Remarkably, France is a cultural epicenter, a place renowned for having the most famous artists in the world and home to spectacular cities including Paris and Lyon. While Lyon is, without doubt, an opulent city, it caters to the need of everyone. Moreover, Lyon has gained a reputation as the second most important city in France after Paris and perhaps best known for its spectacular architectural and historical attractions but surprisingly it doesn’t often make it onto tourist travel plans.
Of course, there are more than enough places to visit and lovely things to do but which attractions are a must-see for travelers who have barely 24 hours to explore this beautiful city. There is more to Lyon that its famous cuisine…here is a guide to some of the top attractions worth visiting.
Perhaps your tour of Lyon should start at the Basilique Notre Dame, prominent for being the city’s largest cathedral. Located on the top of the Fourviere hill, this cathedral offers splendid panoramas on the city from its north tower. This monumental church is lined with intricate mosaics. It is not only the jewel of Lyon but also among the most popular tourist sites in the city. Built on the site of an ancient Roman forum, Notre-Dame Basilica which dates back to 1896, can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. It features a blend of both Byzantine and Romanesque architecture. Marvel at the breathtaking interior décor featuring stained glass, marble, and colorful frescoes. Access to Notre-Dame is free. Take a tour of this masterpiece architecture and you’ll never, ever regret it.
Related: Lyon’s Panorama from the Hilltop
Next stop is the Lyon Roman Amphitheater, located on the top of the Fourviere hill. Back in the days, entertainment was a driving force of the economy hence they built a theatre. Built around the 15 BC, Lyon Roman Amphitheater is an ancient ruin worth exploring. As a matter of fact, the Romans built two theatres. The main Roman theatre can house about 10,000 spectators while the smaller theater known as Odeon has a seating capacity of 3,000 spectators and it is very close to the large theater. Every year, the theater plays host to “Les Nuits de Fourviere”, an annual cultural performance. Despite its old age, the ruins are a spectacle to see. The best part is that access to this ancient site is free, no admission charge. Not only that, you also enjoy spectacular views of the city from this place. See the impressive Notre-Dame Basilica, marvel at La Tour Metallique and take some pictures while sitting on the theater’s stone seat.
Perhaps you’ve been to many churches and cathedrals your whole life, but none compares to the magnificence of Cathedrale St Jean Baptiste in Lyon. It is indeed a fine example of French Medieval architecture. Its impressive architecture and dwarfing nave which stands at 32.5 m (106.6 ft) are a sight to marvel at. The structure took about 300 years to construct, from about 1165 to 1480. The cathedral’s interior features 13th-century stained glass windows as well as magnificent window tracery and vaulting. Probably the fascinating feature of Cathedrale St Jean Baptists is the 600-year old astronomical clock. This marvel of technology has an astrolabe that can show the position of the earth, sun, and moon. It is a beautiful place in the heart of Old Town.
Looking for the best place to explore historical artifacts and learn more about Lyon’s cultural heritage? Look no further! Musee de Beaux-arts is the place to be. This impressive museum is home to the finest collection of sculptures and paintings in France. In addition, it features over 5000 years of history from antiquity to modern day. Highlights include works by renowned artists including Picasso, Monet, and Matisse, just to name a few.
Explore one of Europe’s largest renaissance old quarters. Located on the West bank of the Saone River, Lyon Old Town, locally known as Vieux Lyon, is best explored in the evening. This is because it is perhaps the most brightly lit part of town. Take a stroll through the Traboules, which are small passages between two streets. While some Traboules can be easily accessed, others are closed to the public. Basically, the Old Town is littered with lots of small restaurants known as Bouchons. These restaurants serving delectable local cuisine can accommodate around 30 guests and are mostly located in arched basements. Try it out!
While taking an evening stroll around the streets of Lyon, the city’s spectacular murals are definitely un-missable. These well-detailed portrait created by many different artists including CitéCréation adorn buildings and walls. This makes Lyon one of the most famous mural cities in Europe. Whether you’re with a guide or not, these sights cannot be missed. Anywhere you turn chances are you will definitely see one. In Lyon, the walls tell stories, in that they capture the essence of life.
End your day tour of Lyon in one of the best restaurants. Your trip to Lyon will be considered incomplete without having a taste of its local cuisine. The food is Lyon is exceptional; hence the city has gained prominence for being the French food capital. Here you’ll find great chefs and eating places with Michelin star ratings. Regardless of what delights your taste buds, be it traditional or contemporary cuisine, there is something for everyone. The local cuisine feature sausages, meat dishes, and salads. Of all the food in Lyon, quenelles – a type of dumpling in a rich cream sauce -is worth trying.
There are several options for exploring Lyon. You can either decide to go on foot, which is considered the best way to see the narrow streets of Old Lyon or you can decide to take a guided tour. Indeed, Lyon has plenty to offer in terms of attractions and lovely things to do.
Away Hostel and Coffee Shop is a perfect place to stay in Lyon. It few minutes walk to the centre of the city and accessible to cafes and restaurants around. The hostel is fabulous and the staff members are super nice. The rooms are spacious and the beds are very comfortable, too. For medium-price hotel, try Hotel Saint Vincent.