I arrived in Lyon by train one sunny afternoon and carried my heavy backpack from the station to the funiculaire at the bottom of a steep hill. It was quite a thrill to travel up to my hostel in this fashion. I remember the pretty purple flowers draping themselves around the buildings, as my small transparent carriage steadily rose up, revealing beautiful views over this pretty French city. Over the next five days, I would explore Lyon by foot, hiking up the long staircase each time I needed to return to my accommodation to rest. It would certainly keep my fitness levels high!
As a lover of cinema, the arts and French food, Lyon is a paradise! There are crêpe stalls around every corner, delicious boulangeries and markets brimming with fresh produce. You can explore the Institute & Musée Lumière and learn all about the early days of the film industry or, if you prefer, simply stroll around the city streets, admiring the pastel coloured buildings, street art and old cobbled laneways. Don’t forget to bring some comfortable walking shoes – there is so much to see and do!
Completed in 1476, this historical Roman Catholic cathedral is easy to find and a great meeting place if you are travelling with friends. Situated close to the banks of the river and within walking distance to my hostel, I often enjoyed eating my lunch by the fountain here, observing people going about their day. Inside, you can find an organ, along with the Astronomical Clock dating from the 14th Century.
The narrow cobbled streets of Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon), with their coloured buildings and hundreds of restaurants and cafes, were among my favourite places to explore in this city. During the day, vendors sell crêpes of all varieties and you can enjoy shopping for souvenirs. At night, the restaurants come alive. Lyon is known for its fabulous cuisine and the meals I ate were no exception – creamy potato gratin, salads and chocolate puddings come to mind. I also recall a colourful lolly shop, with barrels full of sweets!
Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls
The oldest parts of this amphitheatre date back to 19 AD! My imagination runs wild at these kinds of places – to think of political leaders and influential performers getting their messages across on this stage over the centuries is awe-inspiring. The ruins sit in the Jardin des Plantes and are free to visit.
Institut & Musée Lumière
Home to the Lumiére brothers and family, this wonderful museum showcases their 19th Century house, along with a comprehensive exhibition on the evolution of film-making. It includes a huge range of early cameras and filming equipment. For anyone interested in the history of cinema, this place is fascinating.
Musée Miniature et Cinéma
Located in Vieux Lyon (the old quarter of the city), this museum is full to the brim of miniature film sets and also covers a range of special effects techniques used in films. The amount of detail in the miniature sets is astonishing and you can spend hours browsing the exhibition.
Opera National de Lyon
I met some backpackers in my hostel who had found out a great way to get discounted tickets to the ballet. Being a lover of dance and music, I decided to do the same. Arriving an hour before the show that day, I was able to spend under 10 Euros and get a ticket in the side stalls. The show was stunning, with a variety of dance pieces, branching into the post-modern style and including shadow puppetry. I was extremely impressed by the show, not to mention the beautiful opera house, with its grand entrance hall and theatre. Check on ticket deals by contacting the venue directly – prices have probably changed since I visited four years ago.
Fresh market produce
One morning, I walked across the river to find myself amidst a bustling food market. Vendors were shouting out their wares, stalls overflowed with cheeses, meats, breads, fresh fruit and vegetables. I couldn’t help but buy myself a delicious selection of treats to take on a picnic: fresh baguette, brie cheese, olives, cherry tomatoes and raspberries!
La Bonne Maison
As a favour to my mum, who absolutely adores old-fashioned roses, I promised her I would visit this beautiful rose garden in Lyon. The house and gardens were splendid, although arriving later in the season would have been prettier, because more would have been in bloom. Nonetheless, these gardens are in a spectacular location up on the hill and I enjoyed a pleasant morning strolling around and chatting to the friendly owners.
Parc de la Tête d’Or
I was fascinated by this large urban park, with wide open lakes, a zoo, botanic gardens, glasshouses and even a small train that ran all the way around the lake. As you enter, you see the carousel spinning, people roller blading on the footpaths and families picnicking on the green lawns. Continue to walk around the lake and you will come across giraffes, rose gardens and much more!
Aside from the attractions above, Lyon was an historically important area for silk weaving. I was eager to visit the Lyon Textile Museum, but my visit coincided with the Easter long weekend and I found a lot of the museums to be closed. However, it is always good to have some unexplored places for next time!
Have you been to Lyon? What are your recommendations?