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Cities of France - Lyon

"I know of only one thing that you can do well in Lyon, and that's eat," said 19th-century French novelist Stendhal. Yes, the food is good as you would expect from the city regarded as the French capital of gastronomy, but there's so much more to this fascinating city.

Nestled in the Rhône-Alpes region, the gateway to the ski fields of the French Alps, Lyon is the second largest city in France, after Paris. Perfectly combining the old and new, you'll discover Roman ruins, Renaissance-era architecture, and areas sufficiently precious to be protected on Unesco's World Heritage list. But there's also abundant art spaces, talented young designers, a dynamic cultural life, renovated riverfronts and a fast-rising neighbourhood of futuristic architecture.

So what to see? A visit to Vieux Lyon is a must. This historic old town is the second largest Renaissance area in Europe, after Venice. Its narrow cobblestone streets date back to the Middle Ages and the buildings were erected between the 15th and the 17th centuries by wealthy Italian, Flemish and German merchants. St Jean Cathedral is the most impressive of the three churches in the area and it towers over one of the main squares. There are fascinating craft and artisan shops sharing the nearby streets with many quaint eateries as well as a handful of the usual tourist shops.

And while you're in the area, take the funicular (steep railway), or for the fitness fanatics, tackle the 150m of almost vertical stairs, up to Fourvière hill which was a Roman colony in 43 BC. Wander around the imposing basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and be treated to the most incredible panoramic view across Lyon. On a clear day, you'll even see Mount Blanc.

Just a few minutes walk away, the hillside Roman ruins with the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière and the Odeon of Lyon will amaze you with its grandeur. The Gallo-Roman Museum is carefully hidden in the adjoining hill, if you want to delve further into history.

Fourvière in the west is often referred to as "the hill that prays", while to the north, the Croix-rousse, "the hill that works", is home to many small silk workshops, an industry for which the city was once renowned.

Both Vieux Lyon and the slopes of Croix-Rousse are known for their narrow passageways or traboules that pass through buildings and link streets on either side.

Lyon also has a significant role in the history of cinema as Auguste and Louis Lumière invented the cinematographe here. The city is also the hometown of celebrated author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry who wrote the French classic, Le Petit Prince.

When talking about Lyon, it's hard not to bring the conversation back to food.

France's most celebrated chef, Paul Bocuse, hails from Lyon, and a visit to Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocouse is a must. This large indoor market is overflowing with more than 60 food artisans showcasing their appetising produce. You'll be mermerised by the variety and quality. What to buy? Cheese, bread, pastries, oysters, charcuterie, salads, meat, snails, macarons, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolates .. and so much more. Or pull up a chair in one of the restaurants and simply order from the menu.

Another option is to make your way to the riverside and join the crowds at the Marché St.-Antoine (Quai St.-Antoine and Quai des Célestins). This outdoor market is foodie heaven of a different style as it's bristling with atmosphere. You'll be drawn in by the shouts of the enthusiastic merchants and the aromas of fresh produce such as ripe cheese, baked bread, pungent fish, steaming roasted chickens, briny oysters and more.

No visit to Lyon is complete without a visit to a bouchon. These homey restaurants serving rustic, traditional cuisine and local wines are famous countrywide. Bouchons are all about their friendly owner, great atmosphere and hearty food rather than haute cuisine. Bon appetite!