All periods of Lyon’s 2,000-year history have left visible traces in the city’s architectural and cultural heritage, from Roman ruins to Renaissance palaces to contemporary skyscrapers. It never went through a major disaster (earthquake, fire, extensive bombing) or a complete redesign by urban planners. Very few cities in the world boast such diversity in their urban structure and architecture.
After Venice, the Old Lyon (wiki, map), a narrow strip along the right bank of the Saône, is the largest Renaissance area in Europe (well, it’s actually far behind Venice). Its current organization, with narrow streets mainly parallel to the river, dates back to the Middle Ages. The buildings were erected between the 15th and the 17th centuries.
The area is generally crowded in the afternoon, especially at weekends. To really enjoy its architectural beauties, the best time is therefore the morning. Around lunchtime, the streets somewhat disappear behind restaurant terraces, postcard racks and the crowd of tourists.
Traboules (wiki) are a type of secret covered passageways primarily associated with the city of Lyon. Closed at night. The traboules are a typical architectural feature of Lyon’s historical buildings. They are corridors which link two streets through a building, and usually a courtyard. Many traboules are unique architectural masterpieces, largely influenced by Italy and especially Florence.
Lyon has a long and chronicled culinary arts tradition. The noted food critic Curnonsky referred to the city as “the gastronomic capital of the world”. >> Lyonnaise cuisine
The bouchon is a traditional Lyonnais restaurant that serves local fare such as sausages, duck pâté or roast pork, along with local wines. Two of France’s best known wine-growing regions are located near the city: the *Beaujolais region to the north and the *Côtes du Rhône region to the south.
More recently, the *french tacos was invented in Lyon suburbs in the early 2000s and is now worldwide famous.
8 December each year is marked by the Festival of Lights (la Fête des lumières). This unique Lyonnaise tradition dictates that every house place candles along the outsides of all the windows to produce a spectacular effect throughout the streets.
The two main focal points of activity are typically the Basilica of Fourvière (map) which is lit up in different colours, and the Place des Terreaux (map), which hosts a different light show each year.
Of course, the Festival of Lights is a thrilling experience. However, depending on your expectations, this may not be the best time to visit the city, given the weather and the overcrowding.