Lyon - a remarkably well-preserved showcase of gorgeous architecture from the Roman period to the Renaissance

Lyon, France's third largest city, (491,000 inhabitants), is as little as a 14 hour flight from Johannesburg or Cape Town . The one-time capital of Gaul under the name Lugdunum, the city is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical importance and architectural heritage. It is home to one of the most complete collections of Renaissance buildings anywhere in Europe.

Your journey to the city will start in Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport
, which is 25 km from the city centre.

The local currency is of course the Euro, and Lyon is one hour behind South African time. The city experiences moderate rainfall throughout the year, along with relatively warm Summers and relatively cool Winters for a Western European city. For the best-value airplane tickets , you may want to avoid travel during the local school holidays and the period immediately around the world-famous Fête des lumières held around December 8th each year.

Lyon boasts many outstanding architectural sights.

  • The Roman theatre of Fourvière
  • The Cathedral of St. John
  • City Hall
  • Place Bellecour, one of Europe's largest urban squares
  • Sainte Marie de la Tourette (a design by Le Corbusier)
  • The Opéra National de Lyon
However, it is the Renaissance period that gave birth to Lyon's most beautiful architectural creations. This is especially evident in the old part of the city (Vieux Lyon). The rue du Boeuf, rue Juiverie, rue Saint-Jean and rue de Gadagne in particular are very representative of this period, containing many old townhouses built by bankers and merchants in the 15th and 16th centuries. Vieux Lyon is also home to the 'traboule'. These are passageways through buildings that provide shortcuts to streets. They were originally designed to facilitate the movement of people and goods downhill to the river.

Take your tastebuds on a journey through the best of French cuisine with a stay in Lyon!

Lyon is at the heart of France's tradition of fine dining, Paul Bocuse being perhaps the most-celebrated local chef. Local specialities include many pork and offal-based dishes such as Rosette de Lyon, Andouillettes à la Lyonnaise (tripe sausages stuffed with veal), as well as other delicacies like pike quenelle and Coussin de Lyon, a confectionery made of chocolate, marzipan and Curaçao.
The city has a wide variety of museums and galleries. The Musée des Beaux Arts is one of the biggest such galleries in the country. It boasts an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, Egyptian, Greek and Roman artefacts, coins and engravings. Artists featured include Dürer, Degas, Matisse and Francis Bacon.
The Institut Lumière, meanwhile, named after the Lumière Brothers, the inventors of modern film-making, offers a fascinating window onto the origins of this art. The museum contains 1,405 old films, a collection of cameras and other items associated with Auguste and Louis Lumière. It is located in a house that originally belonged to Claude-Antoine, their father.
The Centre d'Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation casts light onto one of the more sombre aspects of Lyon's recent history. Located in the old military hospital that was used by the Gestapo and their infamous local chief, Klaus Barbie to torture and interrogate their prisoners, this museum is particularly notable for the extracts from Klaus Barbie's trial that are available to view.
Although Lyon has many green spaces, including the Parc de la tête d'or, the largest in the city, there are many areas of outstanding scenic value in the surrounding areas, including the Vercors, the Lac du Bourget and the Dombes wetlands. You would be advised to hire a car if you would like to visit these locations during your stay in Lyon.

Lyon's best travel and tourism websites on a plate

Get more from your stay in Lyon with these travel websites: