Is there any need to introduce Lyon, the capital of the Gauls and the capital of French gastronomy? The city offers visitors an incredible architectural and cultural heritage. But beyond the ancient Lugudunum, there are many sites to explore. Of course, the Monts d’Or and the Beaujolais vineyards are also natural sites, beautiful ruins, and charming localities. What are the 30 places to see in the region around Lyon? Follow the guide and let’s go on a trip less than 40 km from Lyon city centre!
What does Lyon mean to you?
The historic Hill of Fourvière?
Lyon’s gastronomy and its bouchons?
The Renaissance houses of Old Lyon and their traboules?
The opera and its unusual roof?
The banks of the Saône and the Rhône?
Lyon is all this… and much more!
But for now, let’s leave the city walls to explore its surroundings…
Staying around Lyon
To plan your accommodation around Lyon, click on this link to booking.com or browse the map below:
What to see around Lyon?
Lyon is located in the heart of a tourist region. If you venture 30, 40 or 50 km from the city centre, you can discover hundreds of points of interest. Of course, it is not possible to list them all. I have selected 30 sites grouped into 10 destinations within a 40 km radius of Lyon.
► Do you have any suggestions for visits to and around Lyon? Write them in the comments at the bottom of the article!
Here are the ten main destinations we will discover around Lyon:
- Oingt and Theizé
- Monts d’Or
- Signal de Saint-André
- Vienne and Saint-Romain-en-Gal
To help you, I have included links to the corresponding tourist offices for most of the destinations around Lyon. Don’t hesitate to go there to get personal information on natural or cultural sites to discover, hikes to find or the programme of upcoming events.
Let’s start this little trip around Lyon with a historic town in the Isère department, on the road to the Alps.
Town 40 km east of Lyon
Crémieu is a small town of 3,375 inhabitants, which is part of the province of Dauphiné. Today, Crémieu is part of the department of Isère, not far from the Jura.
The charming old town has picturesque squares, narrow streets with colourful facades, 16th and 17th-century houses and the remains of its medieval ramparts.
The Saint-Jean-Baptiste church in Crémieu is a hall church dating back to the beginning of the 14th century. It houses a unique collection of Augustinian paintings created at the end of the Middle Ages.
The fortified hills of Crémieu
Two hills dominate the old town:
- Saint-Laurent hill, on the east side
- Saint-Hippolyte hill, on the west side
The ruins of the Château Delphinal (or Château Saint-Laurent) occupy the top of the Saint-Laurent hill to the east of the town. It was strategically important because the border between the Dauphiné and Savoie lay there. The remains of the fortress date from the 13th and 15th centuries.
To the west of the town and opposite the Delphine castle, the Saint-Hippolyte hill is home to the ruins of a Benedictine monastery, surrounded by its fortifications.
What to see around Crémieu
The town is bordered by a natural region of hills and plateaus: L’Isle Crémieu. This area is the link between the Lyon plain and the Bugey Jura. If you have half a day to spare, here are some sites to explore:
- The castle of Saint-Julien dominates the peaceful waters of the pond of Ry on the road to Siccieu-Saint-Julien-Carisieu.
- The archaeological site of Larina built on a rocky limestone spur overlooking the Rhône by more than 200 metres.
- The Verbois gorges at Hières-sur-Amby and its beautiful waterfall.
Village 40 km north-east of Lyon
The medieval town of Pérouges is one of the most visited tourist sites in the Ain département. This ancient weaver’s village is located on a hill and is part of the association Les Plus Beaux Villages de France (France’s most beautiful villages).
The historic centre of Pérouges includes no less than 80 buildings listed as historic monuments. To be discovered in Pérouges :
- the town gates (Porte d’En-Bas, Porte d’En-Haut)
- the rue des Rondes (its picturesque appearance is due to its canopy roofs and the stone hooks that mark the weavers’ houses)
- the Rue des Princes, the former main street
- the Place du Tilleul and its 200-year-old lime tree planted shortly after the French Revolution
several timber-framed and corbelled houses line the Place du Tilleul, including the Hostellerie du Vieux Pérouges, which dates from the 13th century
- the 15th century fortified church of Sainte-Marie-Madeleine
As you stroll through the streets of old Pérouges, you may recognise some of the film locations: Les Trois Mousquetaires (1961) and Angélique, Marquise des anges (1964).
36 km north of Lyon
Ambérieux-en-Dombes is located in the centre of a triangle formed by Bourg-en-Bresse, Mâcon and Lyon. The town of 1750 inhabitants is also located in the western part of the Dombes, a marshy region dotted with ponds of various shapes and sizes.
Visitors to Ambérieux-en-Dombes see the old castle from the 12th and 14th centuries. It still has its four towers, including the keep.
In the village, notice the war memorial: it has the particularity of being surmounted by a rooster, a detail not very common in France.
Excursion to the Dombes
If you have half a day to spare, take the opportunity to explore the Dombes. The natural region has more than 1,000 ponds dug in the Middle Ages by the monks.
As you drive along the small roads of the Dombes, you will discover villages full of flowers, castles made of carrons (red bricks), farms made of pisé (compacted raw earth) and, of course, an array of ponds! Near Ambérieux-en-Dombes, don’t miss:
- the Bouligneux castle (a former fortified house from the early 14th century)
- the charming church of the Nativité-de-la-Sainte-Vierge in Villars-les-Dombes, in Romanesque style and dating from the 12th/13th centuries,
- the bird park in Villars-les-Dombes (one of the oldest bird parks in France. It contains a collection of more than 3,000 birds from all over the world in a 380-hectare reserve, 35 of which are accessible to the public)
- the surprising Ars basilica in Ars-sur-Formans
35 km north of Lyon
Between Mâcon and Lyon, Villefranche-sur-Saône is a gateway to the Beaujolais (to the west) and the Dombes (to the east).
The Rue Nationale crosses the town centre for about 1500 metres. This artery brings together most of the shops, as well as the significant sites of interest in Villefranche:
- the collegiate church Notre-Dame des Marais (16th-century façade and 13th-century Romanesque bell tower)
- the Renaissance houses in the old centre, especially along the Rue Nationale.
Around Villefranche: the Fléchères castle
6 km from the town, in the commune of Fareins, stands the magnificent château de Fléchères.
It is the largest castle open to the public in the region around Lyon.
The building is unusual in France as it was built around a Protestant temple!
The castle was built between 1606 and 1625 on the site of a fortified house. It offers an exceptional testimony to the life of the great notables of Lyon in the 17th century.
The interior features beautiful frescoes that decorate the walls of 10 rooms of the castle.
The park surrounding Fléchères extends over 30 hectares and is composed of beautiful terraces, long shaded paths offering perspectives, an Italian-style pool and topiaries.
Around Villefranche: Trévoux
Less than 10 km south of Villefranche, it would be a shame not to stop at Trévoux.
In the Middle Ages, the Saône river acted as a border between the Kingdom of France and the Holy Roman Empire, of which Trévoux was a part.
Thanks to the river toll established in Trévoux in the 13th century, the town grew rich. Its strategic importance was reflected in constructing a fortified castle and a rampart.
The old town centre is home to several historic buildings, including 17th and 18th-century townhouses. From the castle of Trévoux, there is a beautiful panorama of the Saône valley, the Dombes, the Beaujolais and the Monts d’Or.
Oingt and Theizé
Villages 35 km north of Lyon
To the west of Villefranche-sur-Saône lies the Beaujolais vineyards. The Pays des Pierre Dorées is endowed with charming little villages to the southwest. The countryside is often compared to Tuscany or Provence. The Monk and Nun roofing and the warm facades of the villages confirm this image. And yet, we are north of Lyon!
I suggest you visit Oingt and Theizé.
Built at the top of a limestone ridge at over 500 metres, Oingt dominates the Azergues valley.
The commune belongs to the association of the most beautiful villages of France and attracts many tourists.
The historic village is full of small heritage features: wine presses, wells and cadoles (dry stone huts).
The view extends to the Beaujolais vineyards, the Azergue valley, and the Monts du Lyonnais.
The old village of Theizé occupies a hillside overlooking the Merloux valley at an altitude of 450 metres.
Its old church dates from the 12th and 13th centuries and was enlarged in the flamboyant gothic style in the 16th century.
The Rochebonne castle is located at the top of the village. Demolished during the Hundred Years’ War, it was rebuilt in the 17th century by a member of the family of Madame de Sévigné.
At the entrance to the village, the château de Rapetour is a 13th-century fortified house open to the public.
As in Oingt, the small heritage offers visitors many surprises scattered throughout the commune: washhouses, wells, crosses and dry stone huts typical of the Beaujolais.
Le Pays des pierres dorées
The villages of Oingt and Theizé are part of the Pays des pierres dorées (Land of Golden Stones). This is a territory that brings together some forty communes.
Golden stones are limestone quarried in several villages in the region northwest of Lyon. The stone is coloured with iron oxides which give it its beautiful honey-yellow colour. The inhabitants used them as construction material for their buildings (houses, castles, churches, etc.).
27 km north of Lyon
Charnay is a good base for exploring the Pays des pierres dorées.
The perched village occupies a narrow ridge and dominates the surrounding area by over 200 metres. As a result, it offers a clear view of the Beaujolais region.
The village of Charnay is centred on the Place du château (castle square), surrounded by golden stone houses from the 15th and 16th centuries, the church of Saint-Christophe and the castle La Mansarde (late 13th-early 14th century), now the town hall.
A few kilometres south of Charnay, Châtillon d’Azergues is worth a visit. The village of Châtillon is dominated by the imposing ruins of its 12th-13th century castle.
If you leave the village on the D76 in the direction of Alix, notice on the right the picturesque roof-topped well known as “Sarracen”.
The old fortified town of Chazay-d’Azergues has preserved its belfry and some 15th and 16th-century houses.
This is a charming site with its small church offering a superb view of the Lyon region.
The Espace Pierre Folles
On the territory of the commune of Saint-Jean-des-Vignes is the Espace Pierres Folles. The museum dedicated to the geology and heritage of the Beaujolais region offers a historical retrospective through the geology, fossils, soil and natural resources of the region. Please note: the site is closed for extension and renovation work and should reopen in 2023.
Natural site 30 km north of Lyon
For the people of Lyon, the Monts d’Or are synonymous with Sunday walks in the affluent suburbs of the Lyon conurbation. Indeed, the municipalities established on the slopes of this small massif to the northwest of Lyon are among the hundred wealthiest communes in France (in particular Saint-Didier-au-Mont-d’Or and Saint-Cyr-au-Mont-d’Or).
The Monts d’Or extend from north to south for about ten kilometres. They are bordered to the east by the Saône and the A6, the famous Autoroute du Soleil to the west.
The massif culminates at Mont Verdun (626 metres). The second highest peak is Mont Thou (611 m). These are occupied by military installations whose origins date back to the post-war years of 1871.
The Monts d’Or offer the people of Lyon great opportunities for hiking, allowing them to better appreciate the natural environment of the massif and the small heritage (the cabornes or dry stone shelters).
There are plenty of opportunities to see the surrounding countryside. It is absolutely necessary to go to the Croix Rampau to enjoy the most beautiful panorama. An orientation table allows you to identify the surrounding sites, from the Puy de Dôme to Mont Blanc!
Further south, the panorama from Mont Thou extends from the Saône valley to Fourvière. On a clear day, the Jura and the Alps are visible.
13 km north of Lyon
Rochetaillée-sur-Saône, a town perched above the Saône, was once a popular bathing place for the people of Lyon. Today, it is its glazed-tile castle that attracts visitors.
Indeed, the restored former fortified castle is home to the Henri-Malartre automobile museum. Splendid collections can be discovered in the terraced park above the Sâone: automobiles (1890-1986), cycles (1818-1960), motorbikes (1904-1964), public transport vehicles (1886-1935). Thus, of the 150 models of cars on display, 50 are pre-1914.
Paul Bocuse’s restaurant
On the other bank of the Saône, the commune of Collonges-au-Mont-d’Or is home to the famous Auberge du Pont de Collonges, a restaurant founded by Paul Bocuse. The façade of this temple of French cuisine is decorated with paintings and sculptures by Paul Bocuse.
North of Rochetaillée, make a diversion to Neuville-sur-Sâone to discover the Château de Vimy, or the Château des Abbés de l’Île-Barbe.
Then don’t forget Ombreval Castle, built in 1458 by Monsieur d’Ombreval. The castle’s park has become a public park whose moat still surrounds the building. The castle chapel is in a good state of preservation on the outside, as is the nymphaeum, a pavilion in the form of a grotto (circa 1636).
Signal de Saint-André
Locality 40 km west of Lyon
Located in the commune of Saint-André-la-Côte, 20 km from Lyon as the crow flies, the Signal de Saint-André is a summit belonging to the main ridge of the Monts du Lyonnais.
Culminating at an altitude of 934 m, it is the second-highest summit in the massif, behind the Crêt Malherbe.
It is an important geographical location because it was here that the geographer César-François Cassini (1714-1784) had a marker erected on the summit in 1744 for the production of his famous map of the kingdom of France. It is still there today and indicates why the summit was given the name “signal”.
In the surroundings, don’t miss the beautiful landscapes of the Monts du Lyonnais, particularly the Ronzey lake and the countryside of Yzeron. In this village, an orientation table on the church square offers a beautiful view of the Lyon conurbation.
On the D2 road up to Riverie, notice the church in the centre of the village of Saint-Didier-sous-Riverie. It is an imposing sanctuary rebuilt in 1868 with granite bluestone. The church dedicated to Saint Didier de Vienne has the particularity of having two square bell towers, which is quite rare in the region, and especially in a village the size of Saint-Didier-sous-Riverie!
The Route des Crêtes
To get a good overview of the Monts du Lyonnais, follow the route des crêtes from Saint-Didier-sous-Riverie to Vaugneray via :
- Riverie to Saint-Martin-en-Haut (D113)
- Saint-Martin-en-Haut to Yzeron (D122)
- Yzeron to Col de la Luère (D113)
- Then by the D24 downhill to Vaugneray.
Vienne and Saint-Romain-en-Gal
34 km south of Lyon
You have to know which Vienne you are talking about!
A little geography revision: don’t confuse Vienne (the French name for Vienna, capital of Austria), the Vienne river (which gave its name to a French département) and Vienne, a historic city and sub-prefecture of Isère.
Of course, we will mention the latter, located about thirty kilometres south of Lyon.
Vienne is home to several significant monuments dating from antiquity: the Temple of Augustus and Livia, the ancient theatre from the 1st century AD, and the Roman remains of the Garden of Cybele.
From the medieval period, we can mention the Saint-Maurice cathedral (12th-13th centuries), the Saint-Pierre de Vienne abbey (now an archaeological museum), the Bâtie castle (13th century), the Saint-André-le-Bas de Vienne abbey and its cloister…
The rue Marchande is lined with arcades and old courtyards in the historical centre, reminiscent of the famous traboules in the Old Lyon district.
The city also has several museums: the Fine Arts and Archaeology Museum, Saint-André-le-Bas Cloister Museum, Saint-Pierre Archaeological Museum, and Drapery.
Panoramic views of Vienne
To enjoy a beautiful panorama of the city, go up to Mont Pipet. There, near the chapel, the view over the city’s roofs and the cathedral is superb.
On a hillock overlooking the city stands the castle of La Bâtie. The former residence of the archbishops of Vienne in the Middle Ages is now in ruins.
On the opposite bank of the Rhône, Saint-Romain-en-Gal reveals an important archaeological site for visitors. The numerous Gallo-Roman remains include thermal baths, a Roman granite road, habitats and mosaics…
Some practical advice to discover the sites around Lyon:
- You can avoid the traffic jams to get out of/into Lyon by driving outside of rush hour, mainly if you use the eastern ring road (A46-N346).
- These 10 places inspire you to discover the region around Lyon (less than 40 km by road). Let yourself be surprised by other discoveries during your escapades, and stay curious! There is so much to discover, especially if you are a lover of small heritage.
- Don’t hesitate to enter the tourist office centres. During my French travels, the receptionists I met know the area and will be happy to help you discover their beautiful region.
- Click here to get ideas about accommodation in the area around Lyon.
- Visiting the region around Lyon? Think of the following hashtags: #onlylyon – #myauvergnerhonealpes – #enfranceaussi – #frenchmoments
Other blog posts that might interest you
- Read this article in French on our blog Mon Grand-Est
- Practical information for planning your visit to Lyon
- A culinary Journey into Lyon Gastronomy!
- Discover the old town of Lyon: history and sightseeing
- The official Tourist Board of Lyon
- Accommodation in Lyon
- Find out more about Tourism in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
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