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France: Lyon Old City

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Lyon Old City | France | Europe

[Visited: August 2006]

Originally founded as a Roman colony, Lyon became the capital of the Gaul province of the Romans thanks to its strategic location. While it has grown to a population of around half a million inhabitants and the third largest city of France, there are still many traces of the past in the attractive city centre. Lyon was founded near the convergence of the rivers Rhône and Saône south of the historic centre, forming a peninsula on which part of the city is built. The oldest part of the city is on the west bank, with the basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière dominating the city, on top of a hill with the same name. This is also part of the area declared World Heritage Site by Unesco.

Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Old city centre of Lyon seen from above

When you cross the river, you almost directly come into the maze of small streets and alleys, with little traffic and lots of old houses, cobble stone streets, old shops, and unexpected turns and twists. I decided to just follow my instinct and walk around without a particular idea, and was rewarded quiet little squares, and a jump back in time. From here, I finally decided to walk up, which allowed me a visit to the old Roman amphitheatre and some more remains of Roman times, before heading to the Notre Dame de Fourvière basilica. Quite simple from the outside, this cathedral boasts a richly decorated and very impressive interior, with shining mosaics, leaded glass and many other works of art.

Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Lyon old city: house on the corner

From here, I also had a great view on the city - not just the old centre, but also the rivers, the peninsula, the major squares of the city, and the surrounding areas, too. Unfortunately, it was overcast I could not see the Alps which can be seen on clear days. From the basilica, I took a long walk down, to immerse myself again in the medieval alleys, walk through traboules, discover small traditional shops and ateliers. In the Saint Jean Cathedral, clearly less decorated than the Notre Dame de Fourvière, I admired the huge leaded glass windows, and an intricate old clock telling not just the time, but also the month, astrological signs, and much more. When I finally crossed the river back to the peninsula, I was very pleased with the part of Lyon I had just visited, and found the Lyonnais deservedly proud of their attractve city.

Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Notre Dame de Fourvière under a dark sky
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Narrow street in the old city of Lyon
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Old city of Lyon: street in the World Heritage area
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Saint Jean Cathedral in the old city
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Colourful leaded glass window of bakery in old city of Lyon
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Saint Jean cathedral: colourful rose window
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Astronomical clock of Saint Jean cathedral
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Roman amphitheatre with Notre Dame de Fourvière basilica in the background
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Mosaics in Notre Dame de Fourvière basilica
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Detail of door inside traboule
Picture of Lyon Old City (France): Loge du Change in old city of Lyon

Around the World in 80 Clicks

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