1998, when UNESCO listed the old neighborhoods of Lyon as a
World Heritage site, on par with cities such as Venice,
Florence, and Carthage and wonders like the Pyramids of
Egypt, visiting Lyon has become a must for enlightened
travelers. At the time, it was the largest urban region to acquire such
a prestigious status. From Fourvière, the Old Lyon,
and the slopes of La Croix Rousse to the Peninsula, this
site encompasses more than one thousand acres. The
renovation of Old Lyon has respected all the
architectural styles that have marked its 2,000 years
of history. Particularly noteworthy is the illumination
of the city's many impressive structures. As night falls,
Lyon becomes a sheer visual delight.
visiting what once was the capital of the Gauls, you should,
of course, take advantage of what has truly made its reputation:
its world-renowned gastronomy. Just sit down at a typical
Lyon bistro or bouchon, or at a prestigious table such
as Paul Bocuse. There are many young chefs from Lyon
worth visiting; they are respectful of their roots and
traditions, while still incorporating their own unique
Kilometers (186 Miles) Per Hour!
must travel to Lyon by train for two reasons. First, it
will take you directly to the center of the city without
the hassle of the airports. Second, it will do it quicklyextremely
quickly. It only takes 1 hour and 50 minutes from Gare
de Lyon in Paris (and the trip affords you the opportunity
to stop over at Disneyland Paris). From Lyon, it's also
very easy to reach Lille, Brussels and London quickly
via TGV ("trains à grande vitesse" or
high speed trains).
your trip by discovering Old Lyon, the second largest
architectural Renaissance metropolis of Europe (after
Venice). It almost disappeared in the 1960s, when the
then-mayor dreamed only of freeways and development and
wanted to raze the whole area and get rid of all of its
"old-fashioned things." It took all the determination
of a group organized within the association of The Renaissance
of Old Lyon and the strong efforts of André Malraux
(then-Minister of Culture under Général
de Gaulle) to make Lyon the first safeguarded site in
is a pedestrian quarter that only allows taxis dropping
passengers off at hotels to enterno personal vehicles
are allowed. This being the case, there's no need to rent
a car if you're only going to be in town for one day.
Rather, you should consider hiring a guide, so as not
to miss any important historical details during your visit.
This can be done by contacting the Tourist Office,
which offers many skilled, multilingual guides. Explore
the area by treading through the "traboules,"
which are passages leading through buildings rather than
around them. They are open during the day but are only
accessible with codes during the night. Indeed, people
actually reside in Old Lyon. Extravagant, as well as modest,
apartments can be found throughout the area.
the stairs up the hill, discovering the transoms (sculpted
windows), the yards and the towers dating from the time
of Catherine de Médicis. On your way, stop at the Musée Gadagne, installed within a town house that
belonged to a man so rich his name has become eponymous.
The Lyonnais often say "rich as Gadagne." Here
is an impressive collection of puppets from throughout
the ages. Lyon is also home to the famous Guignol, an
extremely popular puppet show. It has a satirical foundation
going back to the monarchy (of which it was very critical).
It used the entertainment of children as a medium to disseminate
new ideas. Guignol was an important social phenomenon
in French history.
an artisan workshop of "automates" (the mechanical
predecessors of robots which are also works or art) and
the Musée de la Renaissance des Automates.
Do not forget the Primatiale Saint Jean (cathedral) and
its astronomical clock which puts on a show (using automates)
at noon, 2 p.m., 3 p.m. and 4 p.m.
lunch, reserve a table at La Tour Rose, preferably
in the gardens during the warm months. Enjoy well-prepared
world cuisine while admiring the stairs, the passages,
and the famous tower which has an identical twin two buildings
the afternoon, finish climbing the hill through the terrace
gardens. View Lyon, the roofs of the whole city and, in
the distance, the Alps (weather permitting) from the square
in front of the Basilique de Fourvière.
It was built by the Lyonnais for the Virgin Mary, who
was believed to have protected the city from the Plague.
Every year, they pay homage to the Virgin on the 8th of
December with the famous Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights). If you're traveling during the warmer months, don't miss the Nights of Fourvière. These
spectacular shows comprising concerts, theater,
recitals, ballet and dance attract over 80,000 people every June through July, who can enjoy 40 different performances.
you make your way up, you will discover the Théàtre
Romain de Fourvière, built in the 1st Century A.D. This is where the martyrdom of Christians first
took place and where the lions spared Sainte Blandine
as they sat at her feet, refusing to maul her.
the Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine for the next day. Discovered during recent excavations,
these collections are exceptionally rich. You can admire
the famous table of Emperor Claude.
courtesy of Tristan Deschamps and J. Du Sordet / Office
du Tourisme de Lyon
to Day 2