Top 10 historic things to do in Lyon

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Ancient Roman high living, pigs’ trotters and the world’s first film – these are just some of the things associated with France’s second city, historic Lyon.

Roman beginnings

You can see how well the Gallic Romans lived at the Musée Gallo Romain. Look out at the huge outdoor site and imagine the crowds hurrying to the amphitheatre or shopping for brightly colored drinking vessels and vases in the narrow crowded streets of the capital.

Musée Gallo Romain, 17 rue Cléberg, 69005
Musée Gallo Romain Website

Eat Lyonnais style

The traditional bouchons of Lyon are packed every night with locals who go for the black pudding with apples, pigs’ trotters, chicken in vinegar and generous cheese platters. Book in advance at one of the most popular venues like the Café des Fédérations.

Café des Fédérations, rue du Major Martin.
Café des Fédérations Website

Clock-watching in the cathedral

The trumpeter plays, a conductor beats time, a cock crows and the Archangel Gabriel hovers over the Virgin Mary daily in the Cathédrale St-Jean. With remarkable foresight, the ornate 14th-century astronomical clock can calculate movable feast days like Easter to 2019. Get there 15 minutes before the clock’s daily afternoon performance for a good viewpoint.

70 rue Saint-Jean, 69005
Cathédrale St-Jean Website

The invention of the cinema

Magic lanterns, unwieldy camera equipment and flickering old films in the absorbing Musée Lumière take you back to the invention of the cinema by the Lumière brothers in 1895. Cinema buffs keep an eye on the website to check the regular film screenings and the chance to meet directors and producers.

25 rue du Premier-Film, 69008
Musée Lumière Website

Flea market shopping

Locals after a bargain head out to Les puces du canal flea market on Sunday mornings when 400 dealers offer everything from chairs to porcelain figures of Asterix. Fortify yourself with coffee and a toasted cheese sandwich, or croque monsieur, at one of the cafés before taking your purchases back to your Lyon hotel.

1 rue du Canal, Villeurbanne
Les puces du canal Website

Guignol theatre

Punch’s French counterpart is alive and well and performing in Lyon where he was born 200 years ago. The performances have children shrieking with delight at the slapstick antics of characters who are comfortingly either very good or very bad.

2 Montée du Gourguillon, St Georges, 69005
La Maison de Guignol Théâtre Website

Wartime memories

The stark images and chilling film footage in the concrete re-created bunkers and passages of the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation are a grim reminder that this was the headquarters of the Gestapo in the Second World War with Klaus Barbie, the ‘butcher of Lyon’ in charge.

14 avenue Berthelot, 69007
Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation Website

Walk the traboules

Doorways lead into secret, dark passageways, past tiny Renaissance courtyards with staircases and Juliet balconies and emerge in a parallel street. Walk the traboules in Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse beside the ghosts of 16th- and 17th-century silk workers transporting their precious material as well as Resistance fighters in the Second World War.

Traboules Website

A rare Romanesque church

Marvel at the weird and wonderful human and animal figures adorning the columns in the Romanesque church of St Martin d’Ainay, a hardy 12th-century survival of an architectural style eclipsed by the Gothic.

11 rue Bourgelat, 69002
St Martin d’Ainay Website

Drinking in the past

Order a beer at the ornately decorated, bustling Brasserie St Georges and celebrate Lyon’s position at the crossroads of Europe which brought 19th-century beer makers from Alsace and merchants from all over Europe to trade here.

Brasserie St Georges, 30 Cour de Verdun, Perrache, 69002
Brasserie St Georges Website