On the skyline from Fourvière, you can’t miss the gleaming pencil-like skyscraper that belongs to Lyon’s home-grown Crédit Lyonnais bank. This is the centrepiece of Part-Dieu, a business-culture-commerce hub which includes one of the biggest public libraries outside Paris, a mammoth concert hall and a busy shopping centre. While it’s not the most aesthetically pleasing area, you don’t have to go far to enjoy some culture.
Film buffs won’t want to miss the enlightening Institut Lumière, housed within the grandiose Art Nouveau villa that was, for a period, the home of Antoine Lumière, father of Auguste and Louis, two of the earliest pioneers of film. The emphasis here is very much on the earliest forms of photographic techniques, which subsequently paved the way for film. Prize exhibits include early magic lanterns, the first cinematograph (1885), and the first ever autochromes, or colour plates, one of which is a picture of Antoine’s third daughter relaxing in the Winter Garden.
Housed within the former military medical school used by the Gestapo during World War II, the Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation makes for a sobering but worthwhile visit. In addition to a library of books, videos, memoirs and other documents recording experiences of resistance, occupation and deportation to the camps, there’s an exhibition space housed over the very cellars and cells in which Klaus Barbie, the Gestapo boss of Lyon, tortured and murdered his victims. After living in Bolivia for years under a false identity, Barbie was extradited to France in 1987, aged 74, and tried in Lyon for crimes against humanity, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment; the centrepiece of the exhibition is a moving and unsettling 45-minute video of the trial in which some of his victims recount their terrible ordeal – it’s in French but ask to have it subtitled.