As the gateway to so many fantastic locations in the countryside of France, Lyon is an impressive city with many great pockets to discover. With a surprisingly good restaurant and cafe scene, Lyon is best discovered over a couple of days, though if you’re light on time, can be ticked off in a day of jam-packed adventures. My visit was that of the latter and went by in a flash – so here’s a look at the highlights of Lyon to help plan your own adventure!
Getting Around Lyon
Many visitors to Lyon arrive by train but no matter the mode of transport – get yourself to the centre of town and have your map handy – this city is huge and has so much to discover!
Because of the sheer size, I’d highly recommend renting a bike for the day or making use of the city bikes. This will enable you to cover so much more ground, as many of the cities’ offerings are spread out.
If cycling isn’t your thing, you can still see most of Lyon’s highlights on foot – but be ready for a big day clocking up the kilometres!
What to See in Lyon
Being such a huge city, there is plenty to see and do in Lyon. While a couple of days will see you explore the city at leisure, the best of Lyon can certainly be seen in one day.
Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière
A beautiful basilica overlooking the city with a really great view.
Vieux Lyon (Old Town)
The old town district is by far and large my favourite area to explore and I’m sure it will be yours, too. This quaint and charming neighbourhood is best explored on foot (think cobblestones and lots of them!) There are many charming restaurants and bakeries to be found amongst the souvenir shops and artisan stores.
Parc de la Tête d’or
If you find yourself in Lyon during the warmer months, then a picnic lunch in this beautiful 117 hectare public park is a must.
There are a handful of popular museums in the city (I can’t say I visited any because with just one day, being outside exploring was my priority!) The most popular are the Museum of Fine Arts and the Gallo-Roman Museum, exhibiting a range of Roman artefacts and antiques.
Where to Eat and Drink
Lyon has an impressive food and drinks scene, with something on the menu for even the pickiest of eaters. I managed to find a great range of vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free friendly eateries as well, so read on for a (very) comprehensive list!
Cafes & Coffee Houses
Slake Coffee House – The best coffee in town (and great carrot cake too!)
Puzzle Cafe – Also the best coffee in town (qual standing) with a really relaxed “BYO Laptop” kinda vibe.
La Cafeteria – Great healthy and affordable lunch spot and really popular with the locals.
Breakfast & Brunch
Le Polo Club – Cosy little tea room with a British feel – custom teapots and all!
Le Grand Café des Négociants – Over the top, luxurious setting with a classic approach to brunch (think French pastries, OJ and plunger coffee).
French Fare (Lunch & Dinner)
Le Kitchen Cafe – Only 19 seats and arguably the most sought after spot in town. Here you will find a dessert bar (uh, yes!). Open for lunch only.
Cafe Sillon – Focus on fresh produce and an ever-changing seasonal menu.
Les Apothicaires – Four, five and six course dinners with a distinctly French approach to modern gastronomy. An awakening dining experience if ever there were just one to be had in Lyon.
Veggie Friendly Eateries (Lunch & Dinner)
Hank Vegan Burgers – Third location of the popular eatery from Le Marais, Paris. This is vegan junk food at its finest.
Against the Grain – Vegan cafe with really great soups, salads, wraps and light fare.
Toutes Les Couleurs – Fusion dining and fully vegan restaurant for a more refined evening meal.
Bakeries & Desserts
Boulangerie du Palais – Arguably the best in town. Be sure to try the local Brioche aux Pralines (sweet bread filled with pralines).
Patisserie Taffin – Delicate French pastries with a traditional approach.
Piece of Cake! – Your American-style baking goodies are all here in this simple approach to homestyle baking.
The Best Day Trips from Lyon
Vienne – Very nearby small city with well-preserved Roman ruins. 30km South of Lyon.
Pérouges – Small medieval town that is used as the set to many films (because it is that cute it looks like a film set!) 40km from Lyon.
Domaine de Lacroix-Laval – Beautiful estate with manicured gardens and an impressive conservatory. 13km from Lyon.
I visited Lyon as part of an Avalon Waterways River Cruise – which is a great way to see the highlights of Provence and Burgundy in a week sailing! All opinions and oodles of photos are my own!