CitiesOld Lyon: 10 Best Things to See & Do+ Old Town Lyon Guide
Old Lyon Little Prince Old Town Lyon

Old Lyon: 10 Best Things to See & Do+ Old Town Lyon Guide

If you want to experience the best of Lyon, you cannot miss exploring its historical old part – Vieux Lyon. A stroll through the medieval and Renaissance buildings along the banks of the Sonne is a journey back in time. Fourvière hill, with ancient Roman ruins perched atop, surrounds the center of Old Lyon. You can take a cable car or walk up the hill to reach the Metallic Tower, Lyon’s symbolic landmark, and the breathtaking Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourviere. The observation tower at the top offers panoramic views of the entire city, including the Old Town. From museums to churches, there are plenty of things to do in Old Lyon. And this Old Lyon guide will reveal the best things to do in the city.

Old Town Lyon : Vieux-Lyon

It may not be your typical postcard-perfect old town with cobblestone streets and immaculate buildings, but that’s exactly why I love it. The authenticity of the area shines through in its unique charm and character. The city used to be located on a hill (the Fourvière Hill), but due to the decline of the Roman Empire and broken infrastructure, Lyon’s residents gradually moved closer and closer to the banks of the Saone River.

Best things to do in Old Lyon – VieuxLyon

• Explore the charming streets of Old Lyon for a taste of Renaissance influence.

• Enjoy delicious traditional cuisine at the many “bouchons lyonnais” restaurants in the Saint-Georges quarter.

• Check out stunning architectural masterpieces like the Palais de Justice and Chamarier house.

• Don’t miss the Cathedral of Saint-Jean with its awe-inspiring Gothic façade and panoramic views of the Old Town.

• Visit the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema at the vibrant pink House of Lawyers.

• Take a funicular ride to Fourvière Hill for stunning views and a visit to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.

• Immerse yourself in Roman history at the ancient theater on Fourvière Hill, which also hosts an exciting music festival.

• Snap a photo at the beautiful Rose Tower, known for its fascinating history and eye-catching rose hue.

• Experience Lyon’s charm through its hidden traboules, free passageways originally used for water access but now perfect for exploration.

Let’s dive into the ultimate guide to the best things to do in Old Lyon

One of the best things to do in Lyon is to wander the charming streets of Old Lyon. This is where the influence of the Renaissance is readily apparent. You’ll be greeted by polygonal turrets, galleries, and arches at every turn, not to mention a slew of beautiful courtyards. The houses themselves are architectural masterpieces that have been painted in warm, inviting colors.

The city’s history is reflected in its architecture. Here you can see a mix of Roman, Gothic, and Renaissance styles. The narrow alleyways leading to hidden courtyards and beautiful squares are simply amazing.

Cathedral of Saint-Jean

The central part of the Old Town, where you will find the breathtaking Cathedral of Saint-Jean. This area has a rich history, and visitors can explore the remnants of several religious buildings in the archaeological garden. The Cathedral itself is awe-inspiring, with a Gothic façade adorned with hundreds of 14th-century medallions. Its central rose window, dating back to the 13th century, is a true masterpiece.

Tt’s also the oldest church in the city. the Archbishop of Lyon holds services here. That’s not all – you can find the world’s oldest astronomical clock in the cathedral too!

Chamarier house and house of Jean de Vista

Among the must-see highlights is the Chamarier house, with its Gothic façade that hides a serene patio with a tranquil fountain.
The 15th-century house of Jean de Vista, with its relief decorations and Renaissance-covered gallery. Look out for the many images of animals on the facades of Old Lyon! For example the statue of a bull that gives the street du Bœuf its name.

Bouchons lyonnais

Old Lyon is perfect for foodies. There are so many restaurants, bakeries, and bistros offering traditional cuisine called “bouchons lyonnais.” The Saint-Georges quarter is home to the oldest café in Lyon, the Café du Soleil.

Palais de Justice

This neoclassical gem features a grand facade adorned with 24 Corinthian columns and is located on the banks of the Saône River in the Old Lyon district.

House of Lawyers- the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema today

This ancient building, constructed in the 16th century with Tuscan arcades and painted in a vibrant pinkish hue, is not only a sight to behold but also houses the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema. Here, you can marvel at the intricate details of small-scale reproductions of interiors of Lyon buildings and get a glimpse of the city’s past through scenes of daily life. And let’s not forget the lion statue standing tall right beside the House of Lawyers

Funicular to Saint-Jean to Fourvière Hill

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Lyon, be sure to take the funicular to Saint-Jean to Fourvière Hill. Not every city has this exotic type of transport, so I just had to take a ride. Lyon funicular has been operating since 1862, making Lyon the first city in the world to have a funicular railway. Of the 5 funicular lines, there are currently two that are operating. They cover a total length of 1.3 km and have five stations.

Riding through the tunnels on the funicular lines is a very cool experience! The main attraction on Fourvière Hill is the stunning Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. The basilica is reminiscent of other 19th-century churches like Sacré-Cœur in Paris or Notre Dame of Marseille.

Ancient theater on Fourvière hill

When it comes to Lyon’s top attractions, Fourvière Hill is where it’s at. Take a trip back in time to the Roman Empire at the ancient theater of Lyon, built during the reign of Octavian Augustus. It’s a spot that tourists flock to every year, and with good reason. But this hill has more to offer than just history.

This is where the city holds its famous The Nights at Fourvière festival. An unforgettable evening of music and entertainment. But what really sets this place apart is its natural acoustics. With a spot like this, you can bet that any musical event will be nothing short of spectacular.

The traboules – Discover the secret passageways of Lyon’s old town

If you’re visiting Lyon, be sure not to miss out on one of the city’s most emblematic features: the traboules. These hidden passageways wind through buildings and courtyards. They were originally designed for Lyon’s residents to easily access the Saône River for water.

Over time, they also became a convenient way for artisans to transport silk between their workshops and shops. The best part? Access to these historic passages is completely free.
If you’re searching for the best things to do in Old Lyon, you cannot miss exploring the traboules.

Check out this blog to learn more about the history and interesting facts about these traboules and where to find the best ones in the city.

Old Lyon Rose tower

If you ever find yourself wandering the charming streets of Old Lyon, there’s one place that you simply can’t miss: the Rose Tower. This stunning piece of architecture dates back to the 17th century and features Venetian-inspired design. But the tower isn’t just a pretty face – it also has a fascinating history. The tower’s staircase was specifically designed to give an alarm in case of danger, such as a fire. The tower’s shape is a symbol of nobility and prosperity. Even though it wasn’t common to show off one’s wealth in Lyon.The tower’s first owner, Martin de Troyes, was a chief treasurer of Languedoc. Rose Tower has become the most photographed place in Old Lyon.

The romantic legend of Lyon’s Rose Tower

Legend has it that the tower’s rosy hue is the result of a tragic love story. Supposedly, a lovestruck girl jumped from the tower after her wealthy father forbade her from marrying her baker beau. But in reality, the tower was painted pink for a film shoot and the color just stuck around. Either way, the Rose Tower is a real calling card of Lyon and the perfect spot for a photo op. Just be sure not to confuse it with the Pink Tower Hotel down the way. They may share a color, but they’re two very different building.

Le Petit Musée de Guignol – Guignol Museum

This cozy museum has been delighting visitors since 1995 with guided audio tours exploring the history of Guignol and French puppetry. The adorable souvenir shop is the perfect spot to pick up some cute doll stuff or little prince items. This little museum is easily one of the best things to do in Old Lyon!

Here is the list of all must see sights in Old Lyon

  • The Cathedral of Saint-Jean, with its Gothic façade and 13th-century rose window, is a must-see attraction in the central part of Old Town.
  • Chamarier house and house of Jean de Vista are two notable landmarks with intricate architectural details and historic significance.
  • Bouchons lyonnais, traditional restaurants serving delicious cuisine, can be found throughout Old Lyon.
  • Palais de Justice, a neoclassical gem on the banks of the Saône River, is an architectural marvel.
  • The House of Lawyers, painted in vibrant pink hue, now houses the Museum of Miniatures and Cinema showcasing tiny replicas of Lyon’s buildings.
  • Traboules, hidden passageways used for transporting goods and now a popular tourist attraction, offer a unique way to explore Old Lyon for free.
  • Taking the funicular to Fourvière Hill gives visitors a chance to ride the first ever funicular railway in the world and visit the stunning Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
  • Roman theater of Lyon dates to Emperor Augustus’ reign.

I believe that you can travel the world without quitting your job. I believe that you can experience all the magic, the foodies and the cultures of the world while having a normal life. And, perhaps, two dogs. This is exactly what I’ve been doing for 15 years. This is exactly what my blog is about. Love, Lilia

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