What to see in Lyon
What can I see in Lyon in 1 or 2 days, up to 3 days? Itineraries, attractions, ticket prices and excursions 2022. Eurotraveler.ru found out how to travel to Lyon and where to stay and what to see around it.
Lyon is the second largest city in France, according to the French themselves – the culinary capital of the country. However, in the ratings of tourist preferences it is not in the top places.
With ease it yields to Paris and Nice and Marseille. What to say, if a trip for a couple of days in Bordeaux is considered a much more promising pastime than a visit to Lyon.
But for some reason the old center of the city was included by UNESCO in the list of World Heritage Sites, right? And here is the famous “Festival of Light” – December 8, almost on the eve of Christmas!
And the panoramic view from the Fourvière hill of Lyon, from the basilica, can be called a model in the global sense – so it’s good. And… but first of all!
We try to keep cool by curbing the excitement. And act according to a detailed plan!
What to see in Lyon – 1 day
The district of Saint Jean, the old town, where even against the will of every true traveler you are used to go, is a bit far from the main railway station of Lyon. So gentlemen arriving from Paris will have to be particularly careful in planning their sightseeing itinerary.
We, for example, recommend to start sightseeing in Lyon from the fashionable island district of Presquille, territorially closest to the railway. Walking there is not an option either – the distance is about 3 km.
Exit is simple and logical – we take local subway. Take the blue line, change to green line and get out at the station Belecour. A single ticket costs 1.9 €, daily unlimited ticket – 6 €: www.tcl.fr/en/fares/.
The elegant Belecourt square with its monument to Louis XIV and beautiful 19th century buildings is impressive. Its northern side overlooks the Fourvière hill with its basilica. On the southeastern side is a huge complex which once housed what was probably the largest hospital in France, the Hôtel-Dieu.
The building was greatly expanded in the 17th century, under Cardinal Richelieu. The main facade, looking out over the Rhone, dates back to the middle of the XVIII century.
Lyon City Hall is two metro stops away on the red line. It’s a handsome Louis XIV edifice with its main facade facing Place de Terreau.
The monumental fountain created by Frederic Bartholdi, the creator of the famous Statue of Liberty, is a decoration of the square. At first, however, it was planned to be installed in Bordeaux.
But, according to a widespread anecdote, the Lyonsians simply stole the fountain from a transit train. Where the train passed and why it passed through the Rhone valley at all – the legend is silent.
Then it is high time to go to Vieux-Lyon. Or – in view of late time (fast train from Paris takes not less than 2 hours, usual train takes 5 hours) – leave it for tomorrow. And just go up the Fourvière hill to admire the evening view and see the legendary local Notre Dame basilica.
We go down to the metro, change trains to Vieux Lyon station, get off, take the funicular (ticket valid for an hour, pass – a day!), go up.
Notre Dame de Fourvière is not an old building, but it is steeped in History! In the chapel on the hill, Queen Anne of Austria prayed to Our Lady for the birth of an heir. And in 1643, a prayer service held here saved the city from a plague epidemic.
In 1870 Our Lady was not deaf to the request of citizens, who asked to stop the advance of the victorious Prussian army. Today’s basilica, designed by Pierre Bossant, is an embodiment of the citizens’ gratitude for the miracle.
At this point it’s time to call it a day. On the way praising ourselves for discretion and a booked hotel room – to see the whole of Lyon in 1 day is definitely not possible!
Lyon’s most atmospheric quarter, Saint-Jean, is the place for a leisurely stroll. The maze of narrow cobblestone streets and quiet little courtyards is best explored in the company of a knowledgeable guide. Otherwise you’ll be spellbound, but you’re sure to miss out on a lot!
The Cathedral of St. John the Baptist is the main architectural dominant of the old city. Its altarpiece faces the Rhone. Its facade evokes the nostalgia of Notre Dame in Paris, and faces the square of the same name.
In your wanderings, try not to miss the traboules. Narrow passageways, right through the buildings linking the streets and alleys. In Lyon there are about 500 of them. And the longest one connects four buildings! It is not so easy to find the traboules – most of them are closed with doors.
After a wander around the neighborhood, it is worth getting to the local Museum of Gallo-Roman civilization, nestled on the ruins of two ancient theaters. Is it possible not to learn something about the time when Lyon, under the name Lugdunum, was the capital of the whole Roman province of Gaul? Important information about opening hours: lugdunum.grandlyon.com/en/Useful-information/Opening-hours-and-rates.
The third and (apparently?) final day in Lyon we recommend to devote to… no, not to museums. Much better to explore the surroundings.
For an example, an excursion to Pérouge. It’s so exquisitely old, in fact, that there are no buildings younger than XVI century. And it’s only a 40-minute drive from Lyon!
Benedictine Abbey d’Ambronay in the nearby village is another “tale in stone” from the Middle Ages. In autumn the village hosts the famous Ambronay Festival of early music.
The small town of Vienne is situated 30 km south of Lyon. Famous for its Roman ruins and the well-preserved Temple of Augustus and Livia built ~ 25 BC. The town’s St Maurice Cathedral is a fine example of Gothic architecture.
How to get there
To get to Lyon by train from Paris is the most correct maneuver. The trains are very frequent and the fastest (TGV) covers 400 km/hour and 56 minutes. Regional trains (TER) are noticeably slower and travel more than 5 hours.
Naturally, it is most economical to book tickets well in advance. TER tickets are sold 120 days before departure, TGV tickets are sold 90 days before departure!
The trip from Paris to Lyon by car is not for everyone. Because of high fines for speeding (150 € for an extra +6km/h to the limit), and a long distance (436 km). Toll roads are bearable at €35.40!
In fact, far from being architectural, the first thing that comes to mind at the mention of Lyon. People who are well-read have probably heard about the Lyon silks that were used in all the imperial and imperial residences of Europe. And those who often travel to “Europe” – about the gastronomic glory of the city and its semi-peasant restaurants, bouchons.
Where the food is tasty, nutritious and not as expensive as in institutions that are claiming a Michelin star or already have one. At the same time, it is quite original. When you return home, you will bring back from France not only souvenirs and gifts, but also an unusual culinary experience.
Occasionally there is information about a “Festival of Light”. Browsing the web we find that Lyon is recognized as the most attractive city in France in terms of accommodation. Not so little, if you add up the above!
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What to see in Lyon in 1 day?
So you’ve arrived in Lyon! But only for one day. What a shame! Next time you come for at least 2-3 days. But even in 1 day you have the opportunity to dive into the antiquities and attractions of Lyon. We’ll tell you everything in order: where to go, what to see, where to eat and where to sleep.
Start your walk at the large central square, Bellecourt. The main places of interest in Lyon are at a stone’s throw from the square and the tourist office of Lyon, where you can pick up a map of the city.
From Place Bellecourt, head up the hill to the white-topped basilica, visible from almost every point on the square. To do so, cross the Saône River.
Your eyes are sure to catch the cathedral of Lyon Saint-Jean. It is very interesting for the curious traveler, firstly, its stained glass windows, and secondly, a delightful mechanical clock that shows the time, date, sign of the zodiac and the phase of the moon. The clock also sings and shows. You can catch the performance at 12:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00.
Now take the funicular, which will take you directly to Notre Dame de Fourvière.
Notre Dame de Fourvière
The white basilica was built in the late 19th century, and there are only two churches like it in France: in Marseille and the Sacré Coeur in Paris. If you are lucky and it is sunny in Lyon, you can admire the wonderful stained-glass windows and golden mosaics. But even in gray weather, the temple impresses with its architecture outside and the rich interior inside.
And yes, be sure to go down to the lower chapel and admire the icons and statues of the Holy Virgins from around the world and the mosaic in honor of St. John.
Next to the Basilica of Fourvière, you’ll find beautifully preserved Roman amphitheaters, almost like in Rome. We also recommend a visit to the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization, which tells the rich history of Lyon in those distant times. But you can hang there for a long time, be careful.
From the Roman ruins, walk down to the Old Town, admiring the panorama of the city.
The Old Town and the Traboules
The old town of Lyon is generally an interesting place. The whole area is declared a world heritage site by UNESCO. It is almost unchanged since the Renaissance (XV-XVI centuries). The houses and sidewalks here remember kings, counts and dukes, as well as ordinary merchants and other commoners.
It is said that it was the merchants who necessitated the construction of traboules – corridors between houses. Each traboule is a way to quickly cross between two parallel streets by taking a good shortcut. There are about five hundred such shortcuts in Lyon.
From the outside, the entrance to the traboule is easy to miss – it looks like an ordinary front door to the entrance hall. But pull the handle and venture into the dark passage. You will see a patio or traboule. Many of them in the old days had a common well for several houses.
Many traboules are characterized by interesting architecture, decorations, and stairs. Now traboules have become a major attraction in Lyon, which many tourists come to see.
The most famous and long traboule connects the houses 27 Rue Beauf and 54 Rue Saint-Jean. We have indicated it on the itinerary map.
If you go beyond this attraction and want to find more traboules, please be aware that these patios are private property and also have excellent acoustics, and the houses around them are inhabited by ordinary residents. Keep it quiet.
Bouchons and Lyon Cuisine
In the Old Town, you’ll find bouchons – traditional Lyon restaurants serving local dishes – at every turn. You may be surprised, but Lyon’s world-famous cuisine has its origins in common laborers, not aristocrats.
The fact is that Lyon has long been the European center for silk weaving. And even if all the European nobility wore Lyon silks, its production was quite hard physical labor for simple weavers. They did not have enough money, but they needed to eat well. As a result, Lyon cuisine emerged – simple, hearty, but very tasty.
Many of the dishes in Lyon are made with by-products: pig’s feet, blood sausages, sausages of Lyon and the famous andouillelette (sausages of offal). Not particularly fancy, is it? Don’t worry, they taste very, very good. Except for andouillet, I guess.
For the fussy ones there’s konnel, delicate fish dumplings with sauce. A side dish in Soviet canteens, “potatoes dauphin” is a variation of Lyon’s “gratin dauphinois” – find out the difference. Finally, be sure to try the Lyon salad.
For dessert, you can have a praline pastry or a plate of local cheeses. Don’t forget the local wines: a young Beaujolais or drinks from the banks of the Rhône. And the vineyards of Burgundy are nearby, too.
Oh, and remember: lunch hours in France are from 11:30 to 14:00. At other times, good restaurants will be closed, you’ll have to look for a more modest brasserie. In the evening, restaurants open by 7 o’clock.
Presquille and Terro Square
After a good lunch, cross the bridge over the Sona and you’ll find yourself in the aristocratic Presquill area. Admire the 16th-century Gothic church of Saint-Nizier and follow the picturesque Republik Street. You’ll emerge on the square between Lyon’s town hall and the opera house.
If the opera house seemed strange to you, it’s not. In fact, only the facade, and not all of it, is left of the 18th-century building. The auditorium, roof and statues of the muses were added during the reconstruction of the 20th century.
But the town hall or town hall has been perfectly preserved since its construction in the 17th century. It was with him and began improvement of the area. The nearby Museum of Fine Arts has stood there even longer, but its baroque appearance was acquired after the renovation. During the Renaissance it was home to a nunnery and now houses the second most important collection of valuables after the Louvre.
Be sure to check out the magnificent fountain on Place de Terreau. It was designed by Frederic Bartholdi for Bordeaux. But the wine capital didn’t have enough money for a fountain and the bronze France in a chariot drawn by four rivers went to the capital of gastronomy.
Embankment of the Rhone
Going around the town hall on the other side, you emerge to the Rhone, wider and more powerful than its little sister. It’s unthinkable to visit Lyon without strolling along its banks. If your feet get tired you can take a ride on a river streetcar. When evening lights begin to come on in Lyon, it’s even more pleasant to view the city from the water.
We hope that during this trip you finally and irrevocably fell in love with Lyon and decided to stay a couple of days more, to visit the museums of Lumière brothers and film set designers, fabric and vintage machines, Gallo-Roman and book printing. Choose a hotel in the Old Town or in the Presquill area. Well, if you have to leave anyway, take a breath, and be sure to come back here again!
If your flight is only in the morning, we recommend choosing a hotel near the Par-Dieu train station. An express streetcar starts running from 5 am and will take you to the airport.