What to see in Lyon ?
City of Lyon © topasie.com
Located in the Rhone department, the city of Lyon and its agglomeration represent the 2nd urban area of France with more than 2 million inhabitants. At the junction of the Rhone and Saone rivers, this city has an important strategic location with the north-south connection of the country, and its proximity to the Alps. From Paris and Marseille, it will take you 2 hours to reach Lyon’s train station, and a bit more than four hours by car.
With a rich history dating back to Roman times, Lyon has the honour to count four different districts listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List: Fourvière Hill, Old Lyon District (Lyon old town), the Presqu’île district and the Croix-Rousse district. The quality of Lyon’s public transport network including a funicular make it easy to make a city tour. Walking tour in Lyon city centre is a funny activity for those who love shopping, culture and beautiful architecture. Those wishing to discover the city in the evening, will be amazed by its illuminations each year during the famous Festival of Lights.
The region is also surrounded by famous vineyards : the Beaujolais vineyard in the north, and the Rhone Valley vineyard in the south with prestigious appellations such as Côte Rôtie, Saint Joseph, Condrieu … Whether with family or friends, you can easily make day trips from Lyon to visit local wineries.
Discover here a selection of the must sees, places to visit and best activities for a short stay in Lyon.
OLD LYON DISTRICT
Bordered by the Saone river and located at the foot of the Fourvière hill, the Old Lyon district is undoubtedly the most emblematic of the city. Its creation dates back to the medieval period, in 480, when Lyon was one of the main Gallo-Roman cities. But it is especially under the impetus of the Renaissance, from the fifteenth century, that Lyon developed economically, financially and especially intellectually. Its geographical and strategic location was so important that the city became the most important hub for trade with the Italians.
Today, the Old Lyon district, is a place steeped in history and knowledge. Thanks to the various renovation projects undertaken by the city in recent decades, this district is incredibly well preserved.
Street in Old Lyon district © carnet-de-voyage.com
From the top of its 32 meters, the Cathedral Saint Jean-Baptiste is one of the unmissable religious buildings of Old Lyon district. Created at the end of the 15th century it will withstand the religious wars that will succeed one after the other.
It will undergo many renovations that will allow it to maintain its peculiar look. On its facade, you can easily distinguish the work of Jacques de Beaujeu, called La Grande Rose, which he created in 1392. This large dome has the same characteristics than the Cathedral of Reims. Enjoy the ringtones of the astronomical clock of Nicolas Lippius, dating from 1598, which punctuate the afternoons of the city center.
Cathedral Saint-Jean-Baptiste © blogueur voyage
Lyon counts more than 400 traboules from which 200 belong to Old Lyon district. This term coming from the Latin “Trans ambulare” means “pass through” and refers to small, traditional passages reserved for pedestrians to pass from street to street, crossing a courtyard or a building.
These small corridors already existed in the Middle Ages to facilitate the access to the banks of the Saone river to its inhabitants and were reinvested during the Second World War for the back and forth of Lyon Resistance. Only a few traboules are still open to public today, at specific times.
Lyon’s Traboule © L’Express
Overlooking the city and offering a panoramic view on its surroundings, the Fourvière hill will amaze you. And with a little luck, when the sky is clear, it is even possible to see the Alps! Choose the funicular leaving from the Old Lyon district to reach the top of Fourviere’s Hill, to avoid 300 steps to climb. It is also on this hill, on October 9th, 43 before JC that the city of Lugdunum is born, which will be named Lyon a few centuries later, and will become the Gaul capital.
Witness of its inheritance, the Roman colony built the Fourviere Gallo-Roman theatre, of more than 4500 places, which is still accessible to the visitors.
View on Fourviere’s hill © wikipedia
The Basilica of Fourviere is the real guardian of the city. It is from its esplanade that the view on Lyon is the most impressive. Inaugurated at the end of the 19th century, you will not remain indifferent facing its eclectic style and its various statues surrounding it. Enjoy and admire the interior and the exteriors of this building the time of a free or of a guided visit.
Basilica of Fourvière © Daniel Valot
The Croix-Rousse district is another facet offered by the city of Lyon. Located in the extension of the presqu’île district, it is in this working-class district, that are designed the famous Lyon silks. Thirty thousand “canuts” (textile and silk workers) used to live and work there daily. Many vestiges and some traditional shops still show how important Lyon textile was during the Renaissance period. Today, it is a whole other movement that took the reins in this district. There are a lot of artists who come to exhibit in art galleries, or even on the walls of buildings under the form of street-art. The most famous work remains the “Fresque des Canuts” painted on a surface of 1200m², a real trompe l’oeil style!
“Fresque des Canuts” trompe l’oeil style painting © reddit.com
To know in more details the life of the « Canuts » and the characteristics of the looms, the house of the « Canuts » is at your disposal. It will offer you a real immersion in the heart of the Croix-Rousse district to discover the tools and machines of the time, accompanied by some demonstrations.
House of the « Canuts » © lyon-france.com
Overlooking the presqu’île and offering, once again, a fantastic view on the city of Lyon, the heights of the Chartreux garden is an unmissable place to walk and picnic with your family. On its right, you can see the other hill of Lyon, the Fourvière hill and its Basilica. The banks of the Saone river and the Old Lyon district are also easily visible from this park. The garden also houses some statues, that you can discover all along its trails.
Vue on Lyon from the Chartreux Garden © Fun in Lyon
The Confluence district owes its name to the connection of two rivers crossing the city, the Rhone and Saone, so-called confluence. Located at the end of the presqu’île, this former industrial district has undergone an impressive technological and economical development during these last decades, to finally become one of the major centers of the city because of its modernism and its ecological footprint. With a very contemporary style and buildings built under the aegis of great international architects, you won’t remain indifferent to the Confluence district!
Confluence district © confluence.fr
Confluences Museum © créditphoto.com
At the North of the Confluence district you will find the Presqu’Ile district, located in the heart of the city. Surrounded by the Saone and the Rhone rivers, this very commercial and lively district is another must-see in the city of Lyon. You will find reference monuments of the city (city hall, opera, theater) and also many restaurants. The Presqu’Ile district will offer you a real festival of illuminations once night falls when some of its buildings are lit.
View on the Presqu’Ile district from Fourviere’s hill © divertyevents.fr
The Opera of the city has an impressive architecture and is extremely well preserved thanks to the rehabilitation of its facade. Built in 1756 it was at first a theater. 80 years later, after its rehabilitation it became an opera.
Lyon Opera © ogledi.bg
The banks of the Saone river are one of the favourite places for tourists during a sunny walk. They have been redeveloped so that its banks are accessible to both pedestrians and bicycles. It is also possible to take river shuttles for an equally charming experience.
Saone River© lyon-france.com
Considered as the 4th largest square in France, behind the Quinconces square in Bordeaux and the Concorde square in Paris, Bellecour square nevertheless holds the status of the largest square in the city of Lyon. You will find in its center a statue of Louis XIV, rebuilt in 1825 by François-Frédéric Lemot since it was destroyed in 1793 with cannon shots following the French Revolution.
Bellecour Square © barnes-lyon.com
BEAUJOLAIS AND RHONE VALLEY VINEYARD
Respectively located at 30 minutes north and south of Lyon, the vineyards of Beaujolais and of the Rhone Valley go hand in hand with the gastronomy of the region. You can enjoy being in Lyon to undertake a visit within a winery of the region.
Wineries close to Lyon
In the heart of the Côte Rôtie vineyard in the north of the Rhône Valley, the Garon winery is a family-owned property that exploits a small 8-hectare vineyard. In the village of Ampuis, located at 30 minutes by car from Lyon, this winery opens its door to help you discover the work of winegrower during a tour and tasting. You will discover the cellars and their vat room and will end the tour by a tasting of 4 Côte-Rôtie wines.
Garon winery, Ampuis
More in the South, at one hour from Lyon by car, the « Vins de Vienne » winery, was created in the 1990s from the alliance of 3 iconic winemakers of the Rhone Valley: Yves Cuilleron, Pierre Gaillard and François Villard. A tour and tasting of one hour will help you discovering the secrets of production of the wines of the Rhone Valley, with a tasting of a wide range of wines (different grape varieties – Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne – and different appellations – Condrieu, Côte-Rôtie … -).
“Vins de Vienne” winery, Chavanay
Located 45 minutes north of Lyon by car, at the foot of Mount Brouilly, you will meet a family-owned winery that has been working for 3 generations in the vineyard of Les Roches Bleues. You will discover a family of passionate winemakers who will warmly share their know-how during a tasting tour allowing you to discover their reds wine on the Brouilly appellation.
LYON COVERED MARKET – PAUL BOCUSE
Lyon covered market © cruzls.net
LYON LIGHT FESTIVAL
Each year, during the first weekend of December, the city of Lyon lights up a thousand lights for 4 evenings. What better way to discover this magnificent city from another angle, once night falls, where the buildings are lit by the creations of video and graphic designers. Between popular tradition and technological innovation, it is the most remarkable event each year in Lyon.
This year, in 2018, the festival will take place from the 6th to the 9th of December.
Lyon Light Festival © autocars-migratour.fr
We wish you a pleasant discovery of Lyon and of its region.