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Things to do in Lyon

Things to do in  Lyon

Welcome to Lyon

One of France’s largest cities, Lyon rivals Paris in beauty, culture, and cuisine. Two major rivers, the Rhône and Saône, divide Lyon into distinct districts: UNESCO World Heritage site Old Lyon, known as Vieux Lyon in French, sits on the small peninsula between the two rivers. Take a private or small-group tour around Lyon’s charming historic city by foot or bicycle; or travel with ease on a Segway, bus, or electric bike. Begin your tour at Place Bellecour in the historic center, one of the largest public squares in the country. Follow your guide to the ornate Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière, with its gleaming marble, stained glass, and stunning ceilings. Lyon has been dubbed one of the gastronomic capitals of the world, so book a gourmet tour to taste your way across the city; stop at Les Halles de Lyon, an open-air market, to sample specialties like Galette Lyonnaise cheese and learn about Lyon’s culinary heritage from your guide. Then get ready to wine taste: Take a half- or full-day trip to nearby Côtes du Rhône to savor local wines and chocolate; or travel to Beaujolais, often compared to Tuscany for its rustic countryside, to learn about French terroir. Lyon is a quick two-hour train ride from Paris, and less than two hours by train from Marseille and Montpellier in France, and Geneva in Switzerland, making it a great starting place for touring the region.

Top 15 attractions in Lyon

Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon)

At the foot of Fourviére Hill, the historical streets of Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon) offer a welcome change of pace from the modern city across the river. With elegant medieval churches, Renaissance-era monuments, and pastel-painted facades, this is Lyon’s most atmospheric district.More

Bellecour Square (Place Bellecour)

Lyon’s major hub, and one of the largest public squares in France, the Bellecour Square is located in the heart of the city on the Presqu'île peninsula. Spanning 15 acres (six hectares, the pedestrianized square is a popular meeting place and is also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site that encompasses several key Lyon districts.More

Lyon Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Jean)

Stroll the cobblestoned streets of Old Town Lyon (Vieux Lyon) and Place St-Jean to discover the Lyon Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Jean). Among the draws of the 12th-century cathedral are stained-glass windows and a 16th-century astronomical clock. A top Lyon attraction, Cathédrale St-Jean is a must-see for Old Town visitors.More

Lyon Opera House (Opéra National de Lyon)

Lyon Opera House (Opéra National de Lyon) is an arts hub and architectural gem noted for its combination of a modern shell and 18th-century facade. To fully experience it, attend a performance—from musical theater to dance. But whether it's to marvel at the building, or see a show, a visit to the opera should be on your Lyon itinerary.More

Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière (Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière)

Dominating the skyline in the city of Lyon, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere is one of Lyon’s most recognizable buildings. With a fairytale castle exterior and ornate gilded interior, it attracts visitors from all over the world, especially those interested in sacred architecture.More

Lyon Les Halles Market (Les Halles Paul Bocuse)

Lyon’s covered Les Halles Market (Les Halles Paul Bocuse has been open since 1970. They’re named in honor of Paul Bocuse, a legendary figure on both the French and international cooking scene. More than 95% of the shops are run by business owners who really know their products.More

Lyon Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux Arts de Lyon)

Home to one of France’s most outstanding art collections, the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts (Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon is often described as the “little Louvre.” Housed in a restored, 17th-century convent, the museum’s collection spans from Antiquity to the Modern Age, from Egyptian artifacts to Cubist canvases.More

Tête d'Or Park (Parc de la Tête d'Or)

Tête d'Or Park was designed by landscape architect Denis Bühler and opened in 1856. It’s home to one of France's leading botanical gardens, with more than 20,000 plant varieties, where you’ll find an international rose garden and a zoological area devoted to species of the African plains.More

Ancient Theatre of Fourvière (Théâtre Antique de Lyon)

One of Lyon’s most significant Roman–era landmarks, the UNESCO-listed Ancient Theatre of Fourvière (Théâtre Antique de Lyon is a living testament to the city’s millennia-long history. Built around 15 BC, when Lyon was still known as “Lugdunum,” the arena could once seat 10,000 spectators, and is still used for performances today.More

Musée Miniature et Cinéma

If you’ve ever wanted to see movie props up close, or you’re just looking for a good rainy-day destination where you can take a break from wandering cobblestone streets, head over to the Musée Miniature et Cinéma (Cinema and Miniature Museum). In a stately building in Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon), you’ll find real objects from hundreds of films, mini masterpieces, and more.More


Centered around the 254-meter hill of the same name, the Croix-Rousse district was the heart of Lyon’s 18th-century silk industry, with the influx of workers earning it the nickname ‘the hill that works’, while neighboring Fourvière was dubbed ‘the hill that prays’. The historic district makes a fascinating addition to a walking tour, with its unique traboules - narrow, tunnel-like passageways that served as the setting to the 19th-century silk-workers revolt - snaking between the historic workshops and running down to the riverside. Today, some of the traboules have been restored, most notably the Passage Thiaffait, which is now home to the ‘Village of Creators’ and lined with artist’s galleries, crafts workshops and fashion boutiques.The lively district retains its village-like atmosphere and is now crammed with bars, restaurants and cafes, many of which offer impressive views along the riverside. Additional highlights include the daily Croix-Rousse Market, the ruins of the Roman Amphitheatre of the Three Gauls, the landmark Gros Caillou (literally, a ‘Big Rock’) and the Croix-Rousse tunnel, a bus, bike and pedestrian route that burrows through the hill and is now the backdrop for a dazzling light and sound show.More

Célestins Theatre (Théâtre des Célestins)

Thespians and theater enthusiasts shouldn't miss Lyon's historic Célestins Theater (Théâtre des Célestins, which has been operating for more than 200 years. Visitors can attend a performance, or uncover the theater's history on a behind-the-scenes tour. Enjoy the lavish foyer, ornate bar, and lovingly renovated red and gold auditorium.More

Lumière Institute (Institut Lumière)

Before 1895, photography was cutting-edge technology. Then, the Lumière brothers changed image-making forever with the Cinematograph, which produced the first moving pictures. Visit the birthplace of this radical invention at Lyon's Lumière Institute (Institut Lumière, a museum, cultural space, and theater celebrating cinema's origins.More

Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art (Musée d'art Contemporain de Lyon)

The Lyon Museum of Contemporary Art (Musée d'art Contemporain de Lyon is a beacon of modernity in an ancient city, showcasing works by emerging global artists. Enjoy three floors of galleries, rotating temporary exhibitions, and site-specific works. Dine alfresco on the terrace at the Café du Musée, or visit the bookstore for a souvenir.More

Resistance and Deportation History Centre (Centre d'Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation)

After the occupation of northern France by the Nazis in World War II, Lyon became the center of the French Resistance until a German crackdown in 1942. Learn more about the role this undercover organization played – and its brutal repression – at the Resistance and Deportation History Centre.More

Trip ideas

Exploring the Traboules of Lyon

Exploring the Traboules of Lyon

How to Spend 3 Days in Lyon

How to Spend 3 Days in Lyon

Ancient Roman Theaters in Lyon

Ancient Roman Theaters in Lyon

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Recent reviews from experiences in Lyon

Great family ride!
Laura_M, Mar. 2023
E-Bike Tour by ComhiC - 2h00 Two Hills of Lyon
We were only passing through Lyon, and this was a great way to see the city.
Great way to see Lyon!...
Paul_L, Mar. 2023
Lyon Small-Group Guided Electric Bike Tour with a Local Guide
Great way to see Lyon!
Excellent tour of Lyon
Kathryn_C, Feb. 2023
Lyon Highlights & Secrets Walking Guided Tour (small group) including Funicular
We had a wonderful tour with Toni in the Summer of 2022.
Excellent Tour of the Highlights!
Susanne_N, Nov. 2022
Lyon Highlights & Secrets Walking Guided Tour (small group) including Funicular
We visited most of the highlights of Lyon, and gave us great ideas of what to do later on our own.
Excellent Tour
karen_r, Nov. 2022
Lyon Big Traboules in Little City Stories from the Past Private Guided Tour
Recommend this tour to see many points in Lyon!
Good way to see the city
Jenny_L, Nov. 2022
Lyon Electric Bike Tour including Food Tasting with a Local Guide
This e-bike tour is a great way to see many of the main sites in the city, including the park, Vieux-Lyon, and the Roman ruins.
Wonderful tour!
Mary_M, Oct. 2022
Walking Food Tour in Vieux Lyon
Eillin was absolutely fantastic; very knowledgeable, excellent English, and accommodating.
Amazing Eillin, Excellent Food tour
Jenny_G, Oct. 2022
Walking Food Tour in Vieux Lyon
We definitely recommend Eillin’s food tour to friends who are planning to visit Lyon.
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People Also Ask

What is Lyon famous for?

Silk-making traditions and UNESCO neighborhoods aside, Lyon is best known as the French gastronomic capital. Home of the lauded chef Paul Bocuse, the city is acclaimed for its rustic and rich cuisine, its cozy bouchon Lyonnais eateries, and impressive food markets like the historic Les Halles de Lyon.

What is there to do in Lyon for one day?

Browse Les Halles de Lyon early to see the food market with fewer people. Sit-down bistro fare or food-to-go are your lunch options; picnic-perfect Tête d'Or Park is a stroll away. After lingering at the in-park zoo, cross town to Vieux Lyon, where traboules and bouchon Lyonnais eateries await.

How long should you spend in Lyon?

An easy hop by train from Paris or plane from London, Lyon is ideal for a long weekend getaway. Spend two full days to see the city’s markets and museums and your nights reveling in the city's abundant evening food and drink options.

What should I not miss in Lyon?

One of Lyon’s main attractions is the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, which offers history and views in one fell swoop. Built around 17 BC, the site is one of the oldest Roman theaters in France with seating for some 10,000 people. Impressive history aside, the views alone wow.

What does Lyon mean in English?

There are two explanations behind the meaning of Lyon. Some believe the name derived from the French word for lion—meaning courageous warrior—while others suggest that the city’s original Roman name Lugdunum, the Latin form of a word for hill fortress, evolved to become Lyon.

Is Lyon worth visiting?

Yes. Less touristy than Paris, the city offers both authentic French culture and cuisine and is worth making a part of your European trip. Lyon is also a good jumping-off point for wine and scenery lovers, as the Beaujolais wine region and Lake Annecy are within easy reach.


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