Lyon’s crowning glory, this monumental church stands atop Fourvière hill and provides fabulous panoramas of the city.
Because of its hilltop location, the Notre-Dame Basilica, officially Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, can be seen from almost anywhere in Lyon. Not only is it a symbol of the city, but it is also one of Lyon’s most popular attractions. Visit to admire the extravagant excess of the gilded interior and admire spectacular views across the city.
Constructed on the site of an ancient Roman forum, the basilica was consecrated in 1896 and incorporates Byzantine and Romanesque design elements. Like the Sacré-Cœur in Paris, it was funded by donations and was built to demonstrate the power of the Catholic Church to the rising secular powers and to show thanks to God, who the church believed was responsible for the retreat of Prussian forces during the France-Prussian War.
As you approach the basilica, gaze up at the imposing monument: four octagonal towers and a bell tower topped with a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. Though the exterior is relatively austere, the interior is quite impressive.
Venture inside and you’ll be immediately struck by the level of detail. Wherever you look, gilt, marble, stained glass, intricate mosaics and colorful frescoes cover nearly every inch. Examine the ornate details of the richly decorated interior. Climb down to the lower level to view the large crypt of Saint-Jean.
After exploring the basilica, head to the adjoining Chapel of the Virgin, where a terrace provides uninterrupted views over the city. Bring your camera to take photos of the surrounding cityscape. Try to pick out the important monuments, such as the Cathédrale Saint-Jean and the Tour de la Part-Dieu skyscraper. On a clear day, the views are said to extend as far as Mont Blanc.
A trip to the basilica can be combined with visits to the nearby Musées Gallo-Romains and the Roman Theater, which are also located on Fourvière hill.
Entry to the Notre-Dame Basilica is free. There is a fee for guided tours. Paths lead up to the basilica, but the uphill climb can be tiring. Try using the funicular instead, which departs from Vieux Lyon station.