Located in the Rhone-Alps region in east-central France, Lyon is sandwiched in the “Big Three” cities in France between Paris and Marseille, population-wise. And, actually, kind of geographically as well! Lyon is a major center of business and trade and is also know as the capital of gastronomy in France. Lyon is also the industrial center for chemical, pharmaceutical and biotech industries with a growing software industry as well.
Historically, the city was the silk capital of the world developing an important silk trade with Italy. The Italian influence can be seen in the architecture of the French city even today.
Lyon is perhaps most famous for its Fête des Lumières, or Festival of Lights, which takes place over four days every December, usually around the weekend of the 8th. During this time, huge light installations by well-known artists and architects illuminate public buildings throughout the city, and local Lyon inhabitants decorate the city streets with lanterns made from paper bags and candles. The event attracts 4 million spectators from around the world, and is Lyon’s most established and well-known festival.
Lyon is also famous for its traboules, or secret passages, mostly located in Vieux Lyon. They are indoor passageways that were originally used by the city’s silk manufacturers to transport products, but the traboules also were used by Resistance fighters during Nazi occupation in WWII and are credited with preventing the Germans from taking complete control of the city. Today, these traboules are popular tourist attractions and there are more than 40 that are free and open to the public.
Widely known for its food and culinary heritage, the bouchon lyonnais (Lyon cuisine) offers delicious meals – and many of them are defiantly affordable. Lyon can credit its famous food to high quality local produce, fresh meats and cheeses from the livestock in neighboring areas, and local wines. Menus are marked by specialty pork dishes, soft cheese with herbs, and doughy beignets.
Lyon is also marked by two large a hills – the Croix-Rousse or “working hill,” and the Fourviere (“praying hill”) located across the river. The Croix-Rousse is a must-see area of the city with steep slopes, winding narrow streets and long stairways. The buildings are tall with huge windows and were once where silk workers both lived and wove their fabric. Today, this area is known for the traboules linking apartment buildings, and many bars and restaurants on the winding streets all the way up to the top of the hill. The view from the top of Croix-Rousse should also not be missed. Lyon is also a perfect city to jump off your explorations of the neighboring Alps or Mediterranean regions.
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