Visiting Lyon - What to See and Do
(Lyon Saint Exupery Airport LYS, France)
Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage city that completely outclasses its nearest rivals. From the Renaissance-filled Old Town district to the modern Central Business District in the city's east, Lyon has plenty of sightseeing surprises for tourists. Fancy a seat in an ancient Roman theatre in the Fourviere district? How about visiting Old Town attractions like la Traboules and St. Jean Cathedral?
There are many incredible sights to take in. However, Lyon is also a culturally vibrant city. Theatre is part and parcel of the local culture, and Lyon's football team is one of the strongest clubs in Europe
For most major events in this buzzing city, tourists are recommended to book well in advance. It is worthwhile paying a visit to the tourist information centre on the Place Bellecour, close to the campus of the Catholic University (Université Catholique), so that you can plan your itinerary with expert advice.
Ten things you must do in Lyon
- There are several major parklands in Lyon. However, the most famous and largest has to be the Golden Head Park (Parc de la Tete d'Or). It boasts a massive lake in its centre that regularly hosts boaters on summer weekends. There is even a small zoo to explore in the northern corner of the park. Lions, tigers and bears are among the residents.
- Lyon's Fine Arts Museum is commonly regarded as one of France's most adored galleries. Rembrandt, Picasso and Van Gogh are just some of the museum's more significant artists exhibited throughout the complex. Egyptian, Roman and Greek antiquities are also part of the fine collections on show.
- Resting for centuries upon the Fourviere Hill is a collection of Roman ruins that are absolutely mesmerising. The Ancient Theatre, the Odeon of Lyon and also the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls are beautifully preserved ancient sites. The theatre is still used today to host cultural and historical events annually.
- The grandeur of the city's Fourviere Notre Dame Cathedral is unmatched in Europe. This structure is a massive edifice made entirely of white marble. The eclectic-style architecture will enthrall from the inside out, but visitors may also love the stunning views of Lyon from the stone-top roof. The cathedral is free to enter, so budget travellers will not have to break the bank to enjoy its magic.
- Despite being somewhat overshadowed by the Fourviere Cathedral of Notre Dame, downtown Lyon's Cathedral of St. John is also a major attraction of the city. Much of the structure has been built in classic Gothic style, although Romanesque features can certainly be seen by the trained eye. The site took about 300 years to complete, with its crowning glory being the famous, astronomical clock on show.
- Although very touristy, the Rue St. Jean is an interesting part of the city. Found within the old district of town, this pedestrian street is lined with a stunning array of souvenir stores, restaurants and other businesses. Of course, the cobblestone streets of this hot spot can become busy on sunny afternoons. Try the nearby Rue des Trois Maries for a quieter alternative.
- For contemporary architecture and a modern take on science, visit the Musée des Confluences (Confluence Museum). The site also boasts plenty of facilities for visitors' convenience, including a café, restrooms and auditoriums.
- Opera is an important part of French culture, so visitors are advised to experience Lyon's Opera House while holidaying in the city. This building was constructed in 1831, but renovated in 1993. The neoclassical style remains, however, with an added modern dome. Performances of dance, ballet and opera are held at the venue throughout the year.
- The Place des Terreaux is a large square found in the heart of Lyon, containing plenty of interesting features. One of the most important spots is the City Hall. This particular structure was built in the 1600s, although because of its continual use and significant heritage, its doors only open to the public in the middle of September.
- Part of Old Lyon (which is Europe's largest Renaissance-influenced area outside Venice) is the Traboules, historical corridors or gateways that connect two main streets. Courtyards, stone structures and more can be explored, but remember that these spots are inhabited by residents, and so noise levels should be kept at a minimum.