Nestled on the banks of the Rhône and Saône rivers, the vibrant city of Lyon is one of France’s hidden gems. And while it’s considered one of France’s largest cities, it remains a charming and atmospheric place teeming with life, arts, and culture.
Besides being known for it’s historic UNESCO World Heritage Sites, top of the line gastronomy, and luxurious silk making, Lyon is also home to some of the most fascinating museums in Europe. Ranging from large-scale contemporary art galleries to small, off the beaten path specialty museums, Lyon has it all!
So during your visit, don’t forget to check the following museums off your list. You just might find something new and intriguing in this beautiful, French city!
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Spanning thousands of years in history, the Musée des Beaux Arts is an art lover’s paradise. Within the museum’s 17th century walls, you’ll find 35 rooms of historical paintings, 19th and 20th-century sculptures, and even Ancient Egyptian and Roman artifacts.
But that’s not all! There’s also an extensive collection of coins, medals, and graphic art design. So if you only have time to visit one art museum in Lyon, make it the Musée des Beaux Arts!
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One of Lyon’s most unique contemporary collection of art is located in the Musée d’Art Contemporain. Unlike other art museums of it’s kind, the art pieces have been specially designed and created by the artists on site!
And while it takes around six months to install the new exhibits for the year, it’s worth visiting just to see the one-of-a-kind installations! Exhibits range from local French artists to internationally well-known designers.
For a different type of art museum in Lyon, head over to the Musée de l’Imprimerie, a museum dedicated entirely to printing and designing books! Over the last 50 years, the museum has curated a fascinating collection of French and Western book prints from artists such as Josse Bade, Etienne Dolet, and Guillaume Rouille.
You can also find 20th-century printing tools, including a photo and computer typesetter.
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Step back in time as you walk through the archeological ruins of Lyon at the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière. Here, you can explore the ancient Roman village, which includes homes, dwellings, and even a lifesize amphitheater and Odeon.
Most impressively, the site was only discovered 50 years ago! The on-site museum also includes artifacts dating back 2,000 years, including mosaics, statues, and even transcripts found in this Roman town in Lyon.
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For something off the beaten path, head to Musée Cinéma et Miniature. Essentially two museums in one, the Musée Cinéma et Miniature contains an exhibit on cinematic special effects, as well as an exhibit on miniature artists!
See memorabilia from your favorite movies, including costumes, animatronics, and weapons. And in the miniature museum, you can visit over 100 small scale models and visual scenes created with an absurd amount of detail!
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Translated as the Museum of Lyon History, The Musée d’histoire de Lyon is one of Lyon’s most interesting history museums. With over 80,000 individual objects, the museum contains a comprehensive collection of sculptures, paintings, and artifacts curated through thousands of years of Lyon history.
Starting in the middle ages and ending in the 19th-century, the Musée Gadagne is the ultimate experience for history buffs and Francophiles!
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Located next to the Musée d’histoire de Lyon inside the Hotel Gadagne, the Musée des arts de la marionnette is completely focused on the exciting hobby of puppetry! With 300 marionettes and puppets, the Musée des arts de la marionnette explains how puppetry originated and how to use them for entertainment.
And if you’re eager to give puppetry a try for yourself, you’ll love the hands-on exhibits and performance stations located around the museum. You can also see a live marionette show that has been performed daily for the last 60 years!
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As one of Lyon’s most influential architects and designers, Tony Garnier has left his mark on French culture. And at the Musée Urbain Tony Garnier, you can explore his residential buildings! But this isn’t your average museum.
Instead of an indoor museum, the Musée Urbain Tony Garnier is actually a set of 25 enormous housing blocks, many of which have a brightly painted mural on the side. Grab a map and audio guide and explore this the visionary designs of Tony Garnier!
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Movie buffs and cinema lovers cannot miss a visit to the Musée Lumière while in Lyon. Here, you can learn about the history of the cinematograph, created by the Lumière brothers, two of the world’s earliest filmmakers.
You can also see several of their other inventions, including the Photorama, the stereoscopic projector, and the Autochrome plates, which brought color images to movies. As you learn about the life and achievements of these famous brothers, you can deepen your knowledge of cinematic history!
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France is synonymous with luxury, and nothing is more luxurious than fine silks! At La Maison des Canuts, you can explore five centuries of looming and silk making.
This on-site workshop also puts on live looming demonstrations using the traditional Jacquard hand-loom technique! See how silk gets created from silkworms, learn how it’s weaved and dyed, and even purchase a beautiful souvenir from their gift shop!
Visit LA Maison des Canuts for free (along with 22 other museums) with the Lyon City Card!
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Jean Couty was one of Lyon’s most influential painters, and you can see the majority of his works at the Musée Jean Couty! Located just down the block from his home and art studio, the museum contains stunning contemporary paintings from the 20th century.
His vibrant and realistic visions of landscapes, buildings, people, and even Lyon have wowed visitors and tourists from around the world.
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Housed in a stunning, stainless steel and glass building on the banks of the Rhône River, the Musée des Confluences is dedicated to the wonder of natural science and anthropology. The museum currently has large exhibits on display, with plans to increase to five more exhibits, four discovery spaces, and two auditoriums.
However, you can still learn about topics such as the history of the universe, the evolution of man and animals, and the inevitable death of humans. Make sure to bring your thinking cap because these exhibits are sure to stir up some interesting thoughts!
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Located on the former site of a French military health school, the Centre d’histoire de la résistance et de la déportation explores the French Resistance and Jewish deportation that occurred during World War II.
It was once occupied by German soldiers as a building of torture before allied soldiers destroyed it in 1944. This historical museum is educational as much as it is harrowing and moving.
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Lyon has its fair share of contemporary and modern art museums, and La Sucrière is one of the best! This 1930s building was completely renovated in 2011 and remains the most popular venues for rotating art exhibits in Lyon.
Every year hosts a different installation or exhibit, with the World of Steve McCurry currently running in 2019. Make sure to check their website for the most up to date information on what’s happening at the La Sucrière!
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Showcasing the history and modern-day advancements of Lyon’s fire brigade, the Le Musée des sapeurs-pompiers de Lyon et du Rhône is a unique museum that you can’t miss!
Inside, you’ll find antique firefighting equipment, retired fireman uniforms, and even beautifully restored fire trucks! In fact, the museum is filled with over 150 different fire trucks curated over the last few decades!
How many museums are in Lyon?
Lyon may be France’s 3rd largest city, but it’s still relatively small, which means it may have fewer museums compared to Paris and Marseille. However, you can always find dozens of museums, ranging from small quirky galleries to large scale science museums.
How many free museums are in Lyon?
You can find a handful of free museums in Lyon, especially for children under 18 or during special free visit days. However, most places charge an entry fee. But keep in mind that this entry fee is usually lower than most museums in France and Europe.
What are the hours of museums in Lyon?
Most museums in Lyon open around 10 or 11 am, and close around 5 or 6 pm. While museums are usually open during the weekend, many are closed on Monday, Tuesday, and bank holidays. There are special days during the year where museums host late night hours, where you can visit past closing time.
What can I bring into Lyon museums?
Food and drinks are usually prohibited within Lyon’s art museums but may be allowed in other museums. And unless you are visiting a children’s or interactive museum, photography (especially with flash) is also usually prohibited. Check the website of your desired museum to see precisely what you’re allowed to bring during your visit.
As you can see, there is more to Lyon than meets the eye. It’s a bustling city rich in history, with Roman ruins and centuries of ancient art. It’s the epicenter of French film making, home to the Lumière brothers and the invention of the cinematograph. And, it’s full of stunning masterpieces, ranging from French fine arts to international contemporary paintings and sculptures.
So whatever you choose to do in Lyon, don’t forget to check one of the fascinating museums the city has to offer. We know you’ll find something that sparks your interest and keeps you returning back to this fantastic place for years to come!
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Born in Los Angeles, Aaron Hovanesian is one of the original staff writers for Hotel Jules. Having backpacked the world as a young man, Aaron now prefers to travel the world in luxury, proudly staying in the world's most amazing hotels and properties. When Aaron is not traveling he lives in Western Colorado he can be found brewing his own beer (probably an IPA) or spending time with his two amazing golden retrievers.