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Lyon is the third largest city in France and centre of the second largest metropolitan area in the country. It is the capital of the Rhone-Alpes region and the Rhône département. It is known as a gastronomic and historical city with a vibrant cultural scene. It is also the birthplace of cinema.
Lyon is the archetype of the heritage city, as recognised by UNESCO. Lyon is a vibrant metropolis which makes the most out of its unique architectural, cultural and gastronomic heritage, its dynamic demographics and economy and its strategic location between Northern and Southern Europe.
The language of the city is French. The local dialect has practically disappeared since one out of two inhabitants were born outside the Rhône département.
Hotels, tourist attractions and restaurants in popular areas generally have staff capable of working in English.
Lyon's Saint-Exupéry Airport (LYS), some 25 km east of Lyon, is a rapidly developing airport. It still hosts few intercontinental flights, but can easily be reached via a European hub.
The connection between the city and the airport is only around 30 minutes with "tram-train" line called Rhônexpress.
From the rest of France, train is generally the most convenient way to reach the city, except for some regions, the Southwest for example. Lyon has three main train stations serving national and regional destinations: Perrache
Perrache is the historical station.
Part-Dieu station is in the heart of Lyon's main business district.
Saint-Exupéry the station is outside the city and serves the airport.
International bus services are operated by Eurolines to and from Perrache station.
Lyon is a major automotive hub for central and southern France:
A6 to the north — Paris.
A7 to the south — Marseille, Nice, Spain, Italy.
A43 to the east — Grenoble, the Alps, Northern Italy.
A47 to the west — Saint-Étienne, Clermont-Ferrand, Massif Central, west of France.
A42 to the northeast — Bourg-en-Bresse, Geneva (Switzerland), Germany.
The city centre is not so big and most attractions can be reached from each other on foot. The walk from Place des Terreaux to Place Bellecour, for example, is about 20 min. The rule of thumb is that metro stations are generally about 10 min walk apart.
Be careful when crossing major axes: traffic is dense and running red lights is a very popular sport.
You can also tour Lyon while jogging. There are several sightjogging tours of Lyon.
What to see
Lyon may not have world-famous monuments such as the Eiffel tower or the Statue of Liberty, but it offers very diverse neighbourhoods which are interesting to walk around and hide architectural marvels.
A good point for visitors is that most attractions will not cost you a cent: churches, traboules, parks, etc.
Do not hesitate to buy a detailed map with a street index from a book shop or a newsagent; many places of interest or good restaurants are located in small streets you will not find on simplified maps, such as the ones you can get from the Tourist office.
Whatever the time of year, tourists are not very numerous yet, but they concentrate in a few small areas, especially Fourvière and Vieux Lyon, where the pedestrian streets are just as crowded as the Champs-Elysees sidewalks on sunny weekends.
After Venice, the Old Lyon, a narrow strip along the right bank of the Saône, is the largest Renaissance area in Europe. Its current organization, with narrow streets mainly parallel to the river, dates back to the Middle Ages.
Museums and Galleries
Palais Saint-Pierre / Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), 20 place des Terreaux
Musée Des Confluences. At the heart of a monumental building made of metal and glass, enjoy the original experience of retracing the great adventure of humanity from its origins to the present.
Institut Lumière - Musée vivant du Cinéma, 25 rue du Premier Film. Open on bank holiday Mondays. Located in the Lumière brothers' house, this museum presents an interesting history of cinema through various items and film excerpts. Also worth seeing for the lovely architecture.
Musées Gadagne: Historical museum of Lyon and International puppet museum, 14 rue de Gadagne/1 place du Petit Collège.
Centre d'Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation, 14 avenue Berthelot. Located in the former Gestapo regional headquarters, this museum depicts the daily life in Lyon under the German occupation and keeps memories of this tragic period.
What to do
Cultural events are listed by two weekly magazines: Le Petit Bulletin and Lyon Poche. There also exists a new map of Lyon called "La Ville Nue" which lists bars, theaters, librairies, cinemas, music stores and concerts.
Music, dancing and opera
The Lyon National Orchestra plays in this impressive, modern concert hall which also hosts some jazz and world music concerts.
Opera house, 1 place de la Comédie. The old opera house was completely redesigned by Jean Nouvel in the 1990s and hosts opera and dancing shows, along with a few other concerts (especially jazz) in the smaller "Amphithéâtre" room.
Transbordeur, boulevard Stalingrad, Villeurbanne. The medium-sized hall for rock or popular music concerts.
Ninkasi, 267 rue Marcel Mérieux (M: Stade de Gerland). This is a modern-day institution in Lyon.
Lyon has a large number of theatres ranging from tiny "cafés-théâtres" to big municipal institutions. You can enjoy any type of show from comedy to classical drama to avant-garde productions.
Théâtre des Célestins, Place des Célestins (M: Bellecour). The historical theatre, in a beautiful 19th century building by Gaspard André, recently refurbished. Serious programme.
Théâtre de la Croix-Rousse, place Joannès Ambre (M: Hénon). 'The other' theatre, with a more avant-garde programme.
TNP, 8 place Lazare Goujon, Villeurbanne (M: Gratte-Ciel). Jean Vilar's spirit of 'popular theatre' lives on in the historically left-wing Villeurbanne.
Théâtre Tête d'Or, 60 avenue du Maréchal de Saxe (B: C3-Saxe-Lafayette / T: Saxe-Préfecture / M: Place Guichard). This is the only theatre in Lyon showing popular comedies in the Parisian "boulevard" style.