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This article is about the French city. For other usages, see Lyon (disambiguation) and Lyons (disambiguation).
Ville de Lyon
City flag City coat of arms
(City flag) (City coat of arms)
City motto: Avant, avant, Lion le melhor.
(Franco-Provençal: Forward, forward, Lyon the best)
Location of Lyon
City proper
Région Rhône-Alpes
Département Rhône (69)
Mayor Gérard Collomb
(PS) (since 2001)
Area 47.87 km²
Subdivisions 9 arrondissements
2004 estimate
1999 census
(Ranked 3rd)
Density 9,305/km² (1999)
Metropolitan area
(aire urbaine)
Communes 296 (1999)
Area 3,306 km² (1999)
1999 census
(Ranked 2nd)
Yearly growth +0.68 %
Density 499/km² (1999)
  - president

Urban Community of Lyon
Gérard Collomb
(PS) (since 2001)
Twin cities Birmingham (UK)
Saint Louis (USA)
Frankfurt (Germany)
Milan (Italy)
Guangzhou (China)
Beer Sheva (Israel)

Lyon (often Lyons in English) (French pronunciation: /ljɔ̃/) is a city in east central France. Location: 45° 46′ 1″ N, 4° 50′ 3″ E.

Together with its suburbs and satellite towns, Lyon forms the second largest metropolitan area in France after Paris, with 1,648,216 inhabitants at the 1999 census, and approximately the 20th to 25th largest metropolitan area of Western Europe.

Lyon is the capital of the Rhône-Alpes région, and the préfecture (capital) of the Rhône département.

The city gave its name to the Lyonnais province, of which it was the capital. Today the region around Lyon is still known as Lyonnais (French: le Lyonnais), or sometimes even as the Lyonnaise Region (French: Région Lyonnaise). Lyonnaise Region is an unofficial, popular name, not to be confused with the administrative région of Rhône-Alpes, which is much larger than the Lyonnaise Region.

Lyon is also the international headquarters of Interpol.



Lyon is the chief town of the Rhône-Alpes région, the préfecture of the Rhône département, the chief town of the arrondissement of Lyon, and the chief town of 14 cantons, covering 1 commune, and with a total population of 445,452 (1999).


Main article Lugdunum.

Lyon was founded as a roman colony in 43 BC by Munatius Plancus, a Caesar's lieutenant, who named it Lugdunum after the Celtic sun god Lugh ("shining one"). Agrippa recognized that Lugdunum's position on the natural highway from north to south-eastern France made it a natural communications hub, and he made Lyon the starting-point of the principal Roman roads throughout Gaul. The three parts of Gaul mentioned by Caesar met at Lyon. It became then the capital of the Gauls, partly thanks to its fortunate site at the convergence of navigable rivers. Lugdunum became quickly the main city of Gaul. Two emperors are born in this city : Claudius and Caracalla

the Christians in Lyon were persecuted for their religious views under the reigns of the Roman emperors Marcus Aurelius and Septimus Severus. The great Christian bishop of Lyon in the 2nd century was the Easterner, Irenaeus.

Burgundian refugees from the destruction of Worms by Huns in 437 were resettled by the military commander of the west, Aëtius, at Lugdunum, which was formally the capital of the new Burgundian kingdom by 461.

In 843, by the Treaty of Verdun, Lyon, with the country beyond the Saône, went to Lothair I.

Fernand Braudel remarked, "Historians of Lyon are not sufficiently alert to the bi-polarity between Paris and Lyon, which is a constant structure in French development" from the late Middle Ages to the Industrial Revolution (Braudel 1984 p.327). The fairs at Lyon, the invention of Italian merchants, made it the economic countinghouse of France in the late 15th century. When international banking moved to Genoa, then Amsterdam, Lyon simply became the banking center of France; its new Bourse, built in 1749, still had the aspect of a public loggia, where accounts were settled in the open air. During the Renaissance the city developed due to the development of the silk trade, especially with Italy; the Italian influence on Lyon's architecture can still be seen. Thanks to the silk trade, Lyon became an important industrial town during the 19th century.

Lyon was a scene of mass violence against Huguenots in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacres in 1572.

The silk workers of Lyon, known as "canuts" staged two major uprisings: in 1831 and 1834. The 1831 uprising saw one of the first recorded uses of the black flag as an emblem of protest.

Lyon was a centre for the occupying German forces, and also a stronghold of resistance during World War II, and the town is now home to a resistance museum. (See also Klaus Barbie.) The traboules through the houses enabled the locals to escape Gestapo raids.


Central Lyon from the Fourvière hill
Central Lyon from the Fourvière hill

The Rhône and Saône rivers meet in the centre of the city, which is dominated by the two hills Fourvière and the Croix-Rousse. Fourvière, known as the hill that prays is the location for the highly decorated Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica, several convents, the palace of the Archbishop, and a funicular. Croix-Rousse the hill that works was traditionally home to the many small silk workshops, an industry for which the city was renowned.

The Saint-Jean and the Croix-Rousse areas, which are noted for their narrow passageways (traboules) that pass through buildings and link the streets either side, were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1998.

On the peninsula (presqu'ile) between the rivers Rhône and Saône, is the third largest public square in France, and one of the largest in Europe, the Place Bellecour. Specifically, it is the largest clear square (i.e., without any patches of greenery, trees or any other kind of obstacles) in Europe.

Across the Rhône from the presqu'ile sits modern Lyon, home to the urban center Lyon Part-Dieu; central France's only skyscraper; and most of the city's population. This area also contains the Parc de la tête d'or, one of Europe's largest urban parks. Interpol headquarters is located in this neighborhood.


Lyon was an early center for printing books, and nurtured a circle of 16th century poets. For several centuries Lyon has been known as the capital of gastronomy, fine handweaving, and the silk trade. The Lumière brothers invented cinema in the town in 1898. December 8 each year is marked by "la Fête de la Lumière" (the Festival of Lights), a celebration of thanks to the Virgin Mary, who purportedly saved the city from a deadly plague in the Middle Ages. During the event, the local population places candles in their windows and the city of Lyon organizes and projects impressive large-scale light shows onto the sides of important Lyonais monuments, such as the mediaeval Cathédral St-Jean.

A photograph from the outskirts of Lyon
A photograph from the outskirts of Lyon

Two of France's best known wine-growing regions are located near Lyon: the Beaujolais to the North, and the Côtes du Rhône to the South.


The Roman Catholic Archbishop of the city holds the title "Primate of the Gauls" (Primat des Gaules) and is the leading Archbishop of France. The archdiocese dates to Roman times before Franks entered modern France (see history above).

The red vestments of the canons of Lyon are said to have given rise to red becoming the signature color of the cardinals, in a decree promulgated under Pope Innocent IV at the First Council of Lyons, 1245.

Colleges and universities


Airport: Saint-Exupéry International Airport

Lyon is connected to the North (Lille, Paris) and the South (Marseille, Montpellier) by the TGV. It was the first city to be connected by the TGV c.1982.

Metro: see Lyon Metro

In addition to the extensive metro and bus system, Lyon has a tramway system. It has a public velo / bike network of 2000 bikes which can be picked up and dropped off at points around the city.

Buildings and structures

A photo, waterside in Lyon
A photo, waterside in Lyon


Born in Lyon

The long list of notable Lyonnais includes:


Lyon is twinned with:

Musical reference

External links

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