Things to do:
- Visit the Basilique de Fourvière
- Check out the views beside the basilica, and walk down to vieux Lyon through the gardens
- Walk from Place Bellecour to Hôtel de Ville, seeing the various fountains and all the shops
- Eat at a typical Lyonnais Restaurant- A Bouchon
- Walk around Lyon at night and see how the beautiful buildings are all lit up
So I have to start at the beginning I suppose: Lyon. Having decided to embark on a year abroad for University, Lyon was instantly my first choice of destination. Why? I am still unsure myself. I am from the Berkshire countryside, and I go to University in Norwich, which is a rather small city. I wanted something different, something big and exciting. And Lyon seemed to fit these requirements.
Rather than talking about my year abroad, which is not the idea of this blog, I will try to stick specifically to travel blogging and talking about the city and its beautiful sights.
Lyon is situated in the Rhône-Alpes region, centre/south-east of France, in between Paris and Marseille. It is close to the alps, which means very cold winters, but very warm summers.
Map of France, Lyon indicated
The main centre of Lyon is on the “Presqu’il” which means “Nearly Island” in English. There are two rivers that run through Lyon, and they meet at Confluence in the south of the city, which creates a “nearly island” in the city. The main centre on Presqu’il is Place Bellecour, which is one of the largest squares in Europe. It contains a statue of Louis XIV, and a beautiful view of the Basilica- Fourvière. Throughout the year there are many events that take place in Bellecour, with some highlights for me being a huge Ferris Wheel and an international festival. It is also where the tourism office is situated.
Place Bellecour on the Presqu’il
The Basilique de Fourvière is the iconic site in Lyon. It was built by the people of Lyon, and is used for daily masses.
Entrance to Fourvière
The inside of the building is truly magnificent, with mosaics from floor to ceiling in the upper church, with the lower church being more simplistic. It also contains several small chapels.
Inside of Fourvière
The view from the top of Fourvière is incredible, and if you’re very lucky, you will get a great view of the Alps and Mont Blanc. It provides a beautiful view over Lyon, and gives you a good idea of how the city is laid out.
Overlooking Lyon, Mont Blanc in the background
Further north of Bellecour, but still on the Presqu’il, you will find the Opéra and the Hôtel de Ville. They are both beautiful buildings situated right next to each other, and provide a focal point for the fête des lumières, or festival of lights, which is a famous festival in Lyon around the 8th of December every year.
Opéra de Lyon
Every year, the Opera has an ‘Open Doors’ day, where you can look around inside. It is really fantastic, and gave me the opportunity to take this unique shot of Hôtel de Ville with Fourvière in the background.
View from the top of the Opera
And this is Hôtel de Ville during Fête des Lumières. This photo does not give the Festival of Lights the credit it deserves, and I would fully encourage people to watch Youtube videos, and then to travel to Lyon itself to see the spectacles!
Hôtel de Ville during Fête des Lumières
The above sights in Lyon are the main touristic sights. However there are also plenty of other beautiful buildings situated throughout Lyon. I have been visited by friends and family to Lyon, and most have remarked that there are a lot of fountains in this city, each very different and unique, but all very grand and striking. I would definitely recommend just wandering around Presqu’il and admire the French architecture. Visiting Vieux Lyon is a must- the building are incredibly old, and it has a fantastic atmosphere, with many bars, pubs and restaurants. As Lyon is the food capital of the world, it is imperative to eat in one of the many bouchons situated in Vieux Lyon.
Perhaps the most striking building after Fourvière, is Lyon’s tallest building, in the shape of a pencil, called Tour Part Dieu, although more commonly known as Le Crayon (see the above photo of the view from the top of Fourvière). It is an office building with a hotel at the top. The bar at the top is open to the public, and it gives views of the East of the city and it’s suburbs. Close to Part Dieu is Les Halles, a huge indoor market. There are many markets in Lyon, and this one stands out with it’s incredible food on offer.
Parc de la tête d’or (park of the golden head) is a huge park situated very close to the city centre. It features a large lake, where people can hire various boats out. It also has a large zoo, and a botanical gardens- which are both free to visit. It also has seemingly endless grassed areas, both in the sun and the shade provided by trees. It is the perfect place to relax in the sun, to go for a run, or to take the kids to the zoo- it really does have everything, and is a must-visit place in Lyon.
Parc de la tête d’or
One thing that almost immediately struck me when I came to Lyon was it’s incredible transport network. It is very efficient, reasonably priced and covers a very wide area. For a single ticket- 1,70€. The downside- it is so good that I have become so lazy, taking the metro just 1 or 2 stops which would normally be just a 10 minute walk. There is also a bike system where you can hire bikes for an hour from a station in one part of the city, and leave it at another station anywhere else. There are direct high speed train services (TGV) to Paris and the south several times a day, as well as many smaller lines to regional parts of France. The airport has many flights to many different countries, including places as far away as Dubai. The Rhône Express is a tram service that takes you from the centre of the city to the airport in under 30 minutes, although it is quite costly at over 10€ for a single ticket.
Lyon nightlife has been fantastic but very costly. Drinking in pubs and bars is very expensive, with the average pint costing you 6€. Being in France, and so close to the Beaujolais region, wine is of course very cheap in Supermarkets. The main area to find bars is around Hôtel de Ville, or along the river Rhône where there are bars on boats, and even huge nightclubs, most notably Ayers Rock Boat and La Platforme.
I have immensely enjoyed living in this city, and all of my friends and family that have visited have loved it. Before coming here, I certainly did not expect the beauty and grandeur that Lyon has. It is perfect for a short get away, and I would thoroughly recommend it to all ages. I will leave you with this photo taken on Bastille day, July 14th, with a view over the river Rhône and the building Hôtel Dieu.
Hôtel Dieu during 14 juillet