Lyon is called the city of a hundred squares. And on these squares, of course, there are hundreds of ancient and modern sights, museums and monuments. The old city of Lyon is included as a whole on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1998. There is something to see in the other areas of the city as well.
We will tell you about 17 main attractions that are necessary if you want to really see what Lyon has to offer. Here they are on an interactive map:
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Notre-Dame de Fourvière
The Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière was built on the Fourvière Hill in 1872-1884. The unusual combination of neo-gothic and neo-byzantine style immediately attracts attention. The building consists of the upper and lower temples. Its four towers and a belfry crowned with the figure of the Virgin Mary can be seen from anywhere in the city.
Inside, you can endlessly look at the many frescoes, paintings, stained glass windows and mosaics.
Address: Place de Fourviere. You can get there by cable car or on foot.
Basilica working hours: Sunday 8:30-10:30, 15:00-16:30, 18:00-19:00, and on other days 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-18:00.
The Saint-Jean-Baptiste Cathedral is Lyon’s main temple. It is located in the “spiritual center” of the city, in the Saint-Jean quarter. The church building is surrounded by an archaeological garden, where you can see the remains of two destroyed churches and the Baptistery.
Most tourists are attracted by the oldest astronomical clock in France. The clock sounds only four times a day (from 12:00 to 16:00), and at this time you can see religious scenes enacted with puppets at the top of the ancient device.
Address: 70, Rue Saint-Jean
Visiting hours: on weekdays 8:15-19:45, on weekends until 19:00.
The Gallo-Romain Amphitheatre, also called the Amphitheatre of Three Gaules, dates back to 19 AD. It was built by order of the Emperor of Tiberius and had two functions: it was a place of public spectacle (mainly public torture and execution), as well as a federal sanctuary, where people swore allegiance to the Emperor and held meetings, which were necessarily attended by representatives of each Gaul tribe.
This amphitheater is just 10 minutes away from Terreaux Square.
The whole complex of Roman ruins can be seen on the Fourvière Hill. The amphitheater, odeon and the temple of Cybele are located here. And for those who are not so interested in wandering among the stones, the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization is right here as well.
The address of the museum is 17, Rue Cleberg.
Working hours: weekdays from 11:00 to 18:00, and weekends from 10:00 to 18:00.
The cost of visiting the permanent exhibition is 7 euros for adults, and 4.5 euros for children under 18.
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Traboules are a unique feature of Lyon architecture. These narrow alleys were designed to speeds up movement between streets. Some of them are just corridors, but there are also complex passages with stairs and branches.
The most spectacular of these stretch from Place Saint-Paul to Saint-Jean Cathedral. Overall there are about 500 of them throughout Lyon. There are a few traboules in Marseille, Nantes, and Besançon, but there isn’t anywhere you’ll find as many as in Lyon.
The longest traboule connects the houses 27 rue Boeuf and 54 rue Saint-Jean. Try to find it! Walking on traboules is a very exciting pastime for those who are not afraid to get lost in the old city.
The Lyon Opera House was built in the late 18th century, but by the end of the 20th century only the foyer and the facades of the old building remained. They had to add a completely new building to the historical parts, and it was given a roof that matched the common urban style. The facade housed muses, but for some reason, a place is not provided for Urania, so there are only 8 of them. The capacity of the hall is only 1100 seats.
Address: 1, Place de la Comedie.
Performances start at 12:30, 16:00, 19:00, 20:00.
Ticket prices: opera – 13-94 €, ballet – 10-47 €, various concerts – 10-50 €.
On this spacious square there are three vital sights for any visitor:
The City Hall of Lyon or the Hotel de Ville. This is where the improvement of this square began in the 17th century. The style of the medieval market didn’t fit with the new, lush Baroque building style.
The Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-arts de Lyon) remembers the market past of Terreaux Square. At that time it was a women’s monastery of Saint-Pierre. The monastery was replaced by the Palais des Commerce, and then by the Imperial School of Painting. Since 1801, the building has hosted a museum within its walls, and over the years, the collection has gathered many impressive masterpieces, and it’s considered the second most important museum in France, after the Louvre.
Address: 20, Place des Terreaux.
Working hours: every day except Tuesday – 10:00-18:00, Friday – 10:30-18:00. From 12:30 to 14:00 some halls are partially closed for lunch.
Cost of visit: adults over 25 – 8 €, 18-25 years – 4 €, children – 3 €.
The fountain on Terreaux Square was created by the hand of Bartholdi himself, the creator of the Statue of Liberty in New York. Initially, the sculptor won the competition to create the fountain on Quinconces Square in Bordeaux. But the municipality of Bordeaux hesitated for a long time, and in the end, they did not match the price. What a mistake! The magnificent figure of France in a chariot harnessed by four rivers went to Lyon.
The Museum of Fabrics
For several centuries Lyon was the center of French silk production. The Museum of Fabrics (Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs de Lyon) is located in a building that was once the residence of the Duke of Villeroy. In the first part of the exhibition, you can see samples of textiles from different epochs and countries over the past 40 centuries. The second part is devoted to furnishings, clothes and household items, from ancient Chinese porcelain to the complete furnishings of a house in France from the eighteenth century.
Address: 34, Rue de la Charite.
Opening hours: daily 10:00-17:30, except Monday
Ticket price: adults over 25 – 12 €, 12-25 years – 10 €.
Lyon’s own Eiffel Tower
The Tour métallique de Fourvière metal tower faithfully replicates the third floor of the Eiffel Tower. It was also built in the late 19th century, but the Parisian symbol is the original. Now the tower is used for television and radio broadcasts. It is located on the hill of the same name, at the highest point of the city.
The Lyon Aquarium occupies 5 thousand square meters, accommodating 47 separate tanks. Here you can see ocean, sea and river inhabitants from all over the world, except the Arctic Ocean. You can experience some great thrills by scuba diving (under the supervision of an instructor, of course) in the tanks with sharks.
Address: 7, Rue Stephane Dechant
Opening hours: daily from 11:00 to 19:00
Ticket price: over 11 years – 15€, 5-10 years – 11€ (student), 3-4 years – 6€.
Main square and Little Prince
The Bellecour Square is the third largest square in France and the largest European square that isn’t occupied by buildings or plantings. In the middle of it stands only an equestrian statue of Louis XIV. Near the western edge, you can find a statue of the famous character of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Little Prince.
The surrounding square was built in the 19th century, but its history dates back to the 12th century. The main streets of Lyon move away from Place Bellecour in different directions.
Church of Saint-Nizier
At this place, near Terreaux Square, a temple stood in Roman times. It was destroyed several times, but the modern Gothic-style building has been standing since the 16th century and is considered the most hospitable place in Lyon.
The left tower of the church is decorated with a clock, which is a little younger than the building itself.
Address: 1 Rue Saint-Nizier
Lumiere Brothers Museum
Lyon is also known as the home of the Lumiere brothers. Their house has been preserved and now it has been turned into a museum. Next to it, a Lumiere Institute was organized. It carefully keeps the first experimental cinematographic equipment and the results of these experiments.
The world’s first film shooting site has also been preserved, and you can visit it as well. Both buildings are located on the street named after the main event: the street of the First Film.
Address: 25 Rue du Premier Film
Museum of Miniatures and Film Decorations
Since Lyon is so connected with cinematography, it makes sense that this museum would be right at home in the city. Here you can see props from many favorite films, such as Harry Potter and Star Wars, as well as miniature decoration projects.
By studying the exhibits of the museum you will be able to look behind the scenes of the popular industry and begin to better understand how films are created.
Address: 60, rue Saint Jean
Opening Hours: 10:00 to 18:30
Ticket price: 9.50 €, 5-15 years – 6.50 €
Have a nice trip to Lyon!