Lyon, the capital of the Rhone-Alpes region bordering Switzerland and Italy, is one of the few cities in France that provides a vivid picture of the country’s lengthy history. Lyon’s rich and diverse history is on the whole show in the city’s ancient districts, which have been spared from significant natural and man-made tragedies throughout its 2,000-year history. Each of Lyon’s districts, or “arrondissements,” provides a different experience to tourists, from the Renaissance courtyards of Vieux Lyon to Fourvière hill, where the Romans first arrived in 43 B.C.
Many of Lyon’s most significant sites are lit at night, giving the city the moniker “Capital of Lights.” Lyon is recognized as the center of cuisine and is home to some of the world’s best chefs, providing tourists with yet another delectable incentive to visit charming Lyon.
10. Bellecour Place
The Place Bellecour is Europe’s biggest pedestrian plaza between the Saône and the Rhône rivers in the Presqu’île area. The vast expanse of the plaza has made it an excellent location for local festivals, outdoor concerts, and special events, and the installation of a giant Ferris wheel has further added to its allure. Several monuments, notably a 19th-century sculpture of King Louis XIV sitting on horseback, are also worth seeing, although the plaza’s closeness to Lyon’s luxury retail area attracts the most visitors. The Place Bellecour is the starting point for four main shopping streets.
9. The Cathedral of Lyon
The Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon, located in the center of the Vieux Lyon neighborhood, was constructed over 300 years, with relics of each era visible throughout the tower. The crosses on each side of the altar and the stained glass windows are from the 1200s. For its day, the 14th-century astronomical clock was a technological marvel. In the 1800s, the spectacular cathedral organ was renovated and refurbished with three keyboards and 30 stops. The archaeological garden next door is also worth a visit since it contains remnants of the 4th-century structures that had stood on the site before the cathedral was built.
8. Fourviere Theatre
The earliest Roman theatre in France was erected by Augustus between 17 and 15 B.C. and enlarged during Hadrian’s rule. It was constructed near the hill of Fourvière, which was directly in the heart of the city in Roman times. There are high seating galleries, a decorative floor, and the foundations of a significant stage in the theatre. The Odeon, a considerably smaller theatre utilized for musical events and literary contests, is nearby.
7. Lyon’s Beaux-Arts Museum
The giant Musee des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, built from stones salvaged from the crumbled walls that initially existed on Place des Terreaux, was once home to the monastery of Saint-Pierre. The Municipal Council erected the structure after the nuns were exiled from the city during the French Revolution to preserve the city’s cultural riches. The museum, which first opened its doors in 1803 and was substantially refurbished in the 1990s, now matches the Louvre in size and variety, with exhibits ranging from ancient Egyptian artifacts to 20th-century works by Matisse, Picasso, Braque, and Miró.
6. Canuts’ Mural
This large mural, which can be seen on the Boulevard des Canuts in the Croix Rousse area, shows the neighborhood’s history, which was initially home to the city’s numerous silk weavers or canuts. The subjects offered in the vast fresco, painted in the trompe-l’oeil manner, mix in flawlessly with their surroundings, pushing spectators to analyze the boundaries between art and reality. The enormous mural in Europe, first painted in 1987 and altered multiple times to reflect changes to neighboring buildings, has become a significant tourist attraction in Lyon.
5. St-Jean-Baptiste Rue
The Rue St-Jean, the main road of the Vieux Lyon neighborhood, was formerly the heart of the city’s silk industry. Here, visitors can see some of the city’s most beautiful Renaissance architecture and courtyards. Bouchons, restaurants that sprung up in the 19th century when chefs from aristocratic families struck out to form their enterprises, today occupy many of the exquisite residences and palaces erected for silk merchants and Lyon nobles. It’s one of the most outstanding venues in Lyon to try regional specialties like dauphinoise gratin and moutarde regions.
4. Terreaux Square
The Place des Terreaux in the Presqu’île neighborhood, which dates back to the 13th century, has long played an essential part in Lyon’s history. The location was once part of a walled stronghold, was transformed into a city square in the 1600s. The center plaza, which was the location of numerous guillotine beheadings during the French Revolution, is now bounded to the east by the Lyon City Hall and the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts to the south. A fountain created by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the designer of the Statue of Liberty, may be seen on the square’s north side.
3. The Tete d’Or Park
The Parc de la Tete d’Or, France’s most significant urban park, is a favorite destination for families, runners, and bikers. A carousel, a tiny zoo, a miniature railway, and a puppet theatre are among the park’s attractions for children. There are also several sports facilities on the grounds. Boating, waterside picnics, and picturesque walks along the coastline are all possibilities on a lake. The Jardin Botanique de Lyon has magnificent 19th-century greenhouses filled with a broad selection of tropical plants, including century-old camellias, carnivorous plants, and Amazon water lilies; it is the park’s highlight for tourists.
2. Basilica of Fourviere
The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which stands atop Lyon’s “Hill of Prayer,” Fourvière, was erected in the late 1800s by architect Pierre Bossan. The church’s architecture is remarkable in that it combines Byzantine and Romanesque elements. The basilica has a bell tower with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary and four corner towers towering above the skyscraper. The church’s top sanctuary is decorated with mosaics and stained glass. Visitors may either ride the funicular to the site from the Vieux Lyon metro station or walk up the arduous slope to the peak of Fourviere Hill.
1. Traboules du Vieux Lyon
Lyon is known for its “traboules,” which are unique covered corridors built to preserve the fragile cloth from bad weather while it was moved from one location to another. The Vieux Lyon area contains one of the city’s most extended tables, which runs from Rue St-Jean to Rue du Boeuf. However, there are several more across the city. The passageways, hidden behind unassuming doors, served as a haven for villagers during World War II, allowing them to escape Gestapo raids. The majority of tables nowadays are on private land and serve as entrances to neighborhood flats. However, during daytime hours, guests may enter various traboules in Vieux Lyon by pushing a service button beside the door.
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