The gastronomic capital of France, if not the world, is not just a foodie hotspot. With UNESCO-protected architecture and awe-inspiring Roman ruins, its one for history lovers too..
Travel bucket list idea:
Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere
Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France|www.fourviere.org|
With Romanesque- and Byzantine-style architecture (earning it the nickname ‘upside-down elephant’), this iconic basilica was built by Pierre Bossan (1872-1874) to thank God for France’s triumph over the socialists during the infamous ‘Communes’.
Atop the Fourviere hillside, its esplanade draws crowds to its sweeping panorama over Lyon. But inside is stunning too: pink granite, blue marble, onyx, silver and gold details that culminate in majestic stained glass windows.
Walk outside to the Rosary Gardens, an oasis of sycamores, larches and roses. Like the basilica, its dedicated to the Virgin Mary who supposedly protected Lyon from the Black Death in 1643.
Look out for the six stained glass windows by George Decote, each dedicated to Mary and depicting her in heaven. The blues and greens are stunning.
Getting there & doing it
It’s a steep climb up to the basilica, so wear good walking shoes or, for extra fun, take the funicular from Vieux Lyon – Cathedrale Saint-Jean metro.
The basilica has several eating options, but you’ll get the best views from the Bistro Restaurant, whose terrace offers sweeping vistas over the entire city.
When to do it
The basilica is open all year round, seven days a week.
The site is very popular, so if you’d like to avoid the crowds, try to arrive first thing in the morning, before 10am, at lunchtime when most people will be dining, or an hour before closing.
Each year on December 8th, when Lyon celebrates its Fete des Lumieres (Light Festival), the basilica illuminates its central Virgin Mary statue atop the bell tower – a sight to behold.
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The great civilisations of the past have left a legacy of constructions that still stand out and inspire. Built without the wonders of 20th-century technology, many are also monumental feats of engineering; others offer such grace and beauty, that they’ll literally take your breath away.