One of France’s oldest cities is also one of the country’s most up-and-coming. Lyon can trace its roots back to the Roman period, and is today the vibrant, cultural powerhouse of the Rhône-Alpes region. With some of France’s best galleries and markets, travellers from across the world enjoy city breaks in Lyon.
Now is the best time to explore Lyon, with new direct Eurostar service from London St Pancras or Ashford to Lyon. In 4hrs and 41 min you could be enjoying the rich architecture and history of Lyon.
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If you’re interested in learning about Lyon’s rich Roman heritage, there are a number of excellent landmarks to visit. The Ancient Theatre of Fourvière is an impressive amphitheatre set on the hill of Fourvière, constructed in 15BC and expanded on in around AD120. There’s a fascinating museum to discover and regular cultural events in the amphitheatre itself. For a more comprehensive look at the Roman heritage of the region, make your way to the Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine, where you’ll find a collection of artefacts on display. For a glimpse into Lyon’s later medieval and renaissance history, the Cathédrale St-Jean is a must-see. This Romanesque cathedral was built between the 11th and 16th centuries and boasts an extravagantly Gothic façade. Also worth seeing during your stay are the city’s legendary Traboules. These passageways connect a number of buildings, with some dating from Roman times and some dating from the 18th century.
Lyon is home to some of France’s finest art galleries outside of Paris. The Musée des Beaux-Arts is a great place to spend a few hours, boasting an excellent collection of artwork by famous artists including Rodin and Matisse. There’s also a lovely garden here that’s perfect for afternoon picnics. If you’re interested in contemporary art, the Musée d'Art Contemporain has an extensive collection of post-1960s art, and film buffs will find a lot of love at the Musée Lumière, housed in the home of the early cinema pioneer, Antoine Lumière. For an insight into the history of the city, Musées Gadagne features the Musée d'Histoire de Lyon, detailing the development as a centre for silk weaving, and the Musée des Marionettes du Monde, which includes a number if interesting exhibitions on puppetry. Also worth checking out is Maison des Canuts, which has a number of exhibits on the local weaving industry.
Amble towards the banks of the canal in the suburb of Villeurbanne and you’ll find France’s second-largest flea market, Les Puces du Canal. A joy to explore, this market covers over 400 different stalls and sellers hawking everything from clothing to old furniture. If you’re looking for something a little more upmarket, the Pôle de Commerces et de Loisirs Confluence is a sprawling shopping centre that’s home to a collection of different big name brands. The Crafts Market on the banks of the Saône is a great place to pick up paintings and sculptures by local artists, while St Jean Délices sells the most delicious sweets in the whole of Lyon.