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26 Best things to see & do in Lyon

  • Lyon, Auberge-Rhone-Alpes, France

Last updated: 15 June, 2024
Expert travel writer: Anna Brooke
  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

A small chapel set amid vineyards in autumn

Bucket List Experience

Beaujolais Wine Region

The hugely well-known wines of the Beaujolais region are produced northwest of Lyon. The vineyards are set in 14,500 hectares of beautiful hills west of the Saone, in 12 appellations. Many of the wine villages are stunning and well worth a visit alongside the wineries themselves.

The best-known wine areas, such as Fleury, Brouilly or Morgon lie in the north, but the vine-growing areas to the south almost surpass them in beauty. The vineyards are utterly stunning and the area blissfully unspoiled, despite Beaujolais’s famous name.

The official website documents a 140km circular wine route, through the main wine region’s attractions, and a number of lovely routes for walking and cycling.

Good for age: 18+

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

View on the mountain with Notre-Dame cathedral and metallic tower in Lyon city in France

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Fourviere Hill

To enjoy spectacular bird’s-eye views over Lyon, head up steep Fourviere hillside above the Saone – on clear days, you can spot Alpine foothills far to the east. The other big draw of the Fourviere hillside is that you get an overview of Lyon’s 2,000-year-old history, from Roman finds to views over contemporary quarters.

The best viewing platform stands beside Notre-Dame-de-Fourviere Basilica. This huge 19th-century church, Lyon’s most obvious landmark, is the city’s answer to Paris’s Sacre-Coeur. Nearby, incorporated into the hillside, lie two Roman theatres that still serve for contemporary entertainments. The neighbouring Lugdunum Museum on Gallo-Roman civilisation provides fascinating insights into Lyon’s ancient past.

Notre-Dame-de-Fourviere is always lit up at night, and particularly dramatically for December’s Fete des Lumieres (Light Festival). In summer, the Roman theatres host the Nuits de Fourviere festival.

Good for age: 18+

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

The roman amphitheatre side view of seating

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Lugdunum Museum

Under the name of Lugdunum, Lyon was a flourishing Roman city, founded at the confluence of the Saone and Rhone rivers on Fourviere Hill in 43 BC.

Today, archaeological excavations have exposed two vastly important sites, an amphitheatre (the oldest in France from Roman Gaul) and a small theatre, both of which are now part of this fantastic museum.

In addition to the theatres, the museum houses a vast array of artefacts exposing all aspects of Roman life, from Lugdunum’s urban layout to its circus entertainment and army missions.

Adult price: £3

Good for age: 13+

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

With Romanesque- and Byzantine-style architecture (earning it the nickname ‘upside-down elephant’), this iconic basilica was built by Pierre Bossan (1872-1874) to thank God for France’s triumph over the socialists during the infamous ‘Communes’.

Atop the Fourviere hillside, its esplanade draws crowds to its sweeping panorama over Lyon. But inside is stunning too: pink granite, blue marble, onyx, silver and gold details that culminate in majestic stained glass windows.

Walk outside to the Rosary Gardens, an oasis of sycamores, larches and roses. Like the basilica, its dedicated to the Virgin Mary who supposedly protected Lyon from the Black Death in 1643.

Good for age: 18+

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

close up of a beautiful round tart with almonds on

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Lyon’s best food & drink

Lyon, the ‘gastronomic capital of the world’, holds the highest number of Michelin stars in France (after Paris), and is home to so many food shops, markets, food halls and eateries that walking its streets sometimes feels like you’re in one gigantic picnic basket.

The world-renowned wine regions of Beaujolais, Burgundy and the Cotes du Rhone are nearby, for vineyard tours and tastings, also meaning wine sauces are common, as well as great wine lists.

Sandwiched between wine-growing regions and numerous agricultural hubs, the richness of its gastronomy lies in its geography: Bresse chicken from the north; snails and game from the north-east; and pork from the western foothills.

Good for age: 18+

Duration: Any

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Vieux Lyon old district pedestrian street view in Lyon France during summer with tourists

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Vieux (Old) Lyon

Vieux (old) Lyon is the most beautiful (and touristy) quarter of the city. It’s tucked in between River Saone’s west bank and the steep Fourviere hillside – a narrow slice of land crammed with beautifully preserved mansions, many dating from the 16th-century French Renaissance. It’s especially famed for its traboules, which are secretive, narrow alleyways leading between the different mansions.

The quarter reveals how Lyon thrived in the Renaissance; many of its finest houses were built for Italian silk merchants. The area has been stunningly restored, but many of the mansions have very touristy establishments on the ground floor.

Good for age: 18+

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Interior exhibition room showing fine arts paintings on walls

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Museum of Fine Arts, Lyon

In the heart of Lyon’s Presqu’ile, in a former 17th-century Benedictine abbey, the Musee des Beaux-Arts is a majestic place for art lovers to while away a few hours.

The breadth of its collections is remarkable, covering everything from antiquities and medieval art to Islamic art and Europe’s major schools of painting, via some 5,000 artefacts. 19th- and 20th-century pieces are particularly well represented, with works by famous artists like Monet, Matisse, Manet, Gaugin and Picasso.

Its loveliest space, perhaps, is its courtyard garden, set in the former cloisters and dotted with statues.

Adult price: £7

Good for age: 18+

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Interior of the restaurant

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Auberge du Pont de Collonges

Paul Bocuse established himself as one of France’s leading chefs in the 1960s. He was a pioneer of nouvelle cuisine, producing lighter, more innovative dishes than had traditionally been served in fine French restaurants.

You come here for the legacy of this culinary legend; he was born in the restaurant building in 1926. Since his death in 2018, the house motto is ‘tradition in motion’, with menus offering both iconic dishes and new, wow-worthy avant-garde plates.

Adult price: £80

Good for age: 18+

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Lyon has over 300 miles of cycle paths, and a good stretch of them follow its watercourses to give you (by bike or on foot) spectacular views of its iconic riverfront monuments and facades.

The Rhone’s quays run between the Tete d’Or and Gerland parks – a 5-mile stretch where river gardens morph into cream-fronted urban landscapes and locals crowd the cafe terraces and party boats.

Saone side, an artwork-studded 10-mile pedestrian trail takes you along the river between the Confluences area and pretty Ile-Barbe Island, before leading you out of town to bucolic Rochetaillee-sur-Saone, where river beaches provide the perfect picnic backdrop.

Good for age: 8+

Duration: 2+ hours

  • Lyon, Auvergne-Rhone-Alpes, France

Looking out from the boat as a tour group travels down the river Rhone

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Boat tours of Lyon

To appreciate Lyon’s glorious riverbanks and architecture at a wonderfully relaxed pace, embark on a river cruise. The city is bisected by two rivers that join in the city itself – the Saone and the Rhone.

There are two tour options. The shorter one (on simpler boats) focuses on the romantic Saone, travelling up to the historic Barbe Island. The longer one (on more luxurious craft) takes you along a central stretch of the Rhone, providing lunch or dinner. With the longer tour, you take in a greater number of Lyon’s great monuments and quarters and get a fuller commentary.

Adult price: £15

Good for age: 4+

Duration: 1-3 hours