Hop on a train heading south of Paris and you will find yourself in the wonderful city of Lyon. Lyon is the third largest city in France and is packed with history, food and culture that sets it apart from the rest of France. Not only is the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site, but it is a city where you can see Roman ruins, historic industrial districts, and a renaissance old town all in one visit. Much of Lyon's history is built on the silk trade during the Renaissance. Thanks to its strategic location on the Saône River (one of the two rivers in Lyon, the other one being the Rhône), the Lyonnaise silk was traded all over the world and contributed greatly to the feel of the city. Visitors to the city over the centuries have enriched its culture with beautiful gothic, Italian and French renaissance architecture.
Stroll over to the 5th arrondissement and you will find yourself in Vieux Lyon, or Old Lyon. As the city’s oldest district, Old Lyon holds history dating all the way back to the Middle Ages!
One of the things that makes Lyon so unique are something called "traboules," which are narrow passageways or corridors through buildings and their courtyards to connect one street directly to another. In parts of Old Lyon, there are very few streets running perpendicular to the river, and so traboules were created to allow silk tradesmen to transport their product around the city with ease. The first traboules were built in the Middle Ages and you can still use many of them to this day. They were used by the silk tradesmen or “canuts” during the Canut Revolts to outmaneuver government forces and are also credited with helping to keep Lyon from being fully controlled by German forces during World War II.
It may come as a surprise, but Lyon is the food capital of France - the city boasts more restaurants per capita than any other city in the country! All of the surrounding areas of the city have influenced the cuisine in the most delicious ways. The produce is very high-quality and the food is rich! For traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, head into a “bouchon” or traditional Lyon restaurant. Here you can dig into deep-fried tripe, dried saucisson, or Andouillette - a sausage made from tripe and pork or sometimes veal. If tripe is not your thing, you'll have to try coq au vin, which is an incredibly satisfying braised dish commonly found throughout Lyon. No matter what you eat, you are guaranteed to enjoy a delicious meal in this town!
No need to go to a museum to see the art Lyon has to offer. If you take a stroll around the city, you will stumble across more than 100 paintings on walls of working-class neighborhoods and social housing. This is a perfect way to see parts of the city that you would not normally see and to get some walking in after that heavy rich meal you just had :P
Top sites to see are:
Tony Garnier Urban Museum
In the Etats-Unis neighborhood in the 8th arrondissement, this outdoor museum displays wonderful murals painted in the 1980s commemorating the career of Tony Garnier, the architect who planned the district in the 1920s.
La Fresque des Lyonnais
The Canuts Mural
The Canuts Mural is Lyon’s original fresco in which it tells the history of the neighborhood, Croix-Rousse. Remember the traboules? La Croix-Rousse is an area rife with them! The district began to develop when the canuts moved out of Vieux Lyon due to the extremely poor working conditions.
It would be virtually impossible to list absolutely everything there is to see and do in Lyon, but hopefully we have piqued your interest. Many visitors to France hit the standards like Paris, but it’s also great to see other parts of a country that you would normally not think to go to. Lyon is a unique city to venture to for a day trip or even for an entire vacation. Plenty to do, plenty to see, and plenty to eat!
A bientot (: