Why visit Lyon?
Lyon is a city in east central France. It is the third largest French city, the first being Paris and the second Marseille. It is a major centre of business, situated between Paris and Marseille, and has a reputation as the French capital of gastronomy and a significant role in the history of cinema. It is also the religious capital of France for the Roman Catholic Church.
Together with its suburbs and satellite towns, Lyon forms the second largest metropolitan area in France after Paris, with 1,783,400 inhabitants at the 2007 estimate, and approximately the 20th to 25th largest metropolitan area of Western Europe. Its urban area (Région Urbaine de Lyon), represents half of the Rhône-Alpes région population with 2,9 million inhabitants. Lyon is also a major industrial center specialized in chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotech industries.
Lyon is the préfecture (capital) of the Rhône département, and also the capital of the Rhône-Alpes région. The city is known for its historical and architectural landmarks and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Lyon is known to be the silk capital of the world and is a centre for fashion. It is also the international headquarters of Interpol and EuroNews.
Lyon’s geography is dominated by the Rhône and Saône rivers which converge to the south of the historic city center forming a sort of peninsula or “presqu’île”; two large hills, one to the west and one to the north of the historic city center; and a large plain which sprawls eastward from the historic city center.
To the west is Fourvière, known as “the hill that prays”, the location for the highly decorated Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica, several convents, the palace of the Archbishop, the Tour métallique (a highly visible TV tower, replicating the last stage of the Eiffel Tower) and a funicular.
To the north is the Croix-Rousse, “the hill that works”, traditionally home to many small silk workshops, an industry for which the city was renowned.
The original medieval city (Vieux Lyon) was built on the west bank of the Saône river at the foot of the Fourvière hill, west of the presqu’île. (This area, along with portions of the presqu’ile and much of the Croix-Rousse are recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
On the peninsula (presqu’île) between the rivers Rhône and Saône is located the third largest public square in France, and one of the largest in Europe, the Place Bellecour. Specifically, it is the largest clear square (i.e., without any patches of greenery, trees or any other kind of obstacles) in Europe. The broad, pedestrian-only Rue de la République leads north from Place Bellecour.
East of the Rhône from the presqu’île is a large area of flat ground upon which sits much of modern Lyon and most of the city’s population. Situated in this area is the urban centre of Part-Dieu which clusters the former Crédit Lyonnais Tower (central France’s only skyscraper), the Part-Dieu shopping centre, and Lyon’s main rail terminal, Lyon Part-Dieu.
North of this district is the relatively wealthy 6th arrondissement, which is home to the Parc de la Tête d’Or, one of Europe’s largest urban parks, the prestigious Lycée du Parc to the south of the park, and Interpol’s headquarters on the park’s western edge.