In this spectacular city of ornate architecture, deep blue rivers and an explosion of life and colour, you’ll soon discover what it means to be quintessentially French. Ooh la la, we can’t wait to get started.
The capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Lyon is nestled at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. While its rooted in the Roman era and has a cinematic lineage, it’s food that’s really put this city on the map. Lyon’s thrown its hat into the ring as one of the contenders for France’s top culinary destinations, meaning there’s many a place to get stuck into local fare after a day of exploring.
Dive into the action and follow our list of top things to do in Lyon.
- The Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière
- Tête d’Or Park
- Festival of Lights
- Vieux Lyon
- The rivers
- Place des Terreaux
- Place Bellecour
- Musée de Beaux Arts
- Matmut Stadium
1. The Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière
For breathtaking panoramic views of the city and a nosey around the beautiful basilica, head over the Saône River and jump on the 5-minute funicular up to Fourvière. Presiding majestically over the Old Town, the lavish building on Lyon’s tallest hill was spared no expense. The vaulted ceiling is gilded in pearly gold and complete with intricate mosaics. It’s one of the crowning jewels of Lyon’s rich history and a must-see on your travels.
2. Tête d’Or Park
Spend the day meandering the lush grass surrounding the lake in the north of Lyon. As a perfect place for a scenic run or a cosy cup of chocolat chaud in the lakeside café, this is one of Lyon’s top attractions. Be sure to warm up your hands during winter inside the towering glass greenhouses, home to a magnificent array of greenery, flora and even koi carp!
3. Festival of Lights
Quickly becoming well-recognised across France, the Festival of Lights is one of the most exciting events in the Lyonnais calendar. For four nights in early December, glorious light shows are erected in the large squares, onto the façade of historic churches and over the city’s two winding rivers. So, grab a delicious French crêpe, wrap up and enjoy the show!
4. Vieux Lyon
In the west of the city you’ll find the Old Town. Navigate your way around the district’s maze of cobbled streets and higgledy-piggledy passageways. This is the perfect opportunity to experience French café culture. Join the locals tucking into buttery croissants in the morning and gossiping over carafes of sumptuous wine after dusk. This really is la vie en rose.
5. The rivers
As with many traditional cities, bustling Lyon rose up around two large rivers, which are now top of the list for many travellers. Amble alongside the Rhône, feed the swans or nibble a wine and cheese picnic on its grassy banks. The smaller Saône carves between the Old Town and Lyon’s shopping streets and is the perfect place for that inspiring Instagram photo and postcard-worthy view.
6. Place des Terreaux
In the sliver of streets between the rivers, you’ll find Place des Terreaux. Here you’ll find the regal Hôtel de Ville, presiding over a large selection of restaurants and cafés, and neighbouring the Bartholdi Fountain. Watch the larger-than-life stone horses rearing and breathing steam and toss a coin into the rippling water for good luck. This is also your chance to splash some cash. Visit the luxurious chocolatiers, full of bitesize treats, and indulge in a little retail therapy as you’re surrounded by luxury boutiques and chic, high-end brands.
7. Place Bellecour
You can’t miss this top sight in the city centre. One of the largest open squares in Europe, it’s a constantly bustling crossroads for locals and tourists alike. If you’re here in winter, take a ride on the glittering Ferris wheel for an exclusive bird’s eye view of Place Bellecour and beyond.
Dotted all around the city, delicate murals and paintings embellish walls in colourful fashion. One of the biggest, named the Fresque des Lyonnais, is located on the corner of Rue de la Martinière and Quai Saint Vincent and features 30 Lyonnais celebrities peeping out from behind shuttered windows. Among them are Antoine de Saint Exupéry, writer of that children’s classic Le Pétit Prince, chef Paul Bocuse, nicknamed the father of gastronomy, and the Lumière Brothers, Auguste and Louis, the early pioneers of cinema. Go and check it out – who can you spot?
9. Musée de Beaux Arts
For a quieter afternoon, head into the Musée de Beaux Arts, which showcases a wide variety of fine art, dating back centuries from all around the world. Circle around the white marble floors and take lunch into the cloister, surrounded by low, emerald hedges, tall statues and whispering trees. This is a top spot to get away from it all and experience some of Lyon’s historic cultural heritage.
10. Matmut Stadium
Ready, set, go! This is one Lyon’s top destinations for all sports fans. The home of LOU Rugby and the fabulously successful women’s football side, Matmut Stadium always has an event or side to support. As it’s only a short trip on the metro and easily accessible by bus, this is a great place to spend your afternoon, cheering on your favourite team. So, grab a ticket and wave your banners – the games are about to begin!
What’re you waiting for? All the excitement is just a short plane ride away. Take a trip to Lyon and experience it all for yourself.
Posted: 7th Jul 2019.