The Ancient Theatre of Fourvière is a Roman theatre in Lyon. Its located on the hill of Fourvière, which is the centre of the Roman colony of Lyon. There are in fact two theatres at this site, one large one and another smaller one built to accompany it.
The main theatre dates back to about 15 BCE. However, the theatres were abandoned around the 4th century and ended up being buried underground with their existence being forgotten about. The site was rediscovered in 1887 when a man named Professor Lafon was intrigued by the shape of the garden of the property he had recently purchased. After many years of carefully digging and studying the artefacts found, it is was finally discovered in 1921 that what was under this ground was an ancient theatre. The theatre was completely restored in 1933.
This remarkable structure has all the usual characteristics associated with an ancient roman theatre, with steep-tiered seating, a large stage and beautifully decorated floors. The Ancient Theatre of Fourvière is located between Lyon’s famous Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière and Vieux Lyon.
The theatre is still used for performances, in particular the Nuits de Fourvière festival which takes place across the summer months in Lyon.
How to get there
The best method of getting to the theatre is by means of the historic funicular from Saint Jean metro station in Vieux Lyon. Travelling in one of these funiculars can be an experience in itself, with the steep climb made by the funiculars being an experience in itself!
The F1 line will take you directly to the bottom of the amphitheatre if you get off at the first stop, while the F2 line will take you all the way to the top of Fourvière Hill. The funiculars are included in Lyon’s public transport system, so if you purchased a daily pass you don’t need to worry about paying. Otherwise, the funiculars cost a very reasonable €2.
If you want to make a full afternoon of your visit, I would recommend taking the F2 to the top of the hill to take a look at Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière and the amazing panoramic views of the city from the top of the hill. Once you’ve taken in the scenery, you can also admire the ancient theatres on your descent back down to Vieux Lyon.
When I arrived at the theatre, I was amazed with how well it has been preserved over the years. Looking at it, you really get a feel of just how old this amazing structure is and how grand it must have been back when it was built.
There is a museum located right next to the theatre called the Roman Gallo Museum, so if you would like to learn more about the history of the site this would certainly be beneficial. I unfortunately wasn’t there when a performance was taking place, but many locals say it’s something that’s worth experiencing (particularly during the summer).
The ancient theatre is definitely worth incorporating into your visit to Lyon, you won’t be disappointed.