11 Sep Lyon – one of France’s most beautiful cities
We find that a lot of people travelling to France head to either Paris or the coast, neglecting many of France’s beautiful secondary cities along the way. So to encourage you to explore a little more of the largest country in the EU, we’re uncovering the best of Lyon in today’s Sherpa Diary post. The third largest city in France, Lyon is located at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône Rivers, towards the south east of the country. Its history stretches all the way back to Roman times and every major historical period since then has left its own mark on the city, from the Renaissance to the industrial revolution.
Now, on with the tour…
The old town
Fancy walking through one of the largest Renaissance city centres in Europe? The city’s development from the fifteen century, up until the seventeenth century, was driven largely by the silk trade and the riches that Lyon’s merchants earned from this enabled them to build some of the finest Renaissance buildings in Europe. The Renaissance district is called Vieux Lyon and has three distinct sections Saint Jean, Saint Paul and Saint Georges, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
This Lyon landmark can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Located in the Renaissance era old town, high up on a hill on the site of a former Roman basilica, it’s design was drawn from both Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. Built in the latter part of the nineteenth century, the basilica is in fact two churches, with one on top of the other. And if you’re in the city during the start of December, the Basilica is one of the focal points of the Festival of Lights, the Lyonnaise tradition where every house places candles in each window, with the Basilica lit up in different colours.
Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon
Housed in a seventeenth century abbey, the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon is one of the largest art museums in France after the Louvre. Here you can find more than 70 rooms full of paintings and sculptures, ranging from the fourteenth to the twentieth century. These feature works from such notable artists as Renoir, Monet, Rembrandt and Van Gogh. In addition to these European masters, the museum also contains ancient Egyptian and Asian antiquities.
Lyon Cathedral makes the basilica look like a young upstart by comparison, having been completed around 400 years prior, in the fourteenth century. The façade of the building is Gothic and it contains a nine metre high astronomical clock which is still considered an engineering masterpiece even to this day. The cathedral also acts as the second focal point to the Festival of Lights that’s held each December.
The Institut Lumière celebrates two of the godfathers of cinema, the Lumière brothers. The brothers were pioneers of early film making, filming many of their early movies in and around Lyon. One of the first ever motion pictures, La Sortie de l’usine Lumière à Lyon, was shot just around the corner from the institute. One of their most famous films is L’arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, which you’re probably familiar with. It features a train pulling into a station, which according to popular legend caused audiences to flee the cinema in panic, believing a train was going to crash into them, although this reported reaction may be more urban myth than historical fact!
Apparently Lyon has the highest concentration of restaurants per person than any other city in France, so there are of course plenty of delicious dining options. But if you want to try something truly authentic to this region, then Andouillette is the food you should go for. But, and this is a big but, it comes with a pretty bad reputation, as a quick Google will prove! It’s a sausage made of pigs’ intestines and smells not too dissimilar to a urinal. So if that hasn’t put you off, then bon appétit.
One for the football fans
Lyon is of course also home to one of Europe’s most famous football teams, Olympique Lyonnais. They play at Parc Olympique Lyonnais, an impressive 59,000 seater stadium located in the outskirts of the city. It’s possible to buy tickets for Ligue 1 games a few days before kickoff, and the club also runs regular stadium tours.
Travel insurance for Lyon
Don’t forget the importance of travel insurance, even when you’re travelling close to home to somewhere like Lyon. Many travellers think the EHIC will provide all the cover they need when in the EU, but the EHIC is no substitute for travel insurance. And with prices starting from just £4.14 for 3 days travel insurance to Lyon, based on a 25 year old, get a quote from Coverontrip today, just in case Andouillette doesn’t quite agree with you!