France is one of the world's top tourist destinations. It is renowned for its incredible heritage, with landmarks from all eras, from antiquity to modern and contemporary architecture and art. And as you prepare for your trip, are you wondering which are the best cities to visit in France? Let us introduce you to Lyon!
Enjoy some of the best food in France
Lyon is known as the world capital of gastronomy. As such, if you want to discover great food during your trip to France, you will be at the right place!
One of the most famous typical dishes of Lyon is the quenelle, a mixture of creamed pike cooked in the oven and served with a béchamel, tomato or crayfish sauce.
Your discoveries won’t stop here, as in Lyon, you can also taste the tablier de sapeur (sapper’s apron) : beef tripe that has been marinated in white wine, then coated with bread crumbs and fried, the cervelle de canut, made with drained fromage frais seasoned with garlic, shallots, chive, salt, pepper and often served with a toast of potatoes.
Discover art and history through museums
In Lyon, you can visit many museums of all kinds. Every time period is represented. In the Musée des Beaux Arts (Fine Arts Museum), you will discover paintings from the Middle Ages to the 21st century. The museum also displays sculptures, decorative arts and antiques…
If you are interested in contemporary art, the Musée d’Art Contemporain is for you! With a collection of 1,450 works, this museum is a must-see for anyone interested in avant-garde artists and unexpected forms of expression.
Are you interested in anthropology and natural history? The Musée des Confluences will delight you with its 4 different exhibitions spread over 3000 m²: Origins stories of the World, Species the Web of life, Societies human theatre and Eternities visions of the Beyond.
What about a totally new experience? The Musée de l’Illusion (Museum of Illusion) is designed to confuse you with great illusions and make you discover the inner workings of your brain!
A long history
What makes Lyon such an incredible city to visit in France is its ancient history, which has left its mark throughout the city.
During the Roman era, it was the capital of the Gauls and its importance persisted until the 3rd century AD when the Roman power declined. It remained a secondary city for centuries until it regained its importance between the 11th and 12th centuries. It was formally annexed by France in 1307, and then granted a charter of self-government. The king also granted the city the right to hold 4 major trade fairs per year. Thanks to these events, merchants from many countries came to Lyon, especially from the Italian states. The Piedmontese and Venetians brought silk, which soon became one of the city’s specialities.
During the Renaissance, the city changed a lot. The power of the nobility and the clergy declined in favour of the rich bourgeoisie. However, during the Wars of Religion, Lyon sided with the League and lost. As a result, the city lost its independence and saw its power decline once again.
It found new breath from the 17th and 18th centuries, when silk production was at its height, but during the French Revolution the city rebelled against the new power and was harshly repressed.
In the 19th century, when peace was restored, Lyon’s economic growth reached a new peak. While silk was already the city’s most famous product, the textile industry as a whole developed in the wake of the Industrial Revolution.
During the 20th century, the city kept developing and while World War II was a hard time for Lyon, the city is also known as the capital of the French Resistance. In the second half of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century many neighbourhoods developed, such as the Part-Dieu district, with its skyscrapers.
With such a long and rich history, it’s no wonder why Lyon is home to so many landmarks! You can spend a long time discovering ancient ruins (such as the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière) or see incredible contemporary buildings (Musée des Confluences, the Orange Cube, etc.).
But let’s say you’re only there for a few days… what should you absolutely see?
What should you visit in Lyon?
As one of the best cities to visit in France, Lyon has a lot to offer! If you are only there for a short time, here are the must-sees!
The Fourvière Hill
It’s the hill that dominates the whole city and its basilica can be seen from everywhere. Take the funicular to the top. From there you will have a breathtaking view over the city!
Parc de la Tête d’Or
In English, the Golden Head Park. It is a very large park with a central lake in the middle of the city where you can even find a free zoo! After visiting the streets, this is the perfect way to relax!
The Old Lyon
If you like the Renaissance, you will love the old Lyon! Its streets date back from this period. The buildings were inspired by the Italian architecture of the time, with its colourful walls. Behind the doors, you may find passageways called traboules, a hidden curiosity that you can visit to spice up your stay. In the old Lyon, you will also find a lot of bouchons, the famous traditional restaurants of Lyon!
The Confluence neighbourhood
Contemporary architecture is also a must-see in Lyon! If you go to the Musée des Confluences, you will discover the neighbourhood of the same name. It’s where the port of Lyon used to be. Now, it’s a developing district, known for its intriguing modern architecture.