Visiting Lyon means discovering a city full of history and culture. You’ll find there excellent museums, beautiful parks and charming neighborhoods to visit. Lyon is known as the gastronomic capital of France. This is where you’ll find the famous bouchons lyonnais, traditional restaurants serving Lyonnaise cuisine. It’s a perfect destination for a short trip with friends, your family or your soulmate. Here are the best places to visit in Lyon!
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Best places to visit in Lyon
Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) is a historical and charming area in Lyon you have to visit. One part of Vieux Lyon dates back to the medieval era, the other part dates back to the renaissance. You’ll mostly find narrow streets, the famous bouchons lyonnais and several museums. This is also where you’ll find beautiful Lyon murals. FYI, Vieux Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!
Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
The basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is on top of the Fourvière hill. It was built in 1896 and it’s a symbol of Lyon. From the outside it might look austere but inside the basilica is wonderful and well-decorated. Moreover from the esplanade of the basilica, you have a wonderful view of Lyon. FYI, the basilica attracts two million visitors every year.
The parc de la tête d’or
The parc de la tête d’or is the largest park of France! It’s one of the top Lyon tourist attractions! It’s in the north of Lyon and stretches over 117 hectares. Couples and families roam the park, you’ll also see joggers or friends having a picnic. There’s a zoo in the park, you can see there giraffes, pandas and even lions. There’s also a botanical garden, rose gardens and you can spend some time on a paddle boat on the lake! Click here to go on a bike tour in the park.
The bouchons lyonnais
You have to try the local gastronomy. Lyon is known for its bouchons lyonnais (traditional local restaurants), and you’re gonna love them. Where to eat? Either Le Bouchon La Voute, Le Bouchon Brunet, Le Bouchon des Cordeliers, Chez Paul, A Ma Vigne, or La Tête de Lard. Since they’re all popular, you have to book in advance! Click here to go on a food tasting tour in Vieux Lyon.
Wanna do some Lyon sightseeing? Don’t miss the presqu’ile area when visiting Lyon. It’s in the heart of Lyon. You’ll find there historical monuments and emblematic squares of Lyon such as the place Bellecour. It’s also a nice district to go shopping, especially on rue de la République or rue Victor Hugo. There are also numerous cafés and restaurants.
The musée des beaux-arts de Lyon
Located in the presqu’ile, the musée des beaux-arts de Lyon exhibits in 70 rooms numerous paintings and sculptures from the 14th to the mid-20th century, but also Egyptian art dating back to antiquity. The museum is in a former 17th-century abbey and has a beautiful courtyard. The entrance fee is included in the Lyon City Pass (more on that later). This museum is definitely one of the top Lyon attractions!
The ancient theater of Fourvière
The ancient theater of Fourvière is 2,000-years old, it dates back to 15 BC! It’s a remnant of the Roman Empire. At the time it could host more than 10,000 spectators, but only the middle and lower terraces remain. There are still shows taking place there like the Nuits de Fourvière drama festival every June and July. It’s free to visit, and it’s definitely one of the things to see in Lyon!
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
Another iconic place in Lyon! Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is a large covered market where you’ll find about 60 storekeepers to please you: delicatessen, cheese makers, caterers, chocolate makers, pastry chefs… You can also taste good local dishes, cold meats, delicious desserts… You’ll only find quality products but they’re a bit pricey.
The musée des confluences
The musée des confluences is a contemporary museum exhibiting works of art about “the confluence of knowledge”. There are exhibitions about the origins of life, representations of death and societies and civilizations created by mankind. The museum opened in late 2014 and the building, with its futuristic architecture, looks like an UFO. Click here to buy your ticket.
Traboules are a specific feature in Lyon. You mostly find them in Vieux Lyon but also in the Croix-Rousse area. But what’s a traboule? It’s a passageway that pass through buildings, courtyards and pedestrian staircases in Lyon. Their architecture is unique! Go to the Cour des Voraces, the Tour Rose or the traboule at 54 rue Saint-Jean!
The Lyon cathedral is in the heart of Lyon. It’s a Roman and Gothic construction built between the 12th and 15th centuries. You’ll find there historical items, an astronomical clock and an organ. Most of the stained-glass windows date back to the 12th century! There’s also a museum there.
The institut Lumière
You cannot miss this museum if you’re into cinema! You’ll learn about the Lumière brothers, Louis and Auguste, and the early years of the cinema. In case you didn’t know, the Lumière brothers are the fathers of the movie-making art, and it all happened in Lyon. Visiting this museum is very interesting, several items from the late 19th century are exhibited. The entrance fee is included in the Lyon City Pass.
The festival of lights
The festival of lights takes place every year since 1852 in early December. During four evenings, there are light performances all over the city: the streets, the buildings, the monuments… Everywhere! This festival attracts many people and it’s normal, the atmosphere is magical during the festival!
Croix-Rousse is a district in the heights of Lyon. People often refer to it as a village in Lyon because the vibe is not the same. It’s due to the past. This is where the canuts used to live. They were workers specalized in the silk industry. Go to the maison des Canuts, a museum dedicated to the former silk industry in Lyon. You can also go to one of the numerous coffeehouse theaters of the district.
Activities in Lyon
Here are some activities:
- Click here to go on a walking tour with a local guide.
- Click here to enjoy a lunch cruise.
- Click here to go on a Beaujolais wine tasting trip.
- Click here to go on a Segway discovery tour.
- Click here to go on a guided e-bike tour.
- Click here to go on a pedicab tour.
- Click here to discover the haunted places in Lyon.
As you can see, there are many things to do in Lyon! It’s a charming city with nice districts and friendly locals. Spending a few days there is a very good idea. Moreover, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in France!
How to get to Lyon
It will depend on where you arrive from. If you come from abroad, there’s an airport in Lyon. By car, it’s a 6-hour drive from Paris or 3 hours and a half from Marseille. There are also numerous buses going to Lyon. Click here to check the ticket prices.
The Lyon City Pass
It’s so handy, you should definitely get it! If you visit Lyon for a few days, the Lyon City Pass will allow you to enjoy dozens of tourist attractions in the city. Entrance fees are included in the pass, among others the musée des beaux-arts de Lyon, the institut Lumière, etc. Moreover you can enjoy unlimited Lyon public transportation. Click here to buy it!
How to get around in Lyon
You don’t need a car to get around in Lyon. Public transportation serves the whole city. Hence why you should get the Lyon City Pass!
Best time to visit Lyon
Lyon is a city you can visit all-year long. The winter is mild and summers are not too hot. Early December, it’s nice to get there to enjoy the festival of lights!
Where to stay in Lyon
If you’re visiting Lyon on a budget, Le Flaneur Guesthouse is a nice hostel. Cool vibe, clean and comfortable. Click here to check the photos, availability and reviews. If you want to stay in a mid-range hotel, the B&B J’irais dormir à Lyon is a nice place to stay. Welcoming staff, quiet place, good breakfast… Click here to check the photos, availability and reviews. If you prefer to stay in a luxury hotel, you have to stay at the InterContinental Lyon. Well-located, great staff, very comfortable rooms. Click here to check the photos, availability and reviews. Otherwise click here to check the hotels available in Lyon.
Lyon travel tips
- Traveling soon? My travel resources page can help you out! This list of travel accessories can also be useful!
- Never ever travel without travel insurance! It will protect you against illness, injury, theft and cancellations. Click here to get one. Here’s why get travel insurance!
- Want a tailor-made trip to Lyon? Get a free quote here!
- Always use a VPN when traveling. I use ExpressVPN and I love it! Here’s why use a VPN when traveling.