The second largest Renaissance city after Venice, the centre of the French Revolution, and a genuine contender for the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon certainly has pedigree. TripAdvisor’s Travellers' Choice 2012 Winner, Lyon is a historical city with a thriving cultural scene. Known as the birthplace of cinema, France’s third largest city has an endless array of things to do and see.
Your first port of call should be the Old Quarter. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the Old Quarter is a labyrinthine network of narrow cobbled lanes, lined with wonderfully preserved medieval and Renaissance buildings – many of Lyon's finest buildings were built by Italian silk merchants who flocked here in the Middle Ages. Today, the Old Quarter is teeming with restaurants, boutique shops and cultural activities. Old Town Lyon is split into the three alluring quarters of St. Georges, St. Jean and St. Paul, all of which are well worth a visit.
Image used under Creative Commons from Ana _Rey
Lyon natives, the Lumière brothers, are credited as the inventors of film-making, and their legacy is honoured at the Institut Lumière. This museum, located in their childhood home, celebrates the early days of cinematography, with evening screenings and a number of historic cameras. The Aquarium du Grand Lyon (€14) located just outside the city, is, literally, swimming with exotic marine creatures and provides a great day out for both the young and the young at heart.
Wining and Dining
Lyon is the absolute epitome of gastronomical France, renowned for outstanding cuisine and stylish bistros. The city offers a mouth-watering array of local delicacies, from fish or meat dumplings (known locally as Quenelles), to bowls of fromage blanc flavoured with herbs and garlic. The locals produce some mighty fine wine too – look out for the Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône wines from nearby Vienne. Old Lyon and the Croix Rousse are the best areas to find top notch but affordable bistro-style restaurants. Though in the summer, Place des Terreaux is probably your best bet for outdoor dining.
Lyon is quite compact so you can reach most major attractions on foot. For longer journeys, the city has a fabulous transport system known as the TCL. A day pass will set you back about €5. If you plan on doing a lot of sightseeing, the Lyon City Card is probably worth picking up as it offers free public transportation, free guided tours and free access to Lyon's museums. The City Card has one day (€21), two day (€31), and three day (€41) options.