Best Things To Do in Lyon
Whether it's meandering the renaissance streets of Vieux Lyon or touring the expansive Musée des Beaux Arts, visitors will find an array of things to do in Lyon. Along with the fine arts, there are museums dedicated to miniatures and movies (Musée Miniature et Cinema) and world cultures (Musée des Confluences), among other cultural institutions. Lyon is also home to several awe-inspiring churches to explore, such as the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, and places that will take you back centuries, such as the Theatres Romains de Fourvière.
Updated March 28, 2019
- #1View all Photos#1 in LyonSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, FreeTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
Built in 15 B.C., the Theatres Romains de Fourvière are the ruins of three ancient Roman sites, including a theater, a smaller theater and a temple located on the hill of Fourvière. It's also the site of the ambient Nuits de Fourvière, an annual performing arts festival that takes place during June and July.
Recent visitors recommended tacking on a visit to the Theatres Romains de Fourvière after visiting the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, since it's located on the walk down. Others remarked that the acoustics are amazing, and the view of surrounding Lyon is spectacular. However, some were disappointed with the limited signage. You'll find a museum next to the ruins, but all of the information is written in French. Consider reading up on the site or hiring a tour guide if you want a richer experience.
- #2View all Photos#2 in LyonChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDChurches/Religious Sites, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière crowns Lyon from its perch on Fourvière hill, which is also known as "the praying hill." It was built in the late 19th century by architect Pierre Bossan, who incorporated neo-Byzantine styles in the design. Inside, visitors will find awe-inspiring mosaics on the walls, richly colored stained glass, gilt sculptures and a crypt. Gardens, also designed by Bossan, surround the basilica.
Recent travelers raved about the ornate Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, saying that the mosaics that line the wall are exquisite. Recent visitors recommended taking the Saint-Jean - Fourvière funicular or a taxi up to the hilltop basilica but walking down to enjoy the scenery without quite the strain on your legs.
- #3View all PhotosfreeVieux Lyon#3 in LyonSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDSightseeing, Free, Neighborhood/AreaTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Vieux Lyon, or Old Lyon, is the city's renaissance district located in the 5th arrondissement. Here, visitors will find many attractions, such as the Place du Change, the former business square of the city, and Rue St-Jean, a popular place to walk – partly for its traboules (secret pathways and staircases that pass through buildings). It's believed that these passageways date back to the fourth century, when residents needed a way to get from their homes to the river (their source of fresh water) without having to weave through the town's winding streets. They were later used by the silk trade and then by the resistance during World War II.
The fact that this history remains intact is thanks to Andre Malraux, the French Minister of Culture in 1962, who saved the district from demolition plans by designating it a protected area. This jumpstarted a revitalization of the area. Just decades later, the refurbished renaissance district was named a UNESCO World Heritage site.
- #4View all Photos#4 in LyonMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Musée Miniature et Cinema (Museum of Miniature and Cinema) is really two museums in one. First, the museum contains the miniature scenes of artist Dan Ohlmann and the work of dozens of other miniature artists. It also holds hundreds of film set props, including the original costume from "Batman Forever" and a triceratops head from "Jurassic Park."
Recent visitors called this museum unexpected and delightful, saying that they recommend it highly for both children and adults. Others say the beautiful, 16th-century building is an added bonus to the interesting, even entrancing exhibits.
- #5View all Photos#5 in LyonMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
More than 70 rooms filled with artwork, such as "Dancers on the Stage" by Edgar Degas and "La Tentation de saint Antoine" by Auguste Rodin, among other French and European masterpieces, fill the Musée des Beaux Arts. Works date from antiquity and include everything from paintings and sculpture to decorative arts. The Musée des Beaux Arts, which is housed in a 17th-century former Benedictine convent, is also accompanied by a large garden.
Not only is the art enjoyable, but the food is too, according to recent visitors, who recommend enjoying a lunch in the museum's dining hall. Recent visitors said you could spend hours here, so if you're short on time it's best to pick the two or three areas that interest you most and go from there. Make sure to pick up a free audio guide.
- #6View all Photos#6 in LyonShopping, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDShopping, Sightseeing, FreeTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Called a "heaven for foodies," Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is the city's premier indoor food market boasting nearly 50 vendors and several bars and restaurants. Here you'll find everything from fruits and vegetables to cheese, truffles, spices, flowers and everything in between.
Past visitors raved about the market and were especially impressed with the variety of cheeses and cured meats. If you're in need of picnic supplies, this is the place to go, according to reviewers. Buying the food here and eating it elsewhere may be your best bet as some past travelers complained of limited seating inside the market. If you're interested in perusing some of the city's outdoor markets, St Antoine Market and La Croix Rousse Market are two popular options.
- #7View all Photos#7 in LyonMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPENDMuseumsTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
The Musée des Confluences, established in 2014, is one of Lyon's newest institutions set in the city's newest neighborhood. Lyon's natural history museum, it aims to tell the story of the world from origins to visions of eternity, from the viewpoint of many different cultures and even animals with the help of more than 2 million artifacts.
Recent visitors said both the building and the setting are spectacular, recommending that travelers take in the views from the terraces. Many travelers described the museum's exhibits as eclectic and imaginative. Even if visitors don't have time to stop in, reviewers recommend walking alongside the Rhone to enjoy the architecture from the outside.
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