Known for its gastronomy, architecture and eco-friendly way of thinking, we take a look at what makes Lyon such a special place to live and visit.
One of Lyon’s most celebrated events – the Festival Lumière – has just come to an end for 2018 and its star-studded line-up ensured that film fans enjoyed another enjoyable and informative event.
Now in its 10th year, this celebration of all things classic cinema boasts screenings of old and restored films, retrospectives and tributes to giants of the cinema world, plus masterclasses and exhibitions. Organised by Le Institut Lumière, it is held in honour of the Lumière Brothers who invented Cinematography in Lyon in 1895. A large part of the event is prestigious Lumière Award (Prix Lumière) which is given to an international film personality in recognition of their achievements and contribution to film. The inaugural winner was Clint Eastwood in 2009 and since then, the likes of Ken Loach, Quentin Tarantino, Pedro Almodovar and Martin Scorsese have been handed the prize. The prize winner is announced ahead of the event and the recipient for 2018 was the American actress Jane Fonda, who was presented with the award on Friday 19 October at the Conference Center Amphitheatre, followed by a screening of The China Syndrome by James Bridges. This year’s programme was as extensive as it was impressive, with a huge number of film screenings across all genres, running alongside a vast array of workshops, presentations, discussions, talks and other film-related entertainment. There was a look back at great films and stars such as Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Orson Welles, a visit from Spanish actor Javier Bardem and even a chance for Lord of the Rings fans to watch the trilogy back-to-back – this proved so popular that a second event had to be hastily arranged to meet demand. Children aren’t forgotten too with plenty of screenings and events to keep them entertained. Visit festival-lumiere.org for the full line-up.
Following the film festival, one of the next major events to look forward to in Lyon is Le Fête des Lumières or The Festival of Lights, which always offers a bountiful feast for the senses with spectacular displays being held over four nights. A variety of talented artists will light-up buildings, streets, squares and parks in ever more ingenious ways, between December 6-9. Over 50 light installations will be on offer in what is thought to be the world’s largest visual arts festival. The festival started in 1852 when the people of Lyon lit their windows with candles to celebrate the statue of the Virgin Mary being erected on Fourvière Hill. Since then, the festival has been held every year and has grown every time, now becoming a major event in the city, attracting several million visitors. There are scores of creations to enjoy, each with its own individual style, turning Lyon into a huge site of expression and creativity. Some artists return to the event every year with new ideas for the delighted crowds but it is also seen as a springboard for new talent to show what they can do to a wider audience. Read more about this year’s event at fetedeslumieres.lyon.fr
HISTORY & GASTRONOMY
Founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC as the capital of the Three Gauls, Lyon has continued to play a major cultural and economic role in France and Europe. The city boasts many historical buildings scattered across the centre of town, including the impressive Fourvière Basilica that overlooks the city. The third largest city in France, Lyon sits at the confluence of the Saône and Rhône rivers and is well connected by train and flight routes. The picturesque Vieux-Lyon was once home to the small silk workshops the city was famous for and today is an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the trabours passages are worth exploring. Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital of France so make sure you visit some of the traditional bouchon restaurants or Michelin-starred restaurants. It was famous as being home to the late chef Paul Bocuse, who was revered in his home country. The chef, who died in January, was named chef of the century, known as the Pope of gastronomy and had heartfelt tributes paid to him by the likes of President Macron.
Lyon has long been known as a popular destination for students from across France and all over the world, but in the past couple of years it has cemented its place as the best place to attend university in France. In 2017, student magazine l’Etudiant rated Lyon as the best city for students, with the triumph seeing the city move from ninth place to top of the pile in just two years, beating the likes of Paris, Toulouse, Bordeaux and Marseille in the process. The prestigious title was followed-up this year when student housing website Immojeune made Lyon is number one most welcoming city for students. Today, Lyon attracts 25% more students than a decade ago with more than 155,000 students in the city – about 23,000 of which are foreign. The reasons for the popularity is down to many factors including affordability, with renting accommodation far cheaper than in Paris or the Riviera. It’s also known as one of France’s safest, greenest and cleanest cities with plenty of attractions for younger crowds and an easy to navigate and efficient Metro system making getting around a breeze. Residents are friendly, there are student bars and menus at restaurants for those on a tighter budget and if nothing else appeals, it is just nice to take a bottle of wine down to the riverside and spend some time people watching.
As one of the first cities in France to start a big-city bike rental scheme (its fleet of Vélo’v bikes launched in 2005), Lyon is a leader when it comes to eco-friendly living. Locals in the city have a range of transport options, including its modern tram system, funicular cable cars, the electric car-sharing service Sunmoov’ and the vaporetto boats that travel to the Confluence neighbourhood. Once the deserted docklands, the Confluence is set to be the WWF’s first sustainable neighbourhood in France. Its energy-efficient buildings, fitted with solar roofs, will house offices and shops, as well as apartments complete with composting spaces, children’s playgrounds, picnic areas and rooftop gardens where residents can share their home-grown fruit and vegetables. But living in Confluence doesn’t mean being cut off from the rest of Lyon – three new bridges, including La Transversale, which is reserved for bikes and pedestrians, will span both the Rhône and the Saône, linking residents to the city
Perched Quai Perrache is the stunningly designed Musée des Confluences, a building so eye-catching it is worth travelling to see it alone. Between the Rhone and the Saone, visitors flock to discover the audacious architecture of metal and glass at the tip of the Lyon peninsula. Spectacular from the outside, once you enter there is a veritable feast of interesting options as the museum skilfully tells the story of the human adventure from our origins, to the present day. Venture on a journey through time and across continents to encounter endless curiosities: meteorites, pterodactyls, hummingbirds, female Homo sapiens, microscopes, Siberian tigers, Sputnik, Samurai armour and more. For further details visit museedesconfluences.fr/
Plane: There are four large international airports offering access the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region – Lyon, Grenoble, Chambéry and Geneva just over the border in Switzerland.
Train: There is a year-round direct Eurostar route to Lyon.
Car: The region is well connected with autoroutes from Paris and the ferry ports. Calais to Lyon takes around seven hours.