Lyon, Rhone-Alpes: tourism & sightseeing

Photo of Lyon in Rhone

Visit Lyon (Rhone-Alpes, France)

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Lyon is the capital of the Rhone-Alpes region, and an important French city - it is the third largest city in France. It is an important cultural and historical center with a unique geography and it was natural that a city started flourishing between the Rhone and the Saône Rivers. The city is also located between two hills: Fourvière and Croix-Rousse.

The life of the town started as early as 43 BC, as a Roman colony on the Fourvière hill, after which the city has seen centuries of turbulence that followed. Lyon has always been a center of culture and civilization, and was one of the first European cities to benefit from Gutenberg’s revolutionary invention, printing.

Like every city in the world, the architecture of Lyon has been shaped by its history, with the added advantage that Lyon features a unique architecture that separates it from the rest of the world - there is a great deal to see in the town.

Attractions in Lyon

renaissance house in Lyon

The Croix-Rousse district is one of the most unique features of the city and was one of the reasons why the city was once known as the “silk capital of the world”, as the Croix-Rousse hill was home to the silk workers of the city up till the 19th century.

The 15th century Romanesque-Gothic style Lyon Cathedral and the Croix-Rousse district of the city have been declared UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the treasury within the cathedral is a listed French National Monument. The district of the city selected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the 1st and 4th arrondisements (sub-divisions) of the city. These parts include the current parts of the city and the former commune of La Croix-Rousse respectively.

The 1st arrondisement  features structures like Lyon City Hall and the Fontaine Bartholdi in Place des Terreux, Opera de Lyon, the Palace St. Pierre and the Museum of the Fine Arts, the archaeological site of the Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls of Lugdunum (the Ancient Roman name for Lyon), the unique Church of Bon-Pasteur built on the orders of Napoleon III, and the 17th century built Church of Saint-Polycarpe.

Lyon's Presqu'ile district is at the heart of Lyon and contains many notable monuments as well as being a centre for shopping and restaurants.

The architectural highlights continue on the other side of the Saône River. Among the structures in the Fourvière hill district, the Romanesque-Byzantine Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which is probably the most spectacular and dominating landmark of the city, the Church of Saint Just, Le Chevet de la Basilica, the Ancient Roman Theater of Fourvière and the Tour Métallique de Fourvière, or the Metallic Tower of Fourvière, which is one of the most famous landmarks of Lyon, are in this region.

The Lyon Botanical Gardens and the Golden Head Park are a good way to escape from the bustle of the city and enjoy a bit of peace.

Lyon Museums

theatre des celestins in  Lyon

Among the museums of the city is the Museé Lumière, which is an important source of historical knowledge on the invention of cinema, which was carried out by the very own sons of Lyon, the Lumière Brothers.

But probably the most important of all museums is the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Lyon Museum of Fine Arts), which features remarkable classic works of artists like Picasso, Matisse, Tintoretto, Rembrandt and Bourdelle. Apart from classics like the Virgin and Child with Angels by Metsys, the museum also features priceless Ancient Egyptian artifacts.

The museum also contains numerous precious works of art from different culture around the world. The museum is one of the largest collections of art and valuable artifacts after the Louvre itself, and a trip to Lyon without witnessing the majestic wonders of art in this museum would surely be incomplete.

The African Museum of Lyon is another place worth visiting and is dedicated to Western African culture.

Food and wine

For those who love to explore the cuisines and delicacies of the places they visit, Lyon is surely the perfect place to be when it comes to enjoying French cuisine, which is why one of the titles of Lyon is the “culinary capital of France”, among many. Lyon is famous for its gastronomy, and offers some of the best of French culinary delicacies.

Furthermore, Lyon is located amongst the best wine producing regions in France, the Cotes du Rhônes and Beaujolais, two of the centers of Rhônes and Burgundy wine regions respectively. This naturally makes Lyon a frequent host of wine tasting events. Be it the rejuvenating Beaujolais red wine or the local delicacies like salade lyonnaise, andouillete and marrons glace, you will find plenty to stimulate your tast buds among Lyon's extensive choice of restaurants..

Culture

Lyon is a rich and proud center of French culture, and is home to a number of festivals and events. Lyon regularly features cultural events like operas and concerts in the city opera. People celebrate the Festival of Lights on December 8 every year. The spectacle of the entire city bathing in light is simply remarkable, as the citizens actively play their part to lighting every corner of the city with candles. Lyons also has a very old tradition of trompe l'œil art, which is the art of creating an optical illusion of a three dimensional scene, which can really take you by surprise.

Lyon offers you a complete and satisfying experience of a city break, and if this city was not on your list of must-visit places, it should be. It is undoubtedly one of the richest locations in Europe as far as history and culture are concerned.

This Lyon article is a guest article contributed to france this way.

Where is Lyon

Lyon is France's third biggest city and is located in the central-eastern part of France in the Rhone-Alps Region. Much of France's wealth and commerce is linked to the Eastern part of France in a line down from Paris, through Lyon and on to the coast. It is an important area for business and industry as traffic connections north to south down this line are very good and its closeness to the rest of Europe make it very important to companies who wish to trade throughout Europe.

Lyon is 113 km from Geneva in Switzerland, about 150 km from Italy and about 320 km from the German border. It is 800 km from Dover with an estimated 8 hour journey time.

You can find more local travel ideas in the Rhone guide and the Rhone-Alpes guide.

See also:

Map of Lyon and places to visit

Visit near Lyon with France This Way reviews

... or see ALL recommended places to visit in Rhone

Tourist classifications

Lyon has received the following tourist classifications: historical protected town centre' (secteur sauvegardé); ;

Address: Lyon, Rhone, Rhone-Alpes, 69000, France || GPS: latitude 45.7597, longitude 4.84222

Plan your visit to Lyon, Rhone-Alpes

Sightseeing & tourist attractions to visit nearby

  • Eglise Saint-Jean-Baptiste (Lyon): religious monument
  • Parc de Gerland: remarkable garden
  • Historic Lyon: heritage site
  • Abbaye Saint Martin d'Ainey (Lyon): religious monument
  • Jardin zoologique de la ville de Lyon: zoo or wildlife park (2km)
  • Parc de la Tête d'Or: remarkable garden (3km)
  • Laboratoire d’écologie des hydrosystèmes naturels et anthropisés: site of natural beauty (3km)
  • Aquarium de Lyon: aquarium (4km)
  • Ecully: ville fleurie 4* (5km)
  • Grand parc de Miribel-Jonage: site of natural beauty (9km)

Market days in Lyon, France

Regular market(s) are held in Lyon each every day except Monday. (Markets are held in the morning unless stated.)

The French version of this page is at Lyon (Francais)