For anyone coming to Lyon next year, this is a brief introduction to the centre of Lyon, hopefully giving you a feel for the city. For anyone else, this might persuade you that Lyon is worth a visit:
If you arrive in Lyon by train, you will inevitably get your first glimpse of the city either in Perrache or at Part-Dieu. Perrache is towards the South of Presqu’ile, the Rhone and the Saone merging slightly further downstream, having effectively cut the city in three. As you head North from the train station (it is probably best to avoid the part to the South), you head into the city centre where you will find the main shopping streets. At Christmas time, the whole area is lit up, which is rather marvelous.
2. Place Bellecour
As you arrive at the end of rue Victor Hugo, from Perrache, having taken in the mini square at Ampere, you will find yourself in Place Bellecour. The first thing that will strike you is the amount of red, but this large open space, surrounded by trees and endowed with a statue of Louis XIV in the centre, is justified by the numerous exhibitions and events that take place on the square during the year, and the ice rink that is installed during the winter months.
3. Place de la République
On the other side of Place Bellecour, you will be confronted by numerous tempting roads, the largest of which is rue de la République, which is home to Fnac, a Pathé cinema and a large number of banks. About halfway up, you will arrive at Place de la République, seen here with a display of lions following a trend that was started last year. If you search carefully of a side road, not far from the “Old England” shop, you will find the Olympique Lyonnais ticket office. And if you are lucky enough to be here next year, you may even have the opportunity to see OL crowned champion for a record 5th consecutive year.
4. Place des Jacobins
If you head West from Place de la Republique, you should end up somewhere near the Place des Jacobins. Easily recognisable by its fountain, nearby you will find the newly renovated Theatre des Celestins (which I will finally get to visit in December, I hope!), and rue Merciere, which is full of restaurants and highly frequented by the locals.
5. Vieux Lyon
The 5th Arrondissement, better known as Vieux Lyon, is evidently the old part of town. If you cross the Saone you will find narrow cobbled streets and small, quaint shops, as well as a fair few English pubs! Up on the hill you will notice Fourviere, which looks down upon the city, much in the same way that the Credit Lyonnais tower does on the other side of town. This old church also has a Roman theatre nearby, where spectacles are held during this time each year. Tonight, being Bastille day, there will be foreworks on the hill.
6. Place des Terreaux
As you head further up the river and back towards the centre of Presqu’ile, you should arrive at the Place de Terreaux, a square surrounded by bars and with a lively night life, often earning it a degree of waryness. During the day, however, the Hotel de Ville (or Town Hall) dominates the square along with the fountain that can be seen on the left of the picture. The Musée des Beaux Arts is also just alongside.
7. Place de la Comédie
Walking alongside the Hotel de Ville will direct you towards the Place de la Comédie, where you will find the Opera with it’s tall half cylindrical roof and blacked out ground floor. Young Lyonnais will also be found making use of the slippery ground around the building to breakdance. The theme of running water continues around the square, which is also home to several sculptures, which may or may not be to your tastes… Traversing the square, you will end up back alongside the Rhone, leaving you with a not too long walk back down the river bank to arrive from whence you came.
8. Les Berges du Rhone
On the left bank of the Rhone, as you follow it back down, you will notice a walkway allowing you to walk alongside the river. Every year around the 14th of July, this walkway is invaded by tents, each belonging to some society or company from the Lyon area. You can eat, drink, listen to live music, and even watch Punch and Judy, or Guignol as it is known over here. It is a sign of the conviviality that can be seen in the city that so many people gather on the banks to participate. Further down the river still, are some open air swimming pools that are only open during the summer, for reasons which need no explanation. Male swimmers should be warned, however, that your bathing trunks will have to be traded in for a nice tight pair of pants, trunks being forbidden for reasons of hygiene, apparently. You have been warned!