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Best things to do in Lyon

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Where in the world: Europe  /  France  /  Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes  /  Rhone  /  Lyon

Top 15 things to do in Lyon

1. Parc de la Tete d'Or

Parc de la Tete d'Or is 117 hectares (290 acres) of urban outdoor fun. The locals love it for jogging and cycling, while you’ll love it for boating, the zoo, and mini-golf. Construction of this city oasis began in 1812 and continues to the present day. The city adds exhibits every few years, such as an African Safari addition to the zoo in 2010. Although the park takes its name for a legendary treasure that may have been buried on its grounds, you’ll find that the real treasure isn't gold or diamonds but the serenity of the park’s environs.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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2. Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere

Emperor Trajan once tread the ground of the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere, now it's your turn. The basilica rests on top of the site of Trajan’s Roman forum; in fact, the French still refer to the site at Vieux-Forum (Old Forum). It wasn’t only Trajan who recognized the import of this location. Several French historical figures also made pilgrimages to the hill. Today, the basilica built on the site offers you a panoramic view of the city from its north tower. Private funds went to build this impressive structure in 1872 as a grand thank you to the Virgin Mary for saving Lyon from a cholera epidemic in 1823. With the Gothic detail of its edifice, the vaulted arches gracing the nave, and the colored light refracting from the stained glass, it may be one of the world’s grandest thank-you cards.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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3. Traboules du Vieux Lyon

Traboules are a type of covered passageway Lyon is known for. Traboules du Vieux Lyon were built mainly as footpaths for silk merchants in the 14th century to transport their goods. However, some believe that they appeared as early as the 4th century to transport water from the Saone river to people's homes. During World War II, Traboules du Vieux Lyon provided cover for local resistance fighters against German invasion. About 40 traboules are open to the public; others are only for private use. Keep your eyes peeled inside the snake-like passageways. You may spot secret exits, hidden spiral staircases, and shortcuts that lead to an off-the-beaten path cafe.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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4. Vieux Lyon

Exquisite preservation of Vieux Lyon allows you to walk back in time to the 16th century. Narrow streets are flanked by solid rows of earth-toned buildings, flower-boxed windows, and balconies with wooden balastrades. Wander through meandering, roofed passages, called "traboules," on a hunt for the Gothic Cathedral of St. Jean. The Romanesque structure next to the cathedral is the Manecanterie, a museum showcasing the cathedral’s treasures. The Saint Jean quarter, where you'll find these historic buildings, was the epicenter of French political and religious power in the Middle Ages. Nowadays, it is the focal point of Lyon culture where the Museum of Miniatures and Film Sets displays its curiosities in a 15th-century architectural masterpiece. Add to that charming street performers and quaint cafes. Take a tour of the former commercial center of the city, settled by wealthy Italian bankers and silk merchants in the 15th and 16th centuries. Here, you’ll bask in the shadows of the luxurious hôtels particuliers, once the homes of influential tycoons. One of these, the Hôtel de Gadagne, is the residence of the Lyon History Museum and the International Puppet Museum.
Suggested duration: 1 hour
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5. Colline de Fourviere

Colline de Fourviere is the site of a Roman settlement from 43 BC. You’ll see the ruins of a theater, baths, and even an Odeon that was once part of a thriving community on the south side of the hill. The Odeon is the site of a museum and often hosts concerts and performances. However, the hill is most known primarily as the origin of the Festival of Lights, which takes place in Lyon every year, as well as the Basilica of Fourviere and the two oldest functioning funicular lines. Most spectacular of all is La Tour Metallique, an extravagant metal tower, which exceeds the height of the Eiffel Tower, and nowadays is used as a television tower. Wander around the hill’s highest point for views of the city, mainly an enchanting view of Vieux Lyon (Old Town) directly below.
Suggested duration: 2 hours
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6. Musee Miniature et Cinema

See exquisite miniatures and learn about movie special effects at Musee Miniature et Cinema, housed in a 15th-century architectural masterpiece. Inside the Maison des Avocats (House of Lawyers), you’ll find miniatures carved in minute detail. The museum is the brainchild of Dan Ohlmann, a cabinetmaker with a passion for detail that led to a career as one of the leading miniaturist artists in the world. Over 100 miniatures display hyper-realistic scenes of everyday life, such as a local market, a bedroom, or a salon complete with bookshelves and teacups. Continue to the second floor where you'll see the artists at work. Watch as a miniature takes shape under the steady hand of these resident artists. If you’re hungry for more magic, then don’t miss the film special-effects exhibit displayed in the other half of the historic building; the dynamic displays and reenactments reveal the trickery behind the camera.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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8. Room Escape Games

Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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10. Théâtre gallo-romain

Ten thousand Roman spectators once occupied the seats of Théâtre gallo-romain; now, the theater is a historian's playground. Walk on the stage and become Nero performing in front of his reluctant audience, or Cicero inspiring his people. Alternatively, sit in the stone aisles and imagine a spectacle of Roman gods from a citizen's view. In either case, you'll be awed by the lost glory of Rome.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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11. Lake Annecy, Annecy

Lake Annecy bears the nickname of "Europe's Cleanest Lake,” because of strict environmental regulations that have been in place since the 1960s. Consequently, it is also a hotspot for water sports and swimming. You’ll understand why when you see its delicate blue waters up close, clear to the bottom, and as untouched as the day it was discovered. The effect of the lake's beauty is immortalized in Paul Cezanne's painting "Le Lac Bleu," which took its inspiration from it in 1896.

The lake formed 18,000 years ago, when alpine glaciers melted. Fed by multiple rivers and an underground water source, it is a basin for the cleanest of water. Consider a refreshing dip at one of the beaches and enjoy the day with a picnic, instead of spending bundles at local cafes.
Suggested duration: 4 hours
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12. Musee des Confluences

The Musée des Confluences is a science centre and anthropology museum which opened on 20 December 2014 in the 2nd arrondissement of Lyon, (Rhône), France. It is located at the southern tip of the Presqu'île at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône, adjacent to Autoroute A7, and comprises part of a larger redevelopment project of the Confluence quarter of Lyon. The deconstructivist architectural design, said to resemble a floating crystal cloud of stainless steel and glass, was created by the Austrian firm Coop Himmelb(l)au.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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13. Hôtel-Dieu Museum Musée de l'Hôtel-Dieu, Beaune

Hôtel-Dieu Museum Musée de l'Hôtel-Dieu is one of the finest examples of 15th century French architecture covered in gothic facades, glazed rooftops, and flamboyantly colored geometrical figures. A collection of 5,000 objects includes furniture, tapestries, and other objects such as the famous altarpiece of the "Last Judgment" by Rogier van der Weyden. The building is a former charitable almshouse founded in 1443 by Nicolas Rolin, chancellor of Burgundy, as a hospital for the poor.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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14. Cathedrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon

A superb representation of French Medieval architecture, Cathedrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon impresses with its craftsmanship and its dwarfing nave. At 32.5 m (106.6 ft), the nave stands as a reminder of Lyon's ecclesiastical power. The cathedral was the seat of power in Lyon from the 11th to the 15th centuries. In 1079, the pope granted the archbishop of Lyon the title of Primate of All the Gauls with the legal supremacy over the principal archbishops of the kingdom. That is why the cathedral bears the nickname “Primatiale.” The two crosses installed on either side of the altar in 1274 commemorate a union of churches. The Bourbon Chapel built by a son-in-law of Louis XI, are both noteworthy sites inside the cathedral.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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15. Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is a covered marketplace with over 50 upscale shops and restaurants. Newly built in the 1960s, this is also a market with the best of Lyon's ingredients for the city's famous cuisine. Sausages, dumplings, and snails are hung, iced, and arranged just so to lure your eye away from competing vendors; this isn't the original market, but a reconstructed version. The original was built in 1869, but later was demolished. The locals missed a market where they could purchase the best goods directly from the origin, so it was reconstructed in its full glory and with modern improvements, such as spacious walkways.
Suggested duration: 1h 30 min
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