While Marseille has the second largest population in France (after Paris), there is another city that is actually considered to be the “second French city” likely because of its economic importance and because of the many cultural events in the city such as the Festival of Lights (in December). Here are some of the highlights during a weekend Lyon (with a map of the locations at the end of this post). It is an easy city to explore and one of the interesting places to visit is Fourviere Hill in Lyon.
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Destination: Fourvière Hill, Lyon
When you visit Lyon be sure to wander around the peninsula, Presqu’île, and the town centre, Place Bellecour, which is one of the largest squares in France. The peninsula is surrounded by the two main rivers, the Rhône and Saône and is likely on your way to Fourvière Hill.
As you head west from the peninsula is the Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) area and then Fourvière Hill. I think one of the best things you can do in Lyon is to visit Fourvière Hill and take advantage of the excellent views of the city. But don’t walk up. Take the funicular. The ride itself is part of the fun of visiting the area. After your visit, walk down to the city centre.
Funicular Up To Fourvière Hill
In the heart of Vieux Lyon are the “Funiculars of Lyon”. A funicular is basically a railway on a steep incline and in Lyon the funiculars take you high above Lyon. There used to be 5 funicular railways, but today only 2 remain (Funicular Fourvière and Funicular Saint-Just). Both start at Saint-Jean.
One takes you to Notre Dame de Fourvière and the other to Saint-Just with a stop at the Théâtre Romain ( the ancient Roman amphitheatre). I took the one to Notre Dame. It was my starting point and from there I walked down to the Roman amphitheatre and then to Vieux Ville.
Cost to take the funicular: 1.9 €
Address: the funicular is located at the Metro Vieux Lyon at 6 Avenue du Doyenné
Fourvière Hill Sights
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
You can’t miss Notre Dame Basilica, high on Fourvière hill. There are magnificent panoramic views of the city from the esplanade which is adjacent to the church. You’ll also see Tour Métallique de Fourvière (the Metallic tower of Fourvière) , which was built between 1892 and 1894 and resembles Paris’ Eiffel Tower. It is often called the “Eiffel of Lyon”.
Notre Dame is a working church with Sunday services and one of the top Lyon attractions. The golden statue of the Virgin Mary sits on top of Chapelle de la Veerge Tower. You can go inside; however, you cannot take photos.
Address: 8 Place de Fourvière, 69005 Lyon, France
Ancient Theatre of Fouvière Hill: Théâtre Gallo-Romain
Near Notre Dame is the Roman amphitheatre of Fourvière. First built in 15 BC and again in the 2nd century, today, many of the Roman ruins remain and in the summer the music festival, “Nuits de Fourvière” takes place here.
It is one of many Roman amphitheatres still in existence in France. I did have a peek at the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière which is on-site. It has an extensive collection of Roman artifacts; however, I just didn’t have time to do it justice. It does get rave reviews.
Address: Rue de l’Antiquaille
Four Insider’s Tips
Sweet Treat At Boulangerie du Palais
I highly recommend you line up at the #1 boulangerie in Lyon, Boulangerie du Palais and purchase their “Brioche aux pralines de St. Jean.” Trust me. It will be worth the wait. Although you see pink all throughout the bun, those are not berries. Rather, they are caramelized almonds which are pink. Another very popular treat is the “Allumette aux Pralines” which is a fat praline straw—-flaky and sweet with candied pink almonds.
Address: 8 Rue du Palais de Justice
The Traboules In Lyon
Old Lyon is aptly named “Vieux Lyon” and it has very large Renaissance neighbourhoods from the 1500s. One of the sights you should consider visiting on your way to Fouvière are the “traboules”, which are passageways that were created by silk manufacturers to move their products throughout the city and to the river. It was simply a faster way rather than go outside and around buildings.
This began in the 4th century and today only some of the passageways are open to the public as they are often located in residential buildings. There is a tour by the tourist office or you can find the doorway at 27 rue du Boeuf. You’ll likely see other tourists entering. Your exit will be at 54 rue St. Jean. The Vieux Lyon area has narrow, cobblestone streets. It is chock full of stores, restaurants, bars, and can be quite touristy.
Getting Into Lyon: Take The Rhône Express
Lyon doesn’t feel like a big city. It’s easy to get into the centre of town (Gare Part Dieu) from the airport by taking the airport shuttle, the Rhône Express train. It’s just over 15 € if you book in advance (note: free for children under 12).
Convenient Accommodations In Lyon
I often stay near Gare Part Dieu because its the main stop for the Rhône Express and when I had travelled north to Paris or west to Roanne, the train station has always been Part Dieu, so it is most convenient to stay in the area.
My preferred hotel are Ibis hotels—the Hotel Ibis Lyon Part Dieu Les Halles and the Hôtel ibis Styles Lyon Centre – Gare Part Dieu. Both are excellent, reasonably priced, and in the perfect locations. My last stay was the Ibis Styles and it couldn’t have been closer—200 metres down the street from the train station.
Ibis Styles Lyon Center Part Dieu Address: 54 Rue de la Villette
After visiting Fourviere Hill in Lyon here are other things to see and do (and where to eat):
Institut Lumière -celebrating cinema
La Meunière– classic Lyonnais bouchon
Lyon’s Traboules and Fresques -hidden passageways and wall murals
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