Thinking of heading to Lyon and looking for a fun morning or afternoon outing? Just a quick (and inexpensive!) funicular ride up from Vieux Lyon lies the area of Fourvière Hill, home to the Notre-Dame Basilica, fantastic panoramic views of the city, and the site of the original Roman settlement of Lugdunum with the ruins of two ancient Roman Theaters.
As soon as you exit the funicular station you find yourself in front of the entrance to the ornate basilica perched overlooking the city. With construction beginning in 1872, the basilica was built as a tribute to the Virgin Mary by the bishop of Lyon and beautiful, elaborate mosaics depicting stories of the life of Mary cover the expansive walls in glimmering shades of blues and golds. The mosaics and other interior adornments are truly remarkable.
So many of old Europe’s churches and cathedrals look so alike that it’s refreshing to see something unique or beautifully colored such as Madrid’s Almudena Cathedral. You can in fact see one too many churches while exploring Europe and thus suffer from stained glass and religious artwork boredom! So unless it’s something known to be spectacular Dan and I usually skip going in but I am glad I decided to venture into this basilica unbeknownst to the splendor that awaited.
Further down the hill along Rue Roger Radisson lies the remains of the old Roman Theaters and the Gallo-Roman Museum. For a not-to-be missed view of both theaters, walk up the ramp to the museum’s rooftop located down off Rue Cleberg before venturing down the stairs of the 15 B.C. built amphitheater to wander freely amongst the stubs of pillars. If you’re visiting Lyon in the summertime, check out Les Nuits de Fourvière, when the theaters play host to open-air concerts, theater and dance performances, and films.