21 August 2023

The city of Lyon, host of the 47th WorldSkills Competition, is full of a rich History and a unique culture that never fail to surprise and amaze locals and tourists alike. Here are six things to know about this eclectic city.

1. Lyon is uniquely connected to New York City

Located in the popular Place des Terreaux in the centre of Lyon, the emblematic and imposing Bartholdi Fountain was first installed in the city in 1891, after being acquired at the 1889 Paris World’s Fair. This monument, one of the most famous in Lyon, was built by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, who is universally known for building the iconic Statue of Liberty in New York City.  

2. The city is home to hundreds of secret passages

One cannot visit Lyon without exploring one of the hundreds of Traboules, unique hidden shortcuts linking one street to another through one or more buildings. Present everywhere in the city, these narrow passages were built centuries ago. They first served as ways for locals to easily and directly reach the Saône River to get water supplies in the Middle Ages, and were later used as shortcuts to get from one place to another. Today, the Traboules are an integral part of the city’s heritage. 

3. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “father” of The Little Prince, was born here

The Little Prince is one of the world’s most-read and most famous fables and modern classics. Its writer, French aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, was born in Lyon in 1900. Proud of this important local figure, the city named a street after him, and Saint-Exupéry even gave his name to the International Airport of Lyon.  

4. Lyon is the capital of silk

Back in the 15th century, in the context of fairs and increasing demands of silk coming from the wealthier classes of society, King Louis XI set up a national silk industry in Lyon, asking Italian workers, experts at silk-weaving, to come to the city in exchange for decent living conditions. By the 16th Century, Lyon became the capital of the European silk trade, and a century later, dozens of thousands of looms were operating in the city. After undergoing challenges due to societal changes, the silk industry has remained an essential part of the city’s history and heritage. 

5. One of the city’s most emblematic characters is a marionette

The city of Lyon has a unique emblem that is unlike any other: a marionette. Named Guignol, the famous puppet was created in 1808 by Laurent Mourguet, born in Lyon in a working-class family of silk weavers.  After trying different jobs, Laurent Mourguet became a toothpuller in local markets. He took the habit of pulling teeth with one hand and moving a puppet with the other in order to drive customers’ attention away from the procedure of teeth pulling. Seeing that people enjoyed the show, Laurent decided to dedicate full-time to Guignol with a variety of entertaining shows for locals. Today, Guignol is one of the city’s most iconic emblems.  

6. There is a giant Flower Tree in the middle of the city

Every local of Lyon has already come across the giant floral art piece that sits in the inner city. Nicknamed the “Flower Tree”, this original art piece often arouses the curiosity of tourists and is located between Place Bellecour, the largest square in the city, and the Rhône River banks. Composed of 85 giant flowers, the Flower Tree was designed by Korean artist Jeong Hwa Choi and was first exposed during the 2003 Lyon Contemporary Art Biennale. The city loved it so much that they decided to acquire it permanently in 2006.  

Learn more facts about the city of Lyon with our series of articles.

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