The practical parts of the city.
Last week, I wrote all about why I love Lyon, France, but in the whole long, loving ramble, I never really discussed the amazing things you can do there that make the city worth falling in love with.
Unless your plan involves getting started late in the day, or turning in early every afternoon/evening and exploring every part of the city, I would say a full two to two and a half days will give you a great sense of this city, while giving you a chance to see the sites. A rush job can hit the highlights in a day, but you will inevitably miss something and it wouldn’t be worth the price to get there. I was in Lyon for a solid three days and—with feet threatening to leave me—it was just a little longer than necessary.
Not that you couldn’t fill that time reexploring the sites around the city, but if you’re trying to get the most out of your time off—even taking your time—two days will get you through.
While getting to the city is a bit pricey, getting around once you are in it is cheap and easy to navigate—plus getting tickets on the underground/subway system is explained very well at the automated ticket booths with tons of practical choices. In terms of buying the tickets, you’ll want to plan what you are doing in the city (as you always do!) for the whole time you are there, or just buy as you go.
I ended up walking a lot more than I expected to the point where I really only took the transportation to get to my furthest starting points and then wandered through the city to get back to my hostel—even then, if I was strapped for cash, I could have easily walked the whole thing.
Of course, it’s nice to have an all-day pass if you tend to get tired or want to jump around a bit more. Just look at your options and see what works for you; again, the tickets don’t cost you much for the short while you’ll probably be staying.
Sights to see:
Now, I’ve already gushed on and on about OLD TOWN and what an amazing place that is to explore, so we’ll save time by saying check my Lyon tag where I’ve rambled on about old town in a few posts and, remember, you can push at doors and buttons near them to check out the many courtyards throughout this part of town—depending on how adventurous you are feeling.
Above old town, lies under the Basilique Norte Dame which you can access via a lift (get off at the second/last stop), but we’ll go the way I did. I got off at the first stop which brings you to the entry level of THEATRE ET ODEON ANTIQUES; Roman ruins. You’re free to run all over these theatres from the many stairs to the stages to the alcoves of the scattered buildings—just be careful and be safe; it’s all old and steep so you don’t want to hurt the buildings or yourself by going too fast.
Beyond the theatres, there are the Roman AQUEDUCTS and the CEMETERY OF LOYASSE which are supposed to be amazing, but I never made it out that far. As I said in another post, I ended up walking around with another traveler so we ended up looping back through the lovely parkways—which also deserve further exploration the next time I am in town—and up to LA BASILIQUE NOTRE DAME DE FOURVIERE.
This Basilique is beautiful and you can go in and explore if this is the kind of thing you are interested in but the truly amazing feature is the view from the outlooks around the cathedral. Lyon doesn’t feel much like city when you are a wandering it—more like a town you might expect to find Disney’s Belle wandering through reading her books—but from any one of these points, you really understand that this is indeed a city. As you look down and out, you’ll see that the city not only leaps two rivers (which meet outside the city) but crawls up hill and mountain sides in beautiful pastels.
If you’re a fan of street art (both official and not), then the MUR DES CANUTS and the wandering walk down between the Soane and the Rhone rivers is where you’ll want to be.
Mur des Canuts is a mural of the cityscape—it’s huge and gorgeous and there is an alcove next to it for anyone interested in its history, but it’s also pretty far above most your other sites as well as up a bit of an incline. I suggest taking the subway system to Henon and once you exit the station, it’s a straight walk to the mural.
Once you’re done, keep moving in the same direction and explore the area. It has the same feel of old town but something indescribable as well. I grew up in LA and have spent time on film lots—this area feels like it should be part of an old Hollywood picture—it feels like your being pulled into part of a story just by wandering. While you go, keep your eyes peeled because the art is everywhere and worth following just to see where you may end up next.
I wandered all the way down, zigzagging through the city, and stumble upon a many things, including a self-guided walking tour which starts around CASERNE ST-LAURENT and takes you through LES TRABOULES, letting off by the OPERA. I highly recommend this tour; you see so much of the city with plaques directing you and explaining things alone the way, great views and tons of street art to boot. Fair warning, however: this is a long walk (especially coming from Mur des Cantus) and there are a lot of stairs. In this direction, it’s mostly downward slopes but it’s worth paying attention to.
After reaching the opera and taking pictures of the statues and whatever else you feel the need to check out, you can make a quick run to the other side of the—as I call it—central island to the MUSEE DES BEAUS-ARTS DE LYON. Even if you aren’t a fan of art museums, the architecture in the square is cool. There’s an intense horse fountain and the surrounding area is a must. The buildings are great, there are places to shop, and hidden gems of art murals that are just waiting for you.
I’ve done a segment before where I talked about my love for walking rivers—they are central to building cities (water, duh), so a lot of life stems from them. Lyon is great for this, but only up to a point. I went so far beyond that point that it got a little sketchy.
This is something I did on my last day, in bad shoes and I didn’t listen to my gut when I told me to turn around. NOTHING BAD HAPPENED—that needs to be emphasized, but following the river it turns out, takes you out of the city where things are less pretty.
I started pretty level with Gare St-Paul metro station and followed the river down to where they merge and back up the Rhone a little further than Les Traboules. Unless you have a friend and really good shoes, don’t do this.
Firstly, you end up on deserted and sketchy paths walking across from the shipping ports where you feel like you might be in a horror movie—at this point you will not find a bridge to help you across to the center island until the merge and you are no longer in Lyon (Lyon is where the pretty stuff is!). On the way there are some cool things you can explore—a cool hiking path and a place you can imagine the weeping angels living in, but you won’t want to explore alone so really this is best for a group! The way back is less sketchy but by then your feel will hate you, and you’ll just want to go find a bathroom and go to bed.
There’s cool art as well along the walk but it’s really situated along the rivers inside or just out of the city limits. It you want to do this (besides the group stuff mentioned above!), walk the river from about where I started but when you reach an area filled with highway looking streets and a bridge near the underpass, take the bridge (it’s the LAST ONE!!), cut across the city and start again at the other side.
The rivers coming together is a pretty sight but really not worth the blisters, I promise.
Anyway, that’s about it. Ask any more questions and put this on the must-visit list, you won’t be disappointed.
This is Leave on the Wind, helping you soar.