Even though it is the second-leading city in France (after Paris of course), Lyon remains surprisingly undiscovered by most tourists. Even though you will not see this city in many tourist itineraries, those who are willing to take the time to understand Lyon will find and adore its cultural treasures. There is a reason that Lyon is on the UNESCO World Heritage list. There is so much to see and explore in Lyon, we would rather show you some of it than talk about it.
Old Town Lyon – Quartier Saint-Georges and Quartier Saint-Jean
You are able to enjoy the city’s Old World charm by getting lost in the atmospheric Quartier Saint-Jean. You can find this medieval quarter just north of the cathedral, and it is filled with quiet little courtyards and narrow cobblestone lanes. Start around the Place Neuve Saint-Jean and the Rue du Boeuf. Make your way around the pedestrian streets of Rue des Trois Maries and Rue Saint-Jean.
Once you get to Place du Petit Collège, make sure to explore the Hôtel de Gadagne. This mansion (dating back to the 15th century) is home to two different museums: the Puppet Museum (Musée des Marionnettes du Monde) and the History Museum (Musée d’Histoire de Lyon).
The Musée des Beaux Arts
Once you get to the Musée des Beaux-Arts, you will be able to appreciate the impressive cultural heritage of Lyon. Right after the Louvre, this is considered the best fine arts museum in France. The museum is located in the Palais Saint-Pierre, this was once a Benedictine convent. It has one of the largest artwork collections in all of Europe and the works here range from decorative art, sculptures, paintings, and antiquities – all from ancient Egypt to the present day. You will also be able to find a great range of Impressionist paintings and modern art.
The Museum of Archaeology (Musée de la Civilisation Gallo-Romaine)
The very place where Lyon is now, once used to be home to the Roman city Lugdunum. Lugdunum was founded back in 43 BC and served as Gaul’s capital. This is an excellent archaeology museum that has a number of different Gallo-Roman-era objects including ceramics, coins, statues, mosaics, gravestones, and vases. Everything that you see here came from the city of Lugdunum (the many onsite digs), or the nearby Roman archaeological sites of Vienne and Saint-Romain-en-Gal.
Colline de la Croix-Rousse
This historic neighborhood is built on the slopes of the Croix-Rousse hillside, and it served as an important weaving center back in the early 19th century. There are many staircases and charming curves here because of the gradient of the streets. The collection of “traboules” is certainly the most unique aspect of the neighborhood. These traboules served as public hallways that led through the quarter of some private homes. Silk workers would use these special alleyways to transport their fabrics safely.
Centre d’Histoire de la Resistance et de la Deportation
Even though France has sometimes been made into a joke as far as resistance in World War II is concerned, the city of Lyon was renowned as being the “Capital of the Resistance.” Lyon fought against the Nazi regime for as long as it possibly could. The building that houses this museum was once the home for the head of the Gestapo in Lyon. The History center here tells about members of the resistance, the hidden children of deportees, and the deportees themselves. There is a permanent exhibit here that shows some of the major events of the war and also focuses on the years that France was occupied by the Nazis.
Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourviere
The Basilique Notre-Dame manages to rise above the Saone River by about 130 meters. Located alongside Fourviere Hill, this is a truly stunning location. The funiculars running up the hill make the Basilica accessible. This amazing church was built after the Franco-Prussian War ended. The people of Lyon offered to build a Marian sanctuary, provided that their city be spared during the war. The Basilica is a blend between Byzantine and Gothic styles. Even though the interior is worth the time to come here, you should climb to the northeast tower. From here, you are able to experience some breathtaking views of the cityscape of Lyon and the surrounding areas.
Visit the gourmet restaurants
You have to indulge in the famous regional cuisine when you visit Lyon. The local cuisine is certainly hearty, and it includes salads, sausages, and meat dishes. The most unique dish that you have to try here are the “quenelles.” This is a fish dumpling covered with a rich, creamy sauce. The “Bouchons Lyonnais” brasseries are certainly the most authentic places that you are going to find here as well.
Make sure to stay in luxury
If you are going to enjoy everything that Lyon has to offer, you need to make sure that you do so in style. The Cour des Loges has four restored Renaissance buildings and binds them together under a massive courtyard. There is a luxury spa, two different restaurants (with wine cellar) and complimentary wireless Internet.