What to see in Lyon in 1 day?
So you are in Lyon, but only for 24 hours. 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 of Lyon and its attractions. 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). Its houses and sidewalks remember kings, counts, and dukes, as well as ordinary merchants and other commoners.
It is said that it was merchants who had to build traboules – corridors between the 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 keep in mind that these courtyards 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 had 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 a convent, and now houses the second most important collection of valuables after the Louvre.
The magnificent fountain on Place de Terreau is a must-see. It was designed by Frédéric Bartholdi for Bordeaux. But the wine capital ultimately lacked the 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
Walk around the town hall on the other side and emerge onto 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. There is an express streetcar to take you to the airport from 5am.