With Alexandra, we consider Lyon as our second home as we bought our first flat there! We turned it into an Airbnb and enjoy visiting Lyon every few months. This article compile our best advice to spend the perfect week-end in Lyon!
Lyon is the third biggest French city after Paris and Marseille and offers a very different vibe than the capital. It is quieter, less international and somehow, we find it more “traditional and french”. Lyon has an exceptional cultural heritage: its artistic life is vibrant and the architecture of Lyon is unique and beautiful.
Did you know? Lyon is called the City of Lights as its big sister Paris. This nickname is originating from the word-famous Festival of Lights, which happen each year in December. During that special times, temporary light installations are set-up, illuminating the city for a few magical evening. In 2020, the Festival of Lights will happen between Saturday 5th December and the 8th of December.
The city of Lyon
Lyon is located between 2 rivers (the Rhônes and the Saône), and is divided into very different neighbourhoods. The main and most interesting one, for a short visit are:
- “Le Vieux Lyon”, the old Lyon, the most traditional, with its delicious restaurant called “bouchons”.
- Croix-Rousse, the other traditional area also on a hill, famous for its “pentes”, very steep path leading to the top.
- Fourvière, high up on a hill. Fourvière offers the most gorgeous point of view over the rest of Lyon as well as the Alps : you can see the very famous “Mont-Blanc”.
- Confluence, one of the new “cool” area of Lyon, with the Museum of the Confluence, an architectural jewel built in 2014.
- The “Parc de la Tête d’or” – Park of the Golden Head, the largest park of Lyon and probably one of the largest of France in a big city.
in 2016, Lyon was named Europe’s Leading City Break Destination in the World Travel Award.
How to go to Lyon
Lyon has 2 main train stations, Lyon Part-Dieu, generally more central and Lyon Perrache.
There is over 30 trains a day running from Paris to Lyon and the other way around, in around 2 hours and 15 minutes. Lyon train stations are some of the biggest in Europe and reaching it by train should not be an issue.
There is also direct train or connection to Lyon Train station from many other European countries, such as Belgium or United-Kingdom.
Train is always our first choice while visiting Lyon, as the train-stations are very central unlike the Airport and also, it helps the planet!
Tips – When you book a train from/to Lyon, make sure the train station is Lyon-Part-Dieu or Lyon Perrache. Very often the cheap tickets are from Lyon Saint Exupery (airport), which is located 30 minutes away from Lyon and costly to reach.
You can book train in France on the website oui.sncf for all your trip within the country and international.
Lyon international airport, Lyon-Saint Exupéry is located 25KM to the East of Lyon. It is a pretty large airport, with flight departing and arriving to most of the European large city as well as Asia, America and Africa. If you are not linked by train to Lyon, this is likely to be your best choice.
There is transfer between Lyon Airport and Lyon every 30 minutes with RhoneExpress. The ticket are 15 euros for a one-way or 25 euros with return. This allow Rhone Express to be the most expensive train of France per Kilometre. We may have not been lucky with it, but both time we tried to take that train we ended up with over 30 minutes delay so be sure to leave early!
Finally, Lyon Airport also has its Train Station – usually used as a departure for low-cost trains.
You can also come to Lyon by car. If you do, make sure to book or plan a parking in advance. It won’t be common for Airbnb or hotels to include parking and prices can be as high as 50 euros per day.
In August, lot of streets have free parking.
If you need a parking spot, Lyon has one useful mobile app to find a cheap one : https://www.lpa-and-co.fr/.
Where to stay for a week-end in Lyon
In our opinion, the best area to stay in Lyon is definitely Croix Rousse. While Vieux-Lyon is tempting as well, it is noisy in the evening and its lively spirit is appreciated but not when you want to sleep.
In the Croix-Rousse, if you want a place to stay you can of course book our Airbnb : https://www.airbnb.fr/rooms/39828406 or you can book any other Airbnb or hotels. You can also find beautiful flats for a few days stay from our company here or simply on Airbnb. If you book with us, do not hesitate to ask for advice, we’ll gladly help you plan your week-end in Lyon!
If you mind noise, make sure to check the reviews left by the previous guests : Lyon is a vibrant city but you probably want to stay somewhere quiet.
How to travel around Lyon
Public transport in Lyon
Lyon, as most of the other major french cities, has a very good public transport system. Therefore, you can find metro (4 lines), tramway and lot and lot of buses!
It is important that you validate your ticket every time you enter a metro, a tram or a bus. If you do not, you may get a fine.
The prices, as of 1st of April 2020 are:
- Single price ticket : 1.80€
- Pack of 10 tickets : 14.30€
- 24 hours ticket : 6.20€ (other duration available depending of the length of your week-end in Lyon)
- Transport are free with Lyon City card (more about that in another paragraph).
- Children before 4 years old travel free
All the special fares and up-to-date prices are available on TCL website : https://www.tcl.fr/en/fares.
Cycling in Lyon
It is possible and easy to travel within Lyon by car, if you are not afraid of the traffic. A company, Velov offers bike to rent all around Lyon for very reasonable prices. Using bike is also a great way to make your week-end in Lyon a sporty one!
A map of the itinerary is available as well on the Grand’Lyon website here (unfortunately only in French).
Where to eat and drink in Lyon
Lyon is well-known for its gastronomy and local wine production (Cote du Rhone) and this reputation is well deserved. From small niche wine bar to the best Michelin stars restaurants, Lyon’s gastronomy is one of the best of France.
Did you know ? The old and typical restaurants from Lyon are called “Bouchons“. Some of them date from the 16th century and used to be visited by the silk workers passing by the city. Nowadays, many bouchons still exist and are definitely a must-visit places for any tourist passing by!
Le comptoir Odessa (14 Rue René Leynaud, 69001 Lyon) – in the Pentes de la Croix-Rousse – delicious natural wines, tasty (and not too expensive) tapas and friendly atmosphere. The owner wine selection is simply incredible and this is our favorite place to enjoy a few glasses while in Lyon! We recommend the address to everyone staying in our Airbnb and so far, everyone loved it.
le Comptoir Abel (25 Rue Guynemer, 69002 Lyon) – a very authentic bistrot. It is typical bouchon and you will absolutely love the poulet aux morilles (chicken with morilles mushrooms). Set menus are available from 28 euros, up to 45 euros. Not recommended for vegetarians nor for light eaters!
More information about the restaurant here
Les Halles Bocuse (102 Cours Lafayette, 69003 Lyon) – Have lunch (And/or do your groceries shopping) at Les Halles Bocuse. You can buy there some local and very delicious product, and you can also eat in some shops/restaurants. The scenery is quite exceptional and very representative of Lyon and its gastronomic culture and heritage. You will have the opportunity to discover many local specialities and practice your wine tasting. Some pastries, chocolates and other sweets are also available there. More information about the Halles here
Nativo, “bistro latino” (11 Rue Laurencin, 69002 Lyon) – Gastronomic tapas inspired from South America.
Very original, perfect for a romantic evening. Cocktails are really good and wine is delicious. Be careful though, the bill can get a little high.
Le Gout à Goutte – Cave à manger (2 Rue de Cuire, 69004 Lyon)
Located in Croix Rousse on a nice square. Not a large selection of tapas, but only succulent ones! The owner is a really connoisseur in wine and will advice you perfectly. Our new favorite spot in Lyon, for a very decent price. More information here
Nosch, repaire de bon vivants (24 rue Palais Grillet, 69002 Lyon)
Weekdays only, lunch and dinner. Our latest discovery. We love the atmosphere there so much. The team is truly incredible and will advice you perfectly for your dinner, especially with wine. The burratina and the os à moelle are a must as starters, and if the cordon bleu is at the menu on that day, don’t miss it for any reason, you will remember it for long!
A few things to do in Lyon
While exploring and wandering around in Lyon is a very good option, there are a few main places that are definitely worth a visit! In France, most of the museum are free if you are below 26 years old so if you are lucky enough to be young, bring your passport! Most museums are also closed on Monday and during bank holidays, make sure you check before visiting on their website.
Musée des Confluences: for some people, the recently opened Musée des Confluence can be the only reason they travel to Lyon! With its futuristic architecture, it is dedicated to natural history and anthropology. The Musée des Confluences offers permanent exhibitions about the origin of life, death and human civilisation.
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon: The Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon is located on the place des Terreaux and is one of the best museum of Lyon. The museum owns a good collection of European painting up to the XX century and has one of the biggest collection of France, surpassed only by the Louvres in Paris.
Le Parc de la tête d’Or: One of the most beautiful area of Lyon, the Parc de la tête d’Or is appreciated a lot by the local inhabitant of Lyon. Whether you fancy a visit to the Zoo, some jogging or cycling or a quiet walk, it is one of the best place to visit in Lyon and spend a sunny afternoon. The entrance to the park is free.
The most useful smartphone applications for a week-end in Lyon
- CityMapper: Citymapper is our favorite application to find our itinerary within Lyon. It is really the ultimate transport app, as it includes live-schedule, incidents included all the transport of Lyon.
- Kapten: French Uber equivalent, Kapten is often slightly less expensive and more rewarding for the drivers. The application is widely deployed in Lyon. If you sign on Kapten, you can use our voucher code FRALAV26 for a 20€ discount.
- Velov: If you visit Lyon with a bike, Velov is running the rent-a-bike station there. Download the app to check if bikes or parking is available in our of their station.
- LPA – Lyon Parc Auto: With this application, you can find the closest parking nearby for your car and check its availability. Lyon is a very busy city, so if you visit by car this application is definitely a must-have.
- Traboules: The “Vieux-Lyon” is filled with those little secrets passages, called “traboule”. With this application, you can find them and explore them using augmented reality. Neighbourhood after neighbourhood, you can use this application to discover the secrets of Lyon!
- The Fork: The French equivalent of OpenTable, The fork is widely used by french people to book a table in one of the many restaurant of Lyon. You will not find many Michelin restaurants there, but that’s about it. As in every big city, we recommend strongly to check the ratings in google and in the fork before booking a place: Lyon is full of surprise, not only good ones!
- Ville de Lyon: The official application of the city of Lyon – include a lot of practical information about the city (important numbers, museum and parks opening hours, …) as well as city-hike suggestion and cultural events. It is a good application worth having on your phone for your visit.
- Airbnb: We do not need to present it anymore, but Airbnb is very developed in Lyon and offers many listings. It is probably one of the most comfortable way to stay in the city for a week-end or a few days and you will find plenty of very nice apartments in each of Lyon neighbourhood.