A gleaming retro-Byzantine confection of Roman columns and religious iconography, the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière is visible, by design, from almost anywhere in Lyon. Today it is the symbol of the city and Lyon's most visited attraction, well worth the climb just to enter the outrageous interior.
Completed in 1896 as a challenge to secular forces then gaining power in France (like Sacré-Coeur Montmartre), the basilica's gleaming marble, gold gilt, fantastic stained glass, and borderline hallucinogenic ceiling are meant to impress. And they do.
In addition to the basilica and an adjacent chapel dedicated to a particularly miraculous Virgin Mary, both free to the public, this site also offers an observatory, museum, and fantastic views.
The oldest Roman theater in France, Lyon’s Ancient Theatre of Fourvière was built under the orders of Augustus and expanded in Hadrian’s time. Completed in 17 B.C. with space for 10,000 people, today the Grand Theatre is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lyon.
Restored in the 20th century, the ancient theater is now used to stage popular cultural events such as the summertime Nuits de Fourvière festival, where dance, opera and circus performers play alongside international music acts like Franz Ferdinand.
Situated on Fourvière Hill near the Notre Dame Basilica, from the theater you can also see the grand remains of the Odeon of Lyon, with its beautiful inlaid floor of marble and porphyry. Forming a pair with the main theater, the Odeon was built early in the second century with space for 3,000 people. Behind the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, you can also visit the remains of an ancient Roman temple, dedicated in 160 A.D. to goddess Cybele.
The 289-acre Parc de la Tete d'Or was designed by landscape architect Denis Bühler and opened in 1856. It is also home to one of France's leading botanical gardens, with more than 20,000 plant varieties. There is an international rose garden that is popular in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. Another popular attraction is the African plain, which is a zoological area of more than 7 acres where zebras, giraffes, antelopes, lions, and other rare species roam free.
The lake is a great place to participate in water activities such as boating and swimming. Children can enjoy mini boat rides in a pool dubbed the Little Lake. There are also pony rides, two tourist trains, quads with pedals, swings, go karts, and a carousel to make the day more fun for younger visitors. Bring your own picnic or stop at the park's shop for sweets, snacks and souvenirs.