Lyon is one of the most important cities in France and is often considered as the capital city of French gastronomy. It’s one of the largest metropolises in the country. Founded by the Romans over 2,000 year ago, you can seemingly travel back in time by strolling around Old Lyon, La Croix-Rousse and Fourvière. These central districts have a quaint vintage atmosphere as well as splendid old buildings.

    Lyon is a city where it feels good to live. Enjoy lunch in the friendly atmosphere of a bouchon (typical bistro) then go to visit the place where cinematography was invented, before ending your day at one of the trendy restaurants of la Presqu’île district. The best things to do in Lyon feature gastronomy, history and culture. This is what Lyon's famous for.

    What are the best things to do in Lyon?


    Place Bellecour

    Take a ride on Lyon Ferris wheel

    Place Bellecour is a one of the largest pedestrian urban squares in Europe. Located on the Presqu’île, it’s considered to be the centre of the city. Hosting the tourist information office, an art gallery, and the Lyon Ferris wheel, it’s surrounded by the main shopping streets of the city. Here, you can enjoy a drink and snack before exploring some the most popular areas of the city that include the Old Lyon and Fourvière Hill located a kilometre away.

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    Location: Pl. Bellecour, 69002 Lyon, France


    Old Lyon

    Explore Lyon’s original neighbourhood

    Located at the foot of Fourvière Hill, along the Saone River, Lyon Old Town is a very pleasant medieval area to explore on foot. Lose yourself along the cobblestoned streets of this scenic district. From Saint-John-the-Baptist Cathedral to the traboules – a maze of ‘secret’ pedestrian alleyways linking buildings to each other – to the many museums located in this area, there’s a lot to see in Vieux-Lyon district. For lunch, stop by one of the many bouchons located on Rue Saint-Jean.


    Fourvière Hill

    Take a panoramic view of Lyon cityscape

    Fourvière Hill rises just west of Vieux-Lyon. It was the site of the first Roman settlement during antiquity, and nowadays it's famous for the amazing views it offers of Lyon, as well as the Catholic Basilica of Fourvière that sits at the top. Part of the UNESCO World Heritage site designated for the whole city, it hosts 2 of the oldest funiculars in the world. From the ruins of a Gallo-Roman theatre to the Metallic Tower of Fourvière, this area hosts a fair deal of city landmarks as well as museums and beautiful religious buildings.


    La Croix-Rousse

    Lose yourself in this historic neighbourhood

    The Croix-Rousse (the ginger cross) is a hill that rises between Saône and Rhône Rivers in the centre of Lyon. This historic neighbourhood hosted the silk manufactures Lyon was famous for during the 18th century. Here, you can explore the traboules – covered passageways used by silk workers to transport their products. You can also visit the Maison des Canuts (silk workers house), a museum dedicated to Lyon’s bygone silk industry. You can lose yourself in la Croix-Rousse and enjoy plenty of quaint boutiques and coffee-shops. 


    photo by Pline (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Park of the Golden Head

    Take a breath of fresh air in the heart of Lyon

    Parc de la Tête d'Or (Park of the Golden Head) is one of the largest urban parks in France. Measuring 117 hectares and facing La Croix-Rousse district on the other side of the Rhône River, the urban park features a boating lake and is home to the Lyon Zoo. Parc de la Tête d'Or is the perfect place to take a breath of fresh air in the centre of Lyon. Besides the zoo, the park features botanical and rose gardens, kids’ playgrounds, pony rides, a miniature railway, and more. It’s a great place whether you want to enjoy a picnic with your family or spend an hour jogging or cycling to stay fit.

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    Location: 69006 Lyon, France

    Open: mid-April - mid-October, daily from 6.30 to 10.30; mid-October – mid-April, daily from 6.30 to 8.30


    Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon

    Marvel at the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon

    • History

    Installed in a former Benedictine convent of the 17th century, the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon houses 70 rooms art collections that range from Egyptian antiquities to modern art. Located in the trendy Presqu’île district, it’s perfectly in line with the artistic and fashionable atmosphere of the area. Paintings, sculptures, works of art, coins and medals are carefully classified and stored in this well thought out museum. You can enjoy snacks and refreshments at Les Terrasses Saint-Pierre, a restaurant located on the first floor of the museum.

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    Location: 20 Pl. des Terreaux, 69001 Lyon, France

    Open: Wednesday–Monday from 10 am to 6 pm, closed on Tuesdays

    Phone: +33 (0)4 72 10 17 40


    photo by Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Lyon Cathedral

    Visit an impressive landmark from the end of the Middle Ages

    Dedicated to Saint-John the Baptiste, Lyon Cathedral is a splendid building located in the heart of quaint Old Lyon. Built between the 12th and 15th centuries, Lyon Cathedral blends Romanesque and Gothic styles. Housing historical items such as the Lyon Astronomical Clock and a 19th-century organ, to name a few, you’ll feel like you made a giant step back into the past when visiting this architectural work of art. Don't miss the museum attached to the cathedral. It has relics of Saints on display.

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    Location: Pl. Saint-Jean, 69005 Lyon, France

    Open: Sunday from 8 am to 7 pm, Monday–Friday from 8.15 am to 7.45 pm, Saturday from 8.15 am to 7 pm

    Phone: +33 (0)6 60 83 53 97


    Musée & Institut Lumière

    Discover the place where cinematography was invented

    • History

    It was in Lyon, in 1895, that cinematography was invented by the Lumière brothers. Head to Rue du Premier Film – literally ‘The First Ever Film Street' – to visit the Lumière Museum and Lumière Institute next door. It’s in their family home, a splendid 19th-century mansion, that the 2 genius brothers developed ground-breaking technologies for photography and motion pictures. Discover the first steps of the creation of what would become one of the major discoveries of the 19th century.

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    Location: Rue du Premier Film, 69008 Lyon, France

    Open: Tuesday–Sunday from 10 am to 6.30 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +33 (0)4 78 78 18 95


    photo by Breve Storia del Cinema (CC0 1.0) modified


    La Presqu’île – the peninsula

    Discover a lively and trendy neighbourhood

    La Presqu’île is a neighbourhood that faces Vieux-Lyon, on the other side of the Saône River. It was developed during the 15th century as the printers and booksellers quarter. Today, it’s a lively district that hosts a trendy scene of cafés and restaurants, fashionable boutiques, luxury shops, and cultural institutions. Many of the old buildings are renovated and converted into upscale hotels or department stores. This vibrant area also hosts 2 theatres and the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of Printing and Graphic Communication.


    photo by Gonedelyon (CC BY-SA 3.0) modified


    Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

    Indulge yourself at this top-notch food heaven

    Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse is the place to go if you’re a foodie. Lyon is often considered the gastronomy capital city of France, and this market and food court offers an impressive collection of food-stores and restaurants. Skip breakfast and head to les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse for brunch. The variety and quality of the products and dishes served here is truly second to none. Choose from the delicatessen or sample fresh seafood, pastries and cheeses – you’ll find many of the dishes that have made France one of the most famed food cultures in the world. Prices may be steep, though perfectly in line with what’s on offer.

    Location: 102 Cr Lafayette F, 69003 Lyon, France

    Open: Tuesday–Saturday from 7 am to 10.30 pm, Sunday from 7 am to 4.30 pm (closed on Mondays)

    Phone: +33 (0)4 78 62 39 33


    photo by Benoît Prieur (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified


    Bouchons de Lyon

    Indulge yourself with genuine French cuisine

    Forget your diet and head to one of the Bouchons de Lyon for an unforgettable treat. Unpretentious and friendly, a bouchon is a particular type of bistro that serves hearty meat dishes. From chicken liver salad to pork offal sausage, and from ground fish dumplings to pot roast, without forgetting a lemon meringue pie for dessert, you’ll have a great meal at any of the 20 or so Bouchons Lyonnais. Try Chez Paul in Rue Major Martin, or A Ma Vigne in Rue Jean Larrive. A visit to Lyon isn’t complete without a lunch or dinner at one of these worthy representatives of French gastronomy. 

    photo by Patricia Feaster (CC BY 2.0) modified

    Stephan Audiger | Compulsive Traveller

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