Planning a trip to Lyon? Get some inspiration on what to do while you’re there with our idea of a perfect three-day itinerary. History, culture, entertainment, restaurants… Pack it all in at a comfortable pace and don’t miss a thing!
Start your weekend in Lyon in the Museum of Fine Arts. Lyon’s “Little Louvre”, situated in the heart of St. Peter’s Palace, offers a large collection in over 70 exhibition rooms. There you will find paintings by Delacroix, Renoir and Rembrandt alongside sculptures by Rodin and other artistic geniuses. Walk around the museum’s wings and discover one of the largest art collections in Europe, in the heart of this former 17th-century abbey.
After getting your culture fix, visit Terrasses Saint-Pierre, a café-restaurant in the Museum of Fine Arts, which looks out over the palace gardens. Here, you can relax and discover the peaceful ambiance that you’ll encounter frequently during your weekend in Lyon, where city life meets art.
Start the afternoon by heading into Old Lyon to discover the city’s Renaissance district. You will be immediately charmed by the labyrinths of narrow cobblestone alleys, which hide artisanal boutiques and other sites. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site, this district gives you a real feel for how the city must have looked centuries ago. Make sure you pass underneath the medieval buildings and stroll down Lyon’s famous traboules. These typical ancient passageways used to connect various city buildings, and are now an integral part of the city’s landscape.
In the early evening, start the climb up Fourvière Hill to watch the sunset from the top. At the summit, you’ll find the Notre-Dame de Fourvière Basilica, a Neo-Gothic style Neo-Byzantine masterpiece, which is a stunning spectacle in and of itself. Perched up above Fourvière, the basilica is a splendid structure of white marble and includes a captivating panoramic viewpoint, which offers the most beautiful view of the city below. Before heading back down, visit the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière and the Odeon of Lyon, ancient theatres that date back to the Roman city of Lugdunum.
For dinner, go to Chez Chabert restaurant, an authentic bouchon (a traditional Lyon restaurant) on the banks of the Saône River, where you can enjoy some of the city’s best dishes. For example, you can try andouillette (a coarse-grained sausage) or coq au vin (chicken casserole), accompanied by an excellent Burgundy Pinot Noir to beautifully finish off the first day of your weekend in Lyon.
The next day, start off by exploring the city’s 6th arrondissement. Here you can admire the typical Haussmann-style architecture before heading to Parc de la Tête d’Or, one of France’s largest parks and the perfect place for morning of relaxation in beautiful natural surroundings. The design of this park was modelled on an English garden, so you can enjoy pleasant walks following the paths in this splendid 105-hectare park, situated on the banks of the Rhône River. Located in the heart of Lyon, this green treasure includes an artificial lake formed from a branch of the Rhône, a zoological park and a lush botanical garden with flower beds full of roses and peonies that add dashes of bold colour to this unique landscape.
For lunch, head to the centre where you can enjoy the modern and relaxed atmosphere of Slake Coffee House. Taste one of the best cappuccinos in town, in a spot ideal for sharing stories and chatting, before you continue your weekend break by further exploring Lyon.
Start the afternoon in the heart of the impressive Place Bellecour, the largest pedestrianised square in Europe. There, you can admire the equestrian statue of Louis XIV, with smaller statues representing the Saône and Rhône at his feet. Next, continue heading further south towards La Confluence. In particular, make the most of the walk between Rue Victor Hugo and Cours Charlemagne. Lined with several shops and home to major brands, this is the perfect place for some retail therapy.
After picking up some souvenirs, take the tram as soon as you reach Cours Charlemagne and head straight for the Confluence Museum, a truly extraordinary science museum. First, admire the extraordinary modern architecture of this building made of glass, concrete and stainless steel, which stands proudly at the confluence (meeting point) of the Rhône and Saône rivers. Then, discover this natural history museum’s amazing collection, which combines science and social history exhibits. Open to everyone, this museum offers a wide range of knowledge.
After an action-packed day, spend the second evening of your weekend in Lyon a stone’s throw away from the museum in the Le Sucre cultural centre. This unique spot will soon host its the renowned electro festival, Les Nuits Sonores. In the heart of this 1930s former industrial warehouse, which has now been converted into a concert hall with visual art exhibitions, you’ll find the beating heart of the city’s vibrant modern cultural scene. The rooftop is the ideal place to make the most of an afternoon on the banks of the Saône, enjoying one of the city’s best arts programmes. As you come to the end of the second day of your weekend in Lyon, take a moment to reflect on the multifaceted nature of this extraordinary city.
On the last day of your weekend in Lyon, start in the north by visiting the Croix-Rousse district, famous for its sloped streets and panoramas overlooking the city. There, admire the Canuts fresco, a spectacular wall painted using the trompe-l’œil technique covering 1,200 square metres, which depicts neighbourhood life. After that, enter the labyrinth of streets in the Canut district, where 19th-century silk workers once toiled. Fittingly, this area is also home to the Maison des Canuts, a museum that looks back over five centuries of silk making in Lyon. There, you can see inside a historic silk production building, complete with high windows and 4-metre-high ceilings to accommodate the silk workers’ weaving looms.
For lunch, enjoy a relaxing walk through the district where Chez Lucien Bistro is located, and then enter for some delicious food. This great little place has a convivial patio and elaborate, carefully prepared cuisine. The chef recreates regional specialities using seasonal produce with great skill, making it the ideal choice for the last day of your weekend in Lyon.
After having a bite to eat, start the afternoon at Place des Terreaux. This spectacular public square, measuring 7,000 square metres, is now home to the splendid Bartholdi Fountain. This masterpiece, made from lead by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (who also designed the Statue of Liberty), represents France (a female figure seated on a chariot) holding the reins of four horses that represent the country’s four great rivers.
Continue the afternoon by heading down through Croix-Rousse towards the banks of the Rhône. Then walk along the banks until you reach Quai Jean-Moulin. There, discover a superb selection of wines at the Victoire & Thomas bar, along with some delicious à la carte dishes made from local produce, the perfect way to finish off your weekend in Lyon.
In just three days, you will discover that Lyon is a city that’s both forward-thinking and proud of its storied past. Its ultra-lively districts are constantly being reinvented and, between the Saône and Rhône rivers, you’ll find a city that perfectly blends tradition and modernity. After following this itinerary for your weekend in Lyon, why not extend your stay to discover the Lyon Part-Dieu district, or the Beaujolais region, world-famous for its remarkable wines?