Things to do in Lyon

Attractions in Lyon will delight visitors. This charming city is still not nearly as touristy as Paris, despite its rich heritage, but as a result it is less crowded and less expensive and still feels authentic. The majority of things to see and do in Lyon revolve around the city's magnificent Romanesque, medieval and Renaissance architecture, as well as its famous gastronomic offerings.

The ideal starting point for a trip to Lyon is a stroll around Vieux Lyon, the old part of town, where many of the most beautiful buildings can be found. Visitors will stumble across gems such as the 15th-century Hôtel du Chamarier, and the breathtaking Cathedral Saint Jean Baptiste, a 12th-century Gothic cathedral. Another popular attraction in Vieux Lyon is the 200-year-old Lyon National Opera House, a magnificent place to catch a ballet or opera. This area is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and it is full of quaint courtyards and lovely outdoor restaurants.

Another area that must be explored is Fourviere Hill. One of Lyon's most famous attractions is the ancient Roman theatre of Fourviere, which dates back to 15 BC, making it the oldest theatre in France. The preservation of the site is astounding and it is a fascinating place to visit, stroll around and picnic with stunning views of the city. The Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, a wonderful 19th-century church, can also be found on this lovely hill, as can the interesting Musee de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine.

Lyon has three large city parks. The best of them is the Parc de la Tete d'Or, which is spacious and has a lovely rose garden, an ornamental lake, a small zoo, walking and running trails, and even a playground for children. The city also boasts some incredible museums such as the Musee des Miniatures et Decors de Cinema and the The Historical Museum, guaranteed to keep the whole family occupied.

Lyon National Opera House photo

Lyon National Opera House

This 300-year old structure's glass dome has become a landmark attraction in Lyon, situated between the City Hall and the Rhone River. The first five levels of the Lyon Opera House…

Lyon National Opera House

This 300-year old structure's glass dome has become a landmark attraction in Lyon, situated between the City Hall and the Rhone River. The first five levels of the Lyon Opera House are underground while the six higher levels are encased in vaulted glass. The hall seats 1,200 people and boasts six vertically-stacked balconies overlooking the orchestra level. This Italian-style hall is lined with black wood and gold detail, and is home to the Lyon Opera Ballet company and the world-renown Opera House Orchestra. The acoustics are so good that it currently makes more recordings than any other French opera house, and has released award-winning opera CDs including 12 world premieres, ballets and symphony performances. The views from the dance studio, with its huge windows, are spectacular and it is worth popping in just to see them, even if you are not a fan of the performing arts. There are guided tours of the opera house available. Of course, the best way to experience the structure is by catching a show. Although some people still dress up, it is not a requirement so visitors need not panic if they don't have formal outfits.

Address 1 Place de la Comédie

Website www.opera-lyon.com

Historical Museum of Lyon and International Puppet
Museum photo

Historical Museum of Lyon and International Puppet Museum

To the right of the river Saône lies the Hôtel Gadagne, one of the most prestigious Renaissance mansions in Lyon. It was built between 1511 and 1527 for the two sons of a spice m…

Historical Museum of Lyon and International Puppet Museum

To the right of the river Saône lies the Hôtel Gadagne, one of the most prestigious Renaissance mansions in Lyon. It was built between 1511 and 1527 for the two sons of a spice merchant but fell into the hands of the prominent Gadagne family in 1545. Being rich Florentine bankers, they threw many extravagant parties, infamously linking their name to the mansion. In 1902 the city of Lyon bought the mansion and in 1921 the Historical Museum was installed on the premises. It wasn't until 1950 that the International Puppet Museum became an additional attraction.

The Gadagne Museum houses paintings, sculptures and furniture, as well as archaeological relics dating back from the Middle Ages to the 19th century, illustrating Lyon's vast history. The International Puppet Museum displays hand puppets, stick puppets, marionette puppets and sliding bar puppets originating from countries such as Japan, Cambodia, England, Italy, Belgium, Czechoslovakia and Russia. The museums are both rewarding for visitors and kids in particular will love the puppets. The mansion itself is wonderful to explore and one can just imagine the wild parties it is famous for...

Address 1 Place du Petit College

Website www.museegadagne.com

Ancient Theatre of Fourvière photo

Ancient Theatre of Fourvière

The ancient theatre in Lyon is the oldest in France, dating back to the year 17 BC. Built by the Emperor Augustus, it was originally used for theatre, pageants, musical shows, and …

Ancient Theatre of Fourvière

The ancient theatre in Lyon is the oldest in France, dating back to the year 17 BC. Built by the Emperor Augustus, it was originally used for theatre, pageants, musical shows, and poetry competitions. There are actually two theatres on the site: the massive Grand Theatre, which once seated up to 10,000 people; and the smaller Odeon below it on the hillside, which once seated 3,500 people and was used for more intimate performances like poetry readings. While much of the rich decorations are gone, decorated floors of inlaid marble and porphyry are still visible and the state of preservation of the place in general is astounding. Now it is primarily a tourist site, but the Nuits de Fourvière festival is held here every year. Nearby one can also see the ruins of a temple dedicated to the goddess Cybele, as well as some burial sites and an ancient Roman aqueduct. To really explore the site one has to do a fair bit of walking and climbing so be sure to wear comfy shoes and bring a water bottle. The Ancient Theatre of Fourviere is beautifully situated and promises many great photo opportunities.

Address 6 rue de l'Antiquaille, Montée de Fourvière

Website www.historvius.com/grand-roman-theatre-of-lyon-833/

Send a link to this travel guide