Lyon is one of my favorite cities in France. It’s the third largest after Paris and Marseilles, and it packs a lot into a small space. I really loved my time in Lyon especially after a hectic few days in Paris. Lyon, a UNESCO world heritage sight is home to beautiful Roman ruins, a well preserved old town, beautiful French architecture galore, and a world class dining scene.
There is someone for everyone in Lyon and I absolutely loved visiting Lyon before my trip through the Provence wine region.
This list is by no means everything you have available in Lyon. I merely stayed here for two days so there is so much more to explore!
In the city of Lyon, there are many murals. These murals are a very important part of French culture and history. They have been painted by many famous artists, including Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Edgar Degas. One of these paintings is called “The Seine at Asnieres”. It was painted by Edgar Degas in 1872.
You’ll see murals on many buildings as you walk through the town. These murals are painted on the facade of a building and actually makes the building look like a real apartment. If you pay attention to the details, you’ll see numerous faces and figureheads painted on the buildings. It’s hard to actually understand who is who but this was one of the things discussed in length on my walking tour!
Parc de la Tête d’Or
The Parc de la Tête d’Or in Lyon is one of the most beautiful parks in France. The park was created in 1911, and was built on the site of a former quarry. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987.
The park contains many statues and sculptures, including works by Rodin and Giacometti. It also includes a large fountain where you can see many models of famous people from history such as Joan of Arc, Napoleon Bonaparte and others. The park also has an artificial lake where you can walk around on boats or take a ride on a water slide!
There is also an amphitheater where you can watch plays during the summer months. In addition to all this there are plenty of restaurants, cafés, bars and shops in the park that you can visit while you are there.
If you want to go somewhere fun and relaxing but still be able to do some sightseeing while at it then this is definitely one place that should be on your list!
Free Walking Tour Lyon
Fourvière Basilica de Notre Dame
Without a doubt, the most incredible architectural structure in Lyon has to be the Basilica of Notre Dame. Don’t get this building confused with the Notre Dame in Paris because they are two separate buildings. Notre Dame just means our lady in French after all so many of the cities in France have a “Notre Dame”.
The Fourviere Basilica sits atop the hill and looks down on the city of Lyon. It is visible from almost everywhere in Lyon and it towers over its residents. The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a Roman Catholic basilica and major shrine in Lyon, France. It was built between 1872 and 1914 in Neo-Byzantine style and dedicated to Our Lady of Fourvière (a Marian title). It is the largest church in Lyon after Saint Jean Baptiste.
The first stone was laid by Empress Eugenie on 12 June 1872; Queen Victoria sent an address for the opening ceremony two years later when its construction had advanced sufficiently far for this to be possible.
In 1876, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was appointed architect for the building’s interior decoration and furnishings; his work included creating mosaics for the apse and reredos, though he died before fully completing his commission; his partner Jean-Baptiste Larrivé continued his work from 1879 until 1880.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
The Musee des Beaux-Arts is as the description says, home to beautiful art. It is one of the most important museums of art in the world, especially for its collections of Greek and Roman antiquities.
The museum was founded by King Francis I of France in 1663 and originally housed in a mansion on the left bank of the Saône. The current building was designed by architect Jacques Cassagne and finished in 1892. The architecture is mainly neoclassical but with elements inspired by Italian Renaissance style.
The museum’s collections include works from antiquity, medieval art, sculpture and painting, including works by Michelangelo and Raphael.
The museum is open from Wednesday to Monday, from 10am to 6pm, Friday from 10.30am to 6pm. It is €11 per ticket which can also be booked online.
Visit Pérouges on a day trip
If you are spending a few days in Lyon, consider one of the numerous day trip destinations possible from the city. Perouges is my favorite option. It’s located only 40 minutes outside of Lyon and is easily accessible by train. It’s one of the most quaint medieval towns you can find in France.
Located on the top of a small hill, Pérouges overlooks the Ain river and offers one of the most iconic views in France. France is full of beautiful medieval towns that I visited when I went through Provence. Pérouges has incredibly well preserved architecture and an authentic atmosphere. It’s cobblestone streets wind through the town to the pretty squares that transport you back in time.
Explore Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon)
Old Lyon is located across the Saone River west of the city center of Lyon. There are numerous bridges that lead you can walk across to the old town and each bridge has a different but beautiful view of the city. This is a great place to take photos of the beautiful traditional buildings around the river and also a great place to have a drink.
The old town of Lyon is filled with beautiful cobblestone streets, traditional medieval style buildings, cathedrals galore, fantastic French restaurants and more. It gets a bit touristy during the days but the morning is always a great time to stroll through these streets.
Lyon Cathedral (Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste)
The cathedral of Lyon, located in the center of the old town, was built between the 11th and 16th centuries. It is one of the most important Gothic monuments in France.
The original Romanesque cathedral was consecrated in 1250, but it was completely rebuilt during the 13 th century. The three naves are separated by double columns and supported by flying buttresses which give them an airy appearance. The transept has two aisles and there are two towers at its ends.
The interior is divided into four parts by two rows of columns which support pointed arches. In each bay there are three bays which contain chapels situated behind the great pillars and behind these are smaller chapels with double-splayed windows set high up in the walls. The most notable feature is undoubtedly the stained glass window at the west end of the nave which depicts scenes from the life of Christ. The glass dates from 1372 and originally came from Chartres Cathedral where it had been installed during an earlier reconstruction campaign.
The cathedral of Lyon is the largest religious structure in Lyon, larger than the basilica on the hill above. The inside is absolutely beautiful and as with all French churches, it is free entry. Nearby to the church are also roman ruins which is a popular playground for kids in modern times. What a great way to grow up!
The Ancient Theatre of Fourvière is a Roman amphitheater in Lyon, France. It is located on the south bank of the Saône river and was built around AD 80.
It is one of only two Roman theatres that have been preserved almost intact; it was largely completed by AD 100. It is considered one of the best preserved of the Roman amphitheaters, having withstood later modifications to its structure and decoration.
The site has been untouched since medieval times, when it served as a fortress against attacks from Savoyards and Burgundians. It was abandoned by 1358 when it became too dangerous to use. The theatre fell into disrepair and was eventually destroyed during a fire in 2007. Nowadays, it has since been repaired and is one of the popular tourist attractions in Lyon. It is also home to various concerts and shows during the summer months.
Traboules of Lyon
The Traboules of Lyon is a network of underground tunnels that gives you access to the city’s major museums, shops and restaurants. These underground passages were built in the late 18th century on the orders of Charles III de la Chenaie who wanted to create a link between the Palais des Deux-Ponts and the banks of the Rhone river. The network consists of more than 60km of corridors, including staircases and galleries, which allow visitors to experience Lyon’s history while they explore its culture and architecture.
The Traboules are open every day except Mondays from 9am until 5pm. There are two entrances: one at Plaine Monceau and another in Vieux Lyon (on Rue du Petit Pont). You can also visit them on Sundays from noon until 6pm when they are closed for maintenance.
What to eat in Lyon
There is no way to describe Lyon without talking of the food. Gourmets say Lyon was the culinary capital. It is home to the famous Paul Bocuse chef who revered French culinary gods. Let’s see what’s possible for you in Lyon!
Lyon is famously considered the culinary capital of France. There are no shortage of amazing restaurants in this town of all different cuisines. As far as French food goes, you have the entire range in Lyon. From the Bouchon, which are traditional local “working class” style restaurants serving no frills French food to haute French dining, there is something for everyone.
Lyon contains 17 restaurants that have at least 1 Michelin star which is incredible considering how small the city is (600k). You can expect prices to be lower in Lyon than in Paris which makes dining a bit more in reach of the average traveler.
As with all cities in France, make sure to go to lunch and dinner at the appropriate times: 12pm – 2:30pm is lunch, and 7:00pm to 10:00pm is dinner. If you miss these time windows, God help you find food because the French certainly will not.
What is typical local food in Lyon?
After spending months traveling around France over the course of many years, I still haven’t figured out what is typical French food. Nevertheless, Lyon is home to numerous dishes that are unique to the area. Make sure to try the following foods:
- La quenelle. Based on flour or wheat flour mixed with eggs, butter and milk which is then combined with pike fish meat
- Gâteau de foies de volaille
- Le saucisson lyonnais à cuire
- Le tablier de sapeur
- La cervelle de Canuts
- La tarte à la praline
Top Bouchons in Lyon
Now that you are aware of the Lyon specialities, there is nowhere better to try everything than at the local Bouchons. Here are some of the best bouchons in Lyon!
- Daniel et Denise Crequi
- Le Bouchon des Cordeliers
- Cafe des Federations
- Le Bouchon des Filles
- Les Finnes Gueules
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is a world-renowned restaurant. It has been serving French cuisine since 1963 and is one of the most famous restaurants in France.
The restaurant has been awarded three Michelin stars, which means it constantly ranks as one of the top restaurants in the world. The décor at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is very modern and stylish with lots of wooden tables and chairs, as well as large windows that let in lots of natural light during the day but also provide privacy at night when you want to take advantage of its ambiance.
Reservations at this restaurant are no surprise almost impossible to get. I’m not a big fan of fancy Michelin restaurants because I prefer to just straight down and hearty food. However, this is one of the most highly ranked restaurants in the world and a good option for those that value these types of experiences!
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