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Things to Do in Lyon

One of France’s largest cities, Lyon rivals Paris in beauty, culture, and cuisine. Two major rivers, the Rhône and Saône, divide Lyon into distinct districts: UNESCO World Heritage site Old Lyon, known as Vieux Lyon in French, sits on the small peninsula between the two rivers. Take a private or small-group tour around Lyon’s charming historic city by foot or bicycle; or travel with ease on a Segway, bus, or electric bike. Begin your tour at Place Bellecour in the historic center, one of the largest public squares in the country. Follow your guide to the ornate Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière, with its gleaming marble, stained glass, and stunning ceilings. Lyon has been dubbed one of the gastronomic capitals of the world, so book a gourmet tour to taste your way across the city; stop at Les Halles de Lyon, an open-air market, to sample specialties like Galette Lyonnaise cheese and learn about Lyon’s culinary heritage from your guide. Then get ready to wine taste: Take a half- or full-day trip to nearby Côtes du Rhône to savor local wines and chocolate; or travel to Beaujolais, often compared to Tuscany for its rustic countryside, to learn about French terroir. Lyon is a quick two-hour train ride from Paris, and less than two hours by train from Marseille and Montpellier in France, and Geneva in Switzerland, making it a great starting place for touring the region.
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Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon)
39 Tours and Activities
At the foot of Fourviére Hill, the historical streets of Old Lyon (Vieux Lyon) offer a welcome change of pace from the modern city across the river. With elegant medieval churches, Renaissance-era monuments, and pastel-painted facades, this is Lyon’s most atmospheric district.
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Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière (Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière)
21 Tours and Activities

A gleaming retro-Byzantine confection of Roman columns and religious iconography, the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière is visible, by design, from almost anywhere in Lyon. Today it is the symbol of the city and Lyon's most visited attraction, well worth the climb just to enter the outrageous interior.

Completed in 1896 as a challenge to secular forces then gaining power in France (like Sacré-Coeur Montmartre), the basilica's gleaming marble, gold gilt, fantastic stained glass, and borderline hallucinogenic ceiling are meant to impress. And they do.

In addition to the basilica and an adjacent chapel dedicated to a particularly miraculous Virgin Mary, both free to the public, this site also offers an observatory, museum, and fantastic views.

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Bellecour Square (Place Bellecour)
26 Tours and Activities
At the heart of Lyon is Bellecour Square—more commonly known as Place Bellecour—an enormous, unbroken brick expanse (the third largest square in France) sprawled between the Saône and the Rhône Rivers. These are echoed by two sculptures, named for the waterways, that flank a famed statue of Louis the X1V, on horseback.
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Lyon Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Jean)
22 Tours and Activities
Stroll the cobblestoned streets of Old Town Lyon (Vieux Lyon) and Place St-Jean to discover the Lyon Cathedral (Cathédrale St-Jean). Among the draws of the 12th-century cathedral are stained-glass windows and a 16th-century astronomical clock. A top Lyon attraction, Cathédrale St-Jean is a must-see for Old Town visitors.
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Lyon Les Halles Market (Les Halles Paul Bocuse)
19 Tours and Activities
The covered markets of the Les Halles de Lyon have been open since 1970. The full name of the markets includes the name Paul Bocuse, a legendary figure on both the French and international cooking scene. Many of the shops located here are star-rated by the Michelin guide, and more than 95% of the shops are run by business owners who really know their products. These are local businesses, which draws in loyal customers.
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15 Tours and Activities
Centered around the 254-meter hill of the same name, the Croix-Rousse district was the heart of Lyon’s 18th-century silk industry, with the influx of workers earning it the nickname ‘the hill that works’, while neighboring Fourvière was dubbed ‘the hill that prays’. The historic district makes a fascinating addition to a walking tour, with its unique traboules - narrow, tunnel-like passageways that served as the setting to the 19th-century silk-workers revolt - snaking between the historic workshops and running down to the riverside. Today, some of the traboules have been restored, most notably the Passage Thiaffait, which is now home to the ‘Village of Creators’ and lined with artist’s galleries, crafts workshops and fashion boutiques.
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Ancient Theatre of Fourvière (Théâtre Antique de Lyon)
13 Tours and Activities

The oldest Roman theater in France, Lyon’s Ancient Theatre of Fourvière was built under the orders of Augustus and expanded in Hadrian’s time. Completed in 17 B.C. with space for 10,000 people, today the Grand Theatre is part of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lyon.

Restored in the 20th century, the ancient theater is now used to stage popular cultural events such as the summertime Nuits de Fourvière festival, where dance, opera and circus performers play alongside international music acts like Franz Ferdinand.

Situated on Fourvière Hill near the Notre Dame Basilica, from the theater you can also see the grand remains of the Odeon of Lyon, with its beautiful inlaid floor of marble and porphyry. Forming a pair with the main theater, the Odeon was built early in the second century with space for 3,000 people. Behind the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, you can also visit the remains of an ancient Roman temple, dedicated in 160 A.D. to goddess Cybele.

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Lyon Opera House (Opéra National de Lyon)
11 Tours and Activities
Lyon Opera House (Opéra National de Lyon) is an arts hub and architectural gem noted for its combination of a modern shell and 18th-century facade. To fully experience it, attend a performance—from musical theater to dance. But whether it's to marvel at the building, or see a show, a visit to the opera should be on your Lyon itinerary.
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Tête d'Or Park (Parc de la Tête d'Or)
5 Tours and Activities

The 289-acre Parc de la Tete d'Or was designed by landscape architect Denis Bühler and opened in 1856. It is also home to one of France's leading botanical gardens, with more than 20,000 plant varieties. There is an international rose garden that is popular in the spring when the flowers are in bloom. Another popular attraction is the African plain, which is a zoological area of more than 7 acres where zebras, giraffes, antelopes, lions, and other rare species roam free.

The lake is a great place to participate in water activities such as boating and swimming. Children can enjoy mini boat rides in a pool dubbed the Little Lake. There are also pony rides, two tourist trains, quads with pedals, swings, go karts, and a carousel to make the day more fun for younger visitors. Bring your own picnic or stop at the park's shop for sweets, snacks and souvenirs.

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More Things to Do in Lyon

Célestins Theatre (Théâtre des Célestins)

Célestins Theatre (Théâtre des Célestins)

3 Tours and Activities
Lyon’s Célestins Theatre (Théâtre des Célestins) is as famous for its design as it is for its theater program, which showcases contemporary and classical pieces and even cabaret. The most established theater in the city, Célestins was designed by French architect Gaspard André and unveiled in 1881 in the neoclassical style inspired by Ancient Greece. André also designed other famous Lyon buildings, including Place des Jacobins and the Grand Temple de Lyon.
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Hameau Duboeuf

Hameau Duboeuf

1 Tour and Activity
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