Lyon, France has long been recognized by sophisticated travelers as the culinary capital of France. Now, for a broader range of American travelers, Lyon is emerging as a must-visit destination because of the many attractions it offers and its easy access from other popular destinations in France.
Introduction to Lyon
Only a two hour scenic ride from Paris aboard the high-speed TGV train, Lyon is the gateway to Provence and the Rhone Alps region. Savvy travelers well know that Lyon is a magnificent city and is not to be missed.
Lyon is France's second-largest city, and she is simply overflowing with activities and attractions. With her world-renowned French cuisine, historic architecture, a wealth of intriguing museums, music, dance, and art festivals, along with the picturesque nightly lighting of her monuments, Lyon is renowned for a wonderful quality of life.
Built by Caesar in the year 43 BC, Lyon was known in ancient times as Lugdunum, the capital of Gaul. This historic past is very much alive in such Lyon landmarks as the Gallo Roman amphitheatre, now a site for outdoor concerts, and the Croix-Rousse hill, which in the 1800s was the center of the silk industry.
Lyon's Renaissance quarter, which, after Prague is the second largest in Europe, still thrives with lots of daily activity. Old Lyon was the capitol of the silk, finance, and print trades during the 1500s.
Today, tourists can stroll through her unique traboules (networks of covered passageways) to visit quaint shops, restaurants, art galleries, and the amazing Cathedral St. Jean, sister cathedral to St. Jean the Divine in New York, with its astronomical clock.
Most travelers tend to think of Paris when they think of delicious French food, but Lyon is the de facto culinary capitol of France! Bordering the lovely vineyards of the Beaujolais and the Cotes du Rhone, as well as an agricultural area that produces an abundance of fresh produce, Lyon is an essential destination for any gourmet.
Lyon is famous for her traditional restaurants known as "bouchons," where enchanted travelers can feast on local specialties such as salami, rosette, quenelles, and andouillette sausages. Lyon is also known for exceptional regional cheeses, such as the Saint Marcellin, and of course the locally made chocolates.
Lyon also has an impressive array of restaurants, including those with internationally renowned chefs such as Paul Bocuse, the inventor of nouvelle cuisine.
Since eating is a serious activity in Lyon, travelers are guaranteed to have a pleasurable dining experience no matter where they choose to partake. Lyon is also the site of a world famous professional cooking school which also offers daily and weekly classes for tourists.
Lyon's role as the hub of the silk industry in the Middle Ages led to the rise of many Renaissance fairs and quite a bit of industrial development. This, in turn, led to the development of a major artistic community and a vibrant culture which still exists today.
Among the many must-visit museums are the historic cloth museum, the Musée des Tissues, which houses the International Center for the Study and Conservation of Ancient Textiles.
Lyon was the center of the French Resistance in World War II, so she is also home to the moving Museum of History of the Resistance and Deportation.
Of special interest to film enthusiasts is the Institut Lumière, which details the history of the invention of the cinema. The Lumière brothers (who were born in Lyon) filmed the world's first movie in Lyon.
A "museum" wall by the site of the first movie holds plaques celebrating the visits of famous directors from all over the world.
Lyon is famous for hosting events that attract a world-wide audience. Thanks to the Biennial Dance Festival, Lyon becomes the dance capital of the world for a few weeks each year. During the festival, professional dance companies from all over the world parade in the streets.
The Fourvière and Old Lyon music festivals, along with the Biennial Contemporary Art festival, draw artists and performers from all over.
Lyon's Nightly Illumination
Since 1989, Lyon has implemented a very unique and interesting concept in urban lighting. Because of an extremely rich architectural heritage, which is rooted in Lyon's 2,000 year history, her urban lighting scheme features over 200 buildings which are illuminated every night with floodlights according to a specific design, providing an enchanting view for the city's citizens and tourists.
And for three nights every December, the Festival of Lights showcases the beauty and grace of Lyon by lighting her buildings and homes with 1,000 brightly colored and changing lights.
Lyon: A Shopper's Paradise
The quaint shops of the Presqu'île, the peninsula that separates the two rivers, offer world-class shopping at bargain prices, thanks to the favorable exchange rate with the American dollar.
Lyon's many shops and markets offer a warm welcome, interesting crafts, and delicious local food.
Some shops frequented by travelers include Les Halles, the renowned market where celebrated chefs and local cooks shops for their ingredients, the Sunday morning craft market at Quay Fulchiron, bookstalls along the Saône, or the Rue Auguste Comte, an antique market with 80 shops.
If you're planning a French vacation, of course you'll want to experience Paris. But don't even think about leaving France without spending a few days in Lyon!
Article courtesy of ARA Content.
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