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When it comes to the best things to do in Lyon, the list can be hard to narrow down. After all, Lyon is France’s third-largest city.
Located where the Saone and Rhone rivers connect, Lyon is the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in France.
Lyon not only has had human inhabitants since prehistoric times, but it has left its stamp by being known as the gastronomic capital of the world!
So whether you’re a foodie or you love history, there are plenty of places to see in Lyon!
When I lived in Grenoble, Lyon was such a great day trip to take, as it is only an hour and a half away. So after having explored the best things to do here, I need to share them with you for your perfect Lyon getaway!
Best Things to do in Lyon
Check out the 17 Lyon attractions that you must see!
1. Explore Vieux Lyon
Vieux Lyon, or Old Lyon, is the largest Renaissance neighborhood in the city. Located between Fourviere Hill and the Saone River, there is a history here dating back to the 15th century.
Aside from the cathedrals and museums (some of which I’ll discuss below), Vieux Lyon was home to silk production in the 16th century.
Yes, Lyon originally made a name for itself as being a huge silk-producing city during the Renaissance!
Vieux Lyon is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site with the Rue Juiverie even dating back to Roman times!
Vieux Lyon has much to see, so taking time to explore this part of the city is a must!
2. Croix-Rousse and the Traboules
The cobblestone streets of Croix-Rousse aren’t just lovely, they are steeped in history. Lyon was formerly the City of Silk, and this area is where the silk weavers, known as canuts, lived and worked.
Admire the Canuts mural, walk through gardens of mulberry trees (what silkworms like to eat), and even explore the traboules, or the secret covered passageways, that the silk workers used to get around the city.
If you want further context about the traboules, the history of silk in Lyon, and even about the Canuts and their revolts, definitely download this audio-guided walking tour!
3. Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon
Speaking of the cathedrals in Vieux Lyon mentioned above, you cannot miss this one. Known as the Lyon Cathedral, construction began in 1180 over the ruins of another church, but it wasn’t completed until 1476.
Also on the UNESCO World Heritage List, the Lyon Cathedral is built in the Gothic style and has the iconic rose window!
The interior is absolutely stunning, and you can even spot the astronomical clock that was built in the 14th century while here!
You can also take a guided tour of the cathedral for €9 from the tourist office.
As a bonus, during the Festival of Lights in December (or Fetes des Lumieres) light installations are projected on the facade of the cathedral. It is a sight to see!
Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon Address: Pl. Saint-Jean, 69005 Lyon
Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Lyon Hours: Monday-Friday 8:15 am-12 pm and 1:45-7:30 pm. Saturday-Sunday 8:15 am-12 pm and 1:45-7 pm. Closed for services on Monday-Friday at 9 am and 7 pm, Saturday at 9 am, and Sunday at 8:30 am and 10:30 am.
4. Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière
Built on Roman ruins, this basilica is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, whom they credit to saving the city from the Bubonic Plague during 1643. The Virgin Mary is credited for saving the city on other occasions as well, which is why they thank her during the Fetes des Lumieres each year by projecting lights from the cathedral.
As Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourviere is on top of Fourviere Hill, it can be seen from around the city, making it an iconic Lyon must-see attraction!
Aside from freely wandering inside this basilica, you can take a 90-minute guided tour of the roof for €10 (in French) or take a free guided tour of the church from April through November (in several languages).
Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière Address: 8 Pl. de Fourvière, 69005 Lyon
Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière Hours: Open daily from 7 am-7 pm. Closed for visitors during services. The Gates of the Sanctuary are open daily from 7 am-11 pm during the summer and 7 am-9:30 pm in the winter.
5. Musée Miniature & Cinema
Located in the heart of Vieux Lyon, this museum is dedicated to film’s special effects and miniatures!
If you’ve ever wondered how they can make dinosaurs look alive or how superheroes effortlessly soar through the air, you can thank special effects. You can learn all about the tricks filmmakers use to bring characters to life on screen at this museum.
Plus, if you love miniatures, this is a cool place to see quite a collection!
Admission is €9.50 for adults, €8 for seniors over 60, €6.50 for children ages 5-15, and free for children under 5.
Musee Miniature & Cinema Address: 60 Rue Saint-Jean, 69005 Lyon
Musee Miniature & Cinema Hours: Daily 10 am-6:30 pm.
6. Musée des Confluences
The Musee des Confluences is located right at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers! From the outside, it looks super new, with its dramatic modern architecture.
Inside, however, you’ll find many amazing exhibits dedicated to anthropology and science. There are many science exhibits including 2 million insect specimens, dinosaur fossils, Egyptian artifacts, gemstones, and more!
Plus, they even have exhibits about cultures ranging from the Americas, the Arctic Circle, Oceania, and even Europe.
Admission costs €9 for adults, children and students are free to visit. Buy your tickets here!
Musee des Confluences Address: 86 Quai Perrache, 69002 Lyon
Musee des Confluences Hours: Tuesday-Sunday from 10:30 am-6:30 pm. Open until 10 pm on the first Thursday of the month.
7. Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière
Way back when (we’re talking like 2,000+ years ago), Lyon wasn’t known as Lyon. It was called Lugdunum. It was founded in 43BC as a Roman city in Gaul.
It was under Roman rule for 5 centuries, and with that comes quite a bit of history. To discover the rich history of Lugdunum including all about the lives of the people who lived here, a visit to the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourviere is a must.
Afterward, you can explore the ruins including the Roman baths, theaters, and even ruins of former churches in Lyon.
Admission is €7 during the temporary exhibition period or €4 outside of that.
Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière Address: 17 Rue Cleberg, 69005 Lyon
Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière Hours: Tuesday-Friday 11 am-6 pm. Saturday and Sunday 10 am-6 pm. The Roman theaters are open every day from 7 am-7 pm.
8. Ancient Theater of Fourviere is One of the Top Things to do in Lyon
This 2,000+-year-old theater is part of the museum above and was built into the Fourviere Hill. It is such a unique sight to see that I had to include it as a separate item on the Lyon must-see list. There are actually two theaters built here.
The larger amphitheater could hold up to 10,000 people, while the smaller one could hold 3,000. You’re even allowed to wander inside the amphitheaters, and they are still even used today for shows!
9. Musée Gadagne
The Musée Gadagne is two museums in one. The first is the Lyon history museum with plenty of information from the Middle Ages until the nineteenth century.
This includes loads of information about the silk industry as well as how it became a gastronomic capital!
The other museum is the World Puppet Museum, dedicated to marionette puppets, which is really unique to see!
Admission is €8 for adults.
Musee Gadagne Address: 1 Pl. du Petit Collège, 69005 Lyon
Musee Gadagne Hours: Wednesday-Sunday 11 am-6:30 pm.
10. Musée des Beaux-Arts Lyon
Of course, almost every major French city has a fine arts museum. But with so many world-renowned painters and sculptors, how could they not?
Lyon is no exception to this, with amazing art from paintings and sculptures to antiques, coins, and medals. Built in a 17th-century abbey, you can spot pieces from the Middle Ages through modern times.
Aside from the artwork, the building is absolutely stunning, as is the charming garden full of lime trees, birches, and a large oak tree. The garden is surrounded by the former abbey cloisters, making it a picturesque view.
Admission to the museum is €8 for the permanent collection and €12 to see the temporary collections. They recommend booking tickets online.
Musée des Beaux-Arts Lyon Address: 20 Pl. des Terreaux, 69001 Lyon
Musee des Beaux-Arts Lyon Hours: Wednesday-Monday from 10 am-6 pm. On Friday, they open at 10:30 am.
11. Take a Food Tour of Lyon
Lyon is the gastronomic capital of the world, so the best way to explore the city is by mouth!
There are ample food tours around the city, including this Old Town Food Tour with 6 tasting stops and so much great information about Lyonnaise cuisine.
This food tour costs $86 per person!
12. Visiting Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is One of the Best Things to do in Lyon
This indoor food market is iconic! Built in 1971, this 13,000-square foot market is home to 48 vendors selling anything from meats and cheeses to fresh produce and more!
Seriously, there are 3 floors packed with amazing things to try! There are bakeries, wine shops, cheese stands, etc.! Whether you’re a chef or just love to cook, this is an absolute must-see during your trip to Lyon!
Oh, and if you’re feeling peckish, definitely try some of the many bars and restaurants in the market!
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse Address: 102 Cr Lafayette F, 69003 Lyon
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse Hours: Daily 7 am-7 pm. Open from 7 am-1 pm on Sundays and public holidays.
13. Enjoy the Gastronomy
Yes, you should 100% take a food tour. And yes, you should 100% explore Les Halles. But aside from those things, you should just eat on your own!
There are several iconic Lyonnaise dishes you must try including Coq au vin, Lyonnaise potatoes (pan-fried potatoes with onions and butter), and various sausages like Rosette Lyonnaise, Saucisson de Lyon, and Andouillette.
And for a special date night or just a decadent night out, there are a whopping 17 Michelin-starred restaurants in Lyon! 3 of which have 2 stars!
The Michelin Guide alone has 82 restaurants they recommend just in Lyon. So if you really want to enjoy the food, definitely check here!
2-star Michelin restaurants like Takao Takano and Mère Brazier have tasting menus from €100-190+ and 1-star restaurants even have some menus under €100!
If you want to splurge, definitely make a reservation for a Michelin restaurant in Lyon!
14. Enjoy Presqu’Ile
Presqu’Ile is the land between the two rivers and has so much to offer. There are boutiques, restaurants, as well as the Opera de Lyon, Les Celestins-Theatre de Lyon, and Place Bellecour (one of the largest squares in France).
15. Enjoy the Parks of Lyon
Many cities in France have delightful parks and greenspaces. So you must take some time to walk through the lovely parks of Lyon or even have a picnic with goodies you find at Les Halles!
One iconic park is Parc de la Tete d’Or, which is the city’s largest park featuring the botanical gardens of Lyon, rose gardens, a zoo, and a lovely lake. This is a very popular spot for visitors and locals alike!
Jardin du Rosaire is a lovely tree and flower-lined garden that offers stunning views of Lyon!
16. Take a River Cruise
When the city is set on the banks of two rivers, what could be better than enjoying the sights from the water?
This river cruise even lets you enjoy it with a 3-course lunch menu! And, because it’s Lyon, it isn’t just a sandwich and chips, it is a gourmet lunch!
In all seriousness, a river cruise in Lyon shows one of the best views of the city!
17. Take a Day Trip From Lyon
While there are plenty of amazing things to do in Lyon, it is a great city for taking day trips!
For starters, you aren’t too far from Beaujolais, so a day out in the vineyards sipping wine is a great idea! Here is a lovely day trip to Beaujolais!
You can also visit other places nearby like Grenoble, at the foot of the alps, or even Annecy, known as the “Venice of France” with its charming canals and mountain lake! There is plenty to do during a day in Annecy, whether you visit in the summer or winter!
And if you want to see another country, why not take a day trip to Geneva?
Either way, if you’re staying in Lyon for a few days, a day trip is a great idea.
Getting to Lyon and Getting Around
Getting to Lyon is fairly easy, thanks to its own airport and well-connected train station.
So you could either fly directly into Lyon, or you could fly into Geneva or Paris and take the train in. Both cities are about a 2-hour train ride away.
For checking the best flight prices, I always love Skyscanner!
As far as getting around Lyon, it is a fairly walkable city, especially if you’re staying in Vieux Lyon.
Where to Stay in Lyon
There are ample places to stay in Lyon, but sticking nearby Vieux Lyon will make things easier. Here are a few places based on budget.
Budget: Elysee Hotel
Just across the bridge from Vieux Lyon, this place is near some great bars and restaurants. And at only around $80 per night, it is a great deal!
Mid-range: Mercure Lyon Centre Beaux-Arts Hotel
Also across the river, there is so much to do in the area! Plus, the rooms are nice and spacious and very comfortable for your stay. Prices start at $170 per night.
Luxury: Cour les Loges
With a Michelin-star restaurant, cigar room, bar, hanging gardens, and more, this is pure luxury! Prices start at $220 per night.
Best Time to Visit Lyon
There really isn’t a bad time to visit Lyon. I’ve even been in January and had a lovely time! However, for better weather and fewer crowds, visiting in the fall around October and in the spring in April is lovely.
The rainiest month is May and the coldest month is January, but the temperatures typically don’t get below freezing in the winter. Even summertime temperatures can be quite warm but usually not terribly hot!
Lyon has so many amazing things to do that you cannot go wrong with a visit here!
What would you most like to do in Lyon?
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