Quick Guide: Things to Do in Lyon
Located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region in the South East of France, the city of Lyon is an ideal destination for a stay whether in summer or winter, for a weekend or for a full week. This is a fairly poorly kept secret, since Lyon is the second most visited in France after Paris.
Are you not convinced or are you looking to find out more about the organization of your holidays in Lyon? The Travelling Souk gives you all the information and advice you need on things to do in Lyon.
Why visit Lyon?
Lyon is an ancient city with a fascinating heritage and we don’t just mean architecturally, though it offers much on this front. The city is a mix of different periods of history, has some beautiful green spaces, a celebrated culinary tradition and an enviable cultural offer. Read on below for some inspiration on what to do in Lyon during your visit.
Lyon's historical heritage
Lyon is one of the oldest cities in France and you can find traces of civilization dating as far back as 43 BC. Once the capital of Roman Gaul, it is not surprising that the city has preserved an immense historical heritage. Subsequently, despite ups and downs, Lyon remained an important French city, both from an economic point of view (due to its ideal location, on the borders of Europe) and politically and religiously. The city still has an important national status today.
No less than 427 hectares of the city is classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, mostly located in the medieval district of old Lyon and around the Colline de la Fourvière. This is an important area of continuous habitation where still today there are vestiges of civilizations inhabiting the region dating back to the Neolithic. Make sure to visit the Lugdunum – Roman Theatre Museum where you can view many objects dating from the Roman occupation, such as amphorae, busts carved with personalities of the time and the ruins of the Gallo-Roman theatre.
To discover more about Lyon, its history and its jewels, you will find a large number of museums. The Museums of Fine Arts of Lyon is one of the best and houses the largest collection of French paintings, after the Louvre. It is even known as the “Petit Louvre”. But Lyon is not just about its galleries and art museums, you will also find museums dealing with the history of the city from the Gallo-Roman period through the medieval period up to the Second World War and the present day.
The city of Lyon is also full of religious buildings and you simply have to visit the Notre-Dame de Fourvière basilica, which attracts over a million visitors each year. This church sits on a hillside overlooking the city and a climb to the top of its tower, rewards you with some fantastic views of the city.
One of the best ways to explore the heritage of the city is on a walk with Free Tour Lyon. Your trusty guide Paul with tell you all about the history of the city, show you its hidden corners and share his passion for this wonderful city. The tours have excellent reviews and cover the gastronomy and culture of the city, as well as its culture. Tours are in both French and English and you have the choice of a tour just of the old town or a more general tour of the city. You do not need to book in advance and it is a tip based service.
Lyon's Natural Heritage
If you are not a big fan of history or architecture, rest assured, Lyon also has an impressive natural heritage, and you will find many parks and gardens here. In total, the city has more than 12,000 hectares of green space!
The most famous park to visit in Lyon is undoubtedly that of the Tête d´Or, the largest urban park in France. It is one of the top things to do in Lyon and is home to numerous botanical gardens, a zoological garden and a large lake. This park is ideal for spending an afternoon (or two) relaxing in the sun, taking a stroll or visiting the animals, including giraffes, elephants and primates. There is plenty to do here for families too, with a miniature train, mini golf, horse riding and lakeside water activities.
Lyon's Culinary Heritage
If you are passionate about cooking and good food, then you have come to the right place. Lyon is often known in France as the world capital of gastronomy and the city's gastronomy has been celebrated by a large number of illustrious figures, such as Stendhal and Erasme.
Due to its geographical location, Lyon cuisine combines Provençal, Mediterranean, Lorraine and Alsatian influences, and stands out as a true crossroads of flavours. The surrounding areas guarantee its supply of quality products, such as chicken from Bresse, crayfish from Bugey or even wines from Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône.
In the many squares in the city you have to make a stop at a ‘bouchon’, a typical Lyonnais restaurant where you can taste local specialties such as Lyonnaise salad, Lyon rosette, sausage, andouillette or even many cheeses made from cow and goat milk. When you are planning your Lyon things to do, make sure not to miss out on this!
If you want to try some of the city world famous, celebrated food, you will find 10 Michelin-starred restaurants in Lyon. If a romantic gourmet romantic dinner tempts you, then you are spoiled for choice!
Lyon's Cultural Heritage
Finally, you have to explore Lyon’s impressive cultural heritage as the birthplace of cinema and the Guignol Theatre, a famous puppet show.
Every year, many festivals and events are organized across the city. Among the best known and top of our list of the things to do in Lyon is the Festival of Lights. The traditions behind this special festival date back to the 19th century and sees city inhabitants placing lights on the edges of their windows and businesses. It is a memorable sight and is complemented with numerous luminous artistic installations all over the city for local and international artists.
Getting around Lyon
You will have no trouble getting around the city during your stay in Lyon. It has an excellent public transport network (the second in France after Paris) and you will be spoiled for choice on the preferred mode of transport.
In Lyon, there are:
- 4 metro lines
- 6 tram lines
- More than a hundred bus lines
However, for the shorter distances, we recommend that you take advantage of the Velo’v, the Lyon equivalent of the Parisian Vélib. It is a great way to get around, while enjoying the city of Lyon. It also allows you to easily stop at a whim when you spot an interesting city sight or shop. In addition, it is an ecological travel solution and the city of Lyon is full of stations where you can leave your bike or take one back as needed.
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