Lyon, France is the third largest region in France (with a population of around 1.7 million across the region, although only 484,000 of those resident live in the city itself). Often referred to as France’s second city of lights (This is because of the beautiful displays that light up the city each night), Lyon is considered by many tourists to be their favorite place to visit in France. Lyon is famous for being the “birthplace of cinema” (Lyonnaise brothers Louis and August Lumiere invented the first machine (known as the Cinematographe) from which one could create moving pictures. Lyon is also known as the “silk capital of the world”.
The historic city is home to some of the best example of Renaissance architecture in Europe. However, Lyon’s roots are much older, with it having been a city of historical significance in the Roman Era. The region still bears many marks of its roman heritage – the best known of which are the “Theatres Romains de Fourviére” (the Roman Theater) and the Gier Aqueduct (the roman “water transport system” that provided Lyon will most of its water in the Roman era).
Lyon is also known as “the gastronomic capital of France and the cuisine capital of the world. This owes, in part, to Lyon’s unique locations, giving it access to fresh produce from both land and sea. Traditional Lyonnaise cuisine is typically served in Bouchons – or “Lyonnaise restaurants”. Lyonnaise cuisine is most famous for its use of offal in its cuisine, and its wide arrange of apperitifs. Famous Lyonnaise dishes include: “Andouillette” (a beef or veal sausage that also includes intestines and tripe in its ingredients); “Rosette Lyonnaise” (a cured meat made from Lyonnaise sausages); and “Cervelle de canut” or “silk weavers brain” (a cheese spread, often with herbs and vinegar, that is spread on bread).
Lyon is also famous for its “Festival of Lights” or in French, “Fetes de Lumieries”. For four days each year (from December 6th to 9th), Lyon shuts down its streets to honor Mary (the Mother of Jesus). For locals and tourists alike the festival of lights offers a spectacular display of lights of buildings around the city, which rivals any other light display in the world. Unfortunately the festivities were cancelled in 2015 due to terrorist activity and threats within France.
But if you want to see the hidden heart of Lyon, then why not try to find the traboule – the hidden walkways of Lyon. The Vieux Lyon (or the old town of Lyon) was built along the riverfront, which made parts of the town virtually inaccessible. To resolve this problem, a series of walkway were built through courtyards of buildings to create shortcuts throughout the old heart of the town, and to make hard to reach buildings more accessible. This was done in large part to ensure that silk workers could quickly and efficiently move about the town when carrying out their work. Although the passageways remain today, they are generally only accessible through unmarked doors. If you do manage to find these hidden walkways, you will find yourself in an unfolding world of historical architecture that will take you back hundreds of years in time.