Situated at the confluence of the Rhone and Saone rivers, the UNESCO World Heritage city of Lyon is both the second-largest metropolitan area and the second-busiest convention city in France, after Paris. It is a key location for biotechnology companies and headquarters to a variety of international organizations—including Interpol. As a result, meeting venues in Lyon are used to accommodating a diversity of needs.
Lyon is served by Lyon-Saint Exupery Airport (LYS), which is approximately 22 miles from the city. Fifteen airlines fly into LYS, in addition to Star Alliance, SkyTeam and oneworld. Lyon is also accessible by train through TGV, which goes to all major cities.
Chief among Lyon convention venues is the Lyon Convention Center, which was designed by Renzo Piano and is architecturally stunning. With the recent addition of a 3,000-seat amphitheater, it increased its meeting space to 270,000 square feet. The convention center is the lynchpin of a 55-acre urban development along the banks of the Rhone, called the Cite Internationale, which also comprises the Hilton Lyon, the Hotel de la Cite, the Lyon Contemporary Art Museum, restaurants, shops and a casino.
One of the largest venues in Lyon is Eurexpo exhibition park, which offers 1.173 million square feet of indoor and 538,196 square feet of outdoor exhibition space. Eurexpo has just opened its new 107,638-square-foot Espace Paul Bocuse, named in honor of Lyon's most famous chef, who was recently named Chef of the Century by the Culinary Institute of America.
This is fitting because many consider Lyon to be the gastronomic capital of France. In addition to his Michelin 3 Star Auberge du Pont de Collonges, Bocuse has several less formal brasseries: le Nord, le Sud, l'Oeust, and Argenson. But there are many other superb Lyonnais tables d'hote.
Along with French food there is always wine, and Lyon is bordered by two notable wine-producing regions: Beaujolais to the north and Cotes du Rhone to the south.
Founded by the Romans, Lyon was once the capital of Gaul. Rising behind the old city is Fourviere Hill and vestiges of Lyon's Roman past, including two amphitheaters and the Musee Gallo-Romain (which is also an event venue). After the Renaissance it became the unofficial capital of the silk industry thanks to the artistry of its weavers. For groups exploring the city by foot, a visit to Vieux Lyon, the old city, is like stepping back into the Renaissance. The streets are narrow and cobblestoned with little motor traffic, fostering a lively street scene of outdoor restaurants and boutiques. Not to be missed are the hidden passageways between buildings called traboules.
Recommended excursions include visiting the Croix-Rousse quarter (where the silk-workers used to live) to see weaving demonstrations at the Maison des Canuts; touring the Institut Lumiere where the Lumiere brothers shot the first motion picture film in history; and, finally, taking a guided walking tour of Lyon's many amazing trompe l'oeil murals.