Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, also simply known as Lyon Cathedral, is located on Place Saint-Jean in the heart of Vieux Lyon. The cathedral was built between the 12th and 15th centuries using both Roman and Gothic design.

The Facts

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste is Lyon’s most important cathedral. In 1079 the Pope granted to the archbishop of Lyon the title of Primate of All the Gauls with the legal supremacy over the principal archbishops of France. This is the reason for the cathedral also being occasionally referred to as Primitiale. The cathedral was named as a historic monument back in 1862 and a World Heritage Site in 1998.

The main attraction to the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste is the astronomical clock present inside. Built in the 14th century, this clock has both a perpetual and religious calendar. The Lyon Astronomical Clock has the ability to calculate the dates of all saints’ days up until 2019, and can even calculate the position of the stars above Lyon! However, the clock is currently under renovation (along with a lot of the churches interior) as it was only accurate up until this year.

How to get there

Located on Place Saint-Jean in Vieux Lyon, Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste is easily accessible. The cathedral is located about a 2-minute walk from Vieux Lyon’s metro station, making it easy to get to from virtually anywhere in the city. It is even walkable from Bellecour, only about a 10-minute walk over the bridge.

Rue Saint-Jean, the street next to the cathedral is perhaps the liveliest street in Vieux Lyon. There are many cafes, bars, restaurants, craft shops and buskers, so this street is worth a visit even if you don’t fancy going into the church.

The church is open from 8:15am to 7:00pm all week.

The Experience

While the cathedral is usually a great spectacle to see, if you are in Lyon at the moment you are out of luck. The church’s interior is currently undergoing renovations, along with the astronomical clock. Therefore, it is difficult to experience the true beauty of the church’s design and architecture. The renovations are expected to be completed in early 2020.

If you’re an architecture enthusiast, you will appreciate the flamboyant Gothic/Roman architectural design of the cathedral. The astronomical clock is also something very interesting to visit and is also beautiful in its architecture.

There are guided tours that take you through the cathedral, usually costing around €9 for adults. If you decide against taking the tour, your visit to the church shouldn’t take longer than 10-15 minutes. I would recommend visiting the church in the morning as it can get quite busy in the afternoon.

However, arguably my favourite part of the visit to Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste was the atmosphere in the surrounding square and side streets. The area is full of activity and is great to stroll around or even sit down and enjoy a coffee in one of the cafes close to the cathedral. Once you’ve made it that far, of course you might as well have a look around the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste and its astronomical clock.