Despite being the 3rd largest city in France, getting around and sightseeing Lyon in just a few days is entirely doable. With 3 days in Lyon, you will be able to see and do the city’s top attractions and check off your Lyon bucket list.
Of course, more time in Lyon would be even better, but three days is already plenty to glean more about the city and experience authentic life the Lyonnais way. And as you’ll discover during your time in Lyon, the city quickly becomes familiar and friendly!
Having lived in Lyon for over a year, I’ve designed this itinerary so that you don’t only see the highlights, but get the chance to wander like a local.
With this itinerary, you’ll have the chance to stray away from the tourist trail and meander in cobbled streets and hidden squares unknown by most tourists. Before you know it, you’ll be navigating at ease on your own!
Read more below to discover the best of Lyon, France in as little as three days—from the historical medieval district to the hills of Croix-Rousse to the heart of the city center and more. Let’s go!
How to Spend the Best 3 Days in Lyon
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If this is your first time in Lyon, then you are in for a treat! Here is a quick overview of what you will get to see and do in this Lyon itinerary.
- Day 1: Presqu’Île, Vieux Lyon
- Place Bellecour, Place des Jacobins, Fourvière Basilica and Hill, Gallo-Roman Ruins, traboules, Cathédrale Saint-Jean, plus more.
- Day 2: Hôtel de Ville, Croix-Rousse
- Place des Terreaux, Bartholdi Fountain, Place de la Comédie, Pentes de la Croix-Rousse, Cours des Voraces, Mur des Canuts, Lyon Zoo, plus more.
- Day 3: Confluence, Parc de la Tête d’Or, Saône/Rhône quays
- Musée Confluence, Biking down the quays, Boat bar, Lyon Zoo, plus more.
- Musée Confluence, Biking down the quays, Boat bar, Lyon Zoo, plus more.
Tip: Go ahead and grab a 3-Day Lyon City Card pass! It includes unlimited public transport, entrance to 23 museums, access to 40+ activities, a free guided cruise, discounts, and more. And all for less than $30.
I know this 3-day itinerary is jam-packed with all of Lyon’s must-dos. Of course, feel free to omit, replace, or skip any of my recommended activities. I just want you to experience Lyon like a local!
That said, the below itinerary offers a mix of adventure/outdoor recreation, cultural and history, and, of course, FOOD!
Since Lyon is the gastronomic capital of France and the cultural and gastronomy hub of the greater Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, it is essential that any itinerary includes a look into the local cuisine.
That, together with the museums, art, and history, are what make Lyon #OnlyLyon. 😉
Day 1 of 3 in Lyon
🍴 Eat: Kickstart your itinerary by tasting a typical meal of the region at a cozy and traditional bouchon restaurant in Old Lyon. Crowd favorites: Daniel et Dénise, La Meunière, Les Fines Geules.
🛥 Play: Les Bateaux Lyonnais hosts a gourmet 3-course dinner cruise served aboard the Hermès restaurant bar. Cruising down the Saône at dusk to end your day in Lyon pretty sounds nice, eh?
🏰 Stay: For convenience, most hotels in La Presqu’Île will take care of everything you need. But you could also dial up the romance and charm by renting this local apartment or splurging on the elegant Villa Florentine Hotel in Vieux Lyon.
Visit La Place Bellecour
Bellecour Square is a fantastic starting point for touring Lyon as it is Europe’s largest pedestrian square.
From this point in the city, you can navigate to pretty much anywhere—Confluence to the south, Vieux Lyon to the west, Hôtel de Ville to the north, and the University district to the east.
For this reason, Bellecour is known as “Kilometer 0” because four of the city’s major streets depart from this square located on the Presqu’Île of Lyon (the “almost island”).
Stop by the Lyon Tourist Center on the square to pick up a map if you want to visualize getting around over the next 3 days. You can also buy a 3-day Lyon City Card there in person or go ahead and get it online on GetYourGuide.
Take the next 1–2 hours to explore around: have a drink on an outdoor terrace, check out the Louis XIV statue, ride the big Ferris wheel (a fun thing to do in Lyon in winter), get a sneak peek of the Fourvière Basilica atop Fourvière Hill, and visit the beautiful Place des Jacobins with its 16th-century fountain.
Explore Lyon’s Old Town (Vieux Lyon)
After visiting the highlights around Bellecour, head across the red pedestrian bridge into the southern section of Vieux Lyon, which is Lyon’s oldest district dating back to the Middle Ages when the city was known as Lugdunum and the capital of Gaul.
There are three sub-sections of this maze of medieval and Renaissance dwellings, cathedrals, and hidden tunnels that make up this historic part of town:
- Saint George
- Saint Jean (the heart of Vieux Lyon)
- Saint Paul
I recommend spending the next few hours wandering from the lower to upper neighborhoods enjoying all there is to do and see in Old Lyon. You can read my guide for the complete list or get the overview below.
— La Basilique de Fourvière
No trip to Lyon would be complete without a tour of the Minor Basilica of Fourvière.
To get there, you can either walk up Fourvière Hill via the backstreets of Old Lyon or take the historic red funicular up to Fourvière Hill. The ticket costs 3€ but comes included with the 3-Day Lyon City Card.
While you’re atop Fourvière Hill, don’t miss out on the panoramic view of Lyon’s skyline. Of course, step inside the cathedral to witness some of the most beautiful mosaic murals as well! Depending on availability, you can also visit the roof of the cathedral for free with a Lyon City Card.
Nearby points of attraction include the Gallo-Roman ruins (more below) and the ruined Roman Aquaducts of Gier.
— Gallo-Roman Ruins & Lugdunum Museum
Next, make your way on foot to the Gallo-Roman Amphitheatre and Lugdunum Museum.
The museum hosts one of the best archaeological collections in France and is unmissable on any Lyon itinerary.
While the outdoor theatres are free, the museum entrance costs 7€ or is free for Lyon City Card pass holders.
In summer, this historic outdoor theatre and odeon are host to the annual Les Nuits de Fourvìere event which features live music, concerts, performances, and more, all in grand splendor.
In the fall and early winter, look out for the Roman Festival dates. This event features historical reenactments, plays, and parades of the Gallo-Roman civilization that once thrived here.
— Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste
After your tour atop Fourvière Hill, either walk back down the slopes into Vieux Lyon or take the funicular. There is more to see in this medieval district!
Of the sites to see, make sure to visit the ornate Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste and the adjacent 5th-century cathedral ruins in the Jardín Archaeologique.
You can expect your tour around Fourvière and the heart of Vieux Lyon to take around 2–3 hours or more, depending on your pace.
Of course, since you have more days to spend in Lyon, there’s no need to rush through all the sites.
With a half-day or full-day in Vieux Lyon, you can also:
- Visit the hidden passageways (traboules) that are iconic of Old Lyon;
- Indulge in a Vieux Lyon food tour guided by a local Lyonnais;
- Sit down and enjoy a traditional Lyonnais meal in a bouchon Lyonnais;
- Hop in a 1–2 hour pedicab to get around quicker while gleaning insight from your guide;
- Tour the quirky museums of Old Lyon, notably the Cinema & Miniatures Museum, Puppetry Museum, and Guignol Museum.
With its Renaissance architecture, old-world charm, and medieval streets, it’s no wonder that Vieux Lyon is the most popular place to visit in Lyon (on any itinerary). That said, if possible, try to avoid the crowds of the weekends by visiting mid-week.
Depending on how much time you have left on day one, you can either continue from Vieux Lyon to Hôtel de Ville or head back to your hotel to rest for the evening.
Day 2 of 3 in Lyon
🍴 Eat: If you finish exploring Hôtel de Ville early, head up to Croix-Rousse for lunch or dinner. Suggestions: Aromatic, Le Canut et Les Gones, Balthaz’Art.
🎶 Play: Fancy a stroll on the slopes of Croix-Rousse while learning about Lyon’s musical heritage? Check out this musical walking tour with a wine tasting.
🏡 Stay: While it takes longer to get to/from the city center, a studio or boutique hotel in La Croix-Rousse will be intimate, cozy, and memorable.
Visit Around L’Hôtel de Ville
To start your next day in Lyon, make your way to Lyon’s 1st district. Here, you’ll find the beating heart of the city and its crown jewel, the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall).
The beautiful City Hall of Lyon is sandwiched between the even more resplendent Place des Terreaux—adorned by the beautiful Bartholdi Fountain—and the sweeping Place de la Comédie, where you’ll find the regal Opèra of Lyon, plus myriad bars, brasseries, and hipster cafés.
There is a metro stop at Hôtel de Ville that exits right out onto Place de la Comédie. Head behind the City Hall onto Place des Terreaux.
On this square, you’ll also find the beautiful Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon (Musée des Beaux-Arts) housed inside an ancient and royal abbey—said to be one of the oldest monasteries of Gaul. Inside, discover sculptures, paintings, and artifacts from antiquity to today. As you may guess, entrance is free with the City Card! Otherwise, one-off visits cost 8€–12€.
🎟 Get free entrance to 23 museums, access to 40+ activities, and unlimited public transport with a 3-day Lyon City Card pass.
Visiting the heart of the city will take a few hours. Once you get hungry, head down the quaint alley of Rue du Garet nearby Place de la Comédie to find a bunch of cute restaurants.
From here, you can stroll down Rue de la République to do some shopping or head to the nearest metro and spend the next half of your day exploring Lyon’s second famous hill and bohemian district—La Croix-Rousse.
Or even better, walk there from Hôtel de Ville via the backstreets (follow Montée de la Grande-Côte).
Explore the Historic Croix-Rousse Hill & District
Perched on a hill above Lyon, the historic district of Croix Rousse (in French, “Red Cross”) is teeming with leafy squares, indie musicians, cute cafes, funky bars, and quaint boutiques.
I may be a little biased since I lived in Croix-Rousse for a year, but this area is one of Lyon’s most underrated places to visit.
Lyon’s famous silk weavers, also known as Les Canuts, lived in La Croix-Rousse, which is how the neighborhood earned its reputation as the “hill that works.” As you walk around, notice how it feels more like a petit French village than a city district.
As I mentioned earlier, it’s best to make your way up Croix-Rousse on foot so you don’t miss out on the attractions along the way—starting on its slopes with the L’Amphitéatre des Trois Gaules—the oldest Roman amphitheater in Lyon dating back to 19 AD.
You will also pass by one of the best-known traboules (hidden passageways) of Lyon, known as the Cours des Voraces (more on that below).
Tip: The best way to explore is on foot, but again, you can skip these off-the-beaten-path sites by taking the metro from Hôtel de Ville up to Croix-Rousse (metro line C). You can also take the metro up the hill, and walk back down later if you prefer! 👣
Either way, whether you walk via Montée de la Grande Cote or take the metro, you’ll eventually arrive at La Place de la Croix-Rousse (Croix-Rousse Square).
Take a moment to explore this cute French plaza before continuing on foot to these other places to visit.
— Le Mur des Canuts
Le Mur des Canuts is a life-size mural depicting life in Croix-Rousse. The art style is called a trompe l’œil (or an illusion) because it makes you wonder if what you are seeing is real or not. Look closely to decipher which window actually exists! 😉
You should also stop by the Maison des Canuts, which is the Museum of the Lyonnais Silk Weavers. They offer silk-weaving demonstrations and guided visits with commentary. Learn more on their website.
— Cours des Voraces
The Cours des Voraces is a well-known traboule. It not only provided safe passage for merchants traveling up and down the hill undetected, but it was also the site of the Canut Revolt of 1848.
You can find this traboule as you make your way up the slopes of Croix-Rousse, known as “Les Pentes de la Croix-Rousse.” Find it here.
— Le Gros Caillou
Literally translating to “big pebble”, this landmark is an iconic unifying symbol of Croix-Rousse. The rock itself is not so interesting to look at but its symbology is.
This enormous rock was found in neighboring Croix-Paquet during the early 19th century—a time when Croix-Rousse was not yet annexed—but was transported across millennia by slow-moving glaciers originating in the French Alps.
Other places to take note of in Croix-Rousse are Place Bellevue, a locally-known park, for awesome panoramic views of Lyon’s skyline, and—one of my favorite plazas—Place des Tapis. There’s a very popular Irish pub here called Paddy’s Corner (the local watering hole!).
To better visualize this DIY walking tour of Croix-Rousse, I made this quick guide in Google Maps. Click here to open it in a new tab.
Day 3 in Lyon
🍴 Eat: Pack a picnic for the park or stop at one of the boat bars along the quay. Read the details below.
🦖 Play: The striking and modern Musée des Confluences is a must-visit on any Lyon itinerary!
🏨 Stay: Check my final recommendations toward the end of this post.
For your last day in Lyon, this itinerary will take you to visit the largest urban park in France before breezing all the way down the Rhône quay by bike to visit the contemporary Confluence Museum and neighborhood.
Parc de La Tête d’Or
Start Day 3 in Lyon with a visit to the Parc de la Tête d’Or located across the bridge from Croix-Rousse.
Inside this park, you can tour the Lyon Zoo, paddle around the park’s 17-hectare lake, stroll through a botanical garden and floral park, pay homage to the Remembrance Island WWI memorial, and more.
I always recommend renting a bike for the day or taking out one of the local Velo’v bikes of Lyon to explore this park faster. You can also visit the park on this guided electric bike tour of Lyon.
Of the things to see inside this park is the not-for-profit Lyon Zoo.
According to the park website, this 20-acre zoo is home to over “400 animals (149 mammalians, 122 birds, 71 reptiles, 1000 red-eared sliders), of which almost half are part of European breeding programs.”
While you’re touring the park, you can also visit the Museum of Contemporary Art of Lyon located at La Cité International which lines the northwest side of the park (which, fun fact, is also next to INTERPOL).
There are restaurants, hotels, a cinema, plus the museum. Admission into the museum costs 18€ or, as you may have guessed, is free with the Lyon City Card pass.
Bike Along the Quay
From Parc de la Tête d’Or, bike or walk along the Rhône riverside via the Berges du Rhône (Google Maps link).
The Berges du Rhône follows the Rhône river south. Once on it, you won’t need to go back up to the road until you reach your destination. This is a really lovely experience to see Lyon in a different way.
By bike, it’ll take only 20–25 minutes to reach the Musée des Confluences from Parc de la Tête d’Or. If you walk, it’ll take roughly 1h15m.
And while you could zip straight there by bike, you might want to stop for lunch and a drink at one of the famous Lyon boat bars. These “parked” boat bars on the Rhône are unique to Lyon and are a popular local hangout spot.
If you’re not keen on riding alone, I know most of the guided bike tours of Lyon will take you, at some point, down the quay.
This itinerary has you finishing day 3 with a visit around the Confluence neighborhood.
First, drop off your bike and peep inside the Musée des Confluences. You can’t miss this museum in Lyon—literally, the contemporary, alien-shaped building stands out from the rest of the terracotta-tiled roofs!
The Confluence Museum is a museum of science and anthropology, and endeavors to foster a sense of understanding and wonder about our collective humanity—where we came from and where we are going.
- 🎟 €9 Adults, Click here to get your skip-the-line entrance ticket
- 🎫 Also included free with the Lyon City Card
- ⏰ Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 am to 6:30 pm
- Special night hours until 10 pm on the 1st Thursday of every month
“The Musée des Confluences creates conversations between the sciences to understand the history of life and humanity.
It deals with big universal questions: humanity’s origin and future, the diversity of cultures and societies, as well as the place of humans in the living world.Musée des confluences
The permanent exhibitions include four exhibitions that are unique in offering an interdisciplinary approach for visitors to explore the infinite richness of cultures and civilisations.”
Next, check out the Confluence Shopping Center. Unlike most malls, this shopping center is indoor-outdoor. That said, in winter it can get very chilly! In summer, this place is abuzz with activity.
As you’ll see, the architecture around the new Confluence district is quite contrasting with Lyon’s historic and Renaissance districts.
Where to Stay in Lyon for 3 Days
Three days in Lyon is a good amount of time to really get a feel for the city. Since you can easily access all the top sights by metro, you don’t need to be constricted to sticking to hotels in the city center.
If I was a guest visiting the city for three days, this is where I’d stay:
✨ Slopes of Croix-Rousse / Hôtel de Ville (1st arrondissement): Stretching west to east from the Saône River to the Rhône, this slice of Lyon encompasses the heart of the city, including Hôtel de Ville and the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse. You will be mere steps away from some of Lyon’s best attractions, neighborhoods, wine bars, museums, and more. Click to book your stay in the 1st arrondissement.
🏰 Vieux Lyon (5th arrondissement): There isn’t an area quite as charming and romantic to stay in as Lyon’s Renaissance district. Hotels and one-bedroom studio apartments here are bursting with character. Click here to find the perfect accommodation.
🚆 La Presqu’Île (2nd arrondissement): The lower section of the peninsula is still a tempting place to stay in Lyon for a 3-day or 3-night stay since it gives you quick access to Confluence, the metro, and the train station at Perrache. There is a variety of accommodation options for all budgets, too. Search more options on Booking.com.
Feel Free to Customize This 3-Day Lyon Itinerary!
I’m so pleased to share the above 3-day itinerary with you! I truly hope you leave Lyon with fond memories and experiences—it really is one of the best cities in France, and I’d argue even in Europe or the world.
That said, there are a lot more fun things to do in Lyon, so if you don’t get around to them this time, make sure to read my guide and add those “unchecked” activities to your bucket list.
✨ Looking for even more unique tours in Lyon to fill up your itinerary? Check out my guide or preview these top-rated tours below.
I hope you have the best time visiting Lyon in 3 days!
Feel free to leave a comment below or reach out with questions on social @bucketlistbri.
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