If you’ve never been to Lyon, France before, then you’re in luck! In this guide, I will tell you exactly how to experience the best of Lyon in only two days.
Not only have I lived in Lyon for over a year, but my boyfriend’s family is from there as well. That said, I’ve spent a lot of time in Lyon and consider it my home!
In this 2-day itinerary, you will explore Lyon’s top landmarks, including Vieux Lyon, Hôtel de Ville, Bellecour, Croix Rousse, and more.
If that sounds like a plan, read below for the details on what to do and see with only 2 days in Lyon!
How to Spend Two Days in Lyon, France
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If you have two days in Lyon, then I suggest following more or less the same route I designed for seeing Lyon in one day (at least to start).
With 2 days, however, you could take the itinerary slower, wander a bit further off the path, and indulge in more activities and experiences.
✨ Go ahead and grab your 2 Day Lyon City Card pass online! It includes unlimited free public transport (metro, tram, bus), entrance to 23 museums, access to 40+ activities, a free guided cruise, discounts, and more! And all for less than $30.
Seeing as 48 hours is still not that much time to fully discover Lyon, I would still recommend starting your sightseeing tour at Place Bellecour before heading across the Saône River into Vieux Lyon to spend a half-day there.
However, instead of finishing up at Hôtel de Ville, this 2-day itinerary will include one of my favorite places to visit—and one of the most typical of Lyon—the boho-chic neighborhood of Croix Rousse.
Perched on a hill above Lyon, the historic district of Croix Rousse (in French, “Red Cross”) is teeming with squares, musicians, cafes, bars, and quaint boutiques. Croix Rousse belonged to the silk weavers of Lyon, known as les canuts, and is an inseparable part of Lyonnais tradition, history, and culture. It’s an absolute must-see when visiting Lyon in two days or on a longer 3-day itinerary.
Lastly, on day 2, this itinerary will take you down the slopes of Croix Rousse and across the Rhône river to Lyon’s massive park and zoo at Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Day 1: The City Center & Heart of Lyon
La Place Bellecour
Start your day in the heart of the city center at La Place Bellecour—the largest pedestrian square in Europe. Here, you can stroll around to get a sense of Lyon. Many consider this square as “Km 0” as four major streets connecting the whole of Lyon depart from this square.
- Rue Colonel Chambonnet takes you across La Saône river via Pont Bonaparte to Vieux Lyon
- Rue Victor Hugo and Rue du Plat take you to Perrache and Confluence
- Rue du Président Édouard Herriot or Rue de la République, a shop-lined pedestrian street, leads you to Place des Jacobins and Hôtel de Ville
- Pont de la Guillotiere (bridge) crosses La Rhône river and takes you to the university district
At the center of Place Bellecour proudly stands the famous statue of Louis XIV, the Sun King, riding his horse. In the northwestern corner is another notable statue depicting Antoine de Saint Exupéry and Le Petit Prince sitting together on a white marble column.
Place Bellecour is a fantastic starting point for sightseeing in Lyon. You can visit the tourist office and pick up a map, have a drink on an outdoor terrace, ride the big Ferris wheel (in winter), and get a sneak peek of the Fourvière Basilica overlooking the city.
Next, walk over the Pont Bonaparte bridge or the smaller red Passerelle de Saint-Georges into Lyon’s Renaissance district.
Vieux (Old) Lyon is the city’s oldest district, dating back all the way to Lugdunum—the name of the capital of Gaul given by the Romans who founded the city in 43 BC.
In this exquisitely-charming district of medieval and Renaissance dwellings and ruins, you will step back in time to another world. Indeed, when you cross over from Bellecour it’s as if you’re leaving modern Lyon behind.
In this district, there are several iconic attractions you have to visit!
— La Basilique de Fourvière
Inside and out, this is one of the most beautiful basilicas I’ve seen. The panoramic view overlooking the city’s skyline and the basilica’s interior—with its colorful, shimmery mosaic murals—are must-sees. You can take the historic funicular up to Fourvière Hill for a fun, quick ride or you can walk (longer route). The cable car ticket costs 3€ but is free with the 2-Day Lyon City Card.
— L’Amphitéatre et Musée Gallo-Roman
The Gallo-Roman Amphitheatre and Lugdunum Museum are unmissable while visiting Lyon in two days. This place is exceptionally preserved and remarkably beautiful. In summer, the site comes alive with Nights of Fourvìere—special events that feature live music, concerts, performances, fireworks, and more. In October, they hosted the Roman Festival showcasing authentic historical reenactments, costumes, and military parades.
— Cathédrale Saint-Jean
After your tour atop Fourvière Hill, either walk back down the slopes into Vieux Lyon or take the cable car. There is still more to see and do in this medieval district! Of the sites to see, make sure to visit the ornate Saint-Jean Cathedral in the heart of Old Lyon. You won’t be able to miss it! Inside is a 14th-century astronomical clock. Outside, and adjacent to the cathedral, lie 5th-century ruins of another cathedral in the Jardín Archaeologique.
There are more things to do and see in Old Lyon, such as exploring the hidden semi-underground tunnels (traboules), eating in a typical Lyonnais restaurant (called a bouchon), visiting the quirky museums of Puppetry, Cinema and Miniatures, and more!
Hôtel de Ville
Depending on when you got started, you might be able to squeeze in the sights of Hôtel de Ville in the late afternoon or evening on day 1.
If so, continue walking north through the last section of Saint-Paul in the historic Vieux Lyon district. Cross the Pont de la Feuillé bridge over La Saône and you’ll arrive at Place des Terreaux and the elegant City Hall of Lyon (Hôtel de Ville).
On this gorgeous plaza lies the Bartholdi Fountain sculpted by Frédéric A. Bartholdi, the same sculptor who made the famous Statue of Liberty in New York. The popular Musée des Beaux-Arts is also located here.
🎟 Get free entrance to 23 museums, access to 40+ activities, and unlimited public transport with a 2-day Lyon City Card pass!
Stroll one block to the front side of the City Hall building and you’ll arrive at Place de la Comédie where the unique L’Opéra de Lyon (Lyon Opera) calls home.
This area is the beating heart of Lyon—and you can feel it! It’s eclectic, busy, historic, elegant, modern, and très Lyonnais.
Day 2: Croix Rousse & Lyon Zoo
On your second day in Lyon, you will explore the second hill of Lyon—the bohemian neighborhood of Croix-Rousse—and walk (or bike) around the immense, 290-acre park of Parc de la Tête d’Or—the largest urban park in France.
The district of La Croix-Rousse (Lyon’s 4th arrondissement) is one of Lyon’s most underrated places to visit.
Everything from its pastel houses to its open-air markets to its cozy brasseries and bars draws you into its down-to-earth, neighborhood vibe that is teeming with art, food, culture, and history.
As I’ve mentioned before, Croix-Rousse was home to the silk weavers of the 19th century.
For that reason, it is said that Lyon has two hills: Croix-Rousse is the “hill that works” and Fourvière Hill (which you explored on day one), is the “hill that prays.”
While you could make your life easy and take the metro (line C) to reach Croix-Rousse, I would suggest walking there from Hôtel de Ville via the backstreets called Montée de la Grande Côte.
It’s how the locals get up/down the hill without taking public transport or driving. The shops, views, and sites you’ll see along the way are off the beaten path and will give you great insight into local Lyon beyond the tourist markers.
La Croix-Rousse has plenty of attractions to visit, but if you only have one chance to stroll around the quarter, I suggest visiting these places:
— Le Mur des Canuts
An elaborate, large mural of local life in Croix-Rousse that covers an entire building’s façade.
These works of art that you see around Lyon (another is called “La Freque Lyonnais”) are known in French as trompe l’œil (optical illusions) because they play with real-life perspective. Is the window actually open or not? Is that really a cat on that balcony? (Wait, what balcony…?)
— Cours des Voraces
One of the most beautiful hidden passageways (traboules) and courtyards, and the site of the Canut Revolt of 1848. The courtyard’s architecture is most beautiful at night when lit up. Please take note to respect the privacy of residents.
You can find this traboule as you make your way up Les Pentes de la Croix-Rousse. The location on Google Maps is indicated here.
— La Grande Rue de la Croix-Rousse
The main boulevard of La Croix-Rousse lined with boutique shops, restaurants, pâtisseries, boulangeries, and more. (PS — this is where I lived for a year!)
On your way down this street, step inside the François Pralu shop and get a slice of the pink praluline cake. This is a very typical sweet of Lyon and Croix-Rousse and it’s exquisitely delicious. 🤤
Connecting the Boulevard and the Grande Rue is the Place de la Croix Rousse, where you can take the metro back to Hôtel de Ville.
My other favorite places to visit in Croix-Rousse are:
- L’Amphitéatre des Trois Gaules: The first and oldest Roman amphitheater of Lyon, built in 19 AD.
- Jardín de la Grande Côte: A popular viewpoint overlooking Fourvière. Walk up or down this to reach Hôtel de Ville via the Montée de la Grande Côte.
- Place Bellevue (viewpoint): An unassuming grassy park with another panoramic view overlooking the skyline of Lyon.
- Gros Caillou: Literally translating to “big pebble”, this landmark is an iconic unifying symbol of Croix-Rousse since it was found on the border between the cities before the district was annexed in the mid-19th century. It is made up of glacial sediment and was transported by glaciers from the Alps.
Parc de La Tête d’Or
The next stop on this 2-day Lyon itinerary is none other than the Parc de la Tête d’Or which is the largest urban park in France comprising a zoological park, 17-hectare lake, Asian forest, botanical garden, floral park, carnival carousel, and more.
The park is so large that it would take hours to walk around, which is why I suggest renting a Velo’v bike at the main entrance and biking the circuit of the park. You can also visit the park on this guided electric bike tour of Lyon.
Doing a DIY walking tour on your own does have its advantages, though. For example, it allows you to be free to partake in some of the park’s fun activities, such as renting a paddle boat and going out on the lake.
Another attraction you may wish to visit is Lyon Zoo, located in the southeast corner of the park. In this 20-acre zoological park, you can see myriad wild animals including some endangered species.
“With an area of 8 hectares (20 acres), the zoological park shelters more than 400 animals (149 mammalians, 122 birds, 71 reptiles, 1000 red-eared sliders), of which almost the half are part of European breeding programs. The Lyon Zoo is a member of the European Zoos and Aquariums Association (EAZA), and for that reason acts significantly for the preservation of species, encouraging the reproduction of the individuals it holds.”Parc de la Tête d’Or
Many people have commented online that the zoo is run-down. I do not advocate animal tourism in any way. That said, seeing as the Lyon Zoo is not-for-profit/free to visit and the animals are seemingly well-cared for in spacious, habitat-appropriate settings, I don’t think visiting the zoo contributes to harmful practices.
If you have more time to spare, you should also visit La Cité International lining the northwest corner of the park. Here, you can find restaurants, hotels, a cinema, and the Museum of Contemporary Art of Lyon. Admission is 18€ or free with the Lyon City Card pass.
Best Areas to Stay in Lyon for 2 Days
If you have only two days in Lyon, you’ll want to stay somewhere fairly central so that you can easily get around the city.
In this case, I would recommend staying in either one of these areas:
Vieux Lyon: Ideal for couples who want to be in the charming Renaissance district. Hotels and one-bedroom studio apartments are in the mid-high price range. Click here to find the perfect one!
La Presqu’Île: The peninsula is ideal for short stays because you will be within walking distance to the city’s top attractions across the city center including Hôtel de Ville and Bellecour. There’s a variety of accommodation options for all budgets, too. Click here for more options or check out the two recommendations below.
Honorê Baleine Suite ($$): A bright and modern studio apartment located in the heart of Lyon’s historic old town. Ideal for solo travelers and couples visiting Lyon for the weekend or business travelers on a quick overnight work trip. Accepts pets as well!
Citadines Hotel ($$+): This 3-star apart-hotel is located smack-dab in the city center. Each room comes equipped with a full kitchen, comfortable bed, bathtub/shower, and AC units. Clean and comfortable for a short one-night stay.
Feel Free to Customize This 2-Day Lyon Itinerary!
Of course, if you don’t want to do something I mention in the above itinerary, you can simply remove and replace it. If you are looking for more activity ideas, here are the best things to do in Lyon to inspire you!
And if you are wanting to add more breadth and depth to your 2 day trip to Lyon, I recommend these popular guided tours:
- 🍷 4-Hour Local Food Tour Around Vieux Lyon
- 🚴 2-Hour Guided E-Bike Tour of Lyon
- 🛥 3-Course Dinner Cruise on the Rhône River
✨ Find even more trip inspiration in my guide to the best Lyon tours.
I hope you have a fantastic time exploring Lyon in 2 days! If you have any questions or thoughts to share, please drop them in the comment section below or reach out to me on Instagram @bucketlistbri.