After being picked to host the 2016 UEFA European Championship, which runs June 10 to July 10, France will be welcoming soccer fans to matches in 10 of its cities. In Lyon, players and supporters will be heading to games at the new Stade des Lumières stadium, located in Décines-Charpieu, which opened at the beginning of the year.
Here’s a look at a few things awaiting fans of the beautiful game prior to kick-off in the southeastern city.
Where to eat
In France’s gastronomic capital -- home to world-renowned chef, Paul Bocuse -- visitors should tuck into typical Lyonnaise cuisine in one of the city’s many “bouchons.” These small traditional restaurants, which are easily recognizable thanks to their red and white checked tablecloths, serve up specialties made from every possible part of a pig, as well as the region’s famous quenelles, a type of dumpling.
For the full culinary experience with none of the clichés, head to La Mère Brazier, an institution masterfully modernized by chef, Mathieu Viannay. For more contemporary cuisine, Café Sillon and La Bijouterie are well worth sampling.
Although best known for its dry-cured sausages and other pork products, the former Capital of the Gauls has plenty to offer sweet-toothed travellers. Look out for the city’s pink pralines, often cooked in brioches or tarts, or tuck into delicious pastries and cakes crafted by Sébastien Bouillet or François Pralus. Chocolates from Sève or Bernachon are always a hit too.
What to see
First-time visitors should head to Lyon’s Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière basilica, which watches over the city from a hilltop. Tours take visitors behind the scenes with a look around the monument’s roofs, for a chance to see Lyon from an even higher vantage point.
After that, head back down into Lyon’s old town (Vieux Lyon) for a guided tour, exploring the city’s medieval history, including its hidden “traboule” passageways, building courtyards and Italian-style galleries.
Locals get a breath of fresh air in the Tête d’Or park, an ideal spot for a relaxing stroll among its many gardens. It’s even home to a small zoo, where many families come each weekend to see the lions and giraffes. France’s biggest urban park also has merry-go-rounds, rides and go-karts for young kids to enjoy, as well as row boats and paddle boats for exploring its lake. Legend has it that the park is home to some hidden treasure, including a golden head of Christ, from which it takes its name (literally, “the park of the golden head”). For a more urban excursion, art fans can explore the city’s many murals, a local tradition that brightens up many of Lyon’s walls.
When to come back
Lyon should definitely be visited (or revisited) during its annual Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières), on and around December 8. Residents line their windows with candles and pyrotechnic shows and installations take root in and around the city to liven up the night.
A one-hour drive from Lyon is the city’s long-standing rival, Saint-Étienne, which is also due to host its share of Euro 2016 games. The Euro is a great opportunity to visit the museum dedicated to the city’s famous soccer club, which has a legendary status in French league football. The 800 square metre museum is home to objects, photos and videos charting the history of AS Saint-Etienne, also known as “Les Verts” for their green and white strip.
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