Situated at a natural crossroads between the Rhone valley, the Massif Central and the Alps, Lyon's strategically important position made it the capital of the Gauls at the time of the Roman Empire and a hotbed of commercial and financial activity during the Renaissance. An industrial powerhouse in more recent history, the city has reinvented itself again in the contemporary era, becoming a hive of cutting-edge technology. The city now has the second largest student population in France and is heralded far and wide for its quality of life, as well as its rich architectural and cultural heritage.
Foremost in Lyon's cultural calendar is the spectacular Festival of Lights, held every year on 8 December, while an annual film festival pays tribute to the Lumiere brothers, who invented cinematography in Lyon in 1895. The city is also famous for its painted walls, especially the Fresque des Lyonnais, a mural featuring several local celebrities. Visitors will likewise be charmed by the town hall on Place des Terreaux, as well as Place Bellecour, the Bartholdi fountain, the Palais de la Bourse, the Theatre des Celestins and the city's Gallo-Roman ruins. Meanwhile, no trip to Lyon is complete without a tour of the Museum of Fine Arts, which boasts the second most significant collection of artworks in France after the Louvre in Paris.
Lastly, Lyon is widely recognised as a gastronomic paradise, forging an enviable reputation thanks to its renowned 'bouchons' – little restaurants serving local delicacies – and the large number of leading chefs who hail from the city.
In a part of the world where sport is wildly popular, football reigns supreme. Founded in 1950, local side Lyon had to wait until 2002 to secure their first French title, but they quickly made up for lost time by clinching seven consecutive Ligue 1 crowns. OL remain a heavyweight presence on the domestic scene, but their men's team pales in comparison to the women's section, who began 2017 with 14 national titles and eight French Cups to their name, not to mention three UEFA Women's Champions League triumphs and two runners-up finishes since the start of the decade.