Lyon, was the capital of Gaul under the rule of the Roman Empire. It was during the Renaissance period when Lyon became a major European trading town, mainly for its silk weaving. Visiting Lyon’s Magnificent Views and Hidden Passages will provide you with glimpses of the charm this old town city once held.
We arrived at Gare de Lyon taking a taxi (€15 plus €2 bag fee – the C3 bus is only €2 each) to the old town of Vieux-Lyon, across the River Soane. We chose an Airbnb apartment located at Place du Change in the old town. A modernised apartment within one of the typical old buildings here, featuring the inner courtyards with spiralling staircases to each apartment.
Vincent our host was great with his information of what to see and do. His recommendations for trying the local bouchon (Lyon is known as the gastronomic area) was the chance for us to experience authentic restaurants away from the tourist area.
Evening Walks in the Winter Darkness
Our evening walk to visit Cathedrale Saint Jean had us passing by some very old book and record shops, as well as souvenir shops selling Guignol puppets (like Punch n Judy) dating back to 1929. The puppet shows were a favourite for giving the French flavour and humour.
The beauty of a winter’s night with darkness so early in the evening, added to the romance of the walk.
We walked down to the River Soane and across the bridge for views of the Basilica and the Palace of Justice. The old city was alight on this very cold night was enchanting.
We wandered back across one of the pedestrian bridges, finding the statue “The Weight of Oneself” – representing man carrying his double and in doing so becoming his own saviour but also his own millstone – very philosophical.
Exploring Lyon’s Magnificent Views and Hidden Passages
With a full day to explore the city, we started with the Traboules and Courtyards.
A Traboule is a narrow passageway connecting two streets within a block of houses. Residents in the old town have allowed access to the public (mornings preferable) to enter and view this style of building.
The most impressive Traboule for us was 54 Rue Saint Jean. It crosses three courtyards and four buildings. Another at 27 Rue Saint Jean as it highlighted the Italian galleries dating back the 16th century.
The many hidden courtyards along Rue Saint Jean can be entered through the large doors exiting out onto the street.
The old town is made up of many narrow and picturesque streets showing the wealth of families in medieval times, some with spectacular views across Lyon.
Make sure you look up too, as the facades of the buildings are also impressive. But also, take a look down at the shop windows displaying “yummy” local delicacies.
Magnificent Views from Fourviere Hill
If you are feeling adventurous, then a climb of 250 steps through the Jardin du Rosaire to Fourviere Hill and the Basilica, will be the highlight of your day. The Basilica, not the steps!
Entering the Basilica we were “blown away” by the beautiful mosaic pictures set along the walls and on the ceilings above – as stated “the most beautiful view is inside.”
The Basilica was built by the people of Lyon for Mary, thanking her for protection against the Prussians in 1870. Each year this event is celebrated on the 8th December with a candle and torch lit procession starting at the Cathedral Saint Jean to the Basilica.
On the 8th September, a similar procession is made in Thanks for Mary saving Lyon from the plague in 1643.
Inside La Basilique Notre Dame de FourvièreMake sure you take a walk down underneath the Basilica to what we thought was the crypt, only to find another chapel, more like a small church to us.
As you exit the Basicila, you will find the Chapel of our Lady with the gilded statue erected atop of its bell tower.
Confluence district on Presqu’île peninsula
Crossing over the Soane river to Palace Bellecour you will find a mixture of the modern and old city architecture. We found a couple of unexpected finds – the Flower Tree statue, Maura finding dinner, and painted frescos celebrating Lyon in Sainte Vincent.
The frescos covered the whole building with a 3D effect. Really amazing. Make sure you walk around the building for the various periods of history depicted.
A Wonderful Bouchon Meal
Dinner tonight was at Daniel and Denise restaurant, a recommendation for an authentic Bouchon meal. The staff were very friendly and attentive.
We chose a set meal with wine and enjoyed the flavours of each dish – superb. Starters of foie gras and Monsieur Coquet (poached egg in red wine jus), a main of beef cheeks, tripe and chitterlings sausage served three ways, follow with Creme Brulee to finish. Delicious.
Feeling exceptionally sated with such delicious flavours, we took a wander back along the narrow streets. As we turned the corner from the restaurant to enter Saint Jean Cathedral Square, we stopped abruptly. In front of us were eight soldiers patrolling the streets. It seemed like their machine guns were larger than them.
Au Revoir Lyon
Although a short stay in Lyon, it was nice to visit the city where our son Daniel studied for a semester, and our son Richard visited on his European travels. Our son Alex is yet to visit and we feel he would enjoy the miniature and film set studios. Lyon is home to the pioneer Lumiere brothers who developed cinematic techniques, the first projected film in 1895.
We hope you get the chance to see Lyon’s magnificent views and hidden passages, and experience its gastronomic delights. Staying in the old city will give you walking access to the sights.
We have published a walk path based on our visit on Walkli, click to view a description and map ➡ Walkli Lyon
Heading to Florida
Next stop, Charles de Gaulle, Paris for our flight to Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a month of exploring. Click here for more about our Caribbean Cruise ➡ Caribbean Cruise