France's third-largest city, Lyon is best known for its culinary prowess and its lively cultural scene. A metropolis with a vibrant ambience, Lyons takes advantage of its strategic location between the north and south of Europe to welcome travelers from all over the continent.
Lyon does not have the grand landmarks -- the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Champs Elysees -- but it does have its share of historic architecture. The city was founded by Romans in 43 BC and was the empire's capital of Gaul. There are several Roman sites worth a visit, including the oldest Roman theater in France. There is also a mediaeval quarter near the city center with charming, cobbled pedestrian streets and the most Italian Renaissance architecture in France. Many of the buildings here date to the 15th century and most have now been refurbished and painted in the pastel hues of Tuscany. For a panoramic view over the city, take the funicular up Fourviere Hill, where you'll also find the Fourviere Basilica, built between 1872 and 1896.
Lyon has cultural events happening almost every week and you can easily find a show by checking the local dailies for music, opera and dance performances. There are plenty of theaters and cafe-theaters in the city where you can catch anything from avant-garde productions to comedy to the classics.
Lyon was once the center of the European silk industry and this legacy lives on in La Croix-Rousse, where there are still many local artisans and craftsmen selling beautiful silk creations. If you're looking for antique pieces, head for the narrow streets of Rue Auguste Comte. If you're in the market for branded luxury goods, try the Place des Jacobins or the Place Bellecour (the largest "clear square" in Europe), as well as the trendy boutiques along Rue Emile Zola, Rue Gasparin and Rue President Herriot. Also check out the very French department store Printemps and the lovely glass-roofed Galeries Lafayette Part Dieu.
Lyon claims the title of France's gastronomic capital -- and those who think French food is the best go one step further and call the city the culinary center of the world. Lyon is full of high-end dining but eating on a budget is also possible, particularly at the Croix-Rousse Market, Lyon's biggest and busiest. Here you'll find vendors selling fresh bread, roasted chickens, pastries, sausages and many different cheeses. St. Antoine market is another option for eating on a budget, though it is slightly pricier than Croix-Rousse. For upscale dining, Lyons has plenty of bistros, wine shops and restaurants to please the pickiest palates. Definitely reserve a night to eat in one of the city's many vibrant, no-frills bouchons, where you'll find traditional Lyonnaise dishes like sausages, roast pork and pates. There is a wide variety in the neighborhood around city hall.
22 Rue du Boeuf 69005 LYON