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Tourist Places To Visit In Lyon
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon is a French city situated at the confluence of the rivers Rhone and Saone. The city’s strategic location made significant contributions towards Lyon’s silk trade industry, which helped put Lyon on the map during the Renaissance period. A variety of cultural aspects of Lyon have set it apart from being just another French city; while the locals are accustomed to its enticing blend of urbanisation and medieval-era heritage, for tourists it is the mainstay of Lyon’s appeal. With more museums than you can possibly visit in a single day; a delectable range of cuisine that will leave a taste of Lyon on your lips for days to come; and a true Lyonnais experience that will keep you coming back for more; a trip to this ancient city is something you shouldn’t miss for the world. Read on to know more about some of the best places to visit on your trip to Lyon.
This old town of Lyon is a UNESCO listed World Heritage Site that is divided into three quarters – Saint-Paul in the north, Saint-Jean in the centre and Saint-Georges in the south. Lyon flourished during the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries when rich merchant families from neighbouring European countries settled down in this part of Lyon for its thriving silk industry. They built elaborate homes and buildings that are reflective of the Italian and French Renaissance styles even today in the 300 buildings still standing in the three districts of the square.
Croix Rousse is a hilly neighbourhood of Lyon that is divided into two parts - those that are on the slopes (les pentes) and the part that is on the top (le plateau). The neighbourhood mainly originated sometime during the 18th-century when Lyonnais silk weavers built thousands of workshops in the area after moving from the Vieux Lyon region. Unlike other buildings in Lyon, the ceilings of the workshops in Croix Rousse are much higher and were constructed in such a manner to accommodate the machinery used by the workers. Today, most of these workshops have been converted into sophisticated lofts and the entire area exhibits a vibrant cultural scene.
Jardin Rosa Mir
Situated in the centre of Croix Rousse, the garden Rosa Mir is located in the courtyard of a building that was built by an artisan Jules Senis after spending several years of his life in hospital while battling cancer. After he was cured, he dedicated the last 25 years of his life towards the creation of this garden and named it after his mother.
The walls of Rosa Mir are covered in seashells and the décor is reminiscent of Spanish art. With an area covering 400 sq. m, visitors can appreciate numerous species of flora that compose the garden. It remains open to the public every Saturday between 2 pm to 6 pm, from April through October.
Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse
This boulevard marks the border between the two neighbourhoods of Croix Rousse. It is the location of various markets and events that take place in Croix Rousse; the Marche de la Croix Rousse is an open-air street market that is held on the boulevard where visitors can purchase a variety of French specialities like cheese, wines, fruits and vegetables, bread and charcuterie. The market is held on Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays between 6 am to 1.30 pm, and is just as much a favourite among locals as it is among tourists.
Lugdunum, as Lyon was originally known, was built by the Romans on the hill that is known as Fourviere. Today, this hilly neighbourhood situated on the western bank of river Saone serves as a district of Lyon. With many religious buildings that are part of this neighbourhood, Fourviere has been nicknamed “the hill that prays”, in contrast to Croix Rousse that is known as “the hill that works”. Fourviere is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Lyon, apart from supporting two of the oldest and most active funicular railway lines in the world.
Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
The Basilica of Fourviere is the most iconic structure in the neighbourhood and is situated at the very top of the hill. This 19th-century structure offers stunning panoramic views of the city from its terrace and boasts extravagant designs in the interiors with magnificent mosaics and stained glass. It is also the location of the very popular annual festival Fete des Lumieres – the Festival of Lights, which is a unique Lyonnais tradition that goes on for four days and involves numerous light-and-sound shows all Lyon. The locals do their part by placing candles outside their windows and the entire city takes on a bright ethereal appearance.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Fourvière
This partially underground archaeological museum is worthy of a visit if you are looking to gain some historical perspective to Lyon’s past. Bunker-like galleries within the museum host ancient artefacts that were found in the Rhone Valley, but the most prized possession in this building is the Circus Games Mosaic that dates to the 2nd-century and depicts a chariot race with exquisite details.
Bounded by the rivers Rhone and Saone on both sides, a little man-made peninsula about 500-800 m wide serves as Lyon’s city centre. Also one of Lyon’s World Heritage Sites listed by UNESCO, Presqu’ile is hailed as mainly a shopping district of Lyon. Visitors will find numerous cafes and restaurants nestled between striking buildings from the 19th-century, along with key monuments like the Opera House and City Hall located here as well. For all your fancy French shopping needs, start from the pedestrianised Rue de la Republique; this is where all the high-end brands are located.
At the meeting point of the rivers Rhone and Saone, towards the southern tip of Presqu'ile lies a swanky new neighbourhood known as the Confluence. Previously nothing more than an industrial wasteland, this urban-renewal project has been undertaken as an investment worth millions of euros by the French government and the European Commission. It is 150-hectares of cutting-edge architecture and innovation in an environmentally sustainable format that aims to propel Lyon in the race towards the future in two phases. A lot of quirky remodelling of existing buildings has also been happening, apart from the addition of fancy restaurants, shops and high-end lodgings. However, the crowning glory of this phase has been the fantastic science and anthropology museum, Musee des Confluences.
Musée des Confluences
This futuristic architectural masterpiece is a landmark structure in Lyon’s fancy neighbourhood, the Confluence. Its iconic design in the form of a transparent crystal cloud of stainless steel and glass includes permanent exhibits of natural science and anthropology, which are divided into four main sections; “Origins – Stories of the World”; “Species – the Web of Life”; “Societies – Human Theatre”; and “Eternities – Visions of the beyond”. While these sections are enthralling enough to spend all your time in, make sure to explore the temporary exhibits as well.
Musée des Beaux-Arts
A former 17th-century abbey that was turned into a fine arts museum, Musee des Beaux-Arts has been showcasing some of the finest collections of paintings and sculptures since 1803 when it officially opened to the public. There are 70 rooms in this museum that display exhibits ranging from Egyptian antiquities to artworks and sculptures from the Modern art period. Visitors can use an audio-guide and learn more about the exhibits that range from artworks by Rodin, Max Ernst and Degas to van Gogh, Picasso and Monet.
Also known as Institut Lumiere, the Lumiere Museum was constructed to honour the contributions made by the Lumiere brothers – known as the Fathers of Cinema and inventors of the cinematograph. The museum was founded by the grandson of Loius Lumiere within the house of the Lumiere family itself. One of the earliest films ever made, La Sortie de I’usine Lumiere á Lyon, was shot in close vicinity to the Institut as well.
Cathédrale Saint-Jean Baptiste
Constructed between the 11th- and 15th-century, the Lyon cathedral is also known as ‘Primatiale’ and boasts a magnificent gothic façade decorated with 280 square-stone medallions. Upon stepping inside, visitors are immediately taken in by the sight of a large astronomical clock that dates back to the 14th-century. There is also a small collection of sacred artworks housed in an adjoining treasury.
Every year on December 8, the Festival of Lights is celebrated for 4 days in Lyon and the cathedral plays a starring role during this time; choreographed lighting is displayed on the façade of the monument, which creates a fascinating and ethereal spectacle.