Touring the History and Culture of Lyon

Lyon has always played an important part in the history of France and of Europe, and it continues to thrill and enchant visitors with its wide variety of architectural styles, a vibrant culture, and, of course, its exquisite French cuisine.

Lyon for Visitors

The origins of Lyon go back to the 1st century BC, when the Romans founded the city and made it the capital of the Three Gauls. The city quickly grew and by the 15th century it had become one of the most densely populated regions of Europe. The historical features have been retained, and visitors today can see Roman ruins sitting alongside medieval and later buildings.

For those who want to experience a cultural getaway, booking a weekend in Lyon could be just the thing. For those who enjoy music, there is the Opéra de Lyon, a truly impressive building with a glass dome and 11 floors, five of which are underground. The programs here can only be described as eclectic, catering for all musical tastes, and putting on a wide variety of operas, from Bizet to Wagner.

Art lovers will be spoilt for choice. Lyon boasts one of the largest art museums in France with the Museum of Fine Arts holding many well-known masterpieces. On show here are Renaissance artists, including Rubens, Poussin and Veronese, as well as later pieces from the 19th and 20th centuries, with works by Monet, Gauguin, Picasso and Bacon. Visitors can simply head for the galleries they are interested in or take one of the guided tours that will give them an insight into the artworks. There is also the Museum of Contemporary Art in Lyon, which does not have permanent exhibitions but allows exhibiting artists to arrange their own displays on an ever-changing basis.

Visitors to Lyon may have to be picky about which historic monuments to visit as the city offers so many. An astonishing 10% of the city of Lyon has been classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and an unmissable attraction is the Ancient Theater of Fourvière. These Roman ruins date back to 43BC and feature the Grand Theater, where tragedies and comedies were performed, the Odeon for music and reading, a religious temple to the goddess Cybele, and lastly, an area dedicated to handcrafts. Architectural lovers should not miss the Traboules in Old Lyon, passageways that hold many hidden treasures.

Food lovers should head for the famous Paul Bocuse restaurant, the oldest three-Michelin-starred restaurant in the world. Not only does it serve fine dining food, but it offers the visitor an interesting, some might say bizarre, venue, which has been described as part museum, part Disneyland. Fine French cuisine is also to be found on the tracks and on the river in Lyon, on Le Trolley des Lumières train and Hermès boat respectively.

It should be easy to book a hotel in France in the Lyon region that is ideally located for exploring everything the city has to offer, as there is something of cultural interest to the visitor on practically every street.