- Population: 5,645,407
- Pop.density (people per km2):129
Three principal communes
Lyon is widely considered to be the second most important city in France. It is truly modern and an important commercial, industrial and banking centre. It is also a majestic place with first class museums, a strong cultural life and a rich and varied entertainment scene (there are 15 cinemas in town), an important university, classy shops and buzzing pedestrian malls. A line of impressive public squares is at the heart of the bustling city centre and the picture-postcard Renaissance old town, with 300 restored medieval and renaissance houses, is a UNESCO heritage site. In the late 1400s it became an important publishing centre with several hundred resident printers. It has also been an important textile centre and by the 18h century was Europe's silk-weaving capital. Since the 18th century Lyon has been an important centre of scientific research. A lively cosmopolitan and sophisticated place within a very short distance of hills, lakes and vineyards, Lyon would be a first-class city to set up home. It also has the advantage of a number of international schools.
Grenoble sits in a broad valley surrounded by mountains. Once renowned for its glove-making, it is today an important centre for nuclear research and home to chemicals and microelectronic companies. There are a number of huge laboratories run by the Atomic Energy Commission on the banks of the River Drac. The town has some good festivals throughout the year: jazz in March, rock in June and European theatre in June and July. It is a cosmopolitan place to eat and drink and it is a lot less flashy than some of the higher altitude resorts nearby. With lots of immigrant workers, a number of large foreign companies and a huge student populaton make for a modern, lively city with a good cultural mix.
Surrounded by warehouses, mineworks and chimneys, St-Etienne has a strong industrial heritage. It is remowned for its football team and besides, traditions and craft industry are still very present. To get it over with an old image of 'grey and unappealing' town, the locals have for some years put the emphasis on the cultural life which is now lively and numerous town planning projects are under way.