I wasn’t sure what to expect when we committed to part of our trip to France being based in Lyon. I love big European cities, so I knew the overall vibe would be great. What I didn’t expect was the how much I would be drawn to the older parts of Lyon.
Vieux Lyon was always right there, just across the Saône, looking down on Presqu’île where our hotel was located. On our first trip over the river to wander around, we didn’t even make it the whole way over the bridge before stopping to photograph the beautiful early spring morning.
One of our main stops on our first day over in Vieux Lyon was the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. It is located right at the top of Fourvière hill overlooking the rest of the city. Although not an old church by European standards, interestingly, it was built completely with private funds in the mid/late 1800s. It is stunning on the inside, especially with the morning light streaming in through the windows.
To get up to the Basilica, we took the funicular to save our legs for the day. It is the oldest continuously operating funicular in the world and drops you right at the doors of the church, and about 100m away from the amazing views over the city.
Pretty good spot for a picture of the two of us to remember the day…
So nice a spot was this, that I returned one evening later on in the trip to look out over the lights of the city, the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon just below, and the city’s main square, Place Bellecour.
A short stroll from the Basilica is the Théâtre Gallo-Romain. Built in two phases, starting two thousand years ago, this originally accommodated up to 10,000 people for cultural performances. It is still used today for music and theatre productions and would be a stunning venue to take in a show.
Here’s the view from the stage looking up into the steeply pitched amphitheatre…
With the temperatures pushing nicely above 20C, the mid-day sun was beating down on us, so after a break for a spot of lunch, we went in search of some traboules. In Vieux Lyon, there are a number of these hidden passageways between buildings, sometimes spanning the equivalent of many city blocks. These were constructed to allow merchants easier access to the river as there are a limited number of streets running perpendicular to the Saône. Today, they are passageways between private buildings, apartments and inner courtyards giving (mostly tourists) a view back to the city’s history.
It was a treat visiting Lyon outside of the main tourist season. Although there were a few visitors like us, the old part of Lyon was pretty quiet. We got the best of perfect early summer-like weather while feeling like we had this whole area to ourselves.
The pictures tell the story better than can I. Vieux Lyon is charming. It is gorgeous. I’m glad we visited the city and spent a lot of our time over on this side of the river.