Lyon is France’s third largest city and can be found in the south-east, at the point where the Rhone and Saone rivers converge. The city has been around for more than two millennia and is one of the main ports found on our Rhone river cruises. It offers travellers a wealth of exciting activities to take part in during their brief visit.
Many of the districts in the city centre make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site and these are linked together through the use of narrow alleyways known as traboules. Some of these have been around since the 4th century and were used to help the silk traders get around quicker. Whilst we have highlighted some excellent things to do when you are in Lyon, wondering through these traboules and discovering the city as you go is also a great way to spend your time.
Admire An Abundance Of Architecture
One thing that Lyon is famous for, and something which helped it to be recognised by UNESCO, is the abundance of architecture on display around the city. It’s no surprise that a settlement which has been around for over 2,000 years has more than its fair share of stunning buildings and beautiful monuments which allow you to peer into the past.
Many of these structures can be found in the Fourvière district. This area includes a hill of the same name and is the site of the original Roman settlement all those years ago. Two buildings, the Basilica of Notre-Dame and the Metallic Tower stand out on the hilltop as they look over the rest of Lyon, providing the perfect place to start your explorations. An impending gold statue of the Virgin Mary stands on the north-west tower of the Basilica as a metaphor for the way she watched over Lyon and saved it from the Plague.
The Metallic Tower was originally built to rival Paris’s Eifel Tower. Whilst its summit may be higher than its Parisian cousin’s (because it’s on a hill), it has failed to attract as much acclaim and is now used as a radio tower. If you cannot face walking the incline, or you wish to save time during your fleeting visit, there are two funicular lines (the oldest two in the world that are still active) to help you reach the top of Fourvière Hill.
Other architecture worth seeking out in this area includes the Lyon Cathedral, seat of the Archbishop of Lyon, and the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière. This Roman amphitheatre once seated 10,000 people and is now the setting for the Nuits de Fourvière festival. This involves shows that include dancing, acting, music, circus, and more being put on throughout June and July every year.
If you really want to see the structures of Lyon in all their glory, a wander through the streets after dark is the best way. Over 300 different monuments and buildings come to life as they are lit up for everyone to see. This sentiment is taken even further on December the 8th every year when everyone lights candles in their windows to celebrate the Festival of Lights.
Create An Epicurean Experience
If there’s one thing that Lyon is known for more for than its architecture, it has to be its gourmet food and drink options. At the time of writing, there are no less than 17 Michelin starred restaurants within the city walls, all offering a verified treat for your taste buds. Top of the tree, however, has to be Paul Bucase’s restaurant in the north of the city, on the banks of the River Saone. This is one of only 90 restaurants in the world to be honoured with not one but three Michelin stars and includes dishes such as ‘traditional Lyon quenelles of pike with crayfish and Nantua sauce’ and ‘Duck Colvert with orange and hare à la Royale’ on its menu.
If you are looking for a less conventional and more traditional taste of Lyon, there is a range of ‘Bouchons’ located around the city. These smaller establishments offer a gastronomic experience like no other, as their menus feature many different offal dishes. Don’t be surprised to see things such calf’s head, veal’s kidneys and donkey snout on the menu. Still, if you are going to try these delicacies anywhere, Lyon is the perfect place. Canut et Les Gones and Le Polêon d'Or are perhaps the best places to enter this world of the unknown.
For a more indulgent treat, you may want to delight in some of the offerings from Sébastien Bouillet. This master pâtissier and chocolatier has made a name for himself thanks to his dedication to all things sweet and has a chocolate shop and separate patisserie in the Croix-Rousse district. The chocolate shop, Choko la, feels more like an experimental lab at times, as Bouillet and his team work hard on new creations within its (literally) chocolate-covered walls.
With the Rhone valley on its doorstep, it’s no surprise that Lyon has a wealth of options for the wine connoisseur too. There will be excellent examples of Côte du Rhône and Beaujolais in most restaurants, but if you wish to take some of the local tipple home with you, wine cellars such as La Cave Valmy are exceedingly well stocked.
Take A Tour Of The Tête d’Or Park
When the sun comes out, the Lyonnais locals and visiting tourists flock to the Tête d’Or Park to make the most of the weather. The nearly 300 acres of space offer various things to do, catering to a wide range of interests. There is a large lake on which boating occurs in the summer, numerous sporting facilities such as horse-riding and mini-golf, and even a zoo at the north end. The zoo has been around for as long as the park (that’s 150 years) and houses a wide range of animals from around the world. This includes some rare species such as the Barbary lion, which has been extinct in the wild for many years.
For those who wish to use the park to relax, a stroll around the rose and botanical gardens will provide the perfect backdrop. There are no less than three different rose gardens, including the Lyon International Rose Garden which boasts 30,000 roses in 350 different varieties.
If you would like to see the sights of Lyon for yourself, our cruises on the Rhone River provide the perfect trip in which to do so. Call us today for more information or complete an online enquiry form.