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Best things to do & places to stay:

Last updated: 03 November, 2022
Expert travel writer: Anna Brooke

Sandwiched between the splendid steep vineyards of Beaujolais and the northern Cotes du Rhone, Lyon is renowned as France’s foodie city par excellence.

Culture vultures get their fill here too, thanks to an amazing array of venues, from Roman theatres that still entertain, to the birthplace of world cinema, via a world-class opera house.

Visitors marvel at the extent of the beautiful city centre, stretching along the rivers Rhone and Saone and up the Croix-Rousse and Fourviere hills.

The place appeals to romantics as much as business types. UNESCO, among those seduced, declared historic Lyon a World Heritage Site.

Orientation

Historic Lyon stands beside two major rivers, the Rhone and the Saone, and extends up two steep hills, Croix-Rousse and Fourviere.

Fourviere, west of the Saone, is renowned for its Roman and religious past and great views. Below lies Vieux Lyon’s touristy Renaissance quarter.

The Presqu’ile, or Peninsula, is the smart central area between Saone and Rhone.

Croix-Rousse above, once working-class, is trendy. East of the Rhone, posh areas lead to elegant Tête d’Or Park.

The bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination

Beaujolais Wine Region

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

One of the world’s great wine regions, set in the beautiful hills west of the Saone just north of Lyon. Tour stunning vineyards and wine villages, tasting wines as you go.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

Fourviere Hill

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

The Fourviere hillside offers panoramic city views, a huge 19th-century basilica, two exceptional Roman theatres, and illuminating insights into Lyon’s Roman past.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Lugdunum Museum

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Nestled into the Fourviere hillside, Lyon’s fascinating Roman attraction is home to two ancient theatres and a museum filled with artefacts depicting all aspects life in the Roman town of Lugdunum.

Best for ages: 13+ | £3

Other worthwhile experiences in this destination if you have the time or the interest

Beaujolais Nouveau Day
Experience

Beaujolais Nouveau Day

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

The Beaujolais wine harvest festival (every 3rd Thursday in November) brings boozy and foodie events to cafes, restaurants and wineries all around Lyon, with some celebrations spilling into the street.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free | 1 day

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Close up of a ceramic puppet exhibit in the museum
Experience

Gadagne Museum

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Housed in Vieux Lyon’s grandest mansion, this small museum is actually two museums: the Museum of Lyon History, which traces the history of the city since medieval times, and the World Puppet Museum, with over 2,000 puppets collected over centuries.

Best for ages: 4+ | £5

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stall selling specialty sausages in the La Croix Rousse Market
Experience

La Croix Rousse Market

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Amid the hilly slopes of the former silk-weavers’ quarters, this wonderful daily market (except Mondays) is the locals’ spot for filling up on gourmet treats and taking in the views.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Exterior of the food hall entrance
Experience

Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Top suppliers fill this stunning covered food market, where gourmet ‘corners’ provide ample seating for you to sample the region’s world-class food amid the hustle and bustle.

Best for ages: 18+ | Free

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Our selection of the best Viator tours of this destination, plus helpful tickets and transfers

1 or 2-Hour Pedicab tour of Lyon

1 or 2-Hour Pedicab tour of Lyon

Lyon

Health and safety commitments: The tours have been suited to meet all of your requirements and provide you with a safe tour experience. Onc...

€25 | Rating 4.98 / 5 [112 ratings]

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Discover Lyon in an Unusual Way

Discover Lyon in an Unusual Way

Lyon

Travelers that want to avoid a crowded tour bus—but see more than with a typical walking tour—shouldn't miss this comfortable, pedicab tour ...

€25 | Rating 4.92 / 5 [85 ratings]

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Lyon Attractions & Museums Card & Guide with City Map

Lyon Attractions & Museums Card & Guide with City Map

Lyon

This is your passport for exploring the museums and attractions of Lyon, a UNESCO World Heritage site. The easy-to-use city card offers tota...

€28 | Rating 4.58 / 5 [152 ratings]

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Lyon City Historic Neighborhoods Guided Walking Tour (English)

Lyon City Historic Neighborhoods Guided Walking Tour (English)

Lyon

10:00 am/English | On this guided walking tour of the historic neighborhoods of Croix-Rousse and Vieux Lyon, you will learn a lot about the ...

€3 | Rating 4.93 / 5 [303 ratings]

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay in this destination

Hotel Globe et Cecil

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Chic family-run hotel smack bang in shop-filled Presqu’Ile, offering a cool restaurant serving excellent breakfast and innovative takes on classic Lyonnais dishes.

Official star rating:

College Hotel

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Playful school-themed hotel in the heart of Vieux Lyon, offering city views, and a terrace bar where nightly light shows illuminate the facade.

Official star rating:

Fourviere Hotel

Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

High-end design hotel in a former convent, on the Fourviere hillside, offering chic eateries, including a typical bouchon, plus a spa and an outdoor pool.

Official star rating:

Chateau de Bagnols

Bagnols, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

A beautiful 800-year-old chateau-castle dating back to 1217, complete with high-wall fortifications and a moat – idyllically set in the Beaujolais Wine Region.

Official star rating:

When to go

While Lyon can heat up in summer, it’s rarely unbearable in the city. Winters don’t get particularly cold. Spring and autumn are often lovely times, though it can remain cool until surprisingly late in springtime.

Culture is on the agenda in Lyon throughout the year, but big festivals add excitement to a visit, for example the diverse June to July festival, Nuits de Fourvière, in the Roman theatres, or the early December Festival of Lights.

Getting there and away

Lyon St-Exupery airport lies 25km east of the centre. The Rhone Express shuttle bus to Vaulx-en-Velin La Soie metro station is the fastest route into town, though taxis may prove more straightforward for first-time visitors. The city has fantastic rail connections with Paris, Marseille and Lille, with a journey time from London of just five hours, via Lille and the Channel Tunnel. There are two big central stations: Perrache on the Presqu’ile, Part-Dieu east of the Rhône.

Getting around

Lyon is blessed with excellent public transport. The metro is modern, comfortable and efficient. The bus services are good. Taxis are relatively easy to find. You can hire a car at the two central railway stations, among other places. In a car, the city is relatively hard to negotiate, because of one-way systems and the constraints imposed by the rivers and two big hills. For cyclists, the city-wide Velo’v bike-hire scheme is excellent.

Where to stay

First-time visitors plump for Vieux Lyon and Fourvière west of the Saone, the obvious, romantic choice. These parts are beautiful, if very touristy, with loads to see and do, plus an abundance of places to eat.

The Presqu’Ile is great for shops and the main art museums; there are also many French squares with cafés and restaurants here. East of the Rhone, the quarters near Tête d’Or Park are more residential, though smart, with some shops and restaurants.

The Cite Internationale north of the park has some big, comfortable chain hotels popular with business travellers and tourists alike.

Where to shop

While there are some interesting boutiques in Vieux Lyon, touristy shops dominate here. You’ll find the greatest concentration of stylish establishments on the Presqu’Ile.

Broad Rue de la Republique is lined with the big-name stores. The Carre d’Or between the Bellecour and Cordeliers squares, is the nickname for a little quarter of posh designer boutiques. Rue Auguste Comte is the main street for antiques.

For more experimental addresses, try Croix-Rousse, notably Passage Thiaffait.

Our writer’s recommended itineraries for this destination