Europe,  France

Five Unmissable Things to See in Lyon

If you’ve not previously thought about a visit to Lyon, then perhaps you should add it to your list – c’est magnifique! Here’s our guide to some of the best things to see in Lyon…

Lyon is the third largest city in France… but it doesn’t seem like it at all. In fact, the place has a very compact feel, possibly because most of what you’ll want to see is walkable if you’re staying centrally.

However, it’s advisable to pack your stoutest walking shoes as the place is partly built across a hill, which will test the legs of the unwary or the unfit! Be warned, it’s a long way up to the Roman amphitheatre and the La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. But before we go for that hike let’s have a look at what’s accessible without too much exertion…

Musee du Cinema et de la Miniature 

This is genuinely the oddest place you’ll visit in Lyon – nothing comes close to its mix of science fiction and horror film costumes and props, which are topped off, literally and figuratively, by a collection of miniature scenes up on the top floor.

The display of film and TV props include Robocop, Spiderman, the Queen from Aliens, Bond bits and Batman, too. There’s also a bad guy from Buffy, a Martian from Mars Attacks, an Ewok and… well, you get the picture.

The Orion moon bus from 2001 is almost certainly a replica but pretty much everything else is the real deal. This is the place to get up close to some amazing movie magic.

Musee des Confluences

Built at the confluence of two rivers, hence the name, this place combines a natural history museum with an ethnographic museum to great effect. The layout is clean and spacious, the exhibits are all beautifully presented so if you like this sort of place then don’t skip a visit while you’re in town. The modern design of the building itself looks really impressive sat in a prominence between the Saone and the Rhone rivers. Frankly, there’s nothing here not to like and it’s accessible by tram if you’re not feeling like a walk.

Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon

This is the largest French museum outside of Paris… and it’s brilliant. The collections are exhibited in more than 70 rooms and offer visitors an outstanding sample of art from antiquity to the contemporary. 

There are some stunning Egyptian artefacts, works of art from ancient Greece, mediaeval French religious icons, paintings by Rubens, Picasso, Monet, Degas, Gauguin and Bacon… In fact, there’s nothing but outstanding quality throughout the museum – it’s an art-lovers paradise. It’s also on a square the contains some decent bars and restaurants; the ideal spot to refresh after some culture.

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The Roman amphitheatre and museum 

Right – boots on, off we go up the hill. The streets spiral away past apartments, small bars and local shops; in truth it’s not the most inspiring climb. However, the Roman theatre is pretty spectacular and because those Romans knew how to build it’s still in use today.

However, if the theatre’s good then the museum’s even better. The artefacts on display, the statues and mosaics – everything is so well laid out and lit that every turn and corner brings a new thrill. Well, if you like old Roman stuff. I do and was therefore happy to have trekked up a bloody great hill in blazing sunshine. 

Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere

The walk up the basilica (lightweights can take the funicular) is worth it – the views back over the city are fantastic and after all that exertion you deserve an ice cream from the kiosk behind the church next to the square and small park.

The site of the basilica was once the Roman forum of Trajan and you can see why you’d build here – there is no place higher in Lyon. The church was completed in the late 19th century and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary who apparently protected the city from the bubonic plague in 1643. It’s exterior is a little brutal, its interior is overly fussy but it’s the location that’s important. You can get back down to the river via a path that meanders through Parc Des Hauteurs. 

Want more France travel inspiration? Here’s our recommendations for coastal cities and towns to visit in the South of France.

And there’s more…

Lyon is bustling with galleries and museums – enough to keep the weekend visitor very busy indeed. In fact, you’d probably need four days to fully explore the city’s cultural sites, especially if you’re a film buff as this was the home of the Lumiere brothers, who basically invented cinema.

If you add in wine tours, the botanical garden (complete with polar bear) and a bike ride you could easily fill a week without any trouble. Moreover, it’s a regular destination for easyJet flying out of Gatwick and there are place to stay for all budgets. 

Full disclosure: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which mean, at no additional cost to you, LWT will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase. Thanks for your support!

Things to See in Lyon – pin for later!

This is a guest post by Anthony Clark, journalist, copywriter and longtime friend of the Ladies What Travel team. He loves beer, cheese and travel and is a genius when it comes to making the most of his annual leave.


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