Since we have been together, we have been making what we call a “winter trip” within Europe during the first two months of every year. It almost seems a tradition between us, at least for the time being. When looking for our 2017 “winter trip”, we discovered an amazing city that we had quite close but that (wrongly) was not on our travel wish list.
We found really affordable flights to Lyon that perfectly suited the dates on which we wanted to travel, so we finally had a destination: we would visit Lyon at the beginning of January. Although Lyon is not as much visited as other cities in France such as Paris or Nice, the truth is that it has plenty of things to see. In fact, the Historic Site of Lyon has been evolving for more than two millennia, since the founding of the ancient Lugdunum in 43 BC, and thus is currently part of the UNESCO World Heritage.
In our weekend in Lyon we had the opportunity to enjoy the beautiful architecture of the city, from the ancient Roman theatres to the recently built Musée des Confluences. Below you can find a brief description of what we visited in each of the three amazing days that we spent in Lyon.
We arrived at our hotel (Campanile Lyon Centre – Gare Perrache – Confluence, a practical three-star hotel located very close to Place Bellecour, which is the kilometric zero point in Lyon) early in the afternoon, and thus we had sufficient time to visit the Musée des Confluences before its closure at 7pm. In this amazing building placed on the confluence of the rivers Rhône and Saône, visitors have access to a journey through the world history by exploring the four permanent exhibitions of the museum: “Origins, the stories of the World”, “Species, the network of life”, “Societies, the theatre of mankind” and, finally, “Eternities, visions of the afterlife”. It surely deserves a visit!
We ended our first day in the City with a very cold (-6ºC) walk and a dinner in the surroundings of Place Bellecour.
On our second day in Lyon it was the time to visit the Fourvière hill, which can be reached by means the funicular that departs from the Vieux Lyon.
We entered the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which has an amazing inside and was built at the end of the 19th century by taking elements from the Romanesque and Byzantine architecture. From the viewpoint located outside the Basilica you will have a nice view of the city (a good place to take some photos!).
In the hill you can also find the two Roman theatres. The smaller theatre is called the Odeon and was used for poetry and musical recitals. Next to the theatres you will find the Musée Gallo-Romain, which is devoted to the history of the Gallo-Roman civilisation in Lyon. We strongly recommend visiting this museum to get an idea on the foundation of the city and the importance that it had during the Roman Empire as the capital of the Three Gauls.
After lunch, we had booked a guided visit around the Vieux Lyon. Certain guided visits are free if you are in possession of a Lyon Card (see below). The visit around the Vieux Lyon seems to be the most popular one and, while other visits are only available in French, this one is given both in French and in English. If you have purchased a Lyon Card and want to enjoy one of those guided visits, you can book it by following the procedure indicated in the website www.visiterlyon.com and introducing when requested the code shown in the back of your card. We strongly recommend booking the Vieux Lyon guided visit if you want to learn interesting facts about the history of the city from a local and how to “trabouler”, it is worth it! The visit covers also the Saint-Jean Cathedral.
Later in the afternoon, we visited the one of the Musées Gadagne devoted to the World Puppets (the other one is devoted to the history of the city) and then moved to the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood, which is also located in a hill and has been heavily influenced by the role played by Lyon in the silk industry. As said in Lyon, the Croix-Rousse is the hill that works while Fourvière is the hill that prays. We ended our second day in Lyon with a nice dinner back in the Vieux Lyon.
We flew back to Barcelona early in the afternoon, so we had the entire morning available to visit some places in the city that we could not see the day before. Under a light snow, we started our third day in Lyon with a morning walk around the Parc de la Tête d’Or. With an extension of 117 hectares, this park was designed in 1857 and is one of the largest urban parks in France. When we visited the park, the weather was really cold, so we had the opportunity to take great pictures of its lake partially frozen.
Later, we visited the Musée des Beaux Arts (Museum of Fine Arts), located in a former Benedictine convent in Place des Terreaux. This is the main museum of the city and one of the most important in Europe, with 70 exhibition rooms and a collection that ranges from Egypt antiquities to works by some renowned European artists, such as Rubens, Rembrandt, Géricault and Delacroix. If you are interested, it also has temporary exhibitions (for instance, when we visited the museum, there was an exhibition devoted to Henri Matisse).
Our suggestion: Lyon City Card
When planning our trip to Lyon, we made our calculations and noticed that at least for us the cheapest way to visit the city was to buy the Lyon City Card for 2 days with the tickets from and to the Saint Exupéry airport by the Rhônexpress train included. Lyon City Cards are available at www.lyoncitycard.com and the option that we purchased costs 49 euros per person. You can buy them online and pick them up at the welcoming point of the airport. Those cards also cover the transport inside the city.
By means of the card we visited for free the following city attractions: Musée des Confluences, Musée Gallo-Romain de Fourvière, Musées Gadagne and Musée des Beaux Arts, and we also enjoyed a free guided visit through the Vieux Lyon. Note that the activities included in the card were available within the 48 hours following the first purchase of an activity covered by the card. However, the city transport was counted by natural days and thus, on our third day in the city, we had to pay the transport that we used separately.