"Lyon, the city of Vélo'v" Top 5 Page for this destination Lyon by Nemorino

Lyon Travel Guide: 558 reviews and 1,315 photos

Lyon and its unmistakable opera house

Lyon is a beautiful city at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône Rivers in east-central France in the Rhône-Alpes region. Among many other attractions, Lyon has a very distinctive and successful opera house. The building is an unusual combination of old (1831) and new (1993) components, which means you can't confuse it with any other building in Lyon or probably the world. Though the interior color scheme is rather off-putting (black, black and black), I immediately felt right at home when I went in, as do the people of Lyon and vicinity, who recently voted the Opera the most popular cultural institution in the city.

The opera I saw there was Luisa Miller, the fifteenth opera by Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901). This is one of four Verdi operas that are based on plays by the German dramatist, poet and historian Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805), the others being Giovanna d'Arco (Joan of Arc), I masnadieri (The Robbers) and one of the world's greatest operas, Don Carlos.

You can read more about the Lyon Opera in my first batch of Things to Do tips and in my first Restaurant tip.

I also went to two plays while I was in Lyon. The first was Les Femmes savantes (The Learned Ladies), a seventeenth century comedy by Molière (1622-1673) at the beautiful old Théâtre des Célestins. The second was a twenty-first century tragi-comedy called L'anniversaire (The Birthday) by Jean-Pierre Roos at a tiny theater called the Théâtre des Marronniers (Chestnut Theater) hidden away in a tiny back courtyard on a small street called Rue des Marronniers.

Also I followed the advice of VT member JLBG and went out to the 8th arrondissement of Lyon for a guided tour of the Lumière Villa and Museum on the "Street of the First Film", where the Lumière brothers invented the motion picture camera and made their first film -- a very short film of workers coming out of their factory after work. This film had no plot and only lasted 46 seconds, but it was a big hit when it was first shown in Paris in 1895, because no one had seen anything like it.

Appropriately enough, the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon has a painting from the year 1879 showing a photographer with his head under a black cloth taking a wedding photo of a young couple. Photography at that time was still a complicated process that could only be done by a few skillful experts, but just a few years later the Lumière brothers changed that when they began mass-producing photographic dry-plates at their factory in Lyon. Soon anyone (who could afford it) could take photos, not just a few skilled professionals.

Lyon has an excellent bicycle sharing system called Vélo'v, which is a combination of the French word Vélo, meaning bicycle, and the English word Love.

Vélo'v was not the first bike sharing program in France, by any means, but when it was inaugurated in 2005 is was the largest. It was such a huge success that it gave the Paris mayor and city council the confidence to start a similar but even larger program, Vélib', just two years later.

When I arrived in Lyon I bought a one-week Vélo'v subscription which I made very good use of. I went everywhere by Vélo'v, using dozens of bikes each day, and when I got my credit card invoice at the end of the month I found that they had billed me all of three Euros –- even cheaper than in Paris!

  • Last visit to Lyon: Apr 2011
  • Intro Updated Jul 25, 2011
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Reviews (56)

Comments (33)

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Apr 24, 2014 at 2:29 AM

    Great page on Lyon! Thanks for the tour Don.

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Sep 20, 2013 at 7:22 PM

    Great tips

  • Maryimelda's Profile Photo
    Mar 25, 2013 at 7:04 PM

    I've really enjoyed your Lyon pages Don. I have passed through Lyon by train and car several times but have not had the pleasure of a stopover. I must do something to remedy that. I particularly liked your reviews on the two plays you saw. If only I understood French a bit more, so I could enjoy such performances myself.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Mar 26, 2013 at 2:20 AM

      Kate, thanks for your many ratings and nice comment on my Lyon page. I'm glad you liked my reviews on the two plays I saw in Lyon. My French listening comprehension is not perfect, so I never understand completely. In these two cases I read the text of the plays afterwards, which cleared up most of my confusion. Ideally, I like to read the text beforehand, but that isn't always possible. (My next page, maybe next week, will be about Toulon, where I also went to the opera and the theatre.)

    • Maryimelda's Profile Photo
      Mar 26, 2013 at 4:30 PM

      I'll look forward to that, Don.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jan 7, 2013 at 9:35 PM

    Quite a bit to see and do here. I especially like the park gates, and the old door in the old town, thanks for sharing!

  • Jim_Eliason's Profile Photo
    Oct 25, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    great tips!

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Oct 3, 2012 at 8:08 AM

    What a nice tour you've given Don! Thanks!

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Sep 26, 2012 at 8:45 AM

    Another quick visit to Lyon. I also look up those things that I don't get or intrigue me. It adds so much to the experience. Thanks for sharing Don!

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Sep 21, 2012 at 8:48 AM

    I'll be back Don to read the rest, but this in a nice start. So you also like to try the local cuisine. Sorry it wasn't a memorable experience for you. So far I've been pretty lucky with that.

  • glabah's Profile Photo
    Sep 10, 2012 at 1:15 PM

    No, there's no mistaking that Opera House even from your long distance city-scape photo. I'm somewhat surprised that the one art museum allows even photographs to be taken, as so many of the ones here prohibit all photography. I can well understand the "Crap of the Century" comment, as they have one of those in Seattle too. They are in the process of digging a tunnel under that part of the city so that the monstrosity of the "Alaskan Way Viaduct" will be demolished. It is slowly falling apart on its own due to age and the results of settling from the Nisqually Earthquake about 11 years ago.

  • pfsmalo's Profile Photo
    Mar 25, 2012 at 10:06 AM

    Hi Don,
    As usual your pics and tips give a good insight into a city that I don't know well at all.

    Regards

    Paul

Nemorino

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