- things to see and do
Surprisingly for a city that until 2014 had no world-class
museum, no great cathedral, and none of the top thirty tourist
attractions in France,
Lyon claims to be the second tourist destination in France after Paris,
and ahead of Nice or Strasbourg.
Confluences museum of science and anthropology.
But in fact, maybe this is not
too surprising. Lyon is France's second city, one of France's oldest
cities, and is reputed as the gourmet capital of France. And it now has
a brand new museum which looks as if it may vie for celebrity with the
Guggenheim museum in Bilbao. The new Confluences museum lies at the
point where the Saône and Rhone rivers meet, and is a museum
of science and anthropology, with plenty of interactive exhibits.
The confluence of these two great
rivers is the hub of an urban area with over two million
inhabitants. Lyon is also the main city on the road and rail routes
between Paris and the south of France, Paris and the Alps and Italy,
and northern Europe and Spain.
As a city break
destination or a long weekend destination, Lyon has plenty to offer;
and what it has got to offer well makes up for what it has not got. The
old city is classed as a UNESCO World heritage site, there are plenty
of places to see and visit, and plenty of opportunities to enjoy the
city's life and experiences, and the many events that take place in
Lyon during the year.
Bellecour, seen from the view point at Fourvière.
As the gastronomic capital of France, it is a city
with a huge
selection of good restaurants – not just its top-of-the-range
starred eateries, but also its many good traditional bistrots and small
city restaurants offering top quality food and local specialities at
reasonable prices. Located between the vineyards of Beaujolais and
Burgundy to the north, and Côtes du Rhône to the
south, Lyon is also a
city where there are plenty of local wines to be sampled.
Founded by the Romans in 43 BC, Lyon was one of
the most important cities of the Roman empire, and capital of Gaul, an
comprising most of modern France and Belgium. In the Middle Ages it was
an important trading city astride the routes from Northwest Europe to
the Mediterranean and to Italy. Later it became famed as the capital of
the French silk weaving industry and then a major textiles centre.
Today it is a major industrial and business hub with excellent rail and
road links and one of France's busiest provincial airports.
Perhaps the best way to begin a trip
to Lyon is to
start at Place Bellecour,
the great piazza in the city centre between
the Rhône and the Saône.
Lyon - the old city and the Presqu'île.
Walk west from the northwest corner of the square,
the river Saone on the Pont Bonaparte bridge, and continue straight on
100 metres until you see the station for the Funicular railway
line F2 up to the hilltop at Fourvière.
From here, you can get your
bearings as you look out over the city of Lyon at your feet.
Fourvière is home to Lyon's most emblematic
monument, Notre Dame
a late 19th century basilica built in shimmering white
stone in the neo-Byzantine style, and very similar in this respect to
the Sacré-Coeur basilica at Montmartre, in Paris. Richly
inside with Byzantine-style gilded mosaics, murals and rich
stained-glass windows, Notre Dame de Fourvière is a fine
19th century architectural exuberance, and a very impressive building.
The basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière
A couple of hundred metres south of the Basilica lie the
principal remains of the Roman city of Lugdunum, the Roman theatre and
the smaller odeon. Long hidden from view, these were excavated in the
twentieth century, and the theatre is now used in summer for the Nuits
de Fourvière music festival.
From beside the basilica,
visitors can then wander back down the hill, to discover on the west
bank of the Saône the historic quarter of le vieux
narrow streets and historic buildings many dating from the Renaissance
Among the musts in this part of old Lyon,
in addition to the cafés and restaurants, are the "traboules", narrow
Renaissance alleyways mostly running perpendicular to the river.
Several of these are open to the public, and visitors can explore the
interior courtyards and vaulted passages that characterise the historic
Also in the old city is the Cathedral
a mediaeval gothic cathedral most famed for its astronomic clock.
Currently - 2015 - the cathedral is undergoing major renovation work,
and much of the interior including the clock is closed. Externally,
Lyon cathedral is rather less interesting than the great gothic
cathedrals of northern France.
From the old city, cross
back over the Saône on the Passserelle du Palais de Justice
and back to the "Presqu'ile",
the neck of land between the two rivers.
At the end of the bridge, cross the road, and plunge into the
narrow streets of the Presqu'île following the narrow
rue de la Monnaie. There are lots of small cafés and
this and adjoining streets. You are never far from Place Bellecour,
which is indicated on signs.
Running north from place
Bellecour, up the centre of the Presqu'île, is the rue
It is a bit over a kilometre from the Place Bellecour to another great
square the Place des Terreaux, on which stands the Lyon fine
museum. While not on a par with the best Paris museums, it
is one of the
best provincial museums in France and has a good collection, from
Egyptian and classical antiquities and decorative arts to paintings,
and includes works by Veronese, Rubens, Tintoretto, the French
Impressionists, Matisse, Picasso or Francis Bacon.
As for the new Confluences
museum of science and anthropology, it lies at the southern end of the
Presqu'ile, at the point where the rivers meet – two miles as
crow flies from , or a ten minute bus ride (lines C10 or C15) from
Other interesting Lyon
include the Textile Museum (near Place Bellecour), one of the best of
its kind, the Modern Art Museum, the Lyon Cinema museum, and the
Lyon has several festivals and hosts many special
events. The city's Festival of Lights
is a four day event culminating on 8th December. The Festival
commemorates the sparing of Lyon from the plague in 1643. Many
buildings are specially floodlit or lit up for the event, and people
put candles on their windowsills all over town.
In June and July, the Nuits de Fourvière
festival stages some fifty open air concerts and theatrical
performances in the Roman theatre.
There are several options for taking a tourist trip around Lyon. The
first is on foot, which is great on a nice day: in addition, visiting
Lyon on foot is the only way to see the narrow streets of Old Lyon,
which is the most attractive and interesting part of the city. Take the
funiculaire up to Fourvière, from the Old Town,
just close to the Cathedral.
For a longer visit, taking in a greater part of the city,
try the tourist buses run by the Lyon Open tour; or take a boat trip on
the Sâone and /or Rhône rivers. Departures from the
Quai des Célestins, on the Saône, near Place
Among places near Lyon that are worth visiting
small mediaeval town of Pérouges,
to the east, the vineyards of the
area to the north of Lyon, and Vienne, beside the
Rhône, to the south.
the area - Around Lyon
Vienne is a small town with a rich historic heritage,
very well-preserved Roman temple, the temple of Augustus and Livia, and
a Roman pyramid. There is also a large Gallo-Roman theatre and a fine
romanesque abbey with 12th century cloister, the best cloister in the
For a day's outing in summer
time, drive south to the small town of Tournon sur Rhône,
for a trip on
one of France's best scenic railways, the Chemin de Fer de
Further afield, but easily accessible, are the Alps.
lakeside resort of Aix
les Bains can be reached by train from Lyon in 1
hr. 10 mins, and Chambéry
in 1hr 20.
Choose hotels by area of Lyon
choice of carefully selected hotels and apartments in Lyon.
These hotels are conveniently sited in or near the city centre, and
all have good write-ups. Click links for details
and to book at best rates .
star hotels: *****
Cour des Loges
located in beautifully renovated Renaissance buildings in the heart of
Old Lyon. Spa, restaurant, hammam, garden, private parking (charge).
star hotels: ****
- Reasonably priced four star hotel on the Presqu'ile a few yards from
Place Bellecour and the central shopping area.
star hotels ***
Mercure Lyon Beaux-arts
A three-star Mercure hotel between Musée des Beaux Arts and
more three-star hotels
for a full list of three star hotels in Lyon
- on the Presqu'île between Place Bellecour and the
Musée des Beaux
arts. Lots of good reviews for this clean friendly two-star hotel
for a full list of two star hotels in Lyon
Apartments - gites
this link for short-stay apartments
here for classic city gites