Explore Lyon

Lyon Travel Guide

Lyon is a city synonymous with the silk industry, the French Resistance and a reputation as the 'gastronomic capital of the world', and is located between the Rhone and the Saône rivers in the southwest of France. Lyon is home to some of the finest restaurants and chefs in the country and forms the second largest metropolitan area in France, after Paris.<br /><br /> Besides the many restaurants, bistros and cafés that entice people to this endearing city, Lyon boasts three large city parks, some 30 museums and countless monuments symbolising Lyon's development through the ages. It is home to the world-famous Lyon Opera House, whose orchestra's reputation has travelled far beyond French borders.<br /><br /> UNESCO lists Lyon as a World Heritage site due to its rich and diverse 2,000-year history, evident in the awe-inspiring Romanesque architecture and medieval buildings in Old Lyon, including the Primatiale St-Jean Cathedral, and the 16th-century Hôtel du Chamarier.<br /><br /> To the west, Fourviere Hill offers panoramic views of the city, and its own attractions include the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, and the Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine.<br /><br /> By day Lyon can be viewed by boat on a trip down its rivers, and at night dinner cruises add an element of fantasy to the city. Lyon is a city rich in food, history and culture, making it a hidden treasure in the French landscape; it certainly lives up to its Roman name, Lugdunum, meaning 'the hill of light'.<br /><br />

Lyon National Opera House

Address: 1 Place de la Comédie Lyon

This 300-year old structure's glass dome has become a landmark attraction in Lyon, situated between the City Hall and the Rhone River. The first five levels of the Lyon Opera House are underground while the six higher levels are encased in vaulted glass. The hall seats 1,200 people and boasts six vertically-stacked balconies overlooking the orchestra level. This Italian-style hall is lined with black wood and gold detail, and is home to the Lyon Opera Ballet company and the world-renown Opera House Orchestra. The acoustics are so good that it currently makes more recordings than any other French opera house, and has released award-winning opera CDs including 12 world premieres, ballets and symphony performances. The views from the dance studio, with its huge windows, are spectacular and it is worth popping in just to see them, even if you are not a fan of the performing arts. There are guided tours of the opera house available. Of course, the best way to experience the structure is by catching a show. Although some people still dress up, it is not a requirement so visitors need not panic if they don't have formal outfits.<br /><br />

Historical Museum of Lyon and International Puppet Museum

Address: 1 Place du Petit College Lyon

To the right of the river Saône lies the Hôtel Gadagne, one of the most prestigious Renaissance mansions in Lyon. It was built between 1511 and 1527 for the two sons of a spice merchant but fell into the hands of the prominent Gadagne family in 1545. Being rich Florentine bankers, they threw many extravagant parties, infamously linking their name to the mansion. In 1902 the city of Lyon bought the mansion and in 1921 the Historical Museum was installed on the premises. It wasn't until 1950 that the International Puppet Museum became an additional attraction.<br /><br /> The Gadagne Museum houses paintings, sculptures and furniture, as well as archaeological relics dating back from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, illustrating Lyon's vast history. The International Puppet Museum displays hand puppets, stick puppets, marionette puppets and sliding bar puppets originating from countries such as Japan, Cambodia, England, Italy, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Russia. The museums are both rewarding for visitors and kids in particular will love the puppets. The mansion itself is wonderful to explore and one can just imagine the wild parties it is famous for...<br /><br />

Ancient Theatre of Fourvière

Address: 6 rue de lAntiquaille, Montée de Fourvière Lyon

The ancient theatre in Lyon is the oldest in France, dating back to the year 17 BC. Built by the Emperor Augustus, it was originally used for theatre, pageants, musical shows, and poetry competitions. There are actually two theatres on the site: the massive Grand Theatre, which once seated up to 10,000 people; and the smaller Odeon below it on the hillside, which once seated 3,500 people and was used for more intimate performances like poetry readings. While much of the rich decorations are gone, decorated floors of inlaid marble and porphyry are still visible and the state of preservation of the place in general is astounding. Now it is primarily a tourist site, but the Nuits de Fourvière festival is held here every year. Nearby one can also see the ruins of a temple dedicated to the goddess Cybele, as well as some burial sites and an ancient Roman aqueduct. To really explore the site one has to do a fair bit of walking and climbing so be sure to wear comfy shoes and bring a water bottle. The Ancient Theatre of Fourviere is beautifully situated and promises many great photo opportunities.<br /><br />

Chez Mounier

Address: 3 rue des Marronniers Lyon

Food Type: French

This restaurant seems tiny from the street, but there is plenty of room inside. Chez Mounier has the traditional atmosphere of a Lyonnais bouchon, with regional dishes like quenelle de brochet (dumpling in crayfish sauce) and herring salad. Locals and tourists alike love Chez Mounier for its unpretentious atmosphere and cheap food. Open Tuesday to Saturday.<br /><br />

Brasserie Georges

Address: 30 cours de Verdun Lyon

Food Type: French

The oldest brasserie in Lyon, La Georges has been serving Lyonnais delicacies since 1836. Since then it has hosted notable celebrities like Edith Piaf, Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, and the Dalai Lama. The restaurant also brews its own beer. Its location can appear a bit seedy, but the large dining area means you can usually get a table without reservation unless dining at peak hours on the weekend. The restaurant is entirely no smoking. Open weekdays 11:30am-11:15pm, and Fridays and Saturdays 11:30am-12:15am.<br /><br />

LAuberge de lIle

Address: Place Notre Dame, Île Barbe Lyon

Food Type: French

This Michelin-starred restaurant is near to the heart of Lyon, located in a charming 17th-century inn on the tiny island of Île Barbe. It has a pretty ivy-covered courtyard and more intimate indoor dining area where you can sample dishes like meat stew mille feuille or red tuna tartare with quail and salmon eggs.<br /><br />

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