Lyon, Rhône-Alpes


Lyon is France’s second largest urban area after Paris, and the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The city is a major tourist site with its old town (Vieux-Lyon, Presqu’Île) and a World Heritage site by Unesco. A commercial and cultural hub in Eastern France, Lyon was founded by the Romans where the Rhône meets the Saône rivers. It is now reputed for being the French capital of gastronomy.

About Lyon

Situated in Eastern France, Lyon is the third biggest French city by population, after Paris and Marseille. In 2012, 496,343 people lived in Lyon, and the population is increasing every year. Consequently, Lyon has strengthened its important role in the French economy and culture over the years. Nowadays, Lyon is the capital of the Rhône-Alpes region, the second largest and richest region in France.

Lyon Situation Map © French Moments

Lyon is closely associated with the two rivers which run through the city“La Saône”, which comes from the North-East of France, meets “le Rhône”, which comes from Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea. Between the two rivers, a peninsula has formed: this is Lyon Presqu’île, considered the city’s commercial and cultural centre.

The city was founded in 43 BC by the Romans, at Fourvière Hill. It was then called “Lugdunum”, and considered as the capital of Gaul (“Capitale des Gaules”). You can still find many relics of this period in modern day Lyon, such as the Ancient Theatre.

Lyon is also well-known for its old townone of the largest surviving Renaissance districts in Europe. It is located on the right bank of the Saone River and at the foot of Fourvière Hill. “Vieux Lyon” suffered damage over the years, but was restored in the 1960s. It was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1998, along with a major part of Lyon. In Vieux Lyon, you can find many little traditional restaurants called “bouchons”, which contribute to Lyon’s reputation as the French capital of gastronomy.

As a bridge from France’s past to its future, Lyon is a very interesting town to visit. Whether you come to discover historical remains, cultural places or even for shopping (!), you will enjoy this city.

Events in Lyon

Lyon Festival of Lights © Felix Reichle

La Fête des Lumières (Lyon Festival of Lights)

Since the mid-19th century, the people of Lyon have spontaneously honoured Holy Mary on 8 December. Festivities involve installing lights in windows and on balconies  at night time. In 1989, this tradition became an official event in the city. Nowadays, every year, the “Fête des Lumières” marks the start of the end-of-year festivities. For four days around the 8 December, about 4 million people come to Lyon to enjoy the show, which is well worth it!

La Biennale de la Danse (Biennial Dance Show)

Since September 1984, every two years, this festival has taken place in various arenas in the city, especially in the “Maison de la Danse” (Dance Hall). It lasts for two and a half weeks, with up to fifteen different shows a day! You can enjoy parades, ballets and different dance performances by young and renowned artists.

Les Nuits de Fourvière (Fourvière Nights)

Every summer since 1946 and for two months, the « Nuits de Fourvière » festival has welcomed artists from all around the World, to perform in the amazing space of Fourvière’s ancient theatre. Various disciplines are showcased: music, dance, theatre… For the last five years, the Festival has grown in popularity. French and international stars have performed there: Vanessa Paradis, Julien Clerc, Juliette Gréco, Tracy Chapman, Iggy Pop, Sting, Bob Dylan, Björk…

A view from Lyon Ancient Theatre © French Moments

La Biennale de l’Art Contemporain (Biennial Contemporary Art Show) Every other year, you can enjoy this festival of contemporary art exhibitions which take place in several Lyon museums. The main place to go is La Sucrière, a former warehouse in the Confluence area. The 2011 festival brought together 78 artists from all over the world and more than 200,000 visitors. [divider style=”default”][/divider]

Le Festival Lumière (Lumière Film Festival)

How could Lyon, the city where the Lumière brothers were born in the 1860s, not hold an important cinema festival? The town had to wait until 2009 to see the Lumière Film Festival created. Clint Eastwood was the first director to be awarded, for the whole of his work. Since then, many actors and directors have been under the Lumière Film Festival’s spotlights: Gérard Depardieu, Jean Dujardin, and Ken Loache, in 2012.

  • Our pages on LYON

  • How to get around in Lyon

    Lyon Fourvière funicular © French Moments

    Since the 1970s, the public transport network has been considerably improved. It is now very easy to go from one point to another in the town.

    In Lyon, there are four metro lines you can use from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. To climb Fourvière Hill, you can also use the two special funicular lines.

    Since the mid 1990s, the municipality has been mindful of traffic and pollution problems and has promoted public transport, especially tramway lines. After having first been removed in 1956, tramways came back to the town in 2001. People from Lyon are used to catching the five tramway lines that go across the city, from North to South and from East to West. In 2010, another special tramway was launched. Called “Rhônexpress”, it joins Saint-Exupéry International Airport direct to Part-Dieu Railway Station.

    Finally, more than 150 bus lines help you to join every single point of Lyon and its outskirts.

    How to get to Lyon

    Reaching Lyon is quite easy, wherever you come from!

    If you are aleady in France, you can drive to Lyon. From Northern France, the A6 Motorway is the quickest way and goes straight from Paris to Lyon in four and a half hours. From Southern France, the A7 Motorway will take you to Lyon from Marseille or Montpellier in three hours.

    A view of Lyon from Fourvière Hill © French Moments

    The easiest way to reach Lyon from anywhere in France is to take the TGV. It takes one and a half hours from Marseille, two hours from Paris or Montpellier, three hours from Lille and less than four hours from Strasbourg or Toulouse. And it might even be cheaper than driving!

    To travel to Lyon from abroad, you should consider travelling by plane. Almost every European city is connected to Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport by direct flights, operated by various companies (Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, etc). From Australia and America, you can reach the city thanks to connecting flights from Paris-Charles-De-Gaulle, London-Heathrow or Frankfurt.

    Visit the Tourist board of Lyon for more info!


    About Author

    Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. In 2014 he moved back to Europe from Sydney with his wife and daughter to be closer to their families and to France. He has a background teaching French and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations and a degree of Economics and Management.

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