See the essential of Lyon in one day

One of the objectives of this stay was to discover a little better Lyon, city that I often went through quickly without lingering too much. But arriving on Friday afternoon and leaving on Sunday afternoon I had essentially one day to dedicate to its discovery. Enough to form an overall opinion and make you want to go deeper into certain things another time.

Lyon an easy to visit city

What is nice about Lyon is that the city is very easy and pleasant to visit on foot, the distances being reasonable.

My hotel, the Marriott Lyon Cité Internationale, is quite far from the city center, so I will take a cab to get to the city center and will spend most of the rest of the day walking and taking the bus home. Largely doable even with a leg that slows me down in my wanderings.

The bus/metro network is also very efficient and for tourists it is possible to do without a card/ticket by using your credit card in contactless mode as soon as you get into a vehicle. A facility that I appreciate in many other cities like London, while in Paris they keep telling us that it’s complicated to set up. Anyway.

A busy itinerary that can be done in one day if you walk well, but we advise you to spread it out over two days to take the time to stroll around and enjoy the atmosphere of the city.

Let’s start the visit.

Museum of Fine Arts and Place des Terreaux

It is in the Museum of Fine Arts that the visit begins in the morning. It is housed in the Palais St Pierre.


Its interior courtyard is relaxing to take a break before or after the visit.


The second floors are dedicated to statues and antiquities. This was not the primary purpose of my visit.


Then there is a beautiful collection of paintings for a provincial museum.


But I think that what makes its interest and especially its specificity with a beautiful collection of painters from Lyon. If the names of Greuze, Boissieu or Flandrin are familiar to you, you’ll be happy.

Once your visit is over, take the time to look at the place des terreaux where the museum is located. You will find there a fountain by Bartholdi…


…and the City Hall.


The square was redeveloped in 1994 with the contribution of Buren who equipped it with 14 of his famous pillars and 68 mini fountains unfortunately inactive during my visit.

If you come back during the day, take advantage of its terraces to have a break.

St John the Baptist Cathedral

Then I headed for the Cathedral of St Jean Baptiste. After having crossed the Rhone when arriving from the hotel, I will cross the Saône this time.


On the way to the cathedral you can hang out and breathe in the atmosphere of the streets of old Lyon and visit the famous traboules (pedestrian passages through the courtyards of buildings that allow you to go from one street to another) which are one of Lyon’s specificities.

You finally arrive at the cathedral of St. John the Baptist. In fact, the primatial St. John the Baptist which is its real name.


Its construction was spread out from the 12th to the 15th century. If its ornamentation is rather modest it is also known for its astronomical clock of the XIVth century.

If it was conceived as a Romanesque building, it was finished in Gothic style which gives it a composite style.



If you look up as you leave the cathedral you will see the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, located at the top of the hill of the same name.


It is possible to go up on foot but because of my leg problems I will prefer the funicular. It is accessible with a bus ticket and, as I told you, you just have to use your credit card in contactless mode at the terminals at the entrance instead of the ticket. A little lesson in modernism for the Parisian capital ….


There will be few people in this sunny autumn weekend, the wait must be more consistent in periods of tourist affluence.

Once arrived at the top the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière is in front of you.


Of neo-Byzantine style, it was built on the site of an ancient Roman forum in the 19th century. On the bell tower is a golden statue of Mary, in gratitude for her protection during the Franco-German war of 1870. Listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site, it is the most visited site in Lyon.


Next to the Basilica a panoramic terrace offers superb views of the city.


In the middle of the picture you can see one of the most famous buildings of the city: the Part Dieu Tower (ex Credit Lyonnais Tower), more commonly called “Le Crayon (then pencil)” because of its shape. It houses offices as well as the Radisson Blue Hotel.


Another building with a recognizable architecture that you see here: the Lyon Opera House. Built in 1837, it was redesigned and expanded in the 1990s by Jean Nouvel.

A last view of the city.


It’s time to go back down to the city center, which I will do this time on foot, in this way it’s easier. But before really starting the descent a stop at the Ancient Theater of Lyon is necessary.


It is one of the main Roman monuments visible in Lyon. It was built around 15 BC and enlarged in the 2nd century and could, at that time, accommodate 10,000 people. Abandoned and buried at the end of the Roman Empire, it was restored in the 1930s.


The city center and the Bellecour square

The long descent to the city is an opportunity to soak up the atmosphere of the district and to stroll through the old Lyon once you have arrived at the bottom before crossing the Saône again to reach the Place Bellecour.

The largest square in the city and the largest pedestrian square in Europe, it is the place where many events take place and where the people of Lyon gather whenever they have something to celebrate.


From there you can reach the Basilica-Abbey Saint Martin d’Ainay, apparently interesting to visit but closed when I passed by.

You can also take public transportation to visit the Musée des Confluences, which I didn’t do. It is a museum of natural history, anthropology, societies and civilizations.

As far as I was concerned, I went back to the pedestrian and shopping streets to soak up the atmosphere of the city towards the Parc de la Tête d’Or.

I had considered going to visit the Opera but the visits take place on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 1pm and Thursdays at 5:30pm. Not the right time for me, too bad it will be another time.

The Tête d’Or, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Cité Internationale

Opened in the 1850s, the Parc de la Tête d’Or is one of the largest urban parks in France. It is a space of 117 hectares composed of green spaces, a lake, where it is good to stroll, rest and where many events take place throughout the year.


From there I went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. If your legs still carry you you can go on foot, otherwise a bus brings you from the exit of one almost to the entrance of the other.

The Museum is located in the Cité Internationale. That is good, it is about fifty meters from my hotel.


At the time of my visit it was the Biennale de Lyon and two exhibitions were organized.

The first one “The Many Lives and Deaths of Louise Brunet“…an exhibition that I admit I did not understand at all. Not my sensitivity I think.


The second one, more to my liking, was about “Beirut and the Golden Sixties” which revisits the development of modernism in Beirut from 1958 to 1975.


It is time to end this day with the Cité Internationale. Not, in my opinion, that it is worth the trip but since my hotel is there I might as well mention it.


It is an business, cultural and tourist district with offices, conference rooms, hotels and a casino, built on the site of the former Lyon Fair. It was completed in 2006.

Bottom line

A busy day with lots of walking but the pleasure of immersing myself a little in this city as pretty as it is interesting. If you were to follow this itinerary which, although not exhaustive, is still quite complete, I advise you to take two days.

Not that one day is not enough, after all it depends on how much time you like to spend in the museums, how fast you walk and how much you want to stroll, take a break, enjoy the terraces or the Parc de la Tête d’Or, but in my opinion two days are more comfortable to not rush and to get a good feel of the atmosphere of the city, which is at least as important as the monuments

But you don’t have to do everything on foot, public transportation is, I repeat, excellent.

See you soon Lyon!

1IntroductionPreparing a last minute weekend in Lyon
2TrainParis-Lyon, Trenitalia Frecciarossa, Executive Class
3HotelMarriott Lyon Cité internationale
4RestaurantLéon de Lyon
6DiaryThe essential of Lyon in one day
7TrainLyon-Paris, SNCF, TGV inOui Business Première
Bertrand Duperrin
Bertrand Duperrin
Compulsive traveler, present in the French #avgeek community since the late 2000s and passionate about (long) travel since his youth, Bertrand Duperrin co-founded Travel Guys with Olivier Delestre in March 2015.

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