Three Days in Lyon, The Largest Renaissance City in France is the 52nd article by Dennis Callan in his Star-Bulletin series explaining how to get the most out of the world’s great places. Dennis is president of the Hawaii Geographic Society and frequently leads tours through Europe, Canada and the USA. All the previous articles can be found on his web site, www.tourvideos.com.
Here is the first extract
Walking along the narrow streets of Lyon’s Old Town is like leaving the modern world and taking a giant leap back 500 years. Cobblestone streets lined with ancient facades extend for many blocks through the largest Renaissance-era neighborhood in France. The magical feeling of the past is further enhanced by numerous older structures from the Gothic, Romanesque and even classical Roman times, and by the complete absence of modern buildings. Old Lyon has a unified historic atmosphere that you don’t find in many other large cities of Europe.
The Old Town is about one mile long and four blocks wide, with nearly 500 protected buildings which, thanks to careful preservation, have been kept in excellent condition and are very much alive today with unique little boutiques and art galleries. And Lyon, famous as a gourmet center of France, can boast of the many fine restaurants in the Old Town with a variety of cuisines and price ranges.
Lyon also has an attractive modern district next to the historic zone, with up-to-date shops and department stores, gourmet restaurants, broad pedestrian promenades, plazas, parks, museums and beautiful architecture primarily of the 19th century. History buffs will probably want to spend more time in the old section, but this modern side of Lyon is a fascinating place to wander, eat and shop.
The best of both worlds waits for you in Lyon, offering something for everyone in a perfect visitor experience. With a population of 1.26, million Lyon is the second-largest urban area in France, so it definitely has a lot to offer, but fortunately most of the visitor attractions are concentrated in the central square mile.
The entire complex of old and new sections has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, affirming the importance and beauty of this amazing city. UNESCO usually selects only individual buildings or small complexes as World Heritage Sites, but here we have a large area of about one square mile assigned the highest mark of distinction.
One reason that France ranks as the world’s most-visited nation is the historic atmosphere preserved in its old neighborhoods, and perhaps the best examples of such authentic appeal is found in Old Lyon. Economic success can come from renovating old buildings rather than knocking them down for bigger, more “useful” structures. In recent years, Lyon’s popularity has skyrocketed, so you might consider coming during the off-season, October through May, to avoid the crowds. (article and photos copyrighted by Dennis Callan)