Lyon and the Alps

We’ve compiled the best of the best in Lyon and the Alps - browse our top choices for the top things to see or do during your stay.

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  • 1. Aiguille du Midi

    This 12,619-foot granite peak is topped with a needle-like observation tower, terrace, and restaurants. The world's highest cable car soars 12,000 feet up, almost to the top (an elevator completes the journey to the summit), providing positively staggering views of 15,700-foot Mont Blanc, Europe's loftiest peak. Be prepared for a lengthy wait, both going up and coming down—and wear warm clothing.

    100 pl. de l'aiguille du Midi, Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 74400, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Cable car €73 round-trip
  • 2. Berges du Rhône

    Lyon has spent the last 15 years spiffing up 5 km (3 miles) of its Berges du Rhône waterfront via pedestrian-only walking paths and cycling routes that take you past water gardens, meadows, sunning decks, petanque pitches, and a slew of lively bars and cafés all enjoying fabulous views and cool breezes over the Rhône. Open year-round, this is a big summer hot spot for the Lyonnais, who flock here after work to jog, picnic, and simply bask in the warm weather. For a map of the Berges areas, stop in at the tourist office at Place Bellecoeur or have a look online.

    Berges du Rhône, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France
  • 3. Cave de Tain

    This cooperative of Rhône winemakers is a pioneer in sustainable wine making and boasts some of the region's most prestigious vintages. The cave (wine cellar) offers a wide range of tastings in a friendly atmosphere, plus outdoor wine and food experiences, including cycling through the vineyards. The boutique also carries a mind-boggling selection of Rhône appellations. Friendly wine experts are on hand to guide you to the best vintages to taste and buy.

    22 rte. de Larnage, Tain-l'Hermitage, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 2660, France
  • 4. Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard

    The exterior of the magnificent Château de Menthon-Saint-Bernard is the stuff of fairy tales (so much so that Walt Disney modeled his version of Sleeping Beauty's castle on it); the interior is even better. The castle's medieval rooms—many adorned with tapestries, Romanesque frescoes, Netherlandish sideboards, and heraldic motifs—have been lovingly restored by the owner, who can trace his ancestry directly back to Saint-Bernard himself. All in all, this is one of the loveliest dips into the Middle Ages you can make in all of Europe. You can get a good view of the castle by turning onto the Thones road out of Veyrier.

    Allée du Château, Annecy, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 74000, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €11, Closed Nov.–Mar.
  • 5. Cité du Chocolat Valrhona

    One of the word's best gourmet chocolate makers, this is Valrhona's world headquarters. The museum's interactive exhibits for adults and kids immerse visitors in every step of the chocolate-making process, from beans to bars—with all the free samples you can eat. The on-site café uses chocolate in all of its dishes, both savory and sweet, and you can participate in a chocolate-making workshop (see more information online). After your visit stock up on the entire range of products at gentle prices at the boutique.

    12 av. du Président Roosevelt, Tain-l'Hermitage, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 2660, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Shop closed Sun.
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  • 6. Mer de Glace

    Literally, the "sea of ice," the Mer de Glace glacier can be seen up close from the Train du Montenvers, a cogwheel mountain train that leaves from behind the main train station. At the top end of the track, you can mount yet another transportation device—a mini téléphérique (cable car) that suspends you over the glacier for five minutes. You can also venture into the grotte de glace (ice cave) and the Glacorium, an interactive space recounting the glacier's formation and history. The hike back down is an easy two-hour ramble.

    Chamonix-Mont-Blanc, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 74000, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €37 round-trip
  • 7. Musée de Valence

    The luminous Valence Museum offers plenty of art throughout the ages, from prehistory and Roman times to the present. Its fine collection of Roman artifacts includes several superb mosaic floors excavated in the area, as well as marbles and other objects. The painting collection includes notable works from the Dutch, Flemish, and European schools and the contemporary collection highlights the works of local artist André Lhote and French artist Sophie Calle. The museum's two outdoor terraces offer splendid views of Valence and the Rhône River.

    4 rue Saint-Didier, Valence, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 26000, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €6, Closed Mon. and Tues.
  • 8. Musée des Confluences


    This futuristic glass-and-stainless-steel museum—an architectural extravaganza designed by the Austrian firm Coop Himmelblau—attempts an ambitious and sweeping three-part overview of anthropology, ethnology, and the natural sciences. Dramatically set at the confluence of the Saône and Rhône rivers and meant to reflect both sky and water, the building was designed to harmonize with the landscape, and its soaring interior gracefully interacts with an assemblage of pedestrian walkways, boutiques, cafés, and restaurants below. One of Lyon's most engaging and fascinating museums, visitors can spend an hour or an afternoon exploring the superb permanent collection and a range of multifaceted exhibits on subjects as varied as the origins of the universe to the question of an afterlife. The museum bookshop is a pleasure to browse and there are several appealing contemporary in-museum restaurants for lunch, dinner, or a quick snack.

    86 quai Perrache, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 69002, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €9, Closed Mon.
  • 9. Musée des Tissus et Musée des Arts Décoratifs


    One of France's most extensive collections of decorative arts and the world's largest textile collection—spanning 4,500 years and comprising nearly 2 million pieces—has now added a shimmering €60 million addition by French architect Rudy Ricciotti, a third building to the museum's two 18th-century structures. The undulating glass and concrete tower combines light and transparency to convey the delicacy and movement of the historic fabrics that document Lyon's once-flourishing silk industry, from the Renaissance period to its 20th-century demise. Other highlights include Asian tapestries from as early as the 4th century, Turkish and Persian carpets from the 16th to the 18th centuries, and the sumptuous world-famous Lyon silks. Visitors can also enjoy a library, an auditorium, the Lacroix Laval garden, and a luminous rooftop restaurant.

    34 rue de la Charité, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 69002, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €13, Closed Mon.
  • 10. Musée Stendhal

    Established in Stendhal's grandfather's house, this museum is a fascinating testament to the eminent author. It's one of three local landmarks where his legacy can be explored—the others being his birthplace and the Bibliothèque Municipale, which houses his manuscripts. The English-language "Stendhal Itinerary," offered by the Grenoble Chamber of Commerce, recaps all the major sites associated with him.

    20 Grande-Rue, Grenoble, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 38000, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: €5 with English audio guide
  • 11. Musée-Château d'Annecy

    Crowning the city is one of France's most gorgeous castles, the medieval Musée-Château d'Annecy. High on a hill opposite the Palais and bristling with stolid towers, the complex is landmarked by the Tour Perrière, which dominates the lake, and the Tour St-Paul, Tour St-Pierre, and Tour de la Reine (the oldest, dating to the 12th century), which overlook the town. All provide storybook views over the town and countryside. Dwellings of several eras line the castle courtyard, one of which contains a small museum on Annecy history and how it was shaped by the Nemeurs and Savoie dynasties.

    Pl. du Château, Annecy, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 74000, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €6
  • 12. Rue du Bœuf

    Vieux Lyon

    Like parallel Rue St-Jean, Rue du Bœuf has traboules, courtyards, spiral staircases, towers, and facades. The traboule at No. 31 hooks through and out onto Rue de la Bombarde. At No. 19 is the standout Maison de l'Outarde d'Or, so named for the great bustard, a gooselike game bird, depicted in the coat of arms over the door. The late-15th-century house and courtyard inside have spiral staircases in the towers, which were built as symbols of wealth and power. Number 20 conceals one of the rare open-shaft spiral staircases allowing for a view all the way up the core. The Hotel Tour Rose at No. 22 has, indeed, a beautiful tour rose (pink tower) in the inner courtyard. At the corner of Place Neuve St-Jean and Rue du Bœuf is the famous sign portraying the bull for which Rue du Bœuf is named, the work of the Renaissance Italy–trained French sculptor Jean de Bologne.

    Rue du Boeuf, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 69005, France
  • 13. Rue St-Jean

    Vieux Lyon

    Once Vieux Lyon's major thoroughfare, this street leads north from Place St-Jean to Place du Change, where money changers operated during medieval trade fairs. The elegant houses along it were built for illustrious Lyonnais bankers and Italian silk merchants during the French Renaissance. The traboule at No. 54 leads all the way through to Rue du Bœuf (No. 27). Beautiful Renaissance courtyards can be visited at No. 50, No. 52, and No. 42. At 27 rue St-Jean, an especially beautiful traboule winds through to 6 rue des Trois Maries. Number 28 has a pretty courtyard, as do No. 18 and No. 24. Maison Le Viste at No. 21 has a splendid facade.

    Rue St-Jean, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 69005, France
  • 14. Théâtre Romain

    Measuring 143 yards across, the Théâtre Romain is one of the largest in Gaul. It held 13,000 spectators and is only slightly smaller than Rome's Theater of Marcellus. Rubble buried Vienne's theater until 1922; excavation has uncovered 46 rows of seats, some marble flooring, and the frieze on the stage.

    7 rue du Cirque, Vienne, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 38200, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: From €3, Closed Mon.
  • 15. Vieux Valence (Old Town)

    Between the Place des Ormeaux next to the cathedral, and Rue Madier de Montjau and the Boulevards Maurice Clerc et Boulevard Bancel, the winding medieval streets of Valence's Old Town are a delight to explore. Along with its leafy squares, welcoming cafés, and gastronomic restaurants, there are several sites to spot. On the Grand Rue you can't miss the Renaissance confection Maison des Têtes (1452) and the Moorish-style Maison Mauresque (1858), at 1 rue Gaston Rey. Closer to the cathedral, an open square funerary chapel called the Pendentif (1545) was one of the first French edifices to be listed as a historic monument, in 1834. The Valence outdoor market, held on several different tree-shaded squares depending on the day (it's worth picking up a schedule at the tourist office or checking online), is particularly picturesque. The Marché Producteurs (local farmers' and organic market) is held from 5 pm to 8 pm every Tuesday under a historic halle on the Place Saint-Jean. The old town is the perfect spot to seek out the Valence specialty called the Suisse, a delicious buttery pastry, somewhere between a brioche and a cookie, that's perfumed with orange flower and flavored with orange rind and rum.

    Vieux Valence, Valence, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 26000, France
  • 16. Basilique de Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière


    The rather pompous late-19th-century basilica, at the top of the ficelle (funicular railway), is—for better or worse—the symbol of Lyon. Its mock-Byzantine architecture and hilltop site make it a close relative of Paris's Sacré-Coeur. Both were built to underline the might of the Roman Catholic Church after the Prussian defeat of France in 1870 gave rise to the birth of the anticlerical Third Republic. The excessive gilt, marble, and mosaics in the interior underscore the Church's wealth, although they masked its lack of political clout at that time. One of the few places in Lyon where you can't see the basilica is the adjacent terrace, whose panorama reveals the city—with the cathedral of St-Jean in the foreground and the glass towers of the reconstructed Part-Dieu business complex glistening behind. For a more sweeping view still, climb the 287 steps to the basilica observatory.

    8 pl. de Fourvière, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 69005, France
  • 17. Basilique de Saint-Martin d'Ainay


    This fortified church dates back to a 10th-century Benedictine abbey and a 9th-century sanctuary before that. The millenary energy field is palpable around the hulking structure, especially near the rear of the apse where the stained-glass windows glow richly in the twilight. In 1844 it became one of the first buildings in France to be classified a national monument; its interior murals and frescoes, though, are disappointingly plain and austere compared to the quirky, rough exterior.

    Pl. de l'Abbaye d'Ainay, Lyon, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 69002, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 18. Belvédère of le Rocher de Châteauvieux

    Situated in the old religious quarter high over the town, this 14th-century fortification (built in 1359) provides an exceptional 360-degree panorama over the port, the river, Vivier's rooftops, and the Rhone Valley.

    Esplandade de Châteauvieux, Viviers, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 07220, France
  • 19. Cathédrale Notre-Dame

    Despite its 12th-century exterior, the 19th-century interior of the Cathédrale Notre-Dame is somewhat bland. But don't miss the adjoining bishop's house, now a museum on the history of Grenoble; the main treasure is a noted 4th-century baptistery.

    Pl. Notre-Dame, Grenoble, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 38000, France

    Sight Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 20. Cathédrale Saint-Vincent

    Built in 1119 on the Rocher de Chateauviex and adjacent to the 11th-century Tour Saint-Michel, this elegant cathedral is a mix of medieval Romanesque and gothic architectures. The arched ceilings and apse were destroyed in the 16th century during the Wars of Religion and replaced with wood, then finally reconstructed with the regional stone in 1727. Exquisite marble inlay, done by Italian masons, can be seen throughout the reconstruction. During a visit to Viviers in 1857, Napoleon III offered the town three important Gobelins tapestries, made between 1720-1744, which decorate the choir.

    Place Saint-Jean, Viviers, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, 07220, France

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