30 Amazing Things to Do in Lyon, France (The Ultimate Bucket List!)

Last updated Jan 12, 2021 | Europe, France | 3 comments

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Lyon, France is a city of delightful contrast – a sensational mix between modern and old-world charm. It has everything from dazzling museums, sprawling plazas, and contemporary art to 2,000-year old historic and cultural landmarks, secret tunnels (traboules), and cobbled alleyways winding through charming neighborhoods. There are just so many things to do in Lyon that make this city so fun to visit!

I actually lived for nearly two years as an international student in Lyon and can’t recommend it enough for travelers. My partner is also from the region and went to school there too, so I’ve spent a lot of time exploring Lyon and its hidden gems! To this day, Lyon remains one of my favorite destinations of all time. Not only is Lyon the gastronomic capital of France, but it’s also France’s third-largest city exploding with culture, history, and activities.

Whether you are a culture-vulture, love being outdoors, or a foodie on the hunt for the next best dish, you will fall in love with this inspiring, upbeat city in southeastern France!

Here are the best things to do in Lyon, France to add to your bucket list!

1. La Place Bellecour
2. Funicular to Fourvière Hill
3. Notre-Dame de Fourvière
4. Gallo-Roman Amphiteatre
5. Parc de la Tête d’Or
6. Les Quais de Rhône
7. Croix Rousse
8. Les Pentes
9. Hôtel de Ville
10. Bartholdi Fountain
11. Vieux Lyon
12. Les Bouchons Lyonnais
13. Les Traboules
14. Confluence
15. Le Crayon Tower
16. French Cooking Class
17. Les Peniches (Boat Bars)
18. La Cité International
19. Musée de Beaux Arts
20. La Fête des Lumières
21. Opéra de Lyon
22. Cathedrale de St-Jean
23. Musées Gadagne
24. Les Marches
25. La Halle de Lyon
26. Part-Dieu
27. La Fresque des Lyonnais
28. Walking Tour
29. Hop on/off Bus
30. Day Trips

The Ultimate Bucket List for Things to Do in Lyon

Before we get started, here are some key terms/vocabulary that I’ll use to talk about Lyon. Plus, it’s a good way to practice your French! 😉

  • Vieux Lyon – Old Lyon
  • Rue – road
  • Quartiers – neighborhoods
  • Arrondissements – districts
  • Place – plaza
  • Quai – quay
  • Traboules – hidden tunnels used by silk workers and the resistance
  • Bouchons Lyonnais – restaurants specific to Lyon’s traditional cuisine

1. La Place Bellecour

La Place Bellecour sits in the vibrant city center of Lyon on the peninsula sandwiched between the Saône and Rhône rivers. It is one of the largest pedestrian squares in all of Europe and the third-largest square in France.

You can wander around the shops, ride the big Ferris wheel, visit the tourist information center, take pictures of Louis XIV statue, hop on the metro, and get a sneak peek of the Fourvière Basilica overlooking the city, all from La Place Bellecour. We would always take guests here first because it is a stunning place to stroll around and get a first impression of the city!

Place Bellecour Lyon from abovecredit: canva

Easily access Lyon’s top attractions from La Place Bellecour from these main roads and bridges connecting it:

  • Rue Colonnel Chambonnet (takes you across La Saône river via Pont Bonaparte to Vieux Lyon)
  • Rue Victor Hugo and Rue du Plat (takes you to Perrache and Confluence)
  • Rue du Président Édouard Herriot (a shop-lined pedestrian street which leads you to Place des Jacobins and Hôtel de Ville)
  • Pont de la Guillotiere (bridge crossing the La Rhône river which takes you to the university district)

Bellecour is a popular place to stay in Lyon because of its prime location and proximity to nearly everything. That said, here are some of my recommendations for hotels and eateries.

Where to stay: Hotel Dieu (luxury), Hotel de l’Abbaye (mid-range), Hotel de Bretagne (budget).

Where to eat: Brasserie Le Sud ($$), La Mère Jean ($$), Café Terroir ($$)

Place Bellecour and Fourviere in Lyon, France | Bucketlist BriLa Place Bellecour is beautiful at night! 

2. Funicular to Fourvière Hill

To get a gorgeous panoramic view of the city, take the historic 100-year-old funicular up to Fourvière Hill. Here, you’ll have access to the minor Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière as well as the ancient Gallo-Roman amphitheater.

The easiest way to get to Fourvière in Lyon is to ride the vintage funicular which is located in Vieux Lyon. Or, if you’re feeling up to it, you can climb up to the Fourvière Hill via steep stairs and get additional views of the city (via Montée des Chazeaux). It’ll be worth it!

There are metro ticket stations at every metro/tram station and you can pay by card or cash. A metro ticket costs 1.90 euros and is valid up to one-hour for multiple uses. However, if you’re traveling in Lyon for a few days it’s best to buy tickets in bulk (carnet de 10) and save around 10%.

To save even more, you could also buy a Lyon City Card for 1-4 day trips and get all public transport and access to over 48 activities included!

Tip: I’d recommend taking the funicular up, then walking back down into Vieux Lyon. Not only will you save a metro ticket but you’ll get to explore the environs and charming backstreets on your descent.

3. Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière

Visiting the La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière is one of the best things to do in Lyon! This Basilica is absolutely stunning, both inside and out. Of all the churches, minor basilicas, and cathedrals around the world, Fourvière is my favorite. The walls are covered in thousands of colorful mosaics that recount impressive biblical scenes and when the light hits the walls it creates a myriad of hues and colors at different hours of the day, bringing the works of art to life.

Basilica Fourviere in Lyon, France

Outside of Fourvière, don’t miss out on getting a full scope of the city from its view deck! From atop the hill, you’ll be able to look down and point out Old Lyon, the St Jean Cathedral, La Place Bellecour, and beyond. As you will see from the viewpoint, Lyon is quite big! But because it’s spread out and divided into neighborhoods, it doesn’t feel overwhelming like some other big cities do (another reason why I love it).

4. Gallo-Roman Amphiteatre + Museum

Modern Lyon’s history dates back thousands of years to prehistoric times (12,000 B.C.) all the way up to the Gaul’s foundation of the Roman city of Lugdunum in 43 B.C.

It’s here, on the slopes of Fourvière Hill that you can explore the ancient ruins of the Gallo-Roman Grand Amphitheater and Odeon which were both listed as UNESCO World Heritage sites. Exploring the ruins outside is free and it only costs €4-7 to visit the adjacent museum which houses one of the most impressive archaeological collections in France.

If you’re traveling in Lyon during June-July, keep an eye out for the fantastic two-month festival of Les Nuits de Fourvière. During this time, the reconstructed stages of the Grand Amphitheatre and Odean come alive with theatre, dance, music, opera, cinema, and circus arts. Receiving nearly 130,000 spectators, Les Nuits de Fourvière is a popular thing to do in Lyon during the summer!

Beyond the Fourvière Basilica and Gallo-Roman museum and ruins, there’s more than meets the eye atop Fourvière Hill. Adept historians and culture lovers will love exploring this area more on foot to find other historic treasures, such as:

  • Aqueduct du Gier – one of the longest preserved ancient Roman aqueducts that provided Lugdunum with water (31 Rue Roger Radisson)
  • Thermes Antiques Romans – ancient Roman bath ruins (6 Rue des Farges)
  • Tombeau de Turpio – Roman tombs historic site with 10 burial structures (1 Montée de Choulans)

Gallo Roman Amphitheatre Lyon FranceVisiting the Gallo-Roman Amphitheatre ruins in December (bundle up!)

5. Parc de la Tête d’Or (Best Free Thing to Do in Lyon!)

One of our favorite things to do in Lyon is to spend the day at the breathtaking 290-acre, 19th-century Parc de la Tête d’Or (Park of the Golden Head) in Lyon’s 6th arrondissement. You will want to carve out several hours to fully visit this park because it is humongous!

To give you an idea of just how big, here’s everything you can do here:

  • Explore the park trails on bike/foot,
  • Rent a paddleboat and cruise around the lake
  • Visit the island in the center of the lake which features a historic monument dedicated to the lives lost during the First World War
  • Admire the four rose gardens, expansive botanical gardens, and greenhouses
  • Have fun at the mini carnival, eat ice cream, and ride the carousel
  • Shop at nearby Cité International
  • Visit the Museum of Contemporary Arts accessible from the park
  • Visit Lyon’s open-air, 150-year-old zoo which houses zebras, giraffes, monkeys, Asian lions, and nearly 300 more animals from 66 species.

Side note: The Lyon Zoo strives for conversation and the preservation of biodiversity and is a part of the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria (EAZA) which operates the European Endangered Species Program.

Oh, how we often spent our afternoons lounging in the grass for a picnic in Parc de la Tête d’Or! The park is extremely popular among locals so expect there to be tons of people exercising, playing sports, and just enjoying a little French apéritif on a blanket in the park before lunch or dinner.

Biking Tip: The park is huge and you will get tired walking around it! The best way to get there is via bike, metro, tram, or bus and I personally feel the park is best explored via bike. You can easily rent a red Velo’v (Lyon city bike) for a few hours or the day. There are stations just outside the main park entrance at the large iron gate with the gilded decoration.

Parc de la Tete d'Or Lyon

6. Les Quais du Rhône

Lyon is carved out by two rivers – the Saône and the Rhône. And it’s the Rhône which has a series of parks, quays, barges, and walking/biking lanes on mainly its eastern bank. The quays can be enjoyed on foot, bike, skateboard, rollerblades – you name it!

The construction of the Quais du Rhône (often called the Berges du Rhône because they’re built on the banks of the river) greatly improved Lyon’s navigability. For instance, now you can ride from Parc de la Tête d’Or all the way down south to Confluence and Parc du Gerland (totaling 3.1 miles) without ever having to leave the riverside.

Along the Quais du Rhône you can find numerous green spaces filled with children’s playgrounds, water activities, skate parks, picnic spaces, statues, and numerous cafes and bars either lining the walking paths or floating on the water on a boat barge.

Renting a bike or going for a stroll along the quay is a must-do activity in Lyon!

7. Croix Rousse

Okay, the next best thing to do in Lyon is spending a full day exploring the bohemian neighborhood of Croix Rousse which sits atop a hill in Lyon’s 4th arrondissement. This is where I lived on and off for nearly two years as a student and it is honestly the cutest place to hang out in Lyon!

Croix Rousse will envelop you in its charm the minute you arrive. It has endearing squares alive with corner bars, cafes, and boulangeries (bakeries), vintage-style shops lining it’s tiny one-way Grande Rue (main street), and whimsical French architecture. Walking down the boulevard of Croix Rousse makes you feel like you’re in a small French village rather than a big city. I love it because the vibe here is laid-back and très boho-hipster.

Don’t miss out on exploring Croix Rousse’s history, a neighborhood characterized and developed because of Lyon’s silk industry. That said, take time to visit the Maison des Canuts which recounts the lives, revolts, and contributions of the silk workers (canuts) across 5 centuries in Lyon. (Psst! La Maison des Canuts is included if you purchase a Lyon City Card!)

Take time to explore the traboules de la Croix Rousse (passageways) which were used by the silk workers to transport the silk down into the city while being sheltered from the rain. These routes were thereafter used by the resistance during WWII.

Canuts revolters would shout “Live working or die fighting!” | Cours du Vorace | pc: canva

Another thing to do in Lyon’s Croix Rousse neighborhood is to check out the Gros Caillou (large pebble). This rock is made up of quartzite and is said to have traveled by glaciers from the alps. Today it is a symbol of the neighborhood Croix Rousse since its annexation in 1852.

Finally, before you leave the neighborhood, go to the Belvedère of Croix Rousse viewpoint to get a lovely panorama on Lyon with a view on Fourvière Hill. The view is even lovelier at night when the Basilica shines bright.

How to get to there: Metro lines A > C

Where to stay in Croix Rousse: Les Loges du Théâtre (luxury), Hôtel de la Croix-Rousse (mid), Hôtel Henon (budget)

Where to eat/drink: Balthaz’Art ($$), Daniel et Denise ($$$), Best Bagels ($), Le Comptoir du Vin ($), Comptoir Sauvage ($ brunch), Le Canut et Les Gones ($$)

Pentes de la Croix Rousse, Lyon, FranceWalking up to Croix Rousse from Hotel de Ville via Les Pentes

8. Les Pentes de la Croix Rousse

After your visit of the Croix Rousse plateau, head down the stairs below the viewpoint. It’s here, on the slopes of Croix Rousse, that you’ll reach “Les Pentes”.

I wanted to highlight this area because there are lots of cute shops, cafes, bars, and back-alleys to explore here, including the Cours du Vorace – a large, hidden courtyard with a stunning six-floor staircase (and the popular meeting point of the canuts revolutionists) and another ancient Roman ruin site (Amphitheatre Des Trois Gaules).

Many travelers skip over this part of the city because they don’t know about it. But it’s a scenic and charming way to descend from Croix Rousse and reach Hôtel de Ville without having to take the metro. It only takes 20 minutes walking and the area is super beautiful and iconic of Lyon’s hidden charm.

Also check out: Le Terrier du Lapin Blanc ($ – cozy bar), Point de vue (mini park and viewpoint – located at Rue des Fantasques), Les Mauvaises Herbes ($ – vegetarian)

9. Hôtel de Ville

One of the most popular things to do in Lyon is to visit the stunning Hôtel de Ville de Lyon (City Hall) and marvel at the 17th-century architecture.

At Hôtel de Ville, you can pass the day leisurely strolling around the large grey square; Sip a beer outside on restaurant terraces, shop at the luxurious storefronts, or pop inside the Museum of Fine Arts. During the Festival of Lights on December 8, the buildings are used as backdrops for gorgeous light shows which recount all types of stories (more details about this festival below!).

The City Hall quartier is a beautiful area to visit in Lyon and not to miss out on during your trip!

How to get there: Take metro lines A, C, or ride a Velo’v bike. Hôtel de Ville sits on Place de la Comédie, right in front of the equally-gorgeous Lyon National Opéra, and right next to the sprawling Place des Terreaux.

Where to stay: Maison Nô (luxury), Hôtel Le Boulevardier (mid), Away Hostel & Coffee Shop (budget)

Where to eat: Le Café Des Fédérations ($$), Les Flaconneurs Bistro ($$+), Bouchon Bat d’Argent ($$+), Culina Hortus ($$$$ vegetarian gastropub), L’Atelier des Augustins ($$)

10. Famous Bartholdi Fountain

Speaking of La Place des Terreaux, here you will find another stunning Lyonnais landmark – the Bartholdi Fountain sculpted by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi – the same guy who sculpted the world-famous Statue of Liberty.

Though I’m not exactly sure of its history, it’s said that the fountain depicts France and is represented by a strong female riding a chariot of four wild horses plunging into the four great rivers of France (Seine, Loire, Rhône, Rhine). In any case, visiting the Bartholdi Fountain is a fun and free thing to do in Lyon when in the city for a few days. I use to love spending the morning or afternoon here taking pictures and exploring the side streets for the next best cafe or shop.

11. Vieux Lyon

Strolling around Vieux Lyon, also known as Old Lyon, is an unmissable thing to do in Lyon. Located just under the nose of Fourvière across the Saône river, Old Lyon is the charming Renaissance neighborhood of the city that transports you with its cobbled pedestrian streets, terracotta-roofs, cozy cafes, and traditional bouchons Lyonnais restaurants serving up the best of Lyonnais gastronomy.

When in the area, make sure to visit the lovely white Cathedrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste and marvel at its astronomical clock, sit down to eat at a restaurant, and visit the Museum of Cinema Miniature and the Puppetry Museum (included in the Lyon City Card Pass!).

For a truly special treat from the region, eat the best ice cream in Lyon at Terre Adélice. Usually, there are long wait times for a table because their ice cream is seriously amazing. It’s all artisanal, homemade, locally-sourced, and extremely good. For places to eat in this neighborhood, check below!

Where to stay: Le Gourguillon (luxury), La Loge du Vieux Lyon (mid), Le Phénix (mid)

Vieux Lyon, Francepc: canva

12. Les Bouchons Lyonnais

The Bouchons Lyonnais are restaurants that serve food traditionally from Lyon whereas French restaurants, in general, serve specialties from all over France. These restaurants are extremely typical of the local culture so I would highly recommend reserving a table at one or two to get an authentic Lyon, France dining experience.

Here are a few bouchons to discover in Lyon:

  • Restaurant Un, Deux, Trois (1 Place Neuve Saint-Jean – Vieux Lyon)
  • Les Fines Gueles (16 Rue Lainerie – Vieux Lyon)
  • Les Lyonnais (19 Rue de la Bombarde – Vieux Lyon)
  • Chez Grand-Mère (11 Rue du Bœuf – Vieux Lyon)
  • Le Pailleron (9 Rue Pailleron – Croix Rousse)
  • Au Petit Bouchon Chez Georges (8 Rue de Garet – Hôtel de Ville)

13. Les Traboules

Les Traboules, meaning “to pass through” (derived from trans-ambulare in Latin) are iconic of the city of Lyon. They are, in essence, hidden tunnels that connect to courtyards and other streets all across Lyon. These passageways were used for centuries, primarily by the silk workers who would use them to quickly and safely transport material across the city. The tunnels were later used during WWII by members of the resistance to hold secret meetings.

What’s more, they are open to the public, so if you know where to look you can walk behind seemingly-closed doors (like in this video below)!

They say there are over 400 traboules in Lyon, but only 40 are open to the public, with the concentration of them being in the Renaissance and artsy neighborhoods of Vieux Lyon and Croix Rousse. So how you can visit les traboules? There are guided tours on Saturdays or you can tour them on your own. Learn more here.

14. Confluence (Neighborhood, Mall, + Museum)

If Vieux Lyon is where you stroll in time’s past, Confluence is where you stroll in the future. Located at the south end of the Presqu’ile, where the Saône and Rhône rivers converge, Confluence was once upon a time Lyon’s industrial district. But today, thanks to the city’s “urban renewal project”, Confluence’s old buildings and abandoned lots are now converted into contemporary parks, apartments, restaurants, and is now known as an upscale neighborhood.

When people in Lyon say “Confluence” they are also referring to the Confluence shopping mall which is a gigantic, semi-open-air modern mall filled with boutiques, restaurants, and a pretty sweet movie theatre. Next door you’ll also find the quirky and futuristic anthropology and science center – the Confluence Museum – where you’ll find magnificent displays of dinosaur skeletons and art exhibitions. You can’t miss this shiny, contemporary museum by the water!

How to get there: Metro line A to Perrache, walk 13 mins / Tram 1 (T1) / Bike

Confluence museum: €9 for adults, free with Lyon City Card

Where to stay: MOB Hotel (luxury), Novotel (luxury), Ibis Confluence (budget-mid)

Confluence Museum (top), Confluence mall and riverboats (bottom) | pc: canva

15. Le Crayon Tower

The “Pencil” Tower in Lyon was a helpful marker for me when I lived in the city. It’s iconic of Lyon’s skyline with its pointy tip (hence the nickname le crayon). It’s the 13th-largest tower in France, so while not enormous, it does stand out among the sea of red-tiled roofs of Lyon.

Although it’s mainly a financial center, the top ten floors belong to the Radisson Hotel Blu and the 32nd floor belongs to Le Crayon restaurant offering a panoramic, 360-degree view of the city of Lyon!

16. French Cooking Class

A fun and immersive thing to do in Lyon is to take a cooking class! After all, Lyon is the food capital of France so where better to learn about French cuisine?

Many of the cooking classes offered in Lyon will start the day by taking you to the local outdoor markets in the neighborhood, including the fromagerie and boulangerie, to pick up fresh ingredients which you’ll later prepare in a communal kitchen with guidance.

At the end of the class, sit down and enjoy the meal you prepared among new friends!

Places to take a cooking class in Lyon: L’Atelier du Chef, Plum Lyon

17. Les Peniches (Boat Bars on the Water)

A fun thing to do in Lyon with friends is none other than grabbing a beer on one of the peniches (barges) floating in the river.

These barges sit quayside on the Rhône river and are a popular spot among locals and students to hang out, grab a beer, and party when the sunsets! There are also some on the Saône river near Confluence where you can rent a riverboat, but the Rhône ones are the best.

If you crave nightlife, you will enjoy partying on the peniches at night! They’re all clustered together so go take a look and see what’s happening at each one. Some feature live music at night while some are pure party boats. We once went to a “Halloween” party here during my student days and it was interesting to see how the French portray this especially-American holiday.

Check out these popular peniches: La Barge, La Marquise, Star Ferry, Le Sirius, La Passagere, and the Ayers

berges du rhone, lyonCredit: Loic Tijsseling

18. La Cité Internationale

The Cite Internationale is another beautiful neighborhood to visit in northern Lyon sandwiched between the Rhône and the Parc de la Tête d’Or.

There are many things to do here as well including the Museum of Contemporary Arts, the stylish shopping mall and movie theatre, the park zoo, and the riverside boulevard.

Fun Fact: Although you can’t visit it, La Cité Internationale houses the official headquarters of INTERPOL.

Where to stay: Mariott Cité Internationale (mid-luxe), Montempo Lyon (mid)

19. Musée de Beaux Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon is one of the most beautiful and impressive museums in France and in Europe with over 70 exhibit rooms with stunning antiquity to contemporary art. It sits on the beautiful Place des Terreaux in Hôtel de Ville and remains one of the best things to do on a trip to Lyon!

Entrance fee: €8 with an online audioguide, free with the Lyon City Card

Hours: Wednesday-Mondays 10-6 PM, Fridays 10:30-6 PM

20. La Fête des Lumières (December 8)

Okay, if you’re looking for the best thing to do in Lyon then this next one is it! This festival is literally one of the coolest cultural events I’ve had the pleasure to experience during my time in France and so if you’re in the area during this time you cannot miss out on it. So what’s it about anyway?

The Fête des Lumierès, or Festival of Lights, takes place each year on the 8th of December in Lyon in honor of the Virgin Mary and in recognition of Lyon’s heritage, culture, and history.

It is a tradition during this festival that all the Lyonnais place eight candles on their windowsills at night (you can imagine how this offering beautifully illuminates the buildings and streets!) but the real highlight of this event is the mesmerizing light shows that take place all over the city.

During four nights around the 8th, the city of Lyon becomes alive with lights, color, parades, and more! You can read the full story of why this event takes place here.

It is hard to explain how beautiful this event is in words, especially because some of the most beautiful buildings in Lyon are used as backdrops for the light shows and the result is simply stunning! Check out the below video for a sneak peek from last year’s festival.

le petit prince during the Festival of Lights in Lyon FranceLe Petit Prince light show on the Place des Terreaux during the Festival of Lights (2013)

21. Opéra de Lyon (Lyon National Opera)

Love to go to the theatre? Then you’ll fall in love with Lyon’s gorgeous National Opera. This building is stunning, inside and out, and is the perfect place to spend a romantic evening with your partner. Paul took me to see a rendition of The Nutcracker for Christmas one year and we loved it! I highly recommend checking out the program on your trip to Lyon in case you see an upcoming performance you’d love to catch!

22. Cathedrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste

When roaming around the cobbled Renaissance quarter of Old Lyon, make sure to stop by and marvel at the roman-gothic Cathedrale de St-Jean. It took three centuries (1175-1481) to build this beautiful cathedral which now attracts tourists to its 12th-century stained-glass windows and beautiful 16th-century astronomical clock featuring ornate figures and symbology. Believe it or not, it’s one of the oldest of its kind in all of Europe!

To make your visit extra special, visit when the clock chimes on the hours of 12, 2, and 3 PM. After weathering centuries of religious war, political strife, and more, St Jean Cathedral stands today as an iconic symbol and top thing to do in Lyon.

Where to stay closeby: MiHotel Tour Rose (mid-luxe)

lyon opera and lyon cathedralLyon Opera (left) and Cathedral St-Jean (right) | pc: canva

23. Musées Gadagne

The Gadagne Museums, comprising both the Puppetry Museum (Musée des Arts de la Marionnette) and the Museum of Lyon History (Musée d’Histoire de Lyon), are two more not-to-miss things to do in Lyon if you love culture and history. The Puppetry Museum brilliantly recounts the story of Guignol – Lyon’s legendary puppet – through immersive and interactive exhibitions. Another small museum you can visit to learn about the role of puppetry in Lyon’s history (also featuring Guignol) is the Le Petit Musée de Guignol Fantastique.

All three of these museums are located in the heart of Vieux Lyon.

Cost of entry: included with the Lyon City Card

Where: Gadagne Museums (1 Place du Petit Collège), Petit Guinol Museum (6 Rue Saint-Jean)

24. Les Marchés

If you’ve traveled within France before, chances are you’ve been or seen a typical French market. The local markets spread out across Lyon are just that – typical, cute, and a great way to get a birds-eye view into the local French culture. Lyon, in particular, is an amazing city to explore the markets because they have such huge selections on everything you can imagine – cheese, bread, meats, fruits, veggies, artisanal products, flowers, and more!

I wouldn’t say there is a “best” market to visit in Lyon. We always went to the local one in Croix Rousse but there are dozens to be explored. But if you’ve never been to one before, a good starting place is the Marché Saint-Antoine Célestins – one of the oldest markets of Lyon – located along the Quai Saint-Antoine by the Saône river overlooking Vieux Lyon. The market here takes place from Tuesdays to Sundays from early morning until 1 PM.

25. Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

Another splendid option to explore Lyon’s market scene is to visit Les Halles de Lyon named after famous Lyon-based French chef Paul Bocuse who became famous for popularizing the “nouvelle cuisine” movement. Today Les Halles consists of over 60 retailers selling the finest fare of Lyonnais gastronomy.

Location: 102 Cours Lafayette 69003 Lyon, France

quai sainte antoine marche vieux lyonQuai Sainte-Antoine – come here to visit the morning market! | pc: canva

Les Halles de Lyon | pc: wikimedia

26. La Part-Dieu

La Part Dieu is a neighborhood in Lyon with bustling with activity. There are a few things to do here for tourists, but the main attraction is the Part Dieu shopping mall which you can access directly via the metro or tram. Part Dieu is also where you’ll find the Gare de Lyon – the train station – where you can take direct train lines out of Lyon to other major cities in France like Paris. You could combine your visit to Les Halles Paul Bocuse with a Part Dieu since they are next to each other.

Tip: If you only have time to visit one shopping mall while in Lyon, I’d recommend going to Confluence over Part Dieu.

27. Lyon’s Murals – La Fresque des Lyonnais

For a really unique thing to do in Lyon, head to “La Fresque des Lyonnais” – the Lyonnais Mural – to see the enormous mural dedicated to 30 famous people from Lyon spanning the city’s 2000-year-old+ history. The figures represented in this giant painting all have made monumental contributions to Lyon and the world as we know it today.

The Lyonnais Fresque is what’s known in French as a trompe l’oeil, meaning it’s an eye illusion. The balconies and figures are painted to scale to give you the impression that it’s real.

Some of the famous figures you can see represented on the Fresque Lyonnais are:

  • Emperor Claudius (10 BC – 54 AD) – born in ancient Lyon, then known as Lugdunum in Gaul
  • Sainte-Blandine (160-177) – patron saint of Lyon and martyr
  • Louise Labé (1516-1566) – famous (and capricious) Lyonnaise writer during the Renaissance
  • Laurent Mourguet & Guignol (1769-1844) – the creator of Guignol, the iconic puppet of Lyon who represents the silk canuts
  • Le Petit Prince and Antoine de St-Exupéry (1900-1944) – aviator and author of the famous Le Petit Prince
  • Auguste and Louis Lumière (1862-1954 and 1864-1948): – the Lumières brothers and creators of the very first motion-picture camera

Where: 2 Rue de la Martinière, 69001 Lyon, France

Recommended place to stay nearby: Hotel Saint Vincent (mid)

28. Walking Tours

As you can see, there are dozens of things to do in Lyon that it can be difficult to “see it all” in just a few days. That’s where walking tours come in! Lyon has awesome walking tours because the city is so easy to navigate on foot and has an easy public transportation system. You can knock off half these things to do in just a day or two if you organize it well by neighborhood.

Many budget-travelers go on walking tours because they are low-cost or sometimes free, but it’s always nice to be able to tip the guides so I don’t consider walking tours as necessarily free things to do.

Nonetheless, taking a walking tour of Lyon is a great way to see the city’s top sights and learn about each place in the process. I know there some people who prefer DIY exploring (like me), but a guided walking tour definitely has its perks!

Check out: Vieux Lyon Walking Tour, Customizable Private Tours

29. Hop-on Hop-off Bus

If you want the benefits of a tour without all the leg-work, then consider hopping on and off Lyon’s city tour bus. Included in the ticket price is a 1-day unlimited bus pass featuring 14 stops at the most popular attractions in Lyon. You also get an audio guide and there’s wifi on the bus too!

The Lyon city bus is a great option if you’re traveling with family members who tire easily from walking long distances. It costs just a little more than a packet of metro tickets, so price-wise it’s a pretty fair deal and saves you quite a bit of time.

30. Take a Day Trip

Last but not least on this huge list of things to do in Lyon is to take a day trip! What makes Lyon even more awesome is its location in southeastern France – you are literally just a couple hours away from the Alps, the French Riviera, the Provence lavender fields, and all major French cities including Aix-en-Provence, Marseille, Paris, Toulouse, and more!

From Lyon, you have a few options for day trips if you really want to explore the region more. There is the cute mountain-town of Chambery in Savoie to the east (1h 20m – also where I used to live), the famous mustard city of Dijon to the north (2 hrs), Aix to the south (3 hrs – another place I lived in!), and several regional parks to the west (2 hrs).

Enjoy These Amazing Things to Do in Lyon France!

Wow, if you’re still reading this guide for things to do in Lyon then thank you so much!! I have poured my love for Lyon into this bucket list guide for you to enjoy. Writing it sure did bring back many sweet memories for me. I hope it inspires you to visit Lyon one day!

Have you ever been to Lyon, France? Did you love it?! If not, is it on your bucket list?

 

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3 Comments

  1. Cristina

    I had never thought of visiting Lyon, but after reading your blog and looking at your pictures, I definitely want to go 🙂 La Place Bellecour looks stunning.

    Reply
  2. Taylor

    This is such an amazing and informative article Bri! You totally made me put Lyon on my bucket list next time I go to France. The floating barges sound like a blast and the old town is so pretty and colorful. I also didn’t realize that Lyon was the foodie capital of France. So cool! 🙂

    Reply
  3. Melisa

    Wow! This post is full of great info – I’m saving this for future use 🙂 AKA when travel resumes! France is at the top of my bucket list and I can’t wait to visit someday.

    Reply

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Hi, I’m Bri! I’ve been slow traveling around the world in search of new adventures since 2013. I have lived in 8 countries on 4 continents including Nepal, Mexico, Colombia, and parts of Europe! I created this blog to inspire others to live a life of adventure, seek out meaningful experiences, and to travel slowly and mindfully. Join me on this journey and let’s tick off our bucket lists! Read my story here.

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