Whether you have already been in Paris or you are just going to it…
30 best places to see in Lyon
upd 8 January 2024
Lyon is the second largest city in France. It’s one of the oldest one too with history that began many centuries ago. The city is quite large, so you should have a plan of the main sights and interesting places: main cathedrals, oldest districts, best viewpoints and parcs.
Old Lyon is the heart of the city. Here you can fint the oldest buildings from Middle Ages and Renessaince. These centuries were the peak period of the district. Vieux Lyon is unique from a historical point of view, as they are one of the best preserved medieval European districts.
During the Middle Ages it was the center of the city where main cathedrals and royal resindence were located..
It’s hard to believe that in the beginning of the 20th century, these quarters were going to be demolished. As Lyon had become larger they lost its importance and became abandoned. Fortunately, special organization saw the potential in Vieux Lyon as a great historical place and future tourist attraction. So abandoned buildings were restaured and now the district is under the protection of UNESCO.
Maison des Avocats
Despite its rather small territory the district contains a lot of sightseeings. One of them is the House of Lawyers. This is a complex of buildings built during the Renaissance in the Tuscan style. By the 20th century, the complex was one of the objects under the threat of demolition, but the Collegium of Advocates completely restored the building. So it was named in honor of the Association. Now this is a Museum of Miniatures.
Discover hidden gems on Lyon during a tour with a local guide. You can choose on Tiqets.
One of the cathedrals that reminds that Vieux Lyon was once the religios center of the region. Cathedral Saint-Jean is still the main city cathedral. It was built from the 12th to the 14th century, so it was influenced by both the Romanesque and Gothic styles. You should definitely go inside, as there are some of the oldest astronomical clocks XIV.
In front of the cathedral you can see archaeological excavations of ancient temples of the IV and XI centuries.
Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière
Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière was built in the second half of the 19th century in a Neo-Byzantine style on the site of an older temple of the 12th century, from which now only a tower remains. The interior of the basilica, richly decorated with numerous mosaics, and is very unusual.
There are several ways to get to the top: on the funicular from Saint-Jean Cathedral, on foot from the Lawyers House through the park or via Kleberg street. Probably the best option if you have time is to go on foot from the Lawyers house as you will go through the beautiful Parc des Hauteurs. On the way there will be several sculptures and beautiful views.
Near the basilica is the best view of Lyon – both the center and the remote areas and skyscrapers in Part Dieu.
The Roman city of Lugdun was founded on this hill. An ancient theater of the 1st century was remained from those times. Near the theater there is a museum of Gallo-Roman civilization.
Presqu’île is a peninsula surrounded by two rivers: Rhone and Sona. It was built up in the XVIII century, and slowly became the city center. There are a lot of sightseeings here so it is worth to save a significant part of the day for a walk here.
Bellecour is the central square of Lyon with a Ferris wheel and a monument to Louis XIV.
Bars and restaurants are concentrated in the area of Monet st.
It is easy to miss since it’s rather small but here is also situated the monument of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, who was born in Lyon.
Saint-Nizier Church is an old church than was destroyed and rebuilt multiple times. The influence of both Gothic and Renaissance is noticeable. You should definitely go inside and see stained-glass windows, carved pews and high arches.
Abandoned railroad, a parc with waterfalls, the oldest building that belonged to an alchemist and many more.
There are two nice districts in the north of peninsula: 1-er arrondissement and Croix-Rousse. They are quiet and pretty busy streets with a lot of students, cafes and museums.
Place des Terreaux
There are several interesting sights on the square. Firstly, it is the City Hall (Hôtel de Ville). This is the building that became an administrative center after Presqu’île became the center of the city taking that function from Vieux Lyon. This is a very beautiful building with a richly decorated facade, designed by an architect who also designed the Palace of Versailles.
Bartholdi Fountain is located opposite the Town Hall. The impressive sculptural composition consists of four horses that represent main French rivers: Sona, Rhone, Loire and Seine.
The fountain has an interesting history: the young sculptor Bartholdi presented his project to the competition and won it. However, the fountain was never installed. But after Bartholdi has made the project of the Statue of Liberty in New York, they remembered his project for the fountain. And thirty years later, the original idea came to life and is now one of the symbols of Lyon.
The peninsula of Presqu’île ends with the confluence of Rhone and Sona rivers. Over the past few years, many new buildings have been built in the area: housing, offices, and a museum. There are both good and bad examples of modern acrhitecture. You can look at themhere.
An interesting church of Sainte-Blandine de Lyon not far from Perrache bus station.
The monument of André-Marie Ampère who was born in Lyon.
Left bank of Rhone
Parc de la Tête d’Or
This is a pretty large park with a zoo and a botanical garden. You wouldn’t probably expect a small zoo in a parc to be interesting but there are lions, a grizzly bear and even a red panda. Entrance to the park and the zoo is free.
There are not many attractions on this side. But here you can find ethnic cafes, skyscrapers and shopping centers. The largest shopping center is Le Part Dieu with the Lafayette Gallery.
Find the best accomodation on Tripadvisor: hotels, hostels, apartments.
Eiffel tour copy
On the Fourvière hill, near the basilica, you can see the metal Fourvière tower – this is an exact copy of the third tier of the Eiffel Tower.
The Weight of Oneself
On the promenade near Old Lyon, you can see a statue with an interesting concept – it shows that only a person can save himself. It’s called “The Weight of Oneself”.
In the center of Lyon you can often find murals. For example, the “Wall of the Silk Weavers”, which is the largest European mural. Another mural shows all the main Lyon historical figures: writers, politicians and even Little Prince of Saint-Exupéry.
The tram network appeared in the 19th century and was quite large in Europe. But in the 1950-60s recession occured that also happened in a lot of countries. Now the tram network is expanding again.