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Lyon Tourism And Travel Guide
14.6° C / 58.3° F
May to September
3 to 5 Days
Perrache Railway Station
The French city of Lyon was originally named Lugdunum by the Romans when they founded it on the Fourviere hills sometime in 43 BC. Situated at the strategic location where the rivers Rhone and Saone meet, today Lyon is the second-largest metropolitan in France and a world-renowned UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of its local attractions date back to the medieval period and add a touch of age-old glamour to the city, while its numerous religious monuments are a spiritual haven as well as architectural masterpieces.
While Lyon is widely regarded for its ancient heritage that revolves around the production and weaving of silk, this is also the city where the invention of the cinematograph and the shooting of the first motion picture by the Lumiere brothers made it a pioneer in the history of cinema. Tourism drives a great part of Lyon’s economy and a rising number of visitors to the city every year has made Lyon one of the top holiday destinations in the world. Read on to know more about what makes this city so special with the help of this travel guide.
How to Reach
The Saint-Exupery Airport of Lyon is the international airport serving the city that connects it to a number of European and other destinations worldwide. However, there are no direct flights between India and Lyon; travellers are required to book connecting flights with usually one or two stopovers. The Rhonexpress tramway is the most common means used to travel from the airport to Lyon city centre. There are also buses available to do the same, including a new shared shuttle service that was just launched in 2019.
Trains are the preferred means of transportation if you are travelling to Lyon from anywhere in France. The Perrache, Part Dieu and Saint-Exupery railway stations are the three main stations serving Lyon, apart from the smaller stations like Saint-Paul, Vaise, Jean-Mace, Venissieux and Gorge de Loup that serve suburban and regional locations. If you are coming in from Paris and Marseille, the high-speed TGV trains are the best option.
Road routes to Lyon are pretty direct. The highway A6 connects to Paris in the north; A7 to Nice, Italy, Spain and Marseille in the south; A43 to northern Italy and the Alps in the east; A47 to western France; and A42 to the north-eastern regions like Geneva and Germany. Bus services to various destinations are operated to and from the Perrache station.
Weather & Best Time to Visit
Summer (June – August):
Usually the busiest time of the year, summers in Lyon experience a predominantly warm climate with temperatures that hover around the mid-twenties range. Occasional rainfall is witnessed as well, especially during the months of June and August. While the entire summer season is peak holiday season with crowds of tourists flocking to Lyon, July is usually the driest month that makes it the busiest month in summer as well.
Autumn (September – November):
Autumn in Lyon is pleasant and cool enough to enjoy a short trip during this season, with temperatures in the range of 10⁰C-23⁰C. However, it is also the rainiest time of the year and precipitation is experienced almost every other day all through the season. Since there are fewer tourists in the city during this time, rates in all commercial establishments are considerably low in autumn, which may prove favourable for tourists on a budget who’re looking to enjoy a quiet vacation in Lyon.
Winter (December – February):
An overall cold climate with temperatures that range somewhere between 2⁰-10⁰C, winters in Lyon is considered an “off-season” for tourists and vacations. Chances of rain are also least during the winters but occasional precipitation may lead to snowfall. With the exception of Christmas and the annual event of the Festival of Lights, crowds are minimal in Lyon during this season.
Spring (March – May):
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds of the peak summer season while enjoying a pleasant and cool holiday in Lyon, spring is the time to visit. A climate that is considerably drier than autumn and that gradually grows warmer and livelier, spring offers some brilliant opportunities for sightseeing and enjoying the vibrant and green countryside.
Things to Do
Explore Lyon’s Neighbourhoods:
The entire city of Lyon is divided into 6 different administrative sections and all these sections have distinct neighbourhoods, each having its own specific local attractions. Vieux Lyon is the old town in the city with impressive architectural examples that date back to the 15th, 16th and 17th Century. Most of these elaborate buildings are reminiscent of French and Italian Renaissance styles. Croix Rousse is another neighbourhood with numerous old-timey silk workshops, but best known for the Boulevard that hosts the weekly public square market. Fourviere is a hilly district on which Lyon was founded by the Romans; today it houses a dense concentration of religious monuments and ancient Roman ruins of Lyon. Presquile is the place to head to if you are looking for all things touristy.
Visit the Museums:
Lyon is packed with museums; more than you can possibly hope to explore in a single day. Musee des Confluences is a futuristic-looking landmark in the swanky new neighbourhood Confluence. It is an anthropology museum with four permanent and various other temporary exhibits. Musee des Beaux-Arts is known to be one of the finest museums in Europe with collections that range from Egyptian antiquities to contemporary artworks from the Modern era. Visit Musee Gadagne to know more about Lyon’s history in the silk trade industry and Musee Miniature et Cinema to know more about Lyon’s contribution towards shaping the entertainment industry as we know it today.
Visit the Silk Workshops:
The silk workshops of Lyon have played an integral role in shaping the city’s economy and driving its commercial growth. While a lot of these workshops are still actively functioning today, some others have been converted into tour-houses where visitors can catch a glimpse into the industry’s workings with the help of tour guides. The best places to visit among these workshops are the Maison des Canuts, Atelier de Tissage and Atelier de Passementerie.
Indulge in the Music Scene:
Lyon takes on a completely different appearance when the sun goes down and the city’s thriving nightlife comes out to play. While there are a number of options with night clubs, the jazz clubs of Lyon are some of the best places to check out. Visit Hot Club de Lyon, La Clef de Voute, and Bemol 5 for some amazing live jazz performances accompanied by mouth-watering food and drink options.
Where to Shop
Seasoned tourists will tell you that Lyon’s shopping scene could easily rival that of Paris’. Lyon features the most eclectic range of markets, boutiques and shopping centres to cater to all your purchasing needs. Presqu’ile, considered Lyon’s main shopping district, is one of the first places to head to for the largest selection of stores, whether it’s big name-brands or small independent shops. Le Dada Shop is where you’ll find unique merchandise, accessories and stationery that will make amazing gifts and souvenirs; Blitz, bazaar & Galerie is a similar outlet that specialises in pottery.
Le Village des Createurs is a cluster of workshop-boutiques where local artists and designers get to showcase their skill and sell their artwork. Les Puces du Canal is one of France’s largest flea markets where tourists can browse for low-priced furniture and antique items.
Where to Eat
With more restaurants per capita than any other city in France, Lyon will leave you overwhelmed with its choice of delicacies and local cuisine. Traditional Lyonnais cuisine can best be enjoyed in “bouchons” (local bistros), which serve meals from eras gone by; food that was part of a workers’ diet and may not feature in your everyday meal like tripe cooked in different ways, or roast pork and duck pâté. Enjoy other local dishes like coq au vin, quenelle, gras double, rosette Lyonnais and andouillette in any of the local eateries; it’s hard to be disappointed with food when dining in Lyon.
Lyon also has its share of Michelin star restaurants, and while experiencing award-winning cuisine is beyond definition for sure, there are enough eateries in Lyon that will let you enjoy similar experiences without burning a hole in your pocket. An amazing fusion of Lyonnais and Asian cuisine can be enjoyed in a number of restaurants here like Sapná, Takao Takano and La Bijouterie.
Local festivals in Lyon are as significant to the city’s culture as are its culinary delights and architectural masterpieces. Thousands of events in the form of concerts, plays, exhibitions and festivals are held annually in Lyon and usher in millions of visitors to the city. Events like the Biennial Dance Festival and the Lumiere Film Festival are celebrated on an international level in the month of September and October respectively. The Biennial Contemporary Art Festival alternates with the Biennial Dance Festival annually, and as the name suggests, is dedicated towards the celebration of contemporary creativity.
Nuits Sonores is an electronic music festival celebrated for about a week in May, whereas Nuits de Fourviere is a festival that encompasses theatre, dance, music and circus performances. The Festival of Lights though, celebrated in the month of December, is the biggest event in the city and usually what draws the majority of crowds to Lyon each year. It is a Lyonnais tradition where locals light a candle on their windowsill as a means of expressing gratitude to Mary, the mother of Jesus. Celebrated over four days till 8th December, spectacular light-and-sound shows are projected onto important buildings across the city. The light show displayed on the façade of the Lyon Cathedral is usually the focus of the entire festival.