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Visit Lyon

Visit Lyon with a professional tour guide.

Lyon is situated at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Its inhabitants are called Lyonnais.

The city is a geographical crossroads in the country, located north of the Rhône corridor that extends from Lyon to Marseille. Positioned between the Massif Central to the west and the Alpine massif to the east, Lyon occupies a strategic location for north-south transportation in Europe. As the former capital of Gaul during the Roman Empire, it is the seat of an archdiocese whose holder carries the title of Primate of Gaul. Lyon became a bustling commercial city and a major financial center during the Renaissance. Its economic prosperity was driven at that time by silk production, printing, and later by the emergence of industries, particularly textiles, chemicals, and more recently, the image industry.

Historically, Lyon has been an industrial city. The downstream Rhône valley, south of the urban area, is home to numerous petrochemical activities, in what is known as the “Chemical Valley.” After the decline and closure of the textile industries, Lyon gradually refocused on high-tech sectors, such as pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. It is also the second-largest student city in France, with four universities and several prestigious schools. Additionally, the city has preserved significant architectural heritage spanning from Roman times to the 20th century, including the districts of Vieux Lyon, Fourvière Hill, the Presqu’île, and the slopes of Croix-Rousse, which are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The ancient city of Lugdunum is composed of two Gaulish words: Lug, a Celtic god associated with order and justice, and dunos, meaning “fortress” or “hill.” Together, they signify “the fortress of Lug.” Lug is a Celtic god whose messenger is a raven or crow. Thus, Lugdunum can be translated as “the hill of the god Lug” or “the hill of the crows.”

Originally, Lugdunum referred to the Fourvière Hill on which the ancient city of Lyon was founded.

Lower down, in the present-day district of Saint-Vincent, stood the Gaulish village of Condate, likely a simple settlement of rivermen or fishermen living along the banks of the Saône River. Condate is a Gaulish word meaning “confluence,” which gave its name to the Confluence neighborhood.

During Roman times, the city was called Caput Galliae, meaning “capital of Gaul.” As a legacy of this prestigious title, the Archbishop of Lyon is still referred to as the Primate of Gaul.

During the revolutionary period, Lyon was temporarily named Commune-Affranchie on October 12, 1793, by a decree of the National Convention. However, it resumed its original name in 1794 after the end of the Reign of Terror.

While the area has been inhabited since prehistoric times, the first city of Lugdunum was founded in 43 BC. Under the Roman Empire, Lyon became a powerful city and the capital of Roman Gaul. The decline of the Roman Empire relegated Lyon to a secondary role in the European landscape due to its distance from centers of power. Later, during the division of the Carolingian Empire, Lyon found itself as a frontier city. Until the 14th century, political power was concentrated in the hands of the archbishop, who fiercely protected the autonomy of the city. It was not until 1312-1320 that the consular institution began to balance the archbishop’s power, coinciding with Lyon’s definitive integration into the Kingdom of France.

During the Renaissance, Lyon experienced significant development and became a major European trading city. However, this second golden age was interrupted by the Wars of Religion. Under absolute monarchy, Lyon remained a mid-sized French city, with its primary wealth derived from the silk industry. The French Revolution devastated the city, which opposed the Convention in 1793. Lyon was militarily captured and severely repressed, emerging from the revolutionary turmoil greatly weakened.

Visit Lyon with a professional tour guide.

Napoleon contributed to Lyon’s recovery by supporting the silk industry, coinciding with the development of the Jacquard loom. This marked the beginning of an economic and industrial boom that lasted until World War I. During the 19th century, Lyon was known as a city of canuts (silk weavers) and witnessed violent worker uprisings in 1831 and 1834. The Belle Époque period marked the end of Lyon’s silk dominance and the rise of various other industries such as automobiles, chemicals, and electricity. The municipal government regained its powers with the Third Republic and embarked on a century of radicalism, which culminated with Édouard Herriot in 1957. During World War II, Lyon, as one of the major cities in the Free Zone, became a center for resistance networks. Notably, Jean Moulin unified them under the United Movements of the Resistance.

After the war, Lyon quickly recovered and experienced vigorous urban development, with the construction of numerous residential neighborhoods. With strong industries and a thriving tertiary sector, the city established itself as a major French and European metropolis.

Visit Lyon with a professional guide and get the best experience of the destination

Lyon was founded under the Roman empire in the 1st century BC. It is the 3rd city of France with around 1 million inhabitants. Two main rivers cross the city : Saone and Rhone. The old town is part of Unesco World Heritage. Lyon is also famous for being the world capital of gastronomy.

Here you can find the best things to do in the city.

Fourvière hill and the Roman heritage

The symbol of Lyon is the basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière dominating the city from the top of the hill. As well as in Paris or Marseille this basilica was built in the 19th century using a byzantine architecture. It offers a magnificent view over the entire city.

Next to the basilica are the remains of the Roman city and its main building such as the theater. All this area is Unesco World Heritage.

Food tasting in Lyon

French gastronomy owes a lot to Lyon and its emblematic chef Paul Bocuse. Joining a local guide for a food tour is a perfect way to understand the city through its gastronomy. You will discover specialties such as Paté en croute, Quenelles or Tarte à la Praline.

The Old Lyon

The Old Lyon is listed on Unesco heritage. It is considered as the most real medieval neighborhood in France. It is buzzing with narrow streets and covered passages used to escape in the Middle Ages. The cathedral Saint-Jean in the center on the Old Lyon is the symbol of conflicts between Catholics and Protestants.

The silk in Lyon

In the 19th century Lyon based its wealth on silk. In the Croix Rousse neighborhood, silk is still processed the same way by the same families. Visit a silk workshop with a private guide to touch those incredible fabrics and purchase the best quality at the best price.

Lyon in the 19th century

The connection on the river Saone and the Rhone in Lyon creates a peninsula between the two rivers in the center on the city. The so called Presqu’ile shows a perfect model of imperial architecture with endless squares and massive avenues.

The Confluence Museum

A walk across the Presqu’Ile leads to the Confluence neighborhood. Its the modern and high-tech Lyon with sustainable constructions competing with each other. At the very end of the peninsula, the Museum Confluence shows a vision of mankind history.

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