A key trading post, communications hub and administrative center dating back to Roman days, Lyon has been one of Europe’s focal points and France’s top cities for millennia. First established as the Roman settlement Lugdunum in 43 BC, the city’s favorable location at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers allowed it to develop into the main city and capital of the region of Gaul.
With the decline of the Roman Empire, the city continued to flourish. During the Renaissance Lyon was a main link in the lucrative silk trade, which brought wealth and an international flair to the city—Italian influence on the art, architecture and cuisine of the region can still be felt. Spurred on by a rivalry with its neighbor to the north, Paris, and continuing to feed off its silk wealth, Lyon developed into a major industrial player during the Industrial Revolution and continues to be one of France’s primary commercial centers.
During World War II, Lyon was both a focus of the Nazi occupation and a stronghold of the Free French resistance effort. The bravery of those who struggled for their country’s liberty in the war is remembered in a number of sites around the city, most prominently in the Musée de la Résistance et de la Déportation.