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Last Updated: 15 March 2024


Lyon is France’s second-largest urban area after Paris and the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region. The city is a primary tourist site with its historic town (Vieux-Lyon, Presqu’île) and a World Heritage site by Unesco. 2,000 years ago, the Romans founded the city where the Rhône met the Saône. It became a commercial and cultural hub in Eastern France, also famous for being the French capital of gastronomy. Here is some practical information to help you plan your visit to this amazing, vibrant city!



What about Lyon?

Lyon © French Moments
Panoramic view from Fourvière © French Moments


In Eastern France, Lyon is the third biggest French city by population, after Paris and Marseille. In 2016, 515,695 people lived in the city, and the population is increasing yearly.

Consequently, Lyon has strengthened its essential role in the French economy and culture

Nowadays, Lyon is the capital of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, the second largest and most prosperous region in France.

Lyon Situation Map © French Moments


The Saône and the Rhône

Lyon is closely associated with the two rivers which run through the city

“La Saône”, which comes from the North-East of France, meets “le Rhône” from Switzerland to the Mediterranean Sea. A peninsula has formed Between the two rivers: the Presqu’île. This is the city’s commercial and cultural centre.

Things to see in Lyon © French Moments
A cruise on the Saône River © French Moments


An ancient city

The Romans founded the city in 43 BC on the Fourvière Hill. Its name was Lugdunum, which later evolved into Lyon. The city’s nickname comes from that era: Capitale des Gaules (capital of Gaul). You can still find many relics of this period in modern-day Lyon, such as the Ancient Theatre.

Things to see in Lyon © French Moments
The Roman theatre in Fourvière Hill © French Moments


A Unesco-listed old town

Lyon is also well-known for its old town, one of Europe’s largest surviving Renaissance districts. It is located on the right bank of the Saône River and at the foot of Fourvière Hill. “Vieux Lyon” suffered damage over the years, but restoration in the 1960s gave it a new life.

Lyon Old Town © French Moments
La Tour Rose (Pink Tower) in the old town © French Moments
Lyon Old Town © French Moments
The old façades of Rue du Bœuf in Lyon old town © French Moments
Lyon Old Town © French Moments
A traboule in the Vieux-Lyon © French Moments


In 1998, UNESCO listed the area as a World Heritage site. In the old town, you can find many little traditional restaurants called “bouchons”, contributing to the city’s reputation as the French capital of gastronomy.

Lyon is a fascinating town to visit as a bridge from France’s past to its future. You will enjoy the city whether you come to discover historical remains and cultural places or even go shopping (!).


Practical information about Lyon to help you plan your visit!

Now let’s give you some practical information about your next visit to Lyon.

I have compiled some exciting things to help you plan your stay: accommodation, activities and touristic tours, city passes and more. Check it out below:


Where to stay in Lyon?

You can choose from a great range of accommodation in Lyon, from hotels to B&B and campsites! My recommendation is to book your accommodation near the city centre. Although it’s a more pricey option, you’ll save time on transportation and can access most of the 10 things to see within walking distance.

Also, when possible, don’t wait until the last minute to book, as finding hotel rooms can be a problem, especially on weekdays.

To book your accommodation in Lyon, click on this affiliate link, which will redirect you to our partner… or use the interactive map below:


Things to do in Lyon

Looking for special and unique things to do in Lyon? Here are a few ideas:

For more activities and things to do in Lyon, check out the following offers:



Get the Lyon City Card

The  Lyon City Card is like a city passport that will give you unlimited access to public transport and free entrance into 23 museums (and their temporary exhibitions).

You also get free river cruises, guided walking tours, visits and activities, and huge reductions on the city’s best leisure activities, shopping, and more!

Get your Lyon City Card!

What’s included:

  • Free access to all public transport in the city (bus, metro, tram and funicular, except on 1 May) as well as park-and-ride facilities
  • Access to 23 museums, including temporary exhibitions and numerous discovery activities
  • Guided walking tour
  • River cruise
  • Discounts for numerous other shows and activities (Guignol puppet show, etc.)
  • Self-guided tour

Click here to discover the entire list of attractions/activities in the Lyon City Card.


The major events in Lyon

Lyon is a vibrant city… there will certainly be an event organised during your visit!

Lyon Festival of Lights. Photo @Laboo via Twenty20
Lyon, Festival of Lights. Photo @Laboo via Twenty20


La Fête des Lumières 

(Lyon Festival of Lights)

Since the mid-19th century, the Lyonnais have spontaneously honoured the Holy Mary on 8 December. Festivities involve installing lights in windows and on balconies at night time. In 1989, this tradition became an official event in the city. Nowadays, every year, the “Fête des Lumières” marks the start of the end-of-year festivities. For four days, around 8 December, about 4 million people came here to enjoy the show, which was well worth it!


La Biennale de la Danse

(Biennial Dance Show)

Since September 1984, this festival has taken place every two years at various sites in the city, especially in the “Maison de la Danse” (Dance Hall). It lasts two and a half weeks, with up to fifteen different shows daily! You can enjoy parades, ballets and different dance performances by young and renowned artists.


Les Nuits de Fourvière

(Fourvière Nights)

Every summer since 1946 and for two months, the Nuits de Fourvière festival has welcomed artists from all around the world, to perform in the amazing space of Fourvière’s ancient theatre. Various disciplines are showcased: music, dance, theatre… For the last five years, the Festival has grown in popularity. French and international stars have performed there: Vanessa Paradis, Julien Clerc, Juliette Gréco, Tracy Chapman, Iggy Pop, Sting, Bob Dylan, Björk…


La Biennale de l’Art Contemporain

(Biennial Contemporary Art Show)

Every other year, you can enjoy this festival of contemporary art exhibitions in several museums. The main place to go is La Sucrière, a former warehouse in the Confluence area. The 2011 festival brought together 78 artists from all over the world and more than 200,000 visitors.


Le Festival Lumière

(Lumière Film Festival)

How could the birthplace of the Lumière brothers not hold an important cinema festival? The town had to wait until 2009 to see the Lumière Film Festival created. Clint Eastwood was the first director to be awarded for all of his work. Since then, many actors and directors have been under the Lumière Film Festival’s spotlights: Gérard Depardieu, Jean Dujardin, and Ken Loache in 2012.


How to get around in Lyon

Place des Terreaux, Lyon © French Moments
Bus crossing Place des Terreaux © French Moments


Since the 1970s, the public transport network has been considerably improved. Going from one point to another in the town is now straightforward.

You can use four metro lines from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. To climb Fourvière Hill, you can also use the two special funicular lines.

Since the mid-1990s, the municipality has been mindful of traffic and pollution problems and has promoted public transport, especially tramway lines. After being first removed in 1956, tramways came back to the town in 2001. People from Lyon are used to catching the five tramway lines that go across the city, from North to South and from East to West. In 2010, another special tramway was launched. Called “Rhônexpress,” it joins Saint-Exupéry International Airport directly to Part-Dieu Railway Station.

Finally, more than 150 bus lines help you to reach every single point of Lyon and its outskirts.


How to get there

Reaching Lyon is relatively easy, wherever you come from!


By car

If you are already in France, you can drive to Lyon. From Northern France, the A6 Motorway is the quickest way and goes straight from Paris in four and a half hours. From Southern France, the A7 Motorway will take you to Lyon from Marseille or Montpellier in three hours.


Fancy the train?

The easiest way to reach Lyon from anywhere in France is to take the TGV. It takes one and a half hours from Marseille, two hours from Paris or Montpellier, three hours from Lille and less than four hours from Strasbourg or Toulouse. And it might even be cheaper than driving!


Fly there!

To travel to Lyon from abroad, you should consider travelling by plane. Almost every European city is connected to Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport by direct flights operated by various companies (Air France, British Airways, Lufthansa, Emirates, etc). You can reach the city from Australia and America thanks to connecting flights from Paris-Charles-De-Gaulle, London-Heathrow or Frankfurt.


Find out more!


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Top 10 Things to See in Lyon © French Moments

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About the author

Pierre is a French/Australian who is passionate about France and its culture. He grew up in France and Germany and has also lived in Australia and England. He has a background teaching French, Economics and Current Affairs, and holds a Master of Translating and Interpreting English-French with the degree of Master of International Relations, and a degree of Economics and Management. Pierre is the author of Discovery Courses and books about France.

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