Wednesday, July 27, 2011
10 Reasons to visit Lyon
10 Reasons To Visit Lyon
Founded as a Roman colony in 43 BCE and named Lugdunum, Lyon quickly became the starting point for all Roman roads in Gaul and consequently its capital.
During the second century ACE, Christians in Lyon were martyred for their religion. Legend tells us how in the Roman Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls on Croix-Rousse hill, Romans tortured Saint Blandina, how her faith in the Christian religion was so pure the wild beasts declined to attack her and how a gladiator had to be called in to finish her off.
In the late Middle Ages, Lyon became the banking capital for all of Europe. During the Renaissance, having close ties with Italy, Lyon became a centre for silk trade. There is much Italian influence on Lyon's architecture, especially in the old city called Vieux Lyon.
One of the sites for the infamous St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, thousands of Huguenots were murdered in the streets of Lyon upon the orders of the Catholic Catherine de Medici, mother of King Charles IX. During the French Revolution, the Lyonnais supported the king and fought against the Revolutionaries. The city was under siege for months and, when they finally surrendered, thousands were executed in public squares.
Lyon was a strategic centre for occupying German forces during WWII and an important part of the French Resistance.
Jean Moulin, emblem of the French Resistance.
Today, Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and thrives as France's second largest city as the gastronomic capital of France and as a major centre for banking and pharmaceutical industries.
Lyon's rich and fascinating history, gorgeous architecture, quality museums and absolute top restaurants make it "must visit" destination in France.
As I am celebrating my tenth year in my adopted city, I give you 10 Reasons To Visit Lyon.
1. Food and wine, number one, bien sur. The city is filled with excellent quality restaurants for all budgets: from Vieux Lyon's Bouchon restaurants filled with old world recipes from Lyon's silk weavers, to restaurants for the world's top chefs including Georges Blanc and Paul Bocuse, to eating fresh frog legs that originate from the étangs (ponds) of the La Dombes in the surrounding "Pays de l'Ain". Being in the middle of the Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône wine regions, Lyon restaurants offer a variety of delicious wines.
Favorite Bouchon in Vieux Lyon: Cafe du Soleil
Favorite Brasserie near Perrache: Brasserie Georges
Favorite affordable gastronomic Place Terraux: L'Etage
2. High on the Fourvière hill, the original settlement of Lugdunum, sits the Basilica of Fourvière built in 1872 in Romanesque and Byzantine-style architecture. Right next to the Basilica you will find La Tour Métallique, which stands proudly as a copy and rival of Paris' Eiffel Tower. If you are feeling adventurous, pop over to see the Le cimetière de Loyasse located just behind La Tour Métallique. Lyon's most famous citizens are buried in this stunning cemetery.
3. Moving on down the Fourvière hill, you will find the fantastic ruins of a Roman Ampitheater and Odéon. Outdoor concerts are performed each summer called Les Nuits de Fourviere. My first summer here, I saw a Stravinsky ballet performed in the two thousand year old ruins under a full moon—utterly magical.
4. During the day, you can rent a Velov bicycle or simply stroll along the Les Berges du Rhône or Quais du Rhône, a delightful embarcadero along the Rhône River with dozens of péniches or boats that host restaurants and bars.
5. Les Traboules, famed hidden pedestrian passageways dating from the 4th century which run through Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse neighbourhoods. They allow one to traverse the city without being seen. These were used by the French Resistance to escape detection from the Nazis. You can find a map of these Traboules in Place Bellecour at the Tourist Information Centre.
6. Once you've visited the Traboules, take a load off at one of Vieux Lyon's many Irish Pubs where you can enjoy excellent beer and a good old-fashioned hamburger if you need a break from the rich sauces and cheeses of the Lyonnais palate. Johnny's Kitchen, directly across from the St. Georges Church, is my personal favourite.
7. It is very French to discuss your next meal whilst eating your current meal. Another must visit spot is Les Halles de Paul Bocus on Cours Lafayette in the 6eme district. There you can nibble on fresh seafood with a "pot" of chilled white wine, taste Spain's exquisite Pata Negra ham with a glass of red wine or simply load up on the best quality cheeses, meats, sausages, cannels, deserts, luxury items like caviar and foie gras, seafood and exotic Moroccan fare. You won’t be disappointed.
8. Museums, museums and more museums! I highly recommend the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon, Musée des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs de Lyon, Musée Gallo-Romain Lyon - Fourvière and the newly reopened Musée Gadagne in Vieux Lyon.
9. Churches. I have already mentioned the Basilica of Fourvière. Also interesting to visit are: the medieval Cathedral of St. John, the 11th century Basilica of St-Martin-d'Ainay (where it is said Saint Blandina's ashes are buried under the foundation) and Gothic-style churches Église Saint-Paul, Église Saint-Bonaventure and Eglise Saint-Nizier.
10. Last but not least, take an afternoon tea or hot chocolate (so thick and rich you would think they simply melted a bar of chocolate) with a plate of exquisite pastries at Bernachon on Cours Franklin Roosevelt in the 6eme district. Hands down the best pastry shop in all of Lyon.
Annual occasions not to miss are: the Fête des lumières on December 8th, Marche de le Mode Vintage in June and the Journées du Patrimoine, this year on September 19 and 20, where ancient buildings and national heritage sites normally closed are open to the public.
Gros bisous de Lyon et a bientôt!