Lyon, one of the largest French cities, is known for the beautiful monuments that witness its rich history. Furthermore, its delicious culinary specialities served in the traditional “bouchons” restaurants, widely known not only in France but also internationally. The hill of Fourvière, on the west side of the city centre, is Lyon’s oldest district. From high above the city, it hosts several ancient and spectacular monuments charming visitors from all over the world.
To discover these monuments and the beautiful scenery of the great city of Lyon, you will have to ascend several hundred steps. If you do not feel like climbing on foot, you can take the world oldest funicular. This regular service, launched in 1862, is part of the Lyon public transportation network. This and four other steep funiculars in the city called by the inhabitants the “ficelle”, i.e. the string, are available at no extra fee.
Erected in 43 BCE, Lyon was called Lugdunum by the Romans. To have a good grasp of Lyon’s rich history, you can start your visit with the ancient Theatre of Fourvière. This Roman theatre, on the hill of Fourvière, was at the time the centre of the city. The arena is very well preserved and can be explored freely, at your own pace. To learn more about Roman Lyon, we recommend the Lugdunum Museum, right next to the ancient theatre.
Yet the ancient theatre is not the main attraction on the hill of Fourvière. The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is a landmark seemingly visible from all around the city. The richly ornamented basilica dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built between 1872 and 1884, where the Roman Forum of Trajan stood. It beholds the praise to the Virgin Mary for the end of the bubonic plague that devastated Europe in 1643. Since then, an annual religious procession has been organised for centuries from Lyon St-Jean’s Cathedral up to the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary on the hill of Fourvière. The procession was first undertaken in the 19th century. The tradition of the lights during the procession later turned into an annual official event organised by the city. Every 8th of December, the day of the Immaculate Conception, Lyon hosts a great Festival of Lights.
The hill of Fourvière also hosts a curiosity: The Metallic Tower of Fourvière. Although smaller, this steel tower built in 1892-1894 strongly resembles the Eiffel Tower built in Paris (in 1889). Inaugurated for the 1894 Lyon universal, international and colonial exposition, the tower is, however, no longer open to the public.
We sincerely believe that Lyon deserves a visit. We do recommend to experience the intriguing and intimate hill of Fourvière. The best way is to lose your way through its narrow streets and their several hundred steps!
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