Lyon is lovely. It is the third largest city in France and the capital of gastronomy. It was founded by the Romans and was the birthplace of cinema. It’s a UNESCO world heritage sight and a city where the past meets the present, the north meets the south, and the Rhône and Saône Rivers meet. Last week I took a quick last minute trip to Lyon, it was time for me to breathe a little city air. It’s only two hours away by train, but I was lucky enough to have a ride most of the way (Merci, Chabu!)! When I take short trips, sleep isn’t very important, but seeing as much as I can is.
I arrived in Lyon around 7 p.m. found my hostel and headed out with people from around the world. It was fun to see Lyon by night and I enjoyed the walk along the river. We met a few students from Lyon at a bar when we accidentally stole their table, but ended up enjoying their company for the night!
While in Lyon I made my way to all of the tourist attractions, but also made sure I had time to just wander the streets and people watch, too. The Basilica at the top of the Forvière Hill was stunning. It was very different than other basilicas I’ve visited in France; the priest greeted all of the visitors and the Byzantine style interior was extremely colorful and had busy tile patterns on all of the walls, floors and ceiling. Upon exiting the Basilica you’re presented with a panoramic view of Lyon. Just down the hill, the influence the Romans once had on Lyon remains visible with the ruins that have been well preserved. They are multifunctional and serve as a historical landmark in the city, a gym for ambitious runners who train on the steps, and a concert venue in the summer.
Lyon is filled with different plazas. Place Bellecour is one of the largest plazas in Europe and while its size was impressive, there wasn’t much to see. Place des Terreaux is another large plaza, home to the Museum of Fine Arts and City Hall, which are both extravagant buildings. Although both of the plazas are nice to visit, I wouldn’t consider them highlights of Lyon. My favorite part about Lyon was wandering aimlessly around the narrow streets of Vieux Ville (old village), through the traboules, and tasting a traditional meal at a bouchon – a typical Lyonnais restaurant.
The traboules are narrow passageways, usually covered, that were used by silk manufacturers and locals to quickly transport goods down to the river. They were also used during World War II to stop German forces from taking complete control of the city since they were dark and only locals knew how to navigate their way through them. Today they’re marked by small tile plates on the sides of buildings or next to doors pointing you in the direction of the next passageway. I spent a few hours wandering through them and admiring the street art that seemed to be everywhere.
One of my favorite memories of Lyon is at a café. It might seem like I drink quite a few coffees, however they usually lead to an interesting conversation or two. My French is nowhere near perfect, but I was able to chat with a gentleman sitting next to me reading the paper. He turned out to be quite the history buff and gave me a crash course on Lyon’s history dating back to the 4th century BC when there was a Gaulish settlement to present-day metropolis.
Street Art around Lyon || Top Right: Back view of chimneys seem from riverfront
Lyon, Lyon, Lyon... a lovely city, lovely people, and lovely food.