Lyon, located in southeastern France, between two hills and alongside the Rhone and Saone Rivers, is a city with diverse history and culture. It is the third largest city in France and home to world-renowned silk industry, some of the best restaurants in the world, and wine. Below are some suggestions of interesting and educational places to visit while in Lyon:
High above Lyon towers Mount Fourviere, literally, "the one who prays." Take a funicular to the top and enjoy the sweeping view of the city and the surrounding countryside. Fourviere is also home to a renowned statue of the Virgin Mary, an archeological museum, and site of a spectacular sound and light show nightly in the summer.
The Old City of Lyon
Le Vieux Carre, or old city, is the heart of Lyon. One of the best-preserved, Renaissance sectors in Europe, the old town sits at the foot of Mt. Fourviere. The Medieval and Renaissance architecture here is entrancing. Stroll by the charming shops, dine at a bouchon, the cafes here that specialize in traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, and enjoy the festive colors and energy of this neighborhood.
The Gallo-Roman Amphitheater
The area encompassing Lyon was once part of the Roman Empire. Many reminders of their majestic architecture survive. One such reminder is the Gallo-Roman Amphitheater, built in 19 A.D. under the rule of the Roman Emperor, Tiberius. Today, artifacts of the Roman and Gallic civilizations are displayed in a museum here.
Musee des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum)
The Beaux Arts museum, housed in a former Benedictine Abbey, features one of France's richest 19th century art collections. Works of Bonnard, Braque, and Picasso are displayed. Also interesting is the extensive collection of Persian, Phoenician, Egyptian, and Etruscan Art.
St John's Cathedral
The Cathedral of St John, located in the old city of Lyon, was completed in the 14th century. This historic church, which sits alongside the Saone River at the foot of Mt. Fourviere hosts concerts, events, and religious lectures throughout the year.
Parc de la Tete d'Or
This huge park, over 262 acres, has a lake, a zoo, and a botanical garden. Famous for its rose garden, admission to the park is free. The park is really too big to take in everything in one day, but there is a train that connects the different sections with the main entrance.
The Center for the History of the Resistance and the Deportation
This tribute to the French resistance movement during World War II and the millions of people killed during the Nazi occupation was opened in 1992 in a former Gestapo headquarters building. Designed to help keep the history of this horrible time real to those who didn't experience it, the center features audiovisual as well as visual displays. Lyon played an important part in the Free French movement and this center is a memorial to that sacrifice. It's a somber, but still uplifting memorial.
Enjoy the local wine
Rhone Valley wines are world famous. Don't leave Lyon without sampling a Cotes-du-Rhone or an Hermitage. Just north of Lyon lies Beaujolais, home to that light fruity wine made from Gamay grapes that is wonderful when drunk young. A festival each November in Lyon celebrates the release of the new vintage.
Decorative Arts Museum and Textile Museum
One admission allows entrance to both of these fascinating collections. The Decorative Arts Museum includes furniture and decorative objects from the 17th and 18th centuries attractively displayed. The textile museum is an extensive collection of fabric from over 2000 years of history. On display are a brocade bed cloth used by Marie Antoinette and a brocade woven for Queen Victoria. The emphasis here is on the excellent silks produced by the craftsmen of Lyon throughout history.
Dining in Lyon
Lyon is home to some of the world's most famous restaurants and chefs, Paul Bocuse among them. Whether you dine in one of the famous food meccas or a corner café, it is difficult to get a bad meal in this culinary city. Try one of the local specialties, such as French onion soup gratinee or any one of a number of sausage creations. Dumplings, rabbit, and tripe are also delicious here.