Things to Do in Rhône-Alpes
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.
More Things to Do in Rhône-Alpes
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.
Soaring dramatically over Annecy’s intact Old Town and set atop a rocky promontory, the medieval castle is a fine display of Savoyard defensive architecture as it was the princely residence of the Counts of Geneva between the 13th and 17th centuries; it was later on abandoned and served a military barracks until the end of World War II. Imagine yourself as a brave 14th century knight and try to identify the primitive keep, the gates, and the cellar rooms. Like many other fortresses elsewhere in Europe, the castle was considerably extended and given several upgrades throughout the centuries, both in terms of style and defensive purposes. The furniture, artworks, and accessories nowadays found inside the otherwise bare yet fascinating exhibition area are testament to these changes, and perfectly complemented by sections on contemporary Savoyard art and Lake Annecy’s eventful history.
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.
Chamonix’s Amusement Park is open year-round and is a great place for families, friends and groups to enjoy themselves. The 4-season 1300-meters long Alpine Coaster luge track is the park’s biggest attraction, which has been open since 1979 and has attracted more than 6 million visitors since. In the summer, in addition to the luge track, visitors can enjoy slides, trampolines, electric motorcycles, and a splash boat, while winter visitors can ski, and enjoy as many indoor games and play areas, such as arcades, baby foot, and others. The park’s activities are enjoyable for anyone 3 years old and over.
Chamonix’s Alpine Museum is housed in a former Palace dating back to the early 20th century and highlights the development of the city’s tourism, back from when visitors first travelled to Chamonix to admire the glaciers up until the construction of the cable cars.A large collection of prints illustrates the many changes the valley faced between the 18th and the 20th centuries as mountaineering slowly became a thing. Visitors will also find photographs, relief maps, rock crystals, ancient objects, and costumes.
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