Set at the confluence of river Rhone and Saone, the charming city of Lyon is a riverside wonderland. Look beyond the riverside and you will find museums everywhere you go. That is how rich Lyon is, in terms of culture and history. But wait, that is not it. There is a reason, Lyon is referred to as the gastronomical capital of France. The incredibly delicious traditional Lyonnaise cuisine is something that will elevate your experience to a whole new level. Including that and many other amazing experiences, here are the 8 best things to do in Lyon.
1. Admire the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
Sitting on top of the Fourvière hill overlooking the city is the opulent white minor Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Thanks to the amazing location of the basilica, you can literally see it from anywhere in the city. Spread over two levels, the interiors are decorated with colourful stained glass windows and mosaics which makes it really hard to do anything else than admire. But do spare time to get down to the crypt to steal a look at the different sculptures of Virgin Mary.
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Occasionally the basilicas northern bell tower is open for public and from there you can experience an enthralling 180-degree view of the whole city of Lyon. On top of the bell tower on a clear sunny day? Look a little closer and you will find Mont Blanc at a distance. Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is, without doubt, one of the best places to visit in France.
Address: 8 Place de Fourvière, 69005 Lyon, France
2. Travel back in time at Vieux Lyon
Overflowing with history, Vieux Lyon is the Renaissance district of Lyon and is one of the oldest neighbourhoods. Not just in the city but in entire Europe. Ideally, the district is divided into three sections, each carrying its own vibe. Saint Jean quarter best reflects gothic architecture, Saint Paul quarter carries all things wealthy, and Saint Georges is full of secret passageways.
Stroll through the narrow alleyways that echo with an enchanting past, stop by the charming restaurants & bars that serve delicious local food, and gaze at the impressive traditional buildings each carrying its own, unique story to tell. A walk within Vieux Lyon is a walk back in time.
Address: 5th arrondissement of Lyon
3. Be amazed by the exhibits at Miniature Museum and Theater
Have you ever imagined how your life would be if you were small? Not by 1 or 2 inches, we mean extremely small! Already interested by the thought? Then you should definitely go on an exploration of the Miniature Museum and Theater in Lyon. It is primarily divided into two sections – One section carries the hyper-realistic everyday miniature scenes of living space and the other displays an array of exhibits that will give you a better understanding of special effects usage before the digital era.
Some of the exhibits inside the museum include Batman’s hood, R2-D2 from Star Wars, Triceraptors head from Jurassic Park, and Hellboy’s Bust. Loaded with so many other things for the kids, a family trip to France is incomplete without a visit to the Miniature Museum and Theater.
Address: 60 Rue Saint-Jean, 69005 Lyon, France
4. Enjoy the best of nature at Parc de la Tête d’Or
Nature lovers alert! Painted in a lush green hue, Parc de la Tête d’Or is where you can proclaim your love for nature. Spread over 290 acres, the site is more than just a park. It also features a compact zoo with giraffes, elephants, reptiles, deer, & other animals, and a sports area with a provision to learn horse riding, a mini-golf course, boules court, velodrome, and a miniature train.
The ideal way to experience the park to the fullest is to pack a picnic and take refuge in the vast grounds of the park. Complete with rose gardens, botanical gardens, and huge greenhouses, Parc de la Tête d’Or is the peaceful oasis you have been looking for. To dance in the colours of the park, visit it during Spring and Autumn.
Address: 69006 Lyon, France
5. Explore the ruins at Ancient theatre of Fourvière
Built on top of the hill of Fourvière, Ancient Theatre of Fourvière as the name suggests is where you can find the ancient remains of the Roman empire. A collection of two amphitheatres, with one of them dating back to 15 BCE, the impressive structure is a great place for history buffs and architectural enthusiasts.
The steeped seating and the decorated floors make for a perfect place to perform and the site is where the festival of Nuits de Fourvière takes place every year. Featuring theatre, dance, film, music, and circus presentations, the festival is one of the best things to see in Lyon and it takes place during summer. Hop on the funicular railway from St Just to reach the historic arena.
Address: 17 Rue Cleberg, 69005 Lyon, France
6. Unleash the hulk in you at Les Halles de Lyon
If there is one place that people of Lyon suggest you visit, then it would definitely be Les Halles de Lyon. Bustling with over 50 stalls, Les Halles de Lyon is referred to as the mecca of food in France. And the distinctive aroma that each stall carries is enough to keep you tied for ages. Go on an empty stomach and enjoy the gourmet delights on offer for a truly gastronomic experience.
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With too many stalls to choose from, you will be literally spoilt for choice and to keep you sane, here is what we recommend – grab the cheese from Mère Richard, fishmongers from House Pupier, wine from Fac & Spera, chocolate from Richart Chocolates, and pastries from Maison Claude. Remember, every time you get something, get extra for us as well. 😉
Address: 102 Cours Lafayette, 69003 Lyon, France
7. People watch at the Place Bellecour
Part of the UNESCO world heritage site, Place Bellecour is one of the largest squares in Europe and holds a special place in Lyon. The highlight of the square is the dominating equestrian statue of Louis XIV, set in the epicentre. For those looking for a great backdrop to click photos at, this is it. Especially with a view of Notre-Dame de Fourvière in the distance.
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Besides the photo options, there are upscale shopping centres around the square, along with lovely cafes and bars. The square is also home to several events throughout the year. Concerts, book fair, and Ice rink & Ferris wheel (winter), to name a few. There is also a yearly Pétanque competition that happens during the weekend of Pentecost. Place Bellecour is a great place to people watch.
Address: Place Bellecour, 69002 Lyon, France
8. Sneak a peek at the origins of mankind at Musée des Confluences
Housed in a revolutionary structure of steel and glass, Musée des Confluences is a science centre and an anthropology museum in Lyon. While the exterior resembles something from the outer space, the extensive collections inside will make you think otherwise.
Take a tour of the museum, glance at the wonderful exhibits, and learn everything about the origins of mankind, which is startling. Some of the major exhibits that you shouldn’t miss out include Societies – Human Theatre, Origins – Stories of the world, Eternities – Visions of the beyond, and Species – the web of life. There is also a cafe and restaurant inside the premises where you can process the overwhelming revelations.
Address: 86 Quai Perrache, 69002 Lyon, France
All set to experience the vivid culture of Lyon? Start planning.