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10 things to do and see in Lyon

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10 things to do and see in Lyon

Lyon is not among the most popular tourist routes, but is a beautiful destination, easily accessible and offers above all an extraordinary gastronomy, a beautiful old town, and a rich and relaxed atmosphere. The city is divided into three major areas: the Presqu’Ile, the peninsula formed by the junction of the two rivers (the Rhône and Saône); The Corix-Rousse, the hill “that works for the historical presence of the silk factories” and Fourvière, the “praying hill” because of the Basilica of the same name. In the peninsula there is the Old Town with the Place des Terreaux, Hotel de Ville, the Cathedral of Saint-Jean, the Museum of Fine Arts and countless alleys and streets where there are the famous Bouchons, taverns that offer one of best cuisines in the world.

In this page we suggest you 10 things to do and see during a trip to Lyon

If you are looking for a hotel in Lyon, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 130 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com

Le Vieux Lyon – The old town

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The “Old Town” is the historic heart of Lyon, the largest Renaissance district of Europe. On the Peninsula (Presqu’ile) between the Rhone and Saone rivers there arealleys, small squares, secret passages (Traboules) three large churches (St Jean, St. Paul and St. George), old artisan shops.

Le Vieux Lyon – The old town
Le Vieux Lyon – The old town

After years of decay, the “Old Lyon” has been fully renovated and is now protected by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site. Do not miss Place Des Terreaux with the Town Hall and the Museum of Fine Arts and the Cathedral of St. Jean of which you will find more information below.

Place des Terreaux in Lyon

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Sit on a table and enjoy the passage of tourists around the “Old Town”. The square is a must see because there are three main attractions:

Place des Terreaux in Lyon
Place des Terreaux in Lyon

The Town Hall, closed to the public but beautiful to see from the outside; the Museum of Fine Arts (see below) with important masterpieces of Italian and foreign authors; the Bartholdi Fountain, the same sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty. The fountain, in fact, was meant to embellish Bordeaux which could no longer afford it and Lyons made a good deal. The subject of the sculpture is the Garonne, but it was not hard to believe that the rivers are the Rhone and Saone.

Fourvière and Croix-Rousse in Lyon

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The hill of the Croix-Rousse (Red Cross) is not the most religious one of Lyon. Here, in fact, there were the silk factories and workshops so that people use to call it the “Hill which works.”

Fourvière and Croix-Rousse in Lyon
Fourvière and Croix-Rousse in Lyon

Religious hill is the opposite, ieFourvière (The “praying Hill”) where there is the Basilica (see below). On the Croix-Rousse we suggest you to visit the Palace of Voraces while in Fourvière you can spend most of your time. Here there are the remains of Lugdunum, the Roman Lyon, with the Theatre and the Odeon.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon

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Many people visit the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon especially for the collection of coins (about 50,000), the most important in France after the one of Paris. The museum is located in a building of seventeenth century in the Place des Terreaux, and there is a fine collection of European paintings from primitive art until 1800.

The Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon
The Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon

As always, there are Italian artists paintings (Perugino, Tintoretto, Veronese, Guido Reni) but there are many other great works of European painters. Among these many French (Delacroix Corot, Manet, Matisse, Gauguin and Cézanne) but also Rembrandt, Cranach the Elder, Zurbaran, Rubens and Van Gogh. If you still have a little of time there is also an exceptional collection of art objects covering about  the Liberty period.

Where: Place des Terreaux
How to get there: by feet  in the Old City or by subway:  lines A and C, Hotel de Ville – Louis Pradelstation
When: open daily from 10 am – 6 pm , Fridays from 10:30 am – 6 pm 8. Closed Tuesdays. On 24 and 31 December closes at 5 pm
Ticket: € 7

The Saint Jean Cathedral in Lyon

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In 1100 started the construction of the Cathedral, and during that period the architectural style in vogue was the Romanesque; however during the 300 years of works the Romanesque was abandoned for the Gothic style.

The Saint Jean Cathedral in Lyon
The Saint Jean Cathedral in Lyon

The Saint Jean Cathedral (dedicated to St. Stephen and St. John the Baptist) is one of Europe’s best examples of the transition from Romanesque to Gothic. About 80 meters long, is located in the place where there were already some Christian churches in Lyon, and was built by “stealing” the stones from the Roman monuments of Lyon. Inside there is one of the oldest astronomical clocks in Europe. Every day at 12:00 pm , 2 pm, 3 pm and 4 pm  the clock starts the beginning of a show with angels, roosters, St. John and the Heavenly Father.

Where: Place Saint-Jean
How to get there: by subway, line D stop Vieux Lyon
When: every day from 08:15 am to 7:45 pm ; Saturday from 08:15 am to 7:00 pm ; Sunday from 08:00 am to 7:00 pm.
Ticket: free entrance

Les Traboules in Lyon

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The traboules (covered walkways) are the real feature of Lyon. The first was built during the Renaissance just for aesthetic purpose but since then people  understood their utility and have used them for different purposes.

Les Traboules in Lyon
Les Traboules in Lyon

For example, the artisans of silk, used them to transport the silk without exposing it to rain, and the partisans to hide from the Nazis. Today many of the traboules are private and closed to the public but there are some of them that you can freely cross: they are in rue St Jean 54 and 27 and in the Place du Gouvernement. If you find the gate closed, look for the electronic button to open it!

The Wall in Lyons

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It is not an historical monument, because it has less than 20 years, but it is a very unique building, so it’s worth to visit it. It is the so-called Wall of Lyons, the front of a whole palace frescoed with scenes of everyday life in Lyon and several people’s portraits

The Wall in Lyons
The Wall in Lyons

It is located in the Presqu’Ile in Rue de la Martinière and can be reached with the metro, Hotel De Ville station. Among many local characters stand out someworldwide famous: the Emperor Claudius, the Lumière brothers inventors of cinema and Joseph-Marie Jacquard, inventor of the fabric of the same name, all born in Lyon.

The Fourviere Basilica in Lyon

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If you are in the Old Town and raise your eyes to the Hill of Fourvière, you feel  you are looking at a giant toppled elephant.

The Fourviere Basilica in Lyon
The Fourviere Basilica in Lyon

That is the Basilica, the most sacred place of Lyon. Built in the place where the first Christian martyrs of Lyon were killed, the Basilica has this strange shape  because of  the four octagonal towers and a shape that makes it look like a pachyderm with balance problems. Built in 1870 it is characterized by a mixture of styles (gothic, classical, Byzantine) and the nave with a mosaic that tell the life of the Virgin Mary. The church, in fact, is dedicated to the image of the Virgin Mary of 1500 (preserved in the Chapel of the Virgin) that seems to do miracles by 1500. The hope to receive one miracle attracts millions of pilgrims from around the world every year.

Where: Place de Fourvière
How to get there: by feet from the Old Town or take the funicular next to the Cathedral.
When: every day from 9 am to 12:30 pm and from 2 to 6 pm  except Sunday
Ticket: free entrance

Things to eat in Lyon

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Few people know it, but Lyon have the best gastronomy in France and then in Europe and the world. Do not be surprised: there are people who take a plane or a train just to spend an evening in one of Lyon’s restaurants.

Things to eat in Lyon
Things to eat in Lyon

The best place to taste the local cuisine are the Bouchons, taverns that for several centuries delight people of Lyon and tourists.

Named after the bouchon, bundle of hay put under the banner to indicate that people could eat there. Then the bouchons have become places where all products are cooked very well, in a perfect fusion of traditional and modern cuisine. Among the dishes do not miss the meat in Andouillette (sausage and pork stomach) calf liver, Sabodet and saucissonchaud à la lyonnaise (sausage) and tripe. Among the salami there are different salamis (rosettes, cervelas, jesus). If it seems too much for your stomach you can taste a classic Lyonnaise salad, thistles, onions au gratin and various cheeses. For wine, you are in France, so go easy with a Coast of the Rhone.

Where to sleep in Lyon

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Like other French cities, Lyon is not a particularly cheap city, but has a good availability of hotels that you always get a good deal.

Where to sleep in Lyon
Where to sleep in Lyon

The highest prices are for hotels in Presqu’Ile, closed to touristic places. On two hills prices are lower and you can find a good hotel even at 40 euro per night. Outside those areas prices are lower but you have to use public transport to get into touristic places of the city.

If you are looking for a hotel in Lyon, we suggest you to choose among those offered by Booking.com. There are about 130 hotels with prices, pictures and comments of guests already stayed there. Go to Booking.com