Lyon: An atmospheric city that exudes old-world charm

Lyon Airport Directory (GVA)
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If you were to ask for an authentic French experience, then all directions would point to Lyon. Here, you can step into the largest Renaissance quarters at Vieux Lyon, where century-old houses still thrive. In fact, about 10% of the city is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These sites include the districts of Vieux-Lyon, the slopes of Croix-Rousse Hill, Fourvière Hill, and the Presqu'île. It would be like starting a marathon but not finishing it, and stopping in the middle, if you did not visit these places while in Lyon. The city’s atmospheric neighbourhoods, awe-inspiring attractions, the confluence of the Rivers Rhône and Saône, and lip-smacking Lyonnais cuisine are something you cannot miss.

Best Time to Visit: The best time to visit Lyon is between August and October. Although the summer season in Lyon can be pleasant, the city has a different charm during the fall, when cool, crisp weather and colourful foliage beautify the city.

How to Reach?

By Air: Lyon has two airports: Lyon Saint-Exupéry International Airport and Lyon-Bron Business Airport. Lyon-Bron Business Airport is also a smaller airport located within the city and it is the third busiest airport in the country. Lyon Saint-Exupery Airport, at a distance of 25 km. The airport has good connectivity to the city with their Tram Express, which will drop you at La Part-Dieu train station within 30 minutes. There are taxis at Terminals 1 and 2 of the airports to drop you at your desired location in Lyon. 

By Train: The Train à Grande Vitesse (TGV) trains are well connected to destinations across France. There are two major train stations that are located in the heart of the city, Lyon Part-Dieu and Lyon Perrache. The TGV takes you to cities like Marseille, Montpellier, Paris, Lille, Rennes, and others.

By Road: You can easily travel across the country with several buses and rental car options. Highways such as the A6 and A7 connect to countries such as Switzerland and Italy. There are also several night buses available.

Getting Around

Even though Lyon is one of the biggest cities in France, it is relatively easy to get around. The Lyon metro system, which consists of four lines connecting to major neighbourhoods, is the best option. The best part is that tickets for the metro can also be used on trams and buses. The tramway connects major cities and suburban areas.

Based on the easy railway access in Lyon, using buses can be optional; however, some bus routes conveniently pass a few places that are quite far from the nearest metro station. To get around the city, hassle-free, consider buying the Lyon City Card. It offers unlimited trips on all public transportation.

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Places to visit in Lyon

  • Ancient Theatre of Fourvière: This historic landmark that dates back to 15 B.C. was a grand theatre in Lyon. It is located on the hill of Fourvière, one of the prominent neighbourhoods of the city. This ancient attraction has magnificent architecture, extending in a vast circle with a diameter of 108 m. In its glory days, it could fit over 10,000 people. What was once a place for people’s entertainment, has become an attraction in ruins. The Theatre of Fourvière, however, regains its past during the city's annual Nuits de Fourvière festival held in June and July, when the stage is overtaken by dance, music, and theatre performances.
  • The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière: True to its name, the beauty of this place rivals that of Notre-Dame de Paris. But unlike the basilica in Paris, which was opened to the public in 1345, the one in Lyon was constructed years later, in the 1880s. As you enter this church, be ready to witness some jaw-dropping gorgeous mosaics, staggering pillars, exquisite stained glass, and a crypt of Saint Joseph. The other best thing about coming here is the sweeping view of Lyon. Based on all this, it is one of the recommended places to see in Lyon.
  • The Lyon History Museum: One of the things to do in Lyon is visit the History Museum. Not only do you get to see items that date back to the 1700s, you also get to learn about different eras. The Museum has over 80,000 artefacts; through this, visitors learn about the development of the city through the years. The Museum also features exhibits like paintings, tools, old city plans, and furniture.
  • Aquarium de Lyon: In a city quite away from the vast ocean, it is always exciting to see aquatic life. To enhance visitors' experiences, the aquarium also displays artificial shipwrecks, along with other imaginative decorations. The place also has separate tanks where you can see sharks and other fishes swimming. One of the major attractions is the "Five Senses" exhibit, where visitors can touch select fishes, star fishes, and hermit crabs.
  • Traboules: The meaning of Traboules is ‘secret covered passageways’, and you can find many across Lyon. If you are comfortable with narrow and underground places, then this is the best thing to do in Lyon - exploring the hidden passages through courtyards, private houses, and even beneath buildings. Today, there are around 40 passageways opened to the public that run in the direction of the River Saône. Of course, for this activity, you’ll need a guide. Two of the best places to begin the tour are around Quai Fulchiron Rolland and Rue des Trois Maries.

Places to eat in Lyon

  • Le Poivron Bleu: It may not look much from the outside, but the food at Le Poivron Bleu is amazing. Located at 12 Rue Professeur Weill, the Restaurant is charming, calm, and the food is fresh, offering seasonal dishes. Instead of a set menu, they write their menu on a chalkboard. Can this get any more French? If you are looking for something casual with delicious food, you know where to head.
  • Le Bouchon Des Cordeliers: On 15 Rue Claudia, this strikingly red and old-school restaurant vibe serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine, and French wine. This is Lyon’s certified bouchon, as recognised by the city, that has lip-smacking Lyonnaise food, including quenelles and andouillette sausage.
  • La Tête de Lard: To go "all in" the French way, you need to dine at La Tête de Lard. It can’t get more authentic than the checked tablecloths and vintage furniture. The Restaurant is very homely, and the food is delicious, with typical Lyonnaise cuisine. The menu includes some interesting dishes such as andouillette sausage and pig’s feet salad, amongst others. It is definitely the place to enjoy the local cuisine.
  • Carmelo: There are times when French food becomes too much and we crave a change in the variety. So, when this happens, visit Carmelo, a beautiful Italian restaurant. Inside, there are several rooms, each intricately designed and fitted with unique decorations. Due to its popularity, you may have to make reservations in advance. At Carmelo, you must try the carbonara, served in a wheel of pecorino cheese; it is delicious.

Shopping in Lyon

  • Les Halles de Lyon — Paul Bocuse: This is Lyon’s famous indoor food market. It is reputed internationally also since the market has the finest gourmet food. Let's take it this way, all your food at the restaurants comes from here. There are several bars and restaurants in the market, making it an ideal place to sample Lyon’s delights.
  • Marché Saint-Antoine: For a more French feel, go shopping in the open air at Marché Saint-Antoine, which is located on the banks of the River Saône. This market is the city’s major food market and is open throughout the week, except on Mondays. It is also a popular spot with cafes and bars.
  • Marché alimentaire Victor Augagneur: While strolling alongside the River Rhône, you will come across the Marché des Quais du Rhône Victor Augagneur. This riverside market stretches from Pont de la Guillotière to Pont Wilson. You get an assortment of fresh fruit, cheese, and wine.

Where to stay in Lyon? 

  • Cour des Loges: A place where Renaissance grandeur meets modernity, staying at Cour des Loges in Vieux Lyon is an experience in itself. This classic hotel has posh rooms covered in silk wallpaper, hand-painted headboards, and chandeliers.
  • Villa Maïa: The perfect view from the comforts of your room is hard to get, but if you stay at Villa Maïa, you may hit the jackpot. Sitting atop Fourvière Hill, you get a breathtaking view of the city from every direction. The hotel has modern architecture with a splash of Mondrian-inspired art. You can also make use of their 65-foot-long indoor pool, and other amenities such as spas, saunas, and fitness rooms.
  • Hotel Carlton Lyon - MGallery Hotel Collection: Between the Rivers Rhône and Saône, in the city centre is the MGallery property by Sofitel. This hotel is built in a historic space. The building itself is an 1894-masterpiece where celebrities of that era spent their time. Today, the hotel still oozes the same charm and luxury.
  • Hotel Dieu Intercontinental Lyon: To perfect your experience in Lyon, you need to stay at the Hotel Dieu Intercontinental. This ultra-luxurious hotel has a touch of history, as it was originally a monastery and later a hospital. Today, after years of restoration, the city’s most iconic building has become a spectacle. Stay here, savour a drink at Le Dome Bar, and stare at the 18th century dome with its inspiring 90-foot height.

More reasons to visit Lyon

  • Festival of Lights in Lyon: One of the reasons to visit Lyon during the winter season is to witness the Fête des Lumières, or festival of lights. Every December, it begins on the 8th and lasts for four days. In fact, the city has been titled the "Capital of Lights." The festival is rooted in Lyon's history, and dates back to 1852, when residents would place candles in coloured glasses and place them on their window sills. It was to celebrate the installation of Virgin Mary’s statue on Fourvière Hill. Since then, people have lit candles and lights to honour this tradition.
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