Lyon Travel Guide
Overshadowed by its big brother Paris, Lyon nonetheless offers much to those passing through here on their way to the French Alps.
Being home to some of the best preserved Middle Age and Renaissance architecture, possessing extensive Roman ruins, and being where the fine art of cinema was born, France‘s second largest city has some serious positives that most don’t know about.
Begin your cultural tour of Lyon by exploring the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Located atop the former Roman forum of Trajan, this church’s imposing presence owes itself to the local’s belief in the Virgin Mary.
They believed that she helped save Lyon from the ravages of the Black Death and Cholera, and helped turn the tide of battle against invaders from Prussia in the 19th century. While its impressive exterior and the mosaics and stained glass windows of the interior draw many here all by themselves, it also contains a Museum of Sacred Art within its wall.
Additionally, from its north tower, panoramic views of the city of Lyon can be had, with views of Mount Blanc in the French Alps being possible on an exceptionally clear day.
As mentioned earlier, remnants of the ancient Roman Empire are present in the city of Lyon. There is no monument of that time in history that is as well preserved as the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière. Built into the hillside in the neighbourhood of the same name starting in 15 BCE, it was home to incalculable theatrical performances in its day, and with slight renovations to it in modern times, it continues to serve as a performing arts venue during the summer months.
If you are looking to learn more about the ancient times in Lyon, paying a visit to the nearby Gallo-Roman Museum is a must.
Opened in 1975, it not only features Roman artifacts, but it also contains Celtic and pre-Roman exhibits as well. Be sure not to miss the Circus Mosaic, which depicts chariot races within Lyon’s Circus (which has yet to be found, sadly).
With a history that dates back to the Roman era, you can be certain that France’s second largest city has an old part of town that begs to be seen. You’ll find all the old world charm you can handle within the confines of Vieux Lyon, as it contains France’s largest surviving tract of Renaissance architecture, with over 424 hectares of these attractive buildings being present here.
It will become immediately obvious to you that this part of town was home to the power brokers of Lyon in its heyday, from those in the upper hierarchies of the church, nobility, and the local merchant community.
From churches that date back as far as the 6th century, to cobblestoned streets bursting with some of the best restaurants and shops in Lyon, dedicating a day to full-on exploration here is highly advised.
If the weather is cooperating during your visit to the city, then dropping by Parc de la Tête d’Or is an excellent way to take advantage of a brilliantly sunny day.
A local’s favorite, visitors will find plenty of city residents running, biking, or sprawled out on the lawn with a picnic lunch and a bottle of wine.
Children will love the small zoo and mini-golf facilities, while adults into greenery will adore the botanical and rose gardens found here.
If you are traveling as a family, and the weather isn’t as accommodating for you and your crew, then spending part of a day at the Aquarium du Grand Lyon will make for this inconvenient fact.
With 47 tanks showing 5,000 fish from over 300 species, you’ll be able to see marine animals that exist locally, and from other temperate and tropical zones from around the world.
There is also an attraction known as the Five Senses, which grants you the opportunity to touch some species, including turbot fish and sea stars.