Visiting La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière – Lyon, France

Visiting La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière – Lyon, France

October 2019

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière – Lyon, France

It was the first thing we saw when we arrived in Lyon (trying to find our Airbnb) sitting atop a hill.


This icon of Lyon is a tribute to the Virgin Mary, it was built in the late 1800s and completed almost 100 years later. We learned on the river boat tour that it carries the nickname “upside down elephant” where the church is the body and each of the four towers are the legs.

The funicular station to the top of the hill was a bit confusing for us at first cause I was certain there was one that went directly to the church but none of the stops seemed to indicate that. We went up the quick journey and got off on the first stop with the rest of the crowd hoping it was the right move. After a 15 min walk towards the basilique, we finally made it to the gates. Turns out, the funicular that goes directly in front of the basilique was down for maintenance – I just completely missed the sign. 

Our goal was to book the roof top tour since I could not figure out how to accomplish this online, so we found the information desk on the oppose side of the church. There are only two to three tours a day that permit a maximum of 18 people so it really is limited. After going back and forth with a lovely elderly gentlemen struggling with our french, we managed to get in on the 4:15PM tour – mission accomplished. 

From there, we took the opportunity to see the sweeping views of the city below us – a view we looked up at every night we now get to see the reverse. 


Time to get a sneak peek inside the La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière before the tour later in the day.


It was amazingly detailed without being gaudy. Maybe it was the lack of in-your-face marble and gold but it worked to come off as elegant. We sat for awhile and listened to the service before taking a walk down to the crypt and in the chapel. 


We then traveled down back over the river for lunch and explored more – except we made the mistake of losing track of time. It was just after 3:30PM and the roof top tour departed at 4:15PM. It took us over a half hour to get there this morning. Panic of missing the tour began to settle in. 

Running while trying not the trip on all the cobble stone, we kept a brisk walking pace. We made it to the funicular train station and the line to get a ticket was three deep on each ticket station – something we had not seen the entire trip. The ticket station Kevin made it to refused his credit card twice so he had to get back in line for another kiosk. Once he got the tickets, we just missed the funicular up. Anther five precious minutes went by until another tram came down and it felt like an eternity before we left the station. It was 4:05PM and we were going to miss this roof tour with no other time on this trip to make up the loss. We still had a 15 minute uphill walk to La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. Kevin ran ahead to try and hold the tour as I hustled behind. Completely out of energy, I looked to the meeting point at the stairs and saw Kevin with a thumbs up. We made it by some act of God. 

A sweaty mess, I looked up and saw the 345 stairs we had to climb – this was starting to look like a bad situation.


Luckily, the tour started with a 15 minute introduction of the history of the basilique so I had time to cool off. We found out quickly this tour was only in french! Since our french is so poor, it was really a struggle to follow any of the narrative but it did not bother us.

We started the climb up the tower and got off less than half way up to get a look at the interior of the church.  This angle really gave an appreciation for how many details really are on every inch of the church. 


Then we got the chance the snag what I think is the best view of the interior of the church.


After a trip to the attic where the relics and older pieces are kept, we climbed the rest of the way to the rooftop. 


Our first stop was the bell tower. Kevin and I both looked at each other nervously- it was 5:40PM so we had 5 minutes to get in and out before the 23 bells began our permanent hearing loss. But these guys know what they are doing, right? 


Seeing the bells up close was really neat as our guide showed us that the no longer swing but are knocked externally instead. With two minutes to spare, we exited the bell tower and continued up the roof. 


The view from the top platform was incredible. The gold Mary and green St Michael we had seen from such a distance throughout the trip merely looked like dots and now they are giants. 


But this wasn’t our highest point. We crossed the roof to the front left tower up a tall, narrow spiral staircase which lead us to the very top of our tour.


What a spectacular sweeping view! Not only were we at the tippy top of one of the tallest churches, but we were also elevated on this enormous hill giving a vista in every direction. What an incredible place. 


And we cannot forget that iconic photo for Lyon.


After two hours exploring the basilique, we made our descend and concluded the tour.

The total for this experience? 10 euro per person. 10 euro for a two hour tour and the best views in Lyon. I can’t believe what an incredible value this was – they really could double the price and it still be great. And while you climb a lot of stairs, this is not like some of the other tower climbing experiences where you do all the climbing at once. This is broken up into several segments so it is more manageable. The rooftop experience is absolutely a must do when visiting Lyon. Remember, there are only 18 spots per tour and the frequency of the tours is seasonal – plan ahead for your trip! 

Continue reading about Lyon – here!

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