites throughout the city are lit
up to show the splendour of Lyon’s architecture.
One of the best way for one to fully appreciate two millennia of
Lyon’s historical heritage is on foot. The sunny and temperate
weather lends itself to strolling through the streets, appreciating
the architectural splendour of the city. Walking around, the visitor
passes through a number of historical eras, from Fourvière
Hill and its Roman settlement to evidence of Lyon’s power
in the Gallo-Roman period.
Old Lyon (Vieux
Lyon) contains the largest display of Renaissance architecture in
France, which dates back to the end of the 15th century, when it
became an important and wealthy trade centre, famous for its fairs
and its silk industry. Strolling through Lyon is the only way for
visitors to discover and enjoy an authentic local feature, the traboules.
These covered passageways were created during the Renaissance, initially
as short cuts, although they later became escape routes for the
French resistance during World War II.
Lyon is a gourmet’s paradise. With the exception of Paris,
the city boasts the largest number of Michelin-starred restaurants
and famous chefs in the whole of France. One simply has to remember
that Lyon is the home of Paul Bocuse and his famous
restaurant to appreciate the quality of cuisine available. For a
less sophisticated atmosphere, visitors can also sample the simple
delights of a bouchon, a small picturesque restaurant specialising
in local delicacies.
This intermingling of the history and architecture of the past with
the cultural and gastronomic delights of the present combine to
make Lyon far more than just another milestone
on the way to the Mediterranean but a city worth a visit in its