History and Attractions of Lyon

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Lyon is a city where modern and ancient architecture and attractions blend together to create a marvellous place to visit.  Churches dating back to medieval times can be found down cobbled streets whilst the city’s inhabitants go to work in modern office buildings; big brand name food, drinks and clothing shops can be found on the high street alongside traditional bistros, cafés and boutiques owned by traditional French tailors.

You can find a Roman amphitheatre here, as well as museums filled with collections of paintings and sculptures that would rival those contained in the Louvre, Paris.  Many renowned architects have designed key pieces throughout the city, from the double helix car park (designed by Wilmotte and Targe) to the opera house (recreated by Jean Nouvel) and the TGV railway station (Santiago Calatrava).

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It is easy to see why people settled here and thrived as a community: based around two rivers (the Rhone and the Saone) and between two hills it provided an excellent base for developing agriculture and a flourishing opportunity for trading.  Lyon became part of modern France back in the 1500s and brought with it an Italian industry: silk.  Silk products are still often bought by tourists visiting the city as souvenirs for their fine quality and expert craftsmanship – traditionally these items have been made on the Croix-Rousse hill (the other hill, the Fourvière, is recognisable by its large white basilica named Notre Dame). 

It is also easy to see why people choose to visit here as tourists.  Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), beneath the Fourvière, is classed as a World Heritage Site which can be seen in all its glory by taking a funicular to the top of the hill, past what is left of two Roman theatres.  It is in this part of the city that you can find cobbled streets, bistros and traditional shops.  Remember to look upwards at the rooftops of the buildings, which often feature grotesques and gargoyles and Renaissance details that you could easily miss by keeping your eyes at street level.  

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Modern Lyon can be found in the Presqu'île: much of the architecture actually dates back to the 1600s and 1700s but the cafés, restaurants, shops and offices make it seem much more modern than it is. 

If you are visiting Lyon to do some shopping then make sure you take a stroll along the rue du Président Edouard Herriot (for high end fashion and luxury goods) and the rue de la République.  For restaurants head for the rue Mercière. 

Lyon is easy enough to reach, though it is a long way from the eastern coast of France so travellers often overlook it because of the distance from the ferry ports.  As a result British travellers can enjoy true French culture that is undiluted by too many tourists.  You can travel from London to Lyon in around 16.5 hours at a Mini Price of £45 with iDBUS coaches, which has comfortable seating and free on board Wi-Fi to make the journey comfortable and stress-free.