Visiting Lyon: what are the best things to do in the capital of the Gauls? Discover the editorial staff’s selection!

In the centre-east of France, between the Alps and the Massif Central, lies the magnificent city of Lyon at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône rivers. The third largest city in France, Lyon is a metropolis steeped in history and culturally rich: ancient theatres and vestiges of the Gallo-Roman era, Old Lyon dating from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the Presqu’île and its more classical buildings, the Croix-Rousse of the industrial era and, finally, the Confluence with its ultra-modern contemporary buildings.

An ultra-dynamic city, Lyon has been constantly evolving for more than 2000 years! Wondering what to do in Lyon during your stay? Here is the answer with these 14 must-see things to visit to discover the many treasures of the city!

1- Our Lady of Fourvière

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At the top of the Fourvière hill stands the Basilica of Our Lady of Fourvière, dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The name of the hill comes from the Latin “Forum Verus”, meaning old forum, as it was chosen by the Romans for the foundation of Lyon in 43 BC.

Completed in 1896, the basilica is an emblematic monument of the city and a must when you want to visit Lyon! Overlooking the city, it has a very rich interior and exterior decoration, including a cycle of mosaics representing the history of the Virgin in the history of France and the Church. From the esplanade of the basilica, you can enjoy a panoramic view of the city!

Take advantage of your presence on the Fourvière hill to visit the remains of the Gallo-Roman Theatre of Lyon, the oldest in France built by Augustus in 15 BC.

2- Old « Lyon »

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It is impossible to visit Lyon without lingering in the picturesque Vieux Lyon district. This district is one of the largest Renaissance-style complexes in Europe.

Take advantage of your stroll to admire the Cathedral Saint-Jean-Baptiste, as well as the traboules of Lyon. These shortcuts in the form of interior passages allow you to go from one street to another, crossing one or more buildings. The traboules conceal architectural curiosities such as spiral staircases, facades or galleries.

  3- The Peninsula

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Would you like to visit Lyon? We recommend that you go on an adventure from the central square of Bellecour. The third largest square in France, it had different names before adopting the name of Place Bellecour in 1850: Place Louis-le-Grand, Place de la Fédération and even Place Bonaparte.

So you can get lost in the districts of the Presqu’île, going up to the Place des Terreaux, bordered by the Museum of Fine Arts and the Town Hall. On Rue Mercière, you will find many small restaurants and bars where you can relax, perfect for a culinary weekend in Lyon. The Hôtel-Dieu, recently renovated to welcome the city of gastronomy in 2019, is one of the largest buildings on the Presqu’île. It now houses many shops, hotels and restaurants to discover during your stay!

  4- The « Croix-Rousse »

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“La colline qui travaille”(the hill that works) is the nickname of the Croix-Rousse, in reference to the Lyon canuts. It is opposed to “the hill that prays” – Fourvière. This district is deeply marked by its past as a centre of the silk industry. Today it is a space of rich and varied culture. If you have time and are fond of comedy, don’t hesitate to go to one of the famous Croix-Rousse theatre cafés!

        5- The Parc de la Tête d’Or

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The Parc de la Tête d’Or is the largest public park in France! Inaugurated in 1857, it is today the real green lung of the city and extends over nearly 117 hectares inside Lyon. Very popular with the people of Lyon, the park is a wonderful place to relax, meet up with friends and have a picnic.

The zoological garden of Lyon is also located in the heart of the park. Free of charge, it hosts many preserved species, such as adorable red pandas, and also lions – the emblem of the city!

6- The banks of the Saône and Rhône rivers

 

Along the Saône or along the Rhône to the Confluence stretch long quays. Sometimes green, sometimes paved, they offer a pleasant stroll and above all many places to relax, unwind and chat.

Further upstream are the barges where you can have a drink, dinner or party. At the Confluence, on the Presqu’île, you will find the dynamic district of the same name where modernity and historical past meet.

  7- The Festival of Lights

 

If you wish to visit Lyon at the end of the year, don’t miss the Festival of Lights which takes place every year at the beginning of December.

During 4 evenings, the city is dressed in all kinds of illuminations and plays of light. Whether in the streets, on buildings or famous monuments, lights are everywhere! Enjoy this magical atmosphere with family, friends or even alone. You will leave with stars in your eyes!

       8- Lyon’s gastronomy

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Looking for something to do in Lyon? Whether you are a gourmet or not, the city’s gastronomy is a must.

Renowned throughout France, Lyon’s gastronomic specialties will please your taste buds. From the typical “bouchons lyonnais” to the quenelles, through its famous praline tart and bugnes, you will certainly enjoy yourself!

       9- The Confluence Museum

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Opened in 2014, the Musée des Confluences is housed in a UFO-like building and takes over the collections of the Lyon Museum, which closed in 2007. Are you coming to visit Lyon? Take a tour of this exceptional contemporary museum offering collections around the “confluence of knowledge”.

10- Gerland Park

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Would you like to spend an afternoon with friends surrounded by trees? Head for Gerland Park. Dedicated to leisure activities, you’re sure to find something to keep you busy: playground, skate-park, etc…

If you just want to take a walk away from the hustle and bustle of the city, you can walk along the canal surrounded by all kinds of vegetation. Open from 6.30am to 8.30pm in winter, and from 6.30am to 10.30pm in summer, it is one of the must-see things to do in Lyon.

11- The Halles Paul Bocuse

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The Halles Paul Bocuse is an essential institution in the city. They are the showcase of Lyon’s gastronomic excellence. If you are passing through the area, don’t hesitate to visit this covered market with no less than 48 traders who will delight your taste buds!

12- Beard Island

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Situated in the middle of the Saône River, Île Barbe – meaning “the wild island” – is a place to visit if you like peaceful strolls in green areas. Land of many legends, it is today divided into 2 parts: public and private. In the public domain, you will be able to take advantage of areas fitted out for children, or even a ground for petanque.

History lovers will be delighted to visit the remains of Notre-Dame church and the most gourmet will find refuge at the Auberge de l’Île, a mecca for Lyon’s gastronomy.

 13- « The Lumière » Institute

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Looking for something to do in Lyon? Whether you are a gourmet or not, the city’s gastronomy is a must.

Renowned throughout France, Lyon’s gastronomic specialties will please your taste buds. From the typical “bouchons lyonnais” to the quenelles, through its famous praline tart and bugnes, you will certainly enjoy yourself!

 14- Nightlife

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Lyon is known for its vibrant nightlife. We particularly recommend the Sucre, a panoramic rooftop at Confluence which promises delicious and addictive evenings.

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About Author

We are DiscovernTravel. Two ambitious people who started travelling together and didn’t give it up. In the process of working with amazing staff, agents, travel operators, property owners and other business partners, we have been able to create a network of tourist proposals in several countries.
DiscovernTravel’s founders, Nour and Mehdi are not only frequent travelers but also got a master's degree in the higher international institute of tourism in Tangier in order to deepen their knowledge and share many tips and news to help you make the most of travel.
We are the author of numerous publications and present in social media which aims to share our passion for travel through the mind-blowing destinations. Moreover, via this blog, we try to connect you with communities and cultures, beyond your phone and give you an opportunity to experience and discover something new; whether it be a new culture, a place, a passion or even just discover "YOURSELF".
We realize our promises and want to make travelling affordable to everyone including you.

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