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Lyon, the square forms the focal point of this city

When we selected destinations in France, Lyon was not on our top cities to visit, but it was suggested as a place to stop-over when traveling between Nice and Paris. When I researched things to do in Lyon, I didn’t really find that much on the Internet and when I asked people about their previous trips to Lyon they had to think for a long time to even remember the place. I knew that Lyon was a large city, had a bunch of Roman ruins and a bunch of churches. What I actually experienced was a city that reminded me of moments with my close group of friends.

Why? Well…

  1. Lyon is multi-cultural; when you walk around you see locals and tourists from all parts of the world and from all walks of life – and everyone seems friendly!  
  2. Lyon likes shopping; the shops span far and wide and everyone is well dressed!  
  3. Lyon loves good food; providing endless choice between casual dining and 5 star restaurants. 
  4. Lyon loves romance – in fact their church, Notre Dame, looks like a castle nestled on the hillside. 
  5. Lyon makes you feel at ease; strolling and chatting along the Rhone River would make anyone feel comfortable. 
  6. And last but not least, Lyon likes to party and loves good music, even if it’s a school night!

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière (aka Notre Dame in Lyon)

If you asked me to choose one thing about Lyon that I love, I will always say Basilica of NotreDame de Fourvière, aka Notre Dame. Notre Dame is the white, castle-like, gothic-style Catholic church located at the top of the hillside. It reminded me of what I would expect a Walt Disney fairy tale castle to look like in real life – I have a fascination with Disney. On top of this great church is a gold Lady Mary statue which is believed to represent Lady Mary, Jesus’ mother, who watches over and protects the city. When we visited Notre Dame, we went by Funicular which took about a minute. You can also walk but we had walked all over town so decided to save our tired feet. Funicular will only cost you a few Euros but will you save time. Also, the view as you ascend is spectacular! I found this guide useful as it describes all means of transportation in Lyon.

Notre Dame, Lyon, France (aka Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere)

Notre Dame is beautiful when you first set your eyes on it and even more beautiful when you go inside. The stain glass windows are what initially caught my eye. Rays of light shone through pictures that told a story about biblical times, while the paintings and statues created a peaceful ambience. I felt like I could sit inside the basilica for hours and feel completely at ease.

The stain glass windows in Basilique Notre Dame in Lyon

That’s just me. So if basilica’s are not your thing, then you may want to stand at the lookout where you’ll get an amazing view of the entire city!

There are so many other parts about Lyon’s personality to love. Just to list a few…

    • Walk along the Rhone River. The river feels like it goes on forever. When we first arrived in Lyon, we just sat by the river watching the boats go by.
The Rhone River in Lyon, France is a great place to get some sun or just relax!
    • Visit the Roman Ruins.  It will feel like a slice of Rome while in France! Although the Ancient Theatre of Fourviere is not as famous as the Colosseum, it’s definitely worth a visit. It reminds you of just how far advanced civilization was hundreds of years ago – much like Pompeii – which by the way is beautiful!!
Ancient Theatre of Fourvière
    • Visit the Miniature Museum in “Old Town” Lyon. You kind of feel like a giant when you enter this museum. When you first walk in there, you can see glass windows which lets you peek into tiny life-like rooms. There are libraries, grocery stores and hospitals just to name a few. I didn’t think I’d enjoy it so much! Did you know that before digital imagery became so popular, they built sets for movies such as Tarzan using these miniature pieces?!!
Miniature Museum in Lyon
    • Wander around “Old Town” or “Vieux Lyon”.  You can easily get lost in the moment as you walk through cobble stoned paths in winding alleyways, while passing vintage style restaurants. When you find a restaurant that you fancy, eat there! Lyon is known to be one of the gastronomic capitals of the world! After trying all the delicious meats, pizza, pastas and desserts, I must say that I whole heartedly agree!
A glimpse of Lyon city central

How to get there? Lyon is one of the largest cities in France so you can get there either by air or rail. I found this site which explains train travel in France. If you can’t speak French, try to learn a few french words from a pocket guidebook, it will get you far!

Where to stay? I’d suggest to stay in Lyon if you want to make the most of your visit. However, if you’re already on the French riviera, then Lyon is within 3 hours by rail from Nice, Marseille or Paris. We found our hotel via tripadvisor so check out as many reviews as possible until you figure out what’s best for you. Just a hint, it’s a big city but the main attractions are in the city centre and “Old Town” so the closer you are to these areas, the better! It will save you money on cab rides – unless you like walking for hours – which is another great way to see the city!

I spent only 2 days in Lyon but would gladly return to see the theatre and eat at more restaurants. Do you have suggestions on other things to do in Lyon? If so, please let me know in the comments below or on twitter! If you want to hear more about my adventures, please subscribe to this blog. There’s so many more travel stories to be told!

Happy travels!!