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33 Irresistible Things To Do In Lyon  (By A Local)

Updated 5 July 2023 by Leyla Alyanak — Parisian by birth, Lyonnaise by adoption, historian by passion

Curious about things to do in Lyon, France? Here's everything you need to know, whether you're a foodie, love attractions, or want to delve deep into history.

Lyon is often bypassed as holiday-makers push on quickly towards Provence. That is such a mistake!

Please stop if you possibly can, because there are so many things to do in Lyon you could spend a week here and barely scratch the surface.

I'm lucky – I live an hour away by train, in the countryside that is part of Lyon's Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. So when I want to bathe in the energy of the city, I can be there for breakfast, spend the day, and return once the sun sets.

As a local, I'll guide you through Lyon's rich history, mouthwatering cuisine, and captivating museums. Visiting Lyon for the first time? Spending the weekend in Lyon, or just a day?

Lyon is a city built on history, from its Roman ruins and medieval architecture  to its classical neighborhoods and modern creations. You can be transported more than two millennia in a question of minutes.

things to do Lyon - sample cheeses at the halles Paul BocuseOne of the best places to visit in Lyon (especially if you're here for the food) is the Halles Paul Bocuse, where culinary artisans from throughout the city show off their delicacies - like this cheese selection

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33 irresistible things to do in Lyon

Things to do in Lyon if you’re a foodie

Things the Lyonnais like to do

If you like to roam and explore

If you like going off the beaten path

Or if you just want to see the sights!

Lyon tourist attractions by neighbourhood

Getting to Lyon

Getting around Lyon

Where to stay in Lyon

Lyon FAQ

If you've never visited Lyon, this guide will show you around.

And if you're already addicted to the city, I just might be able to point you towards one or two things you haven't discovered yet.

Because this city has so much to offer, I've divided it up into themes. Otherwise, you would have a never-ending and disorganized list of things to do.

So here we go, Lyon for your every mood!

Things to do in Lyon if you're a foodie

What is Lyon famous for?

Food, of course!

That's why so many people call Lyon the capital of gastronomy.

Curnonsky − France's most famous 20th-century gastronomy writer − said so, and the famed “prince of gastronomes” should know.

Even some Parisians say so, and who’s to argue with them?

In addition to highly authentic cuisine honed over several centuries, Lyon has its own unique homegrown eateries.

From the first “mothers”, women whose welcoming establishments (known as “bouchons”) fed the city’s silk workers, to the late chef Paul Bocuse, revolutionary proponent of Nouvelle Cuisine, voted chef of the century, and dubbed the Pope of French Cuisine, chefs have brought their art to Lyon and continue to do so.

Typical interior of a bouchon-type eatery in Lyon Old cityWhile some bouchons are older and quirky, like this one, others are sleek and modern. It's not so much the decor but what's on the plate

1. Sample authentic Lyonnaise cuisine in a bouchon

A bouchon, literally, means a cork. 

Not in Lyon though... Here, a bouchon is a traditional eatery, serving typical Lyonnaise food.

These small establishments date back to the 19th century, run by (mostly) women to feed the city’s silk workers.

No visit to Lyon would be complete without at least one bouchon meal.

Eating an andouillette in a Lyon bouchonAn Andouillette, tripe sausage with a mustard sauce (far tastier than it sounds!)

The hearty, traditional cuisine of Lyon is particularly rich, usually involves meat (usually pork), and is bound to include some sort of offal, possibly tripe. And no, you don't have to try it if you don't like it.

An authentic bouchon will carry the label “Les Bouchons Lyonnais” (see the logo below), which guarantees the traditional recipes, the specificity of the products and cuisine, and the general ambience of the place. 

Here's the official list of the bouchons Lyonnais.

That said, some establishments call themselves bouchons even if they're not members of the association, and the food can also be good. The association provides a guarantee, while otherwise, it's trial and error.

Bouchons Lyonnais logo

As a vegetarian, well, it'll be harder.

There is at least one vegan food tour in Lyon, in the silk-weaving district, and Lyon's restaurants are increasingly offering vegetarian options, but the list of dishes is short.

2. Indulge in a delicate quenelle

To sample cuisine Lyonnaise, start with a “quenelle de brochet”. You’ll find it on most menus, and it’s a likable dish, not as offputting as the many types of offal Lyon is famous for.

A quenelle is basically a shape rather than a dish, rather oblong with rounded ends. It is usually made of pike (brochet) and comes with a crayfish sauce, although there are chicken versions. It’s relatively light and flavorful, and a perfect introduction to local cuisine.

Quenelles in a shop at Les Halles Paul BocuseAnd these are what quenelles look like

3. Savor an exquisite traditional Salade Lyonnaise

This is a likeable dish and easily found in bouchons and in regular restaurants – and typically local.

Have it as a starter or for lunch.

It is made of lettuce (frisée, if possible), bacon chunks, fried croutons and a poached egg, all slathered with vinaigrette. 

If you take your dressing on the side, be aware that this is not customary in France and might be difficult to convey. 

Try showing them this: “Vinaigrette sur le côté, s’il vous plaît.”

CULINARY BOOKS FOR THE LYON FOODIE

📖 Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training 
A fun read, a family memoir with plenty of heartwarming Lyon food experiences

📖 Simca's Cuisine: One Hundred Classic French Recipes For Every Occasion
An absolute classic with authentic French food recipes for every occasion 

📖 Mastering the Art of French Cooking (2 Volume Set)
The cornerstone of every kitchen that styles itself as French

4. Head for the pralines!

A fitting end to your bouchon meal would be something with pralines, much loved in Lyon.

Try a praline tart, made of crushed pralines, delicious but a little hard on the teeth depending on your age.

This is a relatively new dessert, invented a few decades ago to round off a bouchon meal. The pralines already existed – the only thing missing was the pie shell.

Pralines tart, a Lyon favoriteColorful praline tarts - sweet and addictive

5. Indulge in Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

The Halles Paul Bocuse is the summit of foodiness in Lyon, an indoor market with stalls and shops by all the top suppliers and artisans in the city.

The moment you enter this exclusive, delightful, amazing Lyon food market, you won't want to leave.

The decor is banal at best, dark-ish at worst, but everything you sample will be of exquisite perfection (with a price to match), from splendid escargots to seafood to all the makings for your French picnic.

I thoroughly enjoyed taking a private tour of Les Halles, which pointed me in the right direction for my first visit. After that, I returned on my own… again and again.

Lyon oysters as served in Les Halles Paul BocuseOysters fresh from the coast that morning at Les Halles Paul Bocuse

To maximize your time here, here's a list of all the shops and eateries at Les Halles de Lyon, and here is the floor plan so you can find your way around.

6. Awaken your inner chef with a French cooking class

Surrounded by so much food, why not learn how to make your own?

You could spend the afternoon with a pastry chef or learn to pair wines with Lyonnaise specialties.

Or learn to make croissants or tarte tatin!

If you're going to dip your toes into French cooking, Lyon is a great place to start.

7. Take a walking food tour of the city

You can taste all of Lyon's foods on your own, but if you want to sample as much as possible and don't have much time, take a food tour in Old Lyon and try some of the city’s specialties.

8. Sample the wine

It can’t have escaped you that Lyon is surrounded by prime wine country – Beaujolais, Chablis, Côtes du Rhône and then some.

Why not spend a few hours tasting some of these world-renowned wines?

Here are some suggestions for city wine escapes, from a few hours to a full day:

If you’re keen on wines, this oenological workshop compares the best of the wines you’ll be tasting in Lyon’s restaurants, so you'll know what you're tasting before you arrive.

If you want to do what the Lyonnais do

9. Admire the horizon from the top of Fourviere

Summer evenings are crowded behind the Fourvière Basilica… this is when groups of local friends exchange the heat of the city below for a cool breeze and an expansive view.

They might bring a picnic, or grab something from the coffee shop (it closes a bit early for summer, at 8pm).

View of Lyon from the Fourviere BasilicaA must-see in Lyon is the view from Fourviere. You can make half a day of it... Start with the Roman ruins of Lugdunum and the Gallo-Roman museum, then visit the basilica, and stick around for this stunning view (better in person than in my pictures!)

10. Eat at yourself silly at the Lyon Street Food Festival

People who live in Lyon do love a good festival… and this one is becoming a favorite.

Each June, long lines of foodies await the opening of the gates of what has become an eating extravaganza of note, with the participation of some of the world's most starred chefs preparing... street food. 

Here's their Facebook page (it's in French, but Facebook allows you to translate): if your visiting dates can possibly coincide, you'll be in for a treat. And I’ll probably be there too! You'll see... it's street food, but a lot more.

11. Swing to the sounds of the Nuits de Fourvière

Around the same time as the Street Food Festival, the city turns into a musical event with the Nuits de Fourvière, named after the hill on which it takes place.

This is quite a magical event: concerts are staged against a backdrop of Antiquity, right inside the Roman amphitheater that was used for performances as long as 2000 years ago.

Big names in French music can be expected to perform, and tickets sell out quickly.

12. Illuminate your winter evenings at the Fête des Lumières

Visiting Lyon in winter and wondering what to see in Lyon? If you're here early in the month, you're in for a treat: the annual winter light festival.

I do love a good light show, and this one is spectacular, with different artists showing off their stunning light creations each year.

Lights dancing on building facades during the December Fetes des Lumieres in LyonLights dance across the buildings of Lyon during the Fête des Lumières each December

13. Bathe in the lively atmosphere of the Lyon Bière Festival

Lyon may be surrounded by wine but you may not know it’s a brewer of note, a tradition developed during the 18th century by immigrants from Germany.

Consumption rose and fell in the following years but interest in brewing is on the rise and each April, you can sample local craft brews (and imported ones) at the Lyon beer festival.

14. Unwind on les Péniches along the riverside

Lyon has not one, but two rivers flowing through it, the Saône and the Rhône, so it’s not surprising that there is plenty of riverside action.

A favorite of locals is a summer evening outing to the houseboats, or “péniches”, moored along the water – for example along the Quais Victor Augagneur (probably the most popular), des Etroits, Perrache, Rimbaud…

Houseboats, or peniches, along the riverside in LyonHouseboats along Lyon's rivers - many of these are bars and restaurants in the evening

15. Indulge in retail therapy at Westfield − La Part-Dieu Mall

While French shopping habits still tend towards small neighborhood shops, malls are growing in importance, but none as much as this central Lyon behemoth, whose recent expansion has made it the largest downtown mall in Europe.

On weekends, it’s elbow room only but its multitude of shops, restaurants and entertainment activities mean there’s always something to do.

You can’t miss it – it’s right across the street from the Part-Dieu train station.

If you like to roam and explore

16. Relive the Roman Empire in old Lugdunum

I have a weakness for Roman ruins and the ones in Lyon are particularly spectacular

Lugdunum, as Lyon was once called, was important to the Roman Empire during the first century BCE and the capital of what was then the province of Gaul (which eventually grew into France).

The massive amphitheater is spectacular, along with the smaller odeon beside it. It's quite a feeling to clamber onto stones which, millennia ago, seated august Romans waiting for their entertainment to begin.

To get there, take the Funicular from the Old town towards St Just and get off at Minimes. When you exit, turn right, walk a little and the ruins are on your left.

Lugdunum Roman amphitheater, one of the most striking things to see (Lyon, France)The Roman amphitheater at Lugdunum, beautifully preserved and still used for summer concerts

17. Lose yourself in the medieval charm of Vieux Lyon

During the 19th century, the neighbourhood was a dirty den of thieves, so insalubrious it was almost destroyed until local associations lobbied successfully for its preservation – and eventual inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Old Lyon stretches inward from the west bank of the Saône to the lower reaches of Fourvière Hill. 

With cobblestones galore, the area is stuffed with eateries and shops (and excellent ice cream sellers), particularly welcome on a hot summer day. One of the area’s main attractions are the local “traboules”, or not-so-secret tunnels that lead from one street to the next. 

In the evening, find a breezy terrace and enjoy some of Lyon’s culinary specialties. Even better if you can get a seat in an authentic bouchon! (none shown in this photo though...)

View of Old Lyon street and cafesA typical scene in Lyon's Old Town

18. Feel the heart of Lyon in the dynamic Presqu’île 

One of the (many) nice things about Lyon is that it is divided up into easily distinguishable neighborhoods, with the Presqu'île (which means peninsula) leading the way for shopping (this is where the major shops are located) and classical architecture, especially at night when many of the 18th-19th century buildings, such as the City Hall and the Courthouse, are illuminated. 

This is also where you'll find the world-famous Opéra de Lyon, an unusual building: to enlarge and renovate the old classical structure, a semi-circular dome was built on top of it, providing a fusion between classical and modern architecture. It took me time to appreciate it but now I love it.

The Lyon Opera houseLyon's Opera House: the 19th century building ended just before the row of muses, added latet, but the dome was added only a few decades ago

This is also the site of the Place Bellecour, one of Europe's largest (and the site of the Lyon tourist office).

Statue of Louis XIV on the Place Bellecour in LyonThe statue of Louis XIV on Place Bellecour, and on the hill beyond, Fourvière Basilica

19. Delight in the trendy Croix-Rousse neighborhood

You've probably heard it often enough: Lyon is the Capital of Silk. But what does that mean, exactly?

While today Lyon's prosperity is driven by newer industries, it was once highly dependent on silk. François I (Francis I) gave Lyon the silk monopoly, and Louis XIV made French silk indispensable by decreeing the cloth at his court must be made in France. 

Lyon silk scarves in a shop on Croix-Rousse hillSilk shops dot the streets of Croix-Rousse Hill

Silk temporarily fell on hard times during the French Revolution, only to be rescued by Napoleon. It went from strength to strength until the arrival of synthetic cloth in the 1880s drove the industry away. 

But all is not said and done. 

Young designers are forging ahead with new uses for silk and putting their hand to the restoration of historical textiles, while houses of haute couture still order their silk from Lyon. Up on Croix-Rousse Hill, which the silk trade called home, silk still thrives.

To follow in the footsteps of Lyon’s silk workers, take this silk tour  through former workshops and historic silk passageways and learn about the trade that once put Lyon at the heart of European commerce.

Lyon Maison des Canuts 2One of the many silk exhibits still on display in Croix-Rousse

20.  Escape to one of France's vastest parks 

A contemporary of New York’s Central Park, the Tête d’Or (Golden Head) is one of France’s largest urban parks (the Lyon tourist office says it is actually the largest).

There’s something for everyone here: corners where you can relax and play games, a zoo with 64 animal species, a botanical garden, and a rose garden. You’ll see plenty of families having a picnic, students taking a nap on the grass, or couples getting married!

Lyon - what to do on a summer day? Head for these giant gold-tipped wrought-iron entrance gates to Parc de la Tete d'OrStunning entrance gates of the Parc de la Tête d'Or in Lyon

Here's a comprehensive list of Lyon's museums. Many of these are included in the Lyon City Card (along with free public transportation).

If you like what’s off-the-beaten-path

Lyon is full of the unusual, places that make you look twice with stories and legends that prompt you to shake your head in surprise and wonder.

21. Gaze in wonder at the astronomical clock

If you’re melting in the summer and happen to be visiting the Old Town, step into the 12th-century Cathédrale Saint-Jean, whose largely sober interior is set off by a whimsical astronomical clock which used to strike the hour several times a day (it was vandalized in 2013 and as of this writing has not yet been repaired).

When you enter the church, head towards the altar on the left side. The clock is on your left just a bit before the altar.

Astronomical clock at the Cathedrale Saint-Jean Baptiste in LyonThe delightful astronomical clock in St Jean cathedral - one of the oldest and most complex clocks in Europe

22. Discover the Musée Cinéma et Miniatures

The fascinating Movies and Miniatures Museum is miniaturist Dan Ohlman’s passion project – and is in fact two museums in one. 

The cinema section has more than 500 costumes and props from the world’s major film studios. Mary Poppins’ umbrella, anyone? How about the mask from “Mask”?

What really caught my eye, though, is the second museum and its exhibition of more than 120 hand-made miniatures. If you’ve ever eaten at Maxim’s in Paris, you’ll find it reproduced here, on a tiny scale, along with plenty of interiors from the famous to the merely familiar.

It is absolutely one of the most fun Lyon things to do, especially with kids but equally intriguing for adults.

Museum of cinema and miniatures in Lyon: a miniature of an antique shopOne of the 120 delightful miniatures on display - this is an ancient antique shop

23. Criss-cross Lyon’s enigmatic traboules

One of the most popular things to do in Lyon Old Town (and also in Croix-Rousse) is to explore the traboules, or secret passageways. 

A few are actual passageways, others are inside patios, but all lead from one place to another, often from one street to the next.

They were probably built to make it easier to carry water uphill from the riverside. Later, they would be used by silk traders to carry bolts of cloth from the workshops down to waiting ships below, avoiding rain in the process. 

More recently, Resistance fighters used them to hide from the Gestapo.

These days, few – fewer than 50 – of the original 500 remain open to the public. 

The Lyonnais themselves use these all the time to get from one street to another. Most are surrounded by dwellings, so avoid making noise. This way, residents won't complain and the traboules will stay open!

Locked traboule, or secret passageway, in Old LyonSome traboules are open to the public but others, like this one, are for residents only

24. Step back into WWII at the Deportation and History Center

For World War II history buffs, the Deportation and Resistance History Center retraces the role of Lyon during the Second World War. It is located right inside the former Gestapo headquarters. The juxtaposition of the stories of Holocaust survivors and the stairs walked by Gestapo officials may leave you somewhat uneasy.

If this era fascinates you, take advantage of a day walking tour that highlights Lyon as the capital of the Résistance.

Reconstituted meeting room of the Resistance at Museum of the Resistance in Lyon, FranceA few rooms from World War II have been replicated in the Resistance Center and museum

25. Explore the Musée des Confluences

The Musée des Confluences is an architectural oddity amid Lyon’s mostly classical and medieval architecture. A bit like a futuristic ship, this large-scale anthropological museum sits at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers (take this lovely one-hour cruise to see things from the water).

It almost defies description. In the museum's own words, it "tells the story of mankind and the history of life." Just go. 

One of the best things to do (Lyon, France) is to explore the new neighborhood of Confluence, and its sail-shaped museum, the Musée des ConfluencesThe extraordinary sail-shaped exterior of the Musée des Confluences

26. Unearth the secrets of Lyon's Gallo-Roman Museum

For even greater insight into Lugdunum's inhabitants, immerse yourself in the Gallo-Roman Museum, within the grounds of the ruins.

The museum is built right into the hill above the amphitheater so it looks perfectly natural.

Of particular note are some near-perfect mosaics that once adorned the floors and walls of the wealthy citizenry.

Mosaics from Lugdunum, or Lyon during the Roman eraOne of the several breathtaking mosaics on display at the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière

27. Discover Lyon's captivating murals

For many visitors, possibly the best things to see in Lyon are its 150 outdoor murals, extraordinary works of art that mostly unfurl above eye level. 

You'll probably stumble upon a few without looking for them, like the Fresque des Lyonnais, and look for others without finding them. If you want to see as many as possible, get an expert guide to take you around.

Lyon - Fresque des Lyonnais, one of the major Lyon tourist attractionsLa Fresque des Lyonnais, one of the most famous frescoes

Some depict famous Lyonnais, others show scenes from daily life, and yet others look like they've come straight from a science fiction movie.

Have a look at some of the best murals here.

28. Gaze in awe at the majestic Fourvière Basilica 

After having roamed around it a few times, it might just be time to enter the crown jewel itself.

Its blinding white façade is a relatively new addition (1872) to the Lyon skyline. Its four towers stand for the cardinal virtues of Justice, Temperance, Fortitude and Prudence.

The building is an architectural oddity, as though its designer couldn't decide among Byzantine, Gothic and Romanesque styles. The result is eclectic but charming, with plenty to look at. Perhaps charming isn't the right word, but neither is serene. Go see it: it just works!

Fourviere video screenshot

The basilica is made up of two superimposed churches. The first, or Upper Church, is spacious and intensively decorated, with plenty of mosaics, columns, stained glass windows and marble, a true feast for the eyes.

A monumental staircase leads below to the lower church, erroneously referred to as the crypt (if it has windows, it isn't a crypt).

For a view even more striking than the one behind the basilica, take its Rooftop Tour but beware of the 300+ steps you'll have to climb to get there. If you're up to it, it's worth it. The tour is in French, but the view is universal. (They can organize tours in English if you have a larger group).

29. Metallic tower of Fourvière

Are your eyes deceiving you, or is this a miniature Eiffel Tower?

No, you’re not dreaming.

Mini Lyon Eiffel Tower, just a little smaller than the originalIt does look a bit like the Eiffel Tower, doesn't it?

It was built to house a restaurant during the 1894 Lyon World Fair but has been converted into a telecommunications tower. It sits right next to the Fourvière Basilica, so you can’t miss it.

Who knows, maybe Eiffel had a hand in its building…

Or for some Lyon sightseeing...

30. Ride the Funicular to Fourvière Hill

One of the best spots for sightseeing in Lyon is to see the city from above, and as we’re already said, the best viewpoint is on Fourvière Hill, behind the basilica. 

Just hop on the funicular, the steep little railway that climbs up from Old Lyon, until you reach the top stop, Fourvière. 

Among the best Lyon (France) things to do is to take the funicular to Fourviere, seen here from the exterior as it descendsThe funicular that takes you up and down to Fourvière Basilica and the roman ruins of Lugdunum

From the edge of grounds, you'll get a sweeping view not only of Old Lyon but of the entire city.

The funicular is part of the public transportation system and its price is covered by the various Lyon transportation tickets.

31. Embark on a fascinating Lyon walking tour 

I may have said it before, but Lyon is a city for walking. Wandering around on your own is a delight, but if your time is limited or you’re afraid you might miss something, take one of the city’s excellent walking tours.

32. See Lyon on two wheels

While walking is one way to see the city, you may prefer something that moves slight more quickly!

How about cycling?

This grand tour lasts three hours and will take you all through the city.

But if you’re feeling slightly less energetic, a guided electric bike tour is perfect for your visit. You’ll still have to work at it, but a lot less!

33. Hop on and hop off

You’re undoubtedly familiar with the hop-on hop-off buses in many cities, and they’re popular for a reason.

By taking you around to the major sights, they allow you to get your bearings and to choose what to see and in which order.

Like other world-class cities, Lyon too has its hop-on hop-off buses.

  Don't forget to get your Lyon City Card for all public transportation and entrance to museums in Lyon!

All these sights and their backstories are highlighted in the sections below, by neighbourhood. 

Lyon things to do by neighbourhood

Lyon is officially divided into 9 arrondissements, or neighborhoods, though people often use their names rather than their numbers.

It's probably more helpful to know something is in Old Lyon rather than being told it's in the 5th... especially since one neighborhood may stretch over several arrondissements!

The five districts you're most likely to visit are Old Lyon, the Presqu'île (or peninsula), Croix-Rousse, Fourvière Hill and the Left Bank, each with its particular style and personality.

Most of the first four are protected as part of the Lyon Unesco world heritage site, confirming the city's stellar urban planning (rather than destroy to rebuild, Lyon simply expanded) and its authenticity.

Lyon what to do: visit the Unesco perimeter with this mapThe red line contains the UNESCO protected area of Lyon, while green traces the buffer zone designed to protect the site (City of Lyon)

Old Lyon, or the Vieux Lyon

This ancient labyrinth of cobblestoned streets in the Old City of Lyon is lined with restaurants and a mix of shops, some of them your typical tourist fare but with a surprising number of authentic little establishments selling everything from antique books to specialty groceries.

Hundreds of narrow, winding tunnels called traboules link these streets, "secret" passageways along which the Lyonnais hid or traveled as required throughout the centuries. Many traboules are now closed to the public, although the longest one, at 54 rue Saint-Jean, is worth a visit, as are several others scattered throughout the old town. (It has been closed for repairs so check to see if it's reopened.)

You can explore them on your own, or take a take a guided tour (many existing traboules are off-limits to tourists, but guides often know how to get into them).

You can also download an app for IOS to explore the traboules, which I haven't tried yet but which sounds promising.

The heart of this part of town is the 12th-century Cathédrale Saint-Jean, home of the astronomical clock. From here, stroll down the Rue Saint-Jean, the Old Town's main street. 

Several museums are in this part of town, including the whimsical Musée des Arts de la Marionette, or puppet museum, perfect if you visit Lyon with kids, the small but quirky Musée des Automates, the museum of automation, and the Cinema and Miniatures museum.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: THINGS TO DO IN LYON OLD TOWN

WHERE TO EAT IN LYON OLD TOWN ➽
Daniel et Denise, an authentic but modern bouchon, 36 rue Tramassac

WHERE TO STAY IN LYON OLD TOWN ➽
This lovely apartment right next to the Old Town

SHOPPING IN OLD TOWN LYON ➽
Brochier Soieries silk shop, 16 rue du Boeuf

La Presqu'île

The Presqu'île is that "almost island" which sits between Lyon's two rivers, the Rhône and the Saône. This is proper downtown Lyon, where you'll find plenty of shops and museums and sweeping squares.

Wander around the Place Bellecour, Europe's largest pedestrian square (and home of the Lyon Tourist Office); the Place des Terreaux and its sculptured fountain by Bartholdi (better known for his Statues of Liberty) across from City Hall (the Hôtel de Ville); the Place des Jacobins and its delightful fountain... and many more.

This is also the place some of Lyon's most majestic museums call home, especially the Musée des Beaux-Arts (one of France's best fine arts museums) and the very modern and stylish Musée des Confluences, where the two Lyon rivers meet at the southern tip of the Presqu'île.

And finally, one of the outstanding sights of this part of town is the Fresque des Lyonnais, a giant mural (one of many in Lyon) which represents 31 local VIPs – artists, creators, chefs, inventors...

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: LA PRESQU'ÎLE

WHERE TO EAT IN THE PRESQU'ÎLE 
The Brasserie Georges, serving the who's who passing through since 1836 (unpretentiously)

WHERE TO STAY IN IN THE PRESQU'ÎLE ➽
The elegant Bayard Bellecour is a step right into history

SHOPPING IN IN THE PRESQU'ÎLE ➽
The entire area is filled with boutiques and shops... just explore!

  Don't forget your Lyon City Card for transportation and entrance to museums!

Croix-Rousse

This is the hilly part of town, where the silk workers once plied their trade, and walking around is one of the fun things to do in Lyon alone.

The neighbourhood is also pierced by traboules, which – unlike the ones in the Old Town – are mostly open to the public. In fact, you can walk most of the way down Croix-Rousse hill using the traboules, a fun bit of exploration as their entranceways aren't always obvious.

There are plenty of silk-related sights here, from museums to shops to former workshops.

Read all about Croix-Rousse here.

View downhill from Croix-Rousse into downtown Lyon FranceLooking down into Lyon from Croix-Rousse Hill

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: CROIX-ROUSSE

WHERE TO EAT IN CROIX-ROUSSE ➽
I had a lovely lunch at the Café du Gros Caillou, right at the top of the hill, 180 Bd de la Croix Rousse

WHERE TO STAY IN CROIX-ROUSSE ➽
Bright and cheerful, the Hotel de la Croix-Rousse is very close to the Metro station

SHOPPING IN CROIX-ROUSSE ➽
L'Atelier de Soierie sells silks and shows how it's made

Fourvière Hill

After visiting the basilica – the upper church, its crypt, and the view of Lyon from above – head towards the mini "Eiffel tower", now a telecommunications center but intriguing nonetheless.

Round off your exploration with a visit to the Roman ruins of Lugdunum and the Gallo-Roman museum just below. 

What to see in Lyon: the famous Basilica Notre Dame up on Fourvière HillFourvière Basilica seen from the rear

Use a Lyon city map (use Google maps or buy a physical map here) to head downhill to the 

Once you're finished, if you're tired of walking, you can always hop on the funicular for your downhill ride.

You CAN use one of the several sets of stairs to walk up to the top from Old Lyon if you're feeling athletic.

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: LYON FOURVIÈRE

WHERE TO EAT IN FOURVIÈRE ➽
There are very few places to eat so head back down on the funicular to Old Lyon.

WHERE TO STAY IN FOURVIÈRE ➽
The Fourvière Hotel is near the ruins – and you'll be staying in a former convent!

RIDING THE FUNICULAR ➽
For Lugdunum, direction Saint Just and get off at Minimes
For the basilica, direction Fourvière and get off at the end

The Left Bank of Lyon, or the Rive Gauche

Yes, Lyon has its Left Bank too! It's the more modern part of town (with a few exceptions) but don't be put off by that – like the rest of Lyon, it will probably surprise you.

The highlight of this area is the Parc de la Tête d'Or, the one place that isn't very modern and dates back to 1856. It's an English-style garden with lawns, rose gardens and a Botanical Garden.

Right next to it is the Cité Internationale, a new complex that mixes entertainment and residences and actually looks appealing even if you're not a lover of the modern.

The modern, international city of LyonModern lines at the Cité Internationale
Parc de la Tête d'Or in Lyon FranceInside the Parc de la Tête d'Or

This area is stuffed full of unusual things to do in Lyon. Its museums are a delight, including the Musée d'Art Contemporain (Museum of Contemporary Art) or the Institut Lumière (for visual arts fans).

If you love Lyon's murals, wander around the outdoor Musée Urbain Tony Garnier, monumental murals centered around residential architecture.

Last but not least, the Halles Paul Bocuse, a gastronomic indoor food market, is one of the top Lyon attractions located in the Part-Dieu neighborhood (which is where you'll probably arrive if you're coming by train). 

PRACTICAL INFORMATION: LYON RIVE GAUCHE

WHERE TO EAT IN LYON RIVE GAUCHE ➽
Les Halles Lyon Paul Bocuse, for food shopping and plenty of sit-down restaurants in Lyon, 102 Cours Lafayette

WHERE TO STAY: HOTELS IN LYON RIVE GAUCHE ➽
If you're a fan of Philippe Starck, you'll love Mama Shelter!
If you're arriving at Part-Dieu, here are good hotels near Lyon train station

Getting to Lyon

Lyon lies at the heart of the region of Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, one of France's largest regions (there are 18 in all), and in these days of high-speed trains is under two hours from Paris, accessible on a day trip. The city does, however, deserve a lot more than a day.

And so do its environs! If you spend a few days in Lyon, make sure you take a day trip or two to some of the nearby cities or countryside.

Getting around Lyon

Getting around Lyon is a breeze (as long as you're not driving!)

The city has an extensive and well-organized public transport system, the TCL, or Transports Communs Lyonnais. Here's their route finder, which I use often. I suggest you download the TCL app, available for both IOS and Android phones.

You can buy transport tickets from the ticket machines located at major stops and in the metro, perfect if you don't plan to visit any museums. Here are the different ticket options.

But if you plan to see the sights, consider getting a Lyon City Card, which includes transport along with many of the city's museums. 

Cycling in Lyon is also an option and you can rent a bike from Velo'v. Yes, there are drivers on the streets, but you can avoid a lot of them by using the smaller streets which, in Lyon, are thankfully plentiful.

HOW TO YOU PRONOUNCE LYON? AND SPELL IT?

Pronouncing this city can be tricky: it's lee-ON, although you pronounce the O but stop just short of the N.

Spelling it also uncovers a range of different interpretations.

  • It's often seen as Lyons France – English speakers often add an "s" to the end (the same with Marseilles, which doesn't have an "s" in French). Lyons is not incorrect – but that's not how it's spelled in France.
  • Other spellings also occasionally surface: Leon France, or Leone France.

Now you know: L-Y-O-N. Hope this helped!

Ready for your Lyon trip?

Here are some suggestions to make your visit even more enjoyable!

TOP LYON CITY TOURS 
 Vieux Lyon 4-hour Food Tasting Tour - for inveterate foodies and gastronomes
 Discover Lyon Walking Tour - to explore the essence of the city

LYON DAY TRIPS
 Golden Stones Beaujolais - heart of the Golden Stone villages for wine lovers
 Northern Côtes du Rhône - meeting the winemakers
Beaujolais and Pérouges - wine tasting and a medieval village visit

WHERE TO STAY IN LYON
 Villa Florentine - stunning 5-star luxury overlooking the entire city
Mi-Hotel Tour Rose - perfect apartments in historic Vieux Lyon
Fourvière Hotel - elegant simplicity in a former cloister
Hotel du Théatre - budget option in the heart of the classical district

Renting a car in Lyon? Compare prices here.
Traveling here by train? Book your ticket here.
To see the city, don't forget to book your Lyon City Card.

Where to stay in Lyon

Lyon has a wealth of accommodation options in every budget. Using the map below will make it easy to find the right room or holiday apartment for your stay.

Booking.com

FAQ: Things to do in Lyon

What to do in Lyon France on a rainy day?

Visit one of the city's fabulous museums, like the Confluence or one of the specialty museums, for example the Gallo-Roman Museum.

What are the best things to do in Lyon France on a Sunday?

Visit the Fourvière Basilica, explore the tiny alleys of the Old Town or visit the Parc de la Tête d'Or.

When is the best time to visit Lyon France?

This might surprise but summer is NOT the best season to visit − it can be hot and stormy although on the other hand, hotel prices are lower. Winter can be cold and snowy BUT − December is when we have the fabulous Fête des Lumières, the brilliant lights festival where buildings are clothed in light shows, and Christmas markets.

These are the best seasons to visit Lyon:

  • spring, with April and May delightful
  • autumn, with a pleasant October and November, not too hot or cold, and not too much rain

That said, I've visited Lyon in every season and it's a fabulous city, so even in the "not best" seasons, it is absolutely worth the visit.

What are some free things to do in Lyon France?

There are plenty of things that are free in Lyon. The traboules and murals, of course, and the riversides (especially on market days). The Parc de la Tête d'Or and its gardens and zoo, and the ruins of old Lugdunum. The Fourvière Basilica is free, but you'll have to pay a few euros to take the funicular (or be brave and walk up).

What are some things to do in Lyon in winter?

If you plan to be in Lyon in December, you may be able to enjoy one of the most fabulous light shows in France, the Fête des Lumières, which takes place in the first half of the month.

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