Our personal recommendations of the must-sees in Lyon, France including Restaurants, Hotels, Vistas, Squares and Districts.
An excellent historical and tasty home base to explore further afield!
As the ancient capital of the Gauls, Lyon, France is not only famous for her heritage but also for her gastronomy, and with a duo of famous chef sons, Bocuse and Boulud, the city makes an excellent historical and tasty home base should you consider exploring further afield. AND
AND Lyon, in October 2020 was awarded 2nd Best Big City in the World ranking by Condé Nast Traveler in their 33rd annual Readers’ Choice Awards ranking Lyon above international cities like Sydney, Tokyo, Helsinki and Copenhagen!
Et voila: Everything in Lyon, France, you must see!
Must-sees in Lyon:
- About Lyon, France
- Best time to travel to Lyon France
- Connect to Lyon, France
- Things to do in Lyon, France
- What to see in Lyon, France
- What to eat in Lyon, France
- Where to stay in Lyon, France
- More resources about Lyon, France
Check-in! Things to know about Lyon, France
With its ancient center bisected by narrow streets of Medieval and Renaissance houses, Lyon has much to offer the curious and hungry visitor. Often referred to as the “world capital of gastronomy,” the city owes its tasty reputation to its original guinguette’s – those welcoming and familiar outside bistros bordering the banks of the Saône. And the casual, convivial feel of its famous Bouchon’s: traditional Inns, later restaurants, where arriving carriages with tired travellers were served restorative plates of tête de veau, andouillette lyonnaise, quenelles, and pistachio-studded sausages on red lentils by Lyon’s mothers, les mères, those healthy, robust women who defined its cuisine. La Mère Brazier, who in 1933, was the first female to receive a two-star rating. Her contemporary, La Mère Bourgeois, who opened her restaurant in Bresse, or La Mère Guy, whose eel stew was highly prized in a hungry 18th century. And into the 21st Century, La Mère Richard offers perhaps some of the best local cheeses by the first Mère Richard’s daughter Renée, who shares her mother’s famous first name.
Best Time to Travel to Lyon, France
Winter, spring, summer or fall, overall, the climate of Rhône-Alpes is in one word ‘variable.’ The climate in Lyon is temperate; however, the weather in the city can be very unpredictable. You can expect rain throughout the year, but the winter months are the driest. In the summer, which is generally hot, there are often heavy storms. Winters tend to be mild with the warm months of April–May and October–December being peak travel times. Overall, the region enjoys close to 2,000 hours of sunshine a year, and summers are hot, especially in the south. Spring and autumn are mostly mild, and the Alps are perfectly cold and snowy for winter skiing. But a variable climate, although unpredictable, is no bad thing. It means you will access a different set of activities, depending on what time of year you choose to travel to Lyon. December is our favourite: combining coolish, wet weather without the biting cold perfect for warming meals and comforting drinks. And of course the pre-Christmas thrill of the Lyon’s Fetes des Lumières!
Connect to Lyon, France
You can easily connect to Lyon and the Rhône-Alpes region of France as Air Canada offers year-round service between Montreal’s Trudeau airport and Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport. Canadians now have a direct link to the second-largest metropolitan area in France. And with up to five flights a week with 37 international business class lie-flat suites and 228 economy-class seats, there isn’t any reason not to be in love with Lyon and enjoy this historic and tasty part of France.
Air France and sister airline KLM offer several flights from Canada with connections to LYS. All of this, of course, is subject to change and availability due to the current COVID pandemic.
So many things to see and do in Lyon, France
Les Halles de Lyon
Spend a Saturday early morning savouring Paul Bocuse’s Les Halles de Lyon. Dried hams and salamis, sausages, salad Lyonnaise, pike dumplings and, of course, terrines and pâtés from Maison Sibilia, “Lyon’s Charcuterie since 1925”. We couldn’t get enough of M. Bocuse’s favourite market!
Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie
And because we ARE in the Gastronomic Capital of pretty much the whole world, no trip to Lyon is complete without a visit to Lyon’s flagship Cité Internationale de la Gastronomie (1 place de l’Hôpital, 69001), inside the Grand Hôtel Dieu. Amongst the tasty pickings inside the new ‘International City of Gastronomy,’ foodies will delight with seasonal exhibitions, hands-on cooking and food workshops and film screenings, all focused on the love of food. (currently closed due to the COVID crisis).
Wander le Jardin du Rosaire
Still high above Vieux Lyon and in her Parc des Hauteurs, take in views of the valley and rushing rivers Saône and Rhône with the white-capped Alpes just beyond.
The majestic and well-preserved Theatres Romains de Fourviere welcomes jazz enthusiasts and other festival friends to its ancient stone seats and is the oldest of its type in France: a Lyon, must-see for history buffs.
Explore the Long Traboules of Lyon
Push open an old, wooden door and (and shhh! quiet please!) explore the hidden, off the beaten track walkways of the Long Traboules, winding their way through and under the buildings, courtyards, and alleyways of residential Vieux Lyon. After your Traboule shortcut, you may have acquired a mighty thirst. Exit out onto the Rue de Boeuf and taste some of Lyon’s exceptional and most extensive selection of craft beers available in bottles from La Chope de Lug. Take away over 300 locally brewed, sourced and largely unfiltered, unpasteurized amber, white, blonde, imperial and even triple fermentation beers from the Rhone-Alpes region to slake your walking thirst.
Connect at Confluence
Wander the unusual and fantastic Confluence, Europe’s largest urban redevelopment project, a newly reclaimed common gathering point for local Lyonnaise, literally where the Rhône and Saône converge and the former site of the old Port and the historic center of Lyon. The stunning Musée des Confluences is a must stop where you can indulge your curious colonial collector in their popular Chambre des Merveilles, where you will view some collected curiosities from the curio cabinets of the ancient and modern world: stuffed exotic birds, shrunken heads, petrified body parts, all present a curious and scientific vision of the world, our secret chamber of wonders!
Wander the Cité Internationale
Make the six large statues of Xavier Veilhan your personal guides as you stroll the sculpture gardens and walkways of Renzo Piano and landscape architect Michel Corajoud’s beautifully imagined Cité Internationale.
Things to do in winter in Lyon: Fete de Lumières and Skiing in the Alpes
Journey to Lyon in December and enjoy the Fetes des Lumières, Lyons annual love affair with light. I was excited to return to Lyon, where my partner and I spent a glorious 50th birthday week enjoying the fantastic Fête des Lumières. Bundle up, bring your tripod to catch the fantastic show and enjoy this early-Christmas gift of light, one of the many Lyon things to do at night
Skiing in the Alpes: Club Med Les Arcs Panorama: An Alpine Mountain Paradise
Club Med’s newest all-inclusive resort in the Alpine region, nestled in Vanoise National Park, and tucked into both the borders of Italy and Switzerland, opened in December 2018 and overlooks the Tarentaise Valley and the quaint town of Bourg Saint Maurice and is an easy, two-hour drive from Lyon. Boasting floor to ceiling panoramic views of mountains from every vantage point within the resort, “Club Med Les Arcs” is perfectly placed in the forest floor some 1600 metres above sea level and listed as a “4-Trident” Resort.
Where to eat and drink in Lyon, France
Here are some of Lyon’s Best Restaurants
Often referred to as the “world capital of gastronomy”, Lyon owes its tasty reputation to its original guinguette’s – those welcoming and familiar outside bistros bordering the banks of the Saône. Ten years ago, we travelled to Lyon for my 50th birthday celebration, where we sampled and savoured all things classic Lyonnais food. Les Lyonnais take their food very seriously with delicacies like andouillette, tête de veau and veal foot salad a must on their must-eat communal dining tables. Not for the faint of heart and perhaps one of the odder food experiences we’ve had in our around the world travels.
Les Halles de Lyon
Spend your first morning in Lyon wandering and savouring the stalls of Paul Bocuse’s Les Halles de Lyon. Wine from Fac&Spera by Michel CHAPOUTIER, who has been producing excellent wine, with his family’s respect for nature and terroir since 1808. ANYTHING chocolate from Maison Sève who in 2010 and 2011, garnered the best Chocolatier in France award. Make sure you sample at least one of their incredible chocolate Macarons. You’re welcome. Fantastic cheeses from La Mère Richard’s very daughter, the generous and warm Renée, who on our visit, graciously talked to us about history, family and of course, cheese, all the while offering generous, gooey dollops of her specialty, Saint-Marcellin, spread on a fresh, warm baguette. Heaven.
A Lyon lunch or dinner at any of Paul Bocuse’s three-starred establishments:
Today, the model of a Paul Bocuse dish has become an essential go-to for generations of cooks, and each creation at a Paul Bocuse restaurant follows its focus.
On Place Bellecour, L’Institut Restaurant, the training restaurant of the Paul Bocuse Institute feels nothing like a school! With contemporary decor designed by Pierre – Yves Rochon, and open kitchens giving onto the restaurant, the students deliver a high standard of service.
Enjoy dinner at the Sofitel Lyon Bellecour’s romantic Les Trois Dômes with stunning views out over the rippling Rhône river. And while at Les Trois Domes: let’s just say come for the Foie Gras Tasting, stay for the Foie Gras Tasting.
While visiting the stunning Musée des Confluences, enjoy lunch at the Museums’ Brasserie des Confluences where you will enjoy typical Lyonnais food served in a spectacular light-filled cathedral overlooking the Rhône and Saône.
Where oh where to stay in Lyon, France
Here are some of Lyon’s Best Hotels
The Marriott Hotel Lyon Cité Internationale is a convenient and excellent home base as you explore and stroll this urban oasis. While there, plan a visit to macLyon (currently closed for renovations but reopening October 2020). The museum showcases current national and international artists and focuses on all forms of modernity: ‘sound’: La Monte Young, Laurie Anderson, John Cage, ‘choreography’: Anna Halprin, Trisha Brown, ‘painting’: Marc Desgrandchamps, Keith Haring, BenRobert Combas and ‘video’: Bill Viola and ‘performance’ pieces by Jan Fabre.
Sofitel Lyon Bellcour
The 5-star Sofitel Lyon Bellecour (20, Quai Gailleton
69002) is located in Lyon’s city center, close to tourist sites and shops and perfectly situated on the edge of Place Bellecour, one of the largest open squares in Europe and the third biggest square in France. Make sure to enjoy dinner at the romantic Les Trois Dômes with stunning views out over the rippling Rhône river.
Intercontinental Lyon – Hôtel Dieu
A beautiful, sweeping, 280m-long façade serves as an impressive welcome to a strikingly modern interior by celebrated hotel designer Jean-Philippe Nuelby. Ideally situated on the west bank of the Rhône on the “Presque-isle” and designed 18th-century architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot (of Pantheon-in-Paris fame), the building has been unused since 2010. After four years of extensive renovations, the building was reborn in 2019 as the luxurious, five-star hotel by InterContinental. (1 Place de l’Hôpital)
Additional Resources to Make Your stay more enjoyable.
The Lyon Tourism Board is a friendly and resourceful tool for you to use during your stay. Hire a Lyon City Greeter, organized with Lyon’s Tourism Board. Stop by their state of the art ONLYLYON Tourist Office on Place Bellecour for all the information you may need to make you visit unforgettable.
- Don’t forget travel insurance! We work with World Nomads because with their ‘Explorer’ option coverage, and you’ll discover how you can make a difference and make more responsible and sustainable travel choices.
- The website viamichelin.com will confirm drive times and distances in and around Lyon, including tolls, fuel costs and suggested routes.
- Renting a car is easy. We rely on Eurocar for our rental needs. This gives you the flexibility to tour at your own pace and set your own itineraries.
Consider purchasing a Lyon City Card offering you savings on Public Transportation, Museums, Tours, River excursions and so much more!
World Traveler, Writer, and Blogger, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the followsummer.com travel blog. A former Actor, current shower-singer, and non-hipster foodie. Loves his week-end house in St Marys, Ontario. Dad to Sophia, Ariel, and Hastings three of the best cats in the world.