Things To Do In Lyon, France: 12 Ways to Explore Like A Local
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We have finally made it to Lyon – the food capital of France and the “world capital of gastronomy!” Every food enthusiast should plan a trip to Lyon. Even if you think you already adore French food, the traditional Lyonnaise cuisine will make you fall in love even more!
Where exactly is Lyon and what is there to see and do? In this Lyon travel guide, we cover all the essentials to ensure your next vacation to France goes as smoothly as possible — even if you only have 24 hours in Lyon! Read on to find our best Lyon travel tips and favourite places to visit in Lyon.
Where is Lyon in France?
Let’s start with geography: Lyon is located in the central eastern part of France, about 2 hours by train south of Paris. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon is considered the third largest city in France after Paris and Marseille.
The Saône river and the Rhône river wend their way through the city of Lyon. Two picturesque hills, La Croix-Rousse and Fourvière, are iconic features of the city’s skyline.
Is Lyon Worth Visiting?
We love Lyon for many reasons. Nouvelle French cuisine originates in Lyon, and as such the city draws some of the best international chefs. The city boasts 21 Michelin star restaurants (in 2021), a remarkable feat for the city’s size.
Lyon doesn’t just attract foodies, though. The city has a rich history spanning more than 2000 years. Walking through the Vieux Lyon (Old Town), you will notice many historical buildings and landmarks from the Renaissance era, when the city thrived on silk production and trade.
Outside the Old Town you will find a completely different world: stunning contemporary architecture fills the city landscape, drawing the attention of photographers.
So, whether you’re into food, history and culture, or art, there are plenty of things to do in Lyon to fill your itinerary!
Getting to Lyon
Taking a train is the most popular way to get to Lyon from other cities in France. Direct trains from Paris to Lyon are operated by SNCF. Trains depart every day (except Sundays) from Paris’ Gare de Lyon train station and take about 2 hours to arrive at Lyon’s Part-Dieu train station.
Flying is the quickest way to get to Lyon if you’re short on time. Both HOP! and Air France fly directly from Paris to Lyon. The only difference is that HOP! flights depart from Paris-Orly airport whereas Air France flights depart from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport.
From Lyon Airport to City Centre
To get to Lyon by air, the closest airport to fly into is Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport (LYS), the main international airport serving Lyon. The tram shuttle Rhônexpress runs every 15 minutes and will get you from Lyon airport to the city centre in just 30 minutes. Tickets cost €16,30 (one way) / €28,30 (return).
If you’re carrying large suitcases, we recommend taking a cab. A taxi ride from Lyon airport to city centre costs €50-€100, depending on where you get off. Taxi can be requested at the airport taxi stand or by Uber.
Getting Around Lyon
The first thing you should do when planning your trip to Lyon is buy a Lyon City Card.
This exclusive Lyon city pass helps you save on public transport, activities, and entertainment by giving you:
- free admissions to 23 museums and other Lyon tourist attractions
- unlimited access to Lyon public transport (with the option to include Lyon airport train service via Rhônexpress)
- one guided tour (chosen among many others offered by Lyon Tourism)
- a river cruise tour from the city centre to the Confluence shopping centre (available from April to October)
- VIP shopping offers in Galeries Lafayette Part-Dieu, Printemps, Confluence Shopping Centre and Hard Rock Cafe
- 50% off on Hippocketwifi
- Bike rental with Vélo’v for €5 for 72 hours
- …and more!
With all these benefits, you are sure to discover the best of Lyon sightseeing during your stay! Cards are available in 1-, 2-, 3-, or 4-day options, and can be purchased online or at the Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport.
By TCL Network
Lyon’s public transport network is run by TCL. With 4 metro lines, 2 funicular railways, 5 tramways and numerous bus routes, the TCL transport network will get you to all corners of Lyon!
Pro tip: Don’t rely on Google Maps to plan your trip in Lyon as it won’t give you directions for public transportation. Download this Lyon metro map to help you get around Lyon city centre. Or download the TCL mobile app for your iPhone or Android phones!
For those looking for a luxurious stay, consider hotels in Vieux Lyon (5e arrondissement). This neighborhood is set on a hill and is home to a few luxury hotels in Lyon like Villa Maïa and Villa Florentine. Be prepared for the steep slopes, but the views are definitely worth it!
By Bike or E-Scooter
Sometimes it is too far to walk to a metro station. But that’s okay, Lyon offers many other modes of transportation to help you explore the city!
The city of Lyon has designated bike lanes to help cyclists feel safe. For bike rentals, look into Vélo’v. This bike sharing system is available 24/7 and gives you the flexibility to pick up and return a bicycle at any of the 349 Vélo’v stations across the city!
Pro tip: with Lyon City Card, you can rent a Vélo’v bike for just €5 euro for 72 hours!!
Our favourite way to see Lyon is by e-scooter, which has become widely popular in France. It is fun, fast, and super addicting!
Renting an electric scooter is easy, all you need is a credit card and a mobile phone with internet connection. Download the app from one of the operating companies (wind, voi or lime), scan the QR code of an available scooter, and you’re ready to go! Unlike Vélo’v, you can park your scooter anywhere you like, as long as you stay within the city limits!
Travel Restrictions (as of 2021)
Masks are mandatory for indoor public spaces and on public transport.
In addition, Health Pass (pass sanitaire) is required to get into bars, restaurants, and malls, as well as leisure events and venues with a capacity of more than 50 people, which includes museums, theatres, and most tourist attractions.
- If you are a non-EU tourist, you can apply for a health pass using this online system. Make sure you have your vaccination certificate, a valid passport and return airline tickets ready in digital format.
- For those travelling from the EU, you can present your EU digital COVID certificate.
For more details and the latest updates, please refer to the government’s official site.
12 Non-Touristy Things to Do in Lyon, France
1| Eating your way through Bouchon Lyonnais
With more than 4000 restaurants in the city, you will never run out of places to eat in Lyon. But bouchons are uniquely Lyon and were a favourite place for silk workers to go to grab a bite. Today, people specifically go to bouchons to taste traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.
Some of the Lyonnaise specialties you must try include Salade Lyonnaise, Cervelle de Canut, Andouillette, and Coq au Vin.
Pro tip: For an authentic, high-quality culinary experience, select a restaurant with the “Les Bouchons Lyonnais” label on the window. Or go to the Les Bouchons Lyonnais website to search for the best bouchons in Lyon!
2| Make a trip to Paul Bocuse Restaurant
A visit to the world-renown Paul Bocuse Restaurant in Lyon is every foodie’s dream.
Also known as L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges, the Paul Bocuse Restaurant is located just outside Lyon in Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or. The luxury restaurant is where the culinary giant Paul Bocuse built his reputation and has maintained three Michelin stars since 1965 for a record-breaking number of years! In 2020, it has been demoted to a two-star rating.
There are many Michelin star restaurants in Lyon, France, but if you only have the time or budget for one, save it for the Paul Bocuse Restaurant. The exceptional food and service are worth a special journey!
Another spot worth visiting is the Lyon food market, Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. It sells the finest produce in the region and has several bars and restaurants on-site. Make sure to go hungry so you can try everything in sight!
3| Explore Les Traboules
Wondering what to see in Lyon? Put traboules on your list!
The traboules are secret passageways found only in the city of Lyon. Built between buildings are weaving through courtyards, these secret alleyways and staircases were used in the 19th century by silk workers to transport their products quickly between places without getting them wet or damaged in poor weather.
There are as many as 400 traboules in Lyon, mainly found in the Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse areas, but only 40 of them are open to the public today.
Join a guided tour if you want to visit traboules as they can be quite difficult to find (well, they were supposed to be *secret* afterall…).
But if you are adventurous like us andare determined to explore on your own, we recommend checking out Cour des Voraces, located at 9 Place Colbert / 14 bis montee Saint Sebastion. If there is any doubt where the entrance is, look for the lion sign! It is one of the most unusual things to do in Lyon, and it will earn you bragging rights!
Pro tip: Only visit the traboules during daytime and remember to keep your voice as low as possible (these passages connect through residential buildings).
4| Stroll through Croix-Rousse
Located up on a hill in the north of Lyon, Croix-Rousse was once the heart of Lyon’s silk industry. Today, it has become the hub of creativity for young designers and artists, exploding with eclectic shops, hip cafes, and modern bistros.
We recommend taking the metro line C to Hénon station first and make your way down the hill. Take the stairs down Montée de la Grande-Côte and finish at Passage Thiaffait, a former traboule that has been converted into shops and boutiques.
Most shops open quite late in Croix-Rousse. It is best to visit in the afternoon!
5| Go on a Winery Tour at Rhône Valley and Beaujolais
Interested in a wine tasting tour? No problem! Rhône Valley and Beaujolais are popular day trips from Lyon.
As the second largest wine region in France, Rhône Valley stands among the top destinations for wine tourism. It offers as many as 14 wine routes for you to explore – either by car, on foot, by bike, on horseback, or in the air!
Beaujolais vineyards, spread across the hills and village, are known for its fruity, red, Gamay-based wines. The best way to discover the magnificent Beaujolais wine is by driving along the 140-km long Beaujolais Wine Route–we guarantee it will awaken your taste buds!
6| Spend a day museum hopping in Vieux Lyon
The Old Town is packed with many popular Lyon attractions. Traboules are one, another are the museums!
In fact, Lyon is home to some of the best museums in France. Musée Gadagne and Musée Cinéma et Miniature are particularly interesting!
Musée Gadagne houses two museums, the Lyon History Museum and the Puppetry Museum. It is Lyon’s largest Renaissance building dating back to the end of the 15th century. Your admission gives you access to 4 levels (there’s a hillside hanging garden on the top floor) and to the inner courtyard.
Musée Cinéma et Miniature is another 2-in-1 museum. It introduces you to the magic of special effects in films, and the poetic world of miniature artists.
7| Climb up to Fourvière Hill for the best views in Lyon
Looking for the best place to photograph Lyon’s city skyline? Head to the top of the hill of Fourvière! It is accessible by stairs (around 120 m) or by funicular from Vieux Lyon.
Crowning the hill is the iconic Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, built in Romanesque and Byzantine style. The panoramic view from the esplanade is breathtaking. If you don’t mind a bit of a workout (i.e. climbing 345 stairs), join the guided rooftop tour to get an ultra-exceptional view (€10 / free with Lyon City Card; in French only).
8| See the modern side of Lyon at La Confluence
Lyon doesn’t just preserve historic buildings. We were most surprised by the wealth of modern architecture you can find throughout the city.
Stroll around the Confluence district and you’ll find eye-popping, futuristic structures all over the neighbourhood. Formerly an industrial wasteland, La Confluence is Europe’s biggest urban renewal project to rejuvenate the area.
The Musée des Confluences, resembling a floating crystal cloud, is an absolute must-see in Lyon. Other great photo spots you shouldn’t miss include the vibrant green cuboid building of Euronews headquarters, the orange cube following the same concept, and stacked modular housings on Quai Antoine Riboud.
9| Shop till you drop at Presqu’île
So where should you go shopping in Lyon, France? The best place in Lyon is Presqu’île, the narrow peninsula in between the Saône and Rhône rivers.
From large department stores to quirky boutiques, the Presqu’île area offers a wide variety of shopping experiences to get your retail fix. Most shops are located on rue Victor Hugo, rue du Président Edouard Herriot, rue de la République as well as around Place Bellecour. Whether you’re searching for the latest designer handbag or a stylish vintage dress, Presqu’île has the perfect shop for you!
10| Visit the local markets
Marché Saint-Antoine by the Saône River is the perfect place to start your mornings in Lyon. This outdoor food market is the largest in Lyon and is where the locals go to buy fresh produce and meat. Cooked items (e.g., rotisserie chickens), cheese, bread and even regional wines can be found there!
The market stretches from Pont Bonaparte to Pont Alphonse Juin, and is open daily (except Mondays) from 6 am to 1 pm.
11| Celebrate La Fête des Lumières
Each year, Lyon hosts La Fête des Lumières (the Festival of Lights) on December 8th. For four consecutive nights, bewitching light displays will illuminate the city with dazzling colours and transform the city’s historic landmarks in magical and surprising new ways.
This Lyon tradition dates back to 1852 when the city’s residents lit up candles to inaugurate the statue of the Virgin Mary to thank her for saving the city from the plague.
Today, this annual festival has become the world’s biggest light show, attracting millions of visitors from near and far!
12| Go mural hunting
This one is for art lovers and instagrammers: Lyon is basically a massive outdoor art gallery, with more than 150 murals across the city!
See if you can find the following:
- Fresque des Lyonnais: painted on a seven story building where 30 well-known Lyonnais peer out of the shop windows and on the faux balconies.
- Le Mur des Canuts: the largest public art in Europe extending over 1200 m², paying tribute to the silk workers in the 19th century.
- Bibliothèque de la Cité: a huge bookshelf referencing work by writers from Lyon and the Rhône-Alpes region.
- Fresque Lumière: a futuristic image of Lyon, a vision of what the city could be.
- Parcours des Roses: Did you know Lyon was once the international capital of old roses and had bred more than 3000 roses in the 19th century? This mural reminds visitors of just that!
Map of Lyon, France
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be. We have marked all the Lyon attractions mentioned in this article in the map below so it is easier for you to plan out your route!
Where to Stay in Lyon, France?
Lyon is divided into nine arrondissements. Hotel rates vary depending on which Lyon district you stay in.
In our opinion, the best district to stay in is Part-Dieu (3e Lyon arrondissement), located on the east bank of the Rhône river. It is less touristy than other districts yet very conveniently located. Right by the river is a charming designer hotel called OKKO Hotels Lyon Pont Lafayette. Offering a magnificent view of the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, this boutique hotel in Lyon promises a truly memorable stay.
For those looking for a luxurious stay, consider hotels in Vieux Lyon (5e arrondissement). This neighbourhood is set on a hill and is home to a few luxury hotels in Lyon like Villa Maïa and Villa Florentine. Be prepared for the steep slopes, but the views are definitely worth it!
With so many things to see and do, it is impossible to visit Lyon in one day. We recommend spending at least 3 days in Lyon to get a snapshot of what this enchanting city has to offer!
This all seems so interesting. Lovely place to be during vacations!!
It’s really nice that they have E-scooters and bikes for rent. It can be quite fun to explore Lyon like that. Not only that it helps the environment by not consuming fuels, but we could also always use a great exercise.
I’ve wanted to visit Lyon for a long time!! Thanks for the trip inspiration
I’m planning to do a long weekend off in Southern France and of course I’m planning to head to Lyon too. So thanks for this awesome post.
Special thanks for the tip about not using Google Maps. Lyon Card sounds very useful.
Les Troubles would definitely be my top priority. It’s just fascinating.
I would love to explore France beyond Paris and this world heritage site is perfect start. Nice to know that the transportation is do easily accessible. I love the vineyards
Oh Lyon, I love it, such a fabulously foodie French city! I really like the look of Part-Dieu, I think we’d take your advice and stay there next time we go, I love modern boutique hotels, Okko looks wonderful. We hit some of the bouchons but didn’t eat at Paul Bocuse, that looks epic! Another miss for us was the Croix-Rousse neighbourhood, looks like it’s a modern day creative hub. We had our car with us, so we continued on from Lyon to explore some of the wine region of the Rhone valley, so beautiful.
I have heard a lot about Lyon lately, and I am surely including this to my France itinerary. Thanks for sharing important tips like how to get there, how to get around, and what to see. It really helps a traveler if such information is handy. I can actually travel like a local and stroll around the beautiful places of Lyon with a guide like this in mind.
Somehow I haven’t made it to Lyon yet, but it’s always popping up as a great place in France to visit. This is a great guide with lots of interesting local looking things to do. I’d definitely be up for the tour of the Rhône Valley and Beaujolais – some of my favourite wines are from that area. Thanks for sharing.
I have always relied on the tips and recommendations of the locals whenever I travel. It gives us a more genuine experience plus it actually saves us money when we follow their recommendations. Thank you so much for sharing these secrets. Keeping them in mind should we be in Lyon in the next couple of months.
I’m going to be cycling through France in a few weeks – including Lyon – so will definitely be doing some of these ideas! I’ve heard time and time again how great it is for food so I’m excited to eat everything ?
This post is timely as I have been looking at visiting Southern France. With the gorgeous pictures , this certainly bumps up my urge to visit. Definitely thanks for the detailed tips especially on transportation. I love vineyards and also hills over cities – so this covers just what Im looking forward to.
This post really timely as we have been looking for. Thumbs up!!!!
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