Lyon, France Travel Guide: Top Things to Do and See in Lyon
Lyon has sat at the crossroads of history for centuries and was even settled by the Romans. Today it is an economic powerhouse and one of the most popular cities to relocate to among the French. It is perhaps best known as the gastronomic capital of France, but it also offers a range of cultural activities to suit every interest.
- One of the best things to do in Lyon is completely free: walk around Vieux Lyon (Old Town) and the traboules (passageways).
- Hike up to the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière for panoramic city views.
- Hang out in the trendy new Confluence neighbourhood (where the two rivers meet) and visit the Musée des Confluences.
- Discover Roman ruins at the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, the Roman Baths and the accompanying museum.
- Musée des Beaux Arts. Many European cities boast art museums, but this is one of the best with a huge collection covering antiquity through to modern art.
- Visit the museum of the Institut Lumière to learn about the history of cinematography, which was invented in Lyon.
- Parc de la Tête d’Or for a relaxing stroll.
- Walk along the river path at night to hang out with locals and enjoy the views of the Old Town.
- Attend one of the many events scheduled throughout the year such as the Fête des Lumières (December) and the Nuits de Fourvière (summer).
- Lyon is a gateway to the Alps, only a 2-hour drive from Chamonix and even less to many other resorts.
- Annecy is an Alpine town most popular in the summer for the sports activities in, on and around its beautiful lake.
- The Chartreuse is a protected landscape and best known for the green liquor made by monks that has medicinal properties.
- The Beaujolais region is located just to the north of Lyon, ideal for those looking to sample this famous wine in its home.
- Geneva is less than 2 hours away by car and as well as being an interesting city in itself, is an entry point to Switzerland.
- Rue Saint Jean is the main thoroughfare of the Old Town and the best place for souvenir shopping.
- The Part Dieu shopping centre is located right in the centre and is the go-to place for locals for high street shopping.
- Les Puces du Canal is an historic flea market for those looking to pick up a bargain.
FOOD AND DRINK
- Among the local delicacies you should try is the andouillette, a sausage made of tripe, pork, intestines and sundry flavourings.
- For the sweet-toothed, try the allumettes aux pralines, a local pastry that is both chewy and flaky.
- Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is an indoor food market named after one of Lyon’s most famous chefs.
- Lyon’s bouchons are typically found in the Old Town; they are traditional restaurants serving up local fare.
- One of the most authentic is Le Garet, which offers affordable food in a quirky and characterful interior.
- Being a gastronomic capital, the city boasts its fair share of Michelin star restaurants such as Auberge de l’Ile Barbe which pride itself on the presentation of its dishes.
- Le Kitchen Café is a hip spot to enjoy brunch.
- Currency: Euro
- Best time to visit: Spring and Autumn are the best seasons to visit. Winters are cold, particularly when the wind picks up, whereas summers can be uncomfortably hot (particularly July and August).
- Getting around:
- The city is very walkable but to get from one neighbourhood to the next, it is best to take the subway, which is safe, fast and clean.
- Consider buying a 1-, 2- or 3-day City Card that gives free access to public transport, museums, a guided tour and discounts in some shops.
- Lyon is well connected to Paris and other European cities on high speed trains, and even has a direct route to London on the Eurostar.
- As elsewhere in France, most locals have limited English and are sometimes reluctant to speak it. Knowing a few words in French is greatly appreciated.
- French waiters take their profession very seriously and a tip of about 5% of the bill is common in smart restaurants. Elsewhere, 1-3 euros is adequate.