Lyon, the ancient capital of the Gauls, the historical capital of the European silk trade and, nowadays, the apparent gastronomic capital of France, clearly has a massive amount to offer in terms of culture, cuisine, history and architecture. Modern years have even seen it become home to a rave culture, with new electro clubs and concert venues opening all the time.
However, the part of Lyon’s identity which we are going to concentrate on here dates back much further than these musical movement. Vieux Lyon, the Renaissance district of the city and France’s largest medieval town, was first inhabited in the Middle Ages. In the 16th century, silk-weavers settled there, and created unique passageways, or traboules, which they could use for quick access down to the river. In more recent years, they were used by people trying to hide from the Gestapo during the Resistance in The Second World War. Visiting these passageways therefore becomes an enriching experience that binds together the different aspects of Lyon’s diverse history.
- Fun fact: Bizarrely, a reproduction of some of Lyon’s districts has been constructed as a tourist attraction in Dubai!
What else is there to do in Lyon?
Enjoy the cuisine: Lyon has been hailed as the ‘gastronomic capital of the world’, and the variety and quality of the culinary delights offered by this city do not fall short of this grand title. Some of the traditional foods of Lyon include coq au vin (a recipe for which can be found HERE), andouillette, saucisson de Lyon, pistachio sausage; and a cheese spread called Cervelle de canut. Although the name of this dish translates literally as ‘silk-worker’s brains’, which may not sound that appetising, it is definitely worth giving it a try!
As well as food, Lyon plays host to a range of wines, the wine-growing regions Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône being situated nearby.
The Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls and the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière: Dating back to 19 A.D., the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls is a testament to the long and rich history of the city. Similarly, the Theatre of Fourvière, which has better withstood the damage of the passing years, and which still acts as a cultural venue today, gives a glimpse into Lyon’s Roman past.
Take a walk round the Parc de la Tête d’or: Why not take a boat out on the lake, visit the elephants and giraffes in the zoo, or get competitive on the mini-golf course at this expansive park in the northeastern part of the city?
Visit the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière: With its white stone, elegant lines, golden interior and position overlooking the city, this cathedral is a impressive and soulful place to visit. It is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, who was said to have saved the city from the bubonic plague in the 17th century, and then later from Prussian forces advancing from Paris during the Franco-Prussian war (1870-1).
See the ‘Fête des Lumières’: In honour of the Virgin Mary, Lyon’s celestial protector, every year on 8th December – the day of the Immaculate Conception – the city hosts a ‘Fête des Lumières’. For four days, every household places candles along their windows, and the main buildings of the city are lit up during light displays. The event attracts 3-4 million visitors every year and is a really special occasion to be part of, especially in the lead up to Christmas.
- Fun fact: Lyon is the city in which the Lumière brothers created the cinematograph, a camera used for making the first films.