Best of Lyon
Updated: Apr 7
Rising at the confluence of the Rhone and Saônerivers, the city of Lyon is considered the heart of French cuisine. Strolling through the streets of Old Lyon, in the La Croix-Rousse neighborhood, and on the Fourvière hill is a must when visiting this city: surely you will take a dip into the history of the ancient Romans who founded this beautiful city millions of years ago. A quick brunch in a typicalbouchonatLes Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse market, a stroll through the Vieux Lyon, and the historic districts such as the one of Croix Rousse, surrounded by the "traboules" and beautiful murals. Then straight to the place where the Lumière brothers invented the cinematograph. Finally, end the day on a high note with an elegant dinner in the La Presqu'îledistrict. Find out the best of Lyon in this itinerary that perfectly combines the two features for which Lyon is proud: history and gastronomy.
Be prepared to open your brain and your stomach, and let’s go parakeets!
What not to miss?
Parc de la tête d'Or
If you love outdoor activities, Lyon is your ideal city. It has lots of green spaces, parks, and gardens to calm you down after a hectic day in the office. One of the largest city parks in all of France, Parc de la Tête d’Or is located in the heart of Lyon. It has a large lake where visitors can take boat rides, as well as a small zoo.
Le Vieux Lyon
The best way to appreciate Lyon’s unique history is to stroll through its Old Town – Vieux. Lyon. Despite being destroyed by fire and rebuilt on several occasions, it still retains the feel and layout of a medieval town. Its narrow streets are lined with sandstone buildings from the Renaissance period and carved wooden doors adorn many of its entrances. Lyon’s Old Town is one of Europe’s largest Renaissance neighborhoods, which is why it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998.
This is the result of an urban engineering project from 18 century. Today, this is where you’ll find most of Lyon’s big-hitters. This is also where you’ll find shops and restaurants galore. This former swamp became the focal point for urban development and remains the city’s beating heart.
What to visit?
It's one of the prettiest cities in France, with a stunning location where the Rhone and Saone rivers meet. The city has long been a crossroads between northern and southern Europe. We’ve picked out some of the best places to see in the city, but keep your eyes peeled as you wander around – you’re likely to stumble across something unexpected at any moment.
Théâtre Gallo-Romain de Lyon
The Roman theatre is one of Lyon's iconic sights - and 2,000 years after it was built it is still a performance venue during the Nuits de Fourvière drama festival every June and July. It's worth climbing up the hill to this ancient monument which offers great views over Lyon's rooftops.
Cathedral of St Jean
Lyon’s cathedral is the city’s main Gothic sporting arena, built between 12 and 15 centuries. An interesting fact is that most of the glasses are the original ones, from the 12 century. Another thing that makes the Cathedral a very interesting place to visit is the astronomical clock that is nine meters tall and was installed in the 1300s.
Lyon’s main square is one of Europe’s largest pedestrian squares and works as a popular meeting point in the center of town.
They were used by silk merchants as shortcuts or as places to escape flooding. They are now a tourist attraction but they still have their original function as a way to get from one side of the river to the other without having to go down to street level. The most famous traboule is just off Place des Terreaux; it takes you from the back of the Hôtel de Ville into the courtyard of an apartment building on the other side.
The Basilica is located on one of the hills, which is the oldest part of Lyon. It is one of the couple churches built on the hills. The is an amazing view of the city and other surrounding hills. You can see this church from anywhere in the city. Going up there might be hard, but it is worth visiting it inside.
There are around 100 large paintings on walls around the city, often in working-class neighbors and on social housing, so they can draw you to places you might not otherwise venture. Some are just for decoration, but others tell stories about the city or commemorate important events.
How to get there?
One of the most dynamic cities and the second largest one in France, Lyon is well located and connected. The driving distance from Paris is 463 km.
There are three main ways to reach Lyon: by train, by plane and by car. The international Lyons Saint-Exupéry Airport is situated 25 km east of Lyon. Reaching from the airport to the city center is easy and fast. You can take a taxi or public bus which goes to the main parts of the city for only 25 min.
The city of Lyon is one of the main cities in France and it is connected with many big and small cities. There are two main train stations located in the heart of the city: Lyon Part-Dieu and Lyon Perrache. The most comfortable way to travel is by high-speed train. The train takes you to Marseille in 1 hour 40 mins, Montpellier 1heure45, Paris in 1 hour 55 minutes, 3 hours to get to Lille, Rennes 4 hours 15 minutes.
There are highways also that connect Lyon with Paris, the South of France, Italy, and Switzerland.
Average costs in Lyon are less than in Paris, but the city is still one of the most costly cities in France. For example, a one-way ticket for transportation is 1.80 euro.
Lyon offers a big variety of restaurants from cheap ones to very luxurious ones. The price for a middle-range restaurant for 2 people is around 50 euro, which includes a 3-course menu. The average hotel price for a double room in 3 stars hotel is 85 euro.
According to bugetyourtrip.com the average budget for one week trip for two people is 1 405 euro, including accommodation, food, transportation, and entertainment. Of course, depends on the preferences that the tourists have. There are many cultural activities that you can enjoy for free. In fact, many museums and galleries even offer free admission to students under the age of 26.
When to get there?
Lyon is a city that welcomes many tourists, especially in the summer season. According to the weather, this is the best time to visit Lyon, but it could be overcrowded. This brings issues with finding accommodations. That's why we recommend you to visit the city in May when the weather is also nice and the area is calmer. September and October are good months for visiting Lyon as well.
What to be aware of?
Lyon is the second biggest city in France, so there is a problem with the traffic. We recommend you avoid renting a car and driving in the city. This can make your experience less pleasurable. Instead, you can use public transportation, which could be also busy but faster during a traffic jam.
Be aware of many charity workers begging for money on the streets. Most of them are fake and don't represent any charity organization. They are particularly common around Rue de la République, Part-Dieu station and Gare du Lyon.
Tip: Get a Lyon City Card
Getting a city card gives you free entrance to 23 museums in Lyon and unlimited access to public transportation. The card covers a period between 1 and 4 days. The price is 27 euro without airport transfer and 43 euro with. Keep in mind if you cancel the card 24 hours in advance, you can receive your full payment.
Get your card here: https://bit.ly/3trFwFu
What to eat?
Lyon has long been known as France’s food capital, thanks to its location and history. Located in south-eastern France, Lyon is a geographic hub for agricultural produce. Its cuisine combines ingredients from the north and south. There are many different experiences including market tours, chef’s table experiences, walking tours, and even cooking classes.
In this article, we will focus more on restaurants and markets that deserve to be visited. If you want to know more about dishes you can't skip you can have a look at our article "What to eat in Lyon?"
Outdoor food markets
These are the favorite places for locals to explore tasty food. The outdoor markets of Lyon offer the opportunity to taste fresh food and seasonal products coming from the surroundings of Lyon. The most famous ourdoor markets are: Marché Saint-Antoine and Marché de la Croix-Rousse. The most interantional one is Marché Salengro. There you can find organic products from North African and Middle Eastern cuisine.
Les Halles de Lyon
In the heart of Lyon, Les Halles is a covered food market with a dozen or so places to eat. It’s not exactly budget-friendly, but there are plenty of tasty choices. The market is a great place to sample a variety of regional specialties, with many vendors offering tasting samples. You'll also find high-quality prepared dishes if you just want to grab something and go.
These restaurants serve up local cuisine from the region of Rhône-Alpes, including dishes such as andouillettes (grilled tripe sausage), quenelles (pike dumplings), and tablier de sapeur (breaded tripe). For a classic dish, order cervelle de canut (a fresh cheese dip seasoned with garlic, herbs, lemon, and olive oil) with some sliced baguette.
Take part in the Lyon Street Food Festival to bring your taste buds into contact with the aromas and flavors of Lyonnaise cuisine.
Qais du Polar (April)
The thematic background behind this event is the mystery genre. If you love suspense, immerse yourself in the world of crime, and are fond of noir books, you should definitely visit this festival. Moreover, it welcomes lots of famous writers from all over the world, so who knows, you might meet your favorite one!
Nuits de Fourvière (June-August)
Starting in the 1950s, it features theatrical, circus, musical, dance, and film performances near the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Guest-laden program fills the heart of Lyon's roman theatres, becoming the protagonists of your summer evenings.
Fêtons l'été à Lyon Tout l'monde dehors (June-August)
In the same spirit as the Fauvière nights, this festival brings together many events such as the music festival dedicated to open space concerts, which is what kicks off the program. The latter includes ateliers, picnics, performances in the square, the fireworks display for July (France's national holiday), open-air cinema, and much more.
European Heritage Days
Discovering the city's historical heritage is a very important step in getting in touch with Lyonnaise culture. On this occasion, the public can discover the inside of buildings that are not usually open to visitors. Visits to museums and many activities are included in the program.
The Biennial of Contemporary Art (September-December)
Dance and contemporary art invade the city as a movement of entertainment but also of reflection. Based on a specific theme, they reflect the topicality of our contemporary world by referring to great masterpieces by artists such as César, Soulages, Duchamps, and Warhol.
Festival of Lights (December)
A magical event in which the stars are small luminous boats that will shine a thousand lights on the banks of the Saône. The streets, squares, and facades of the main monuments are decorated with 3D art installations with a different thematic background every year: for example, in 2019 it was “Chimères, Prémonitions, Alchimie, Démesure” (Chimeras, Premonitions, Alchemy, Excessiveness). It represents an old custom of the mid-17th century, that stemmed from a vow made to Our Lady in order to protect the city from the plague. Let yourself be captivated by the brilliance of the spectacle that creates an exciting mosaic of dazzling lights!
Other events to recommend
Salon des vignerons indépendants (March), Foire de Lyon (March), Lyon BD (June), art3f Lyon (June), Festival Street Art- Peinture Fraîche (October), Salon du chocolat (November).
This was our short guide for the best of Lyon. Traveling through the metropole of Lyon between the extraordinary urban and architectural wealth, landscapes, and breath-taking views above the hills. Don't forget to enjoy a good quenelle in some typical little restaurant and above all, treat yourself to a nice silk loin. Never stop exploring beautiful places and check our other articles. And don't forget to follow our Instagram @thewalkingparrot, to stay alert for the next articles!