My wife, I and our three-year old daughter visited Lyon this past week for three days and we were pleasantly surprised by its beauty. I loved Lyon instantly as soon as I’d exited the high-speed train TGV at Gare Part-Dieu. Lyon is stunning, big enough to be exciting and have plenty to see and do, but not massive so that it is daunting and expensive. Much more relaxed than Paris from which it could be reached in 2 hours by TGV.
We stayed in Hotel de la Marne, a modest yet conveniently located hotel, ten minutes’ walk from the heart of the city, Bellecour. The city has an easy public transport (subway, tram, and busses) and the 48 hours ticket for € 11 is valid for all, including funicular to go up to the hill of the city.
Lyon bubbles with vivacity; a gateway to Alps, it has a 2,000-year history and a rich cultural and culinary heritage and can boast about being the third biggest city of France. It is resplendent in its grandeur; Renaissance era architectural facades, restaurant and bar lined banks, manicured trees. The city is also the capital of the silk and synthetic textiles industries, and the invention of cinema, thanks to the Lumière Brothers.
Lyon sits on not one but two rivers: the Saône and the Rhône. The two rivers run parallel throughout the city, creating a very long peninsula. On the Rhône River side, a peaceful green space with bike lanes is good for people-watching and sunset views.
La Place Bellecour is a large square in the centre of Lyon, third greatest place of France behind that of Concorde in Paris and that of Quinquonces in Bordeaux, according to my guide book. In the center is an equestrian statue of King Louis XIV.
Visible from all over the city, the gleaming white Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière rises like a fortress on the hill. A statue of the Virgin surmounts the bell tower. The interior of the church impressive with ornately carved pillars and intricate mosaics on its ceiling. The basilique is quite opulent with mosaics, marble columns and detailed stained glass windows. The view from the Fourvière hill are the best to see the Saône and the Rhône and a panorama view of the city. What struck me the most was free entrance to the church. Coming from Ethiopia where priests feel no qualms about charging tourists 50 dollars, in the case of Lalibela, this comes as a great surprise to me.
Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) is must-see part of the city. A Unesco listed site, it was built when the city was a rich silk-making center and its narrow streets punctuated with passageways were used by the silk merchants to transport their products, according to my guidebook.
The area is known for the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, a magnificent church that will take your breath away.
The streets are dotted with bouchons – little bistros serving traditional cuisine. You’ll find the same “Lyonnaise Menu” for about 15 euros at just about every restaurant. We stopped at Le Petit Glouton, where saucisson lyonnais and andouillette served in un plat à gratin were amazing.
Parc de la Tête d’Or, a giant park in the north of the city that holds the zoo, with giraffes, elephants, deer, reptiles, primates, and other animals, botanical gardens, and a large lake is a treat for our daughter.
Lyon is definitely one of my favourite places that I visited in Europe and I cannot wait to return there one day.