1. Rent a bicycle in the city
Forget Boris Bikes, Lyon was the first city in Europe to have a bike rental service – and it shows. Wide, safe cycle paths criss-cross the city and the absence of hills make jumping on a Velib the best way to explore. Some of the most picturesque routes run along the city’s two rivers, the Rhone and the Saone. Renting the bikes is simple, even for a short-term visitor; just make sure you check the tyres before you set off.
Opening Hours: Bicycle rental is 24 hours in Lyon
Tickets: The first 30 minutes is free of charge. Every 30 minutes after is +€1.
Address: The stations are all over Lyon – check out the map to find your closest bikes.
2. Chill in Le Parc de la Tête d’Or
Appropriately golden gates welcome visitors to this most heavenly of parks which encompasses a huge boating lake and plenty of space to munch on a baguette and cheese. Just don’t feed the animals at the zoo which, considering it’s free to enter, is home to an impressive collection including zebras, red pandas, and the Instagram-friendly sand cat. Best way to get to the park? By bike, obviously.
Opening Hours: 6.30am-10.30pm
Address: 69006 Lyon, France
3. Enjoy the Vieux
Pass a couple of hours contentedly ambling through the winding alleys of Vieux Lyon (the old town). Hunt down a hidden ‘traboule’ behind a crumbling door. These passageways are native to Lyon and its medieval silk industry but were more recently used by resistance fighters during the Second World War. Munch on a hot Nutella crepe or an ice cream from Glacier Terre adélice as you walk to make the trip all the sweeter.
Address: Vieux Lyon
4. Head up to La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
This Sacre-Couer-alike 19th century white basilica dominates the Lyon skyline and is the best way to navigate the city; it’s hard to get lost if you keep what locals call ‘the upside-down elephant’ in sight. Its ornate insides are worthy of admiration but it is the views of the city below that reward the many stairs climbed to reach it. If your legs are sore from all that cycling, a funicular runs up and down the hill.
Opening Hours: 7am-7pm daily
Address: 8 Place de Fourvière, 69005 Lyon
5. Take in a show in a Roman amphitheatre
Next door to Fourvière, go further back in time while visiting the remarkably well preserved Roman amphitheatre. Exploring is encouraged, so sit like an emperor and judge those below, then wander to centre stage and feel the faces of the 10,000 people who once sat here stare back. To see the arena in contemporary use, visit Lyon while Les Nuits de Fourvière is on. A music, dance and theatre festival, it takes place in the amphitheatre and previous guests have included Bjork and Iggy Pop.
6. Go to foodie heaven at a bouchon
Lyon’s reputation as a foodie paradise has to be tested by trying out Lyonnais cuisine at a traditional bouchon. The menus can be intimidatingly meat-heavy, although quenelles (pike dumplings) are a star of the city’s culinary show. However, it is the cheese that comes with a warning: look out for homemade ‘fromage dangereux’, two years in the maturing, it will more than tingle your tastebuds. Our bouchon recommendation: Café des Federations. You’ll need to book.
Opening Hours: 12pm-2pm, 7.30pm-9pm
Address: 9 Rue Major Martin, 69001 Lyon
7. Hang out in Croix Rousse
If you are getting flat white or bike shop withdrawals, head to Croix Rousse, the hippest area in Lyon. Ponder some street art, browse the second hand shops and head to Crock N Roll for a croque monsieur with edge. If you’re lucky you may stumble across one of Croix Rousse’s seemingly impromptu flea markets so get ready to haggle in French.
Address: La Croix-Rousse, 69004 Lyon
8. Get your groceries at Paul Bocuse Les Halles
Chef Paul Bocuse is Lyon’s grand fromage but if your budget doesn’t stretch to one of his five restaurants, stock up on supplies at this food market like no other. All of Lyon’s top chefs buy their ingredients here and you can too: from patisseries to poissons. Try as many free samples as you can and buy your cheese at Mons, from a former London city accountant-turned-cheesemonger, living the Lyon dream.
Opening Hours: 7.30pm-10pm, closes at 1pm on Sundays
Address: 102 Cours Lafayette, 69003 Lyon
9. Have a glass on the riverbank
The joke goes that Lyon was built on three rivers: the Rhone, the Saone and the Beaujolais. All year round the Lyonnais enjoy combining the three and lounge on the riverbanks with a bottle. Bring your own and soak up the atmosphere or enjoy the high life aboard by posing on the deck of one of the many docked peniches – barges with bars.
10. Fly out of the city to Parc des Oiseaux
For a memorable day out, take the short train trip to Villars les Dombes to immerse yourself in the world of birds at Parc des Oiseaux. Even those who arrive as a less-than-enthusiastic ornithologist will be won over by close encounters with a huge variety of birds, some housed in walk-through avaries (some get so close, they land on your head!). End your visit with the mesmerising flying display and guaranteed you’ll leave wanting to purchase the bargainous annual pass to see your new-found feathered friends again and again.
Opening Hours: 9.30am-5pm
Tickets: €18 per adult, €13 per child
Address: RD 1083, 01330 Villars-les-Dombes, France
11. Get a little lost in the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon
This is one of the largest collections of European art in the continent, housed in a beautiful eighteenth century convent off Place des Terreaux. Here you can see The Nativity, by Lorenzo Costa, the Crucifixion, by Simo Vouet, and Danae by Tintoretto – all fourteenth century works of Renaissance art. Stroll hand in hand with your favourite person through the paintings and antiquities, working up an appetite for another Lyon’s dinners.
Opening Hours: 10am-6pm, closed on Tuesdays
Tickets: €8 for entry to the museum per person
Address: 20 Place des Terreaux, 69001 Lyon
12. Gaze on Lyon’s Cathedral
Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, to call it it’s proper name, is a fourteenth century cathedral in the heart of the Vieaux. Time in your visit when they chime the bells on every hour from noon until 4pm, and as entrance is free, you should go inside to marvel at the stained glass windows too. The ‘Rose’ window tells the story of St Jean the Baptist, the saint whom the church was named after.
Opening Hours: 8.15am-7.45pm
Address: Place Saint-Jean, 69005 Lyon
13. Go back in time at Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière
Lyon lies on Roman ruins, and whilst you might enjoy contemporary shows at the ampitheatre n the centre, the Gallo-Roman Museum pays homage to the ancient ruins found in the city. Discover the art, weaponry and treasures of the city of Lughunum – the city of lights – what Lyon was formerly known as.
Opening Hours: 11am-6pm, closed on Mondays
Tickets: €4 per adult, free for under 18s
Address: 17 Rue Cleberg, 69005 Lyon
14. Examine Musée des Confluences
If you’ve ever been wowed by Valencia’s museum of science, or you like Gehry’s work, you’ll want to visit the Museum of Confluences just for the architecture. Inside, take a trip through humanity starting with the Big Bang, then examine the bones of T-Rex’ before plunging through societies through the ages. This is one for the kids and adults.
Opening Hours: Saturday-Sunday 10am-7pm, closed on Mondays, Thursdays 10am-11pm, Tuesday-Friday 11am-7pm
Address: 86 Quai Perrache, 69002 Lyon
15. Ice skate at Place Bellecour
This central square in Lyon is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and each winter skaters take to the temporary rink to show off their skills. It’s also a popular place to meet with friends, despite the fact the square is 62,000 m². Gather your group and relax on the square for a few hours, sipping on coffees and eating crepes.
Opening Hours: 24 hours
Tickets: Free to visit
Address: Place Bellecour, 69002 Lyon
How to get to Lyon
Fly direct to Lyon from London, Manchester, Southampton, Birmingham or Edinburgh. You can also catch a connecting flight to Lyon from Jersey, Aberdeen, Cardif, Glasgow, Newcastle or Exeter – search for flights now.
Where to stay on a city break in Lyon
If you’re looking for a hostel:
There are only 9 rooms in Slo Living Hostel, and the events every night make it perfect for meeting other travellers.
If you’re looking for a hotel:
The Confluence Apartments are perfect if you’re here on a break away with your better half, or you’re here on business. The suites are comfortable and the location is right next to the Cathedral.
If you’re looking for luxury:
This is the one that will win you brownie points. Fluffy bathrobes, a rooftop pool and marble bathrooms are just a few of the perks when you stay in Villa Florentine.
Looking for cheap flights to Lyon? Search now👇
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