Lyon Place Bellecour
Place Bellecour, Lyon (Photo credit: Magnaduf)

Lyon Travel Guide

QUICK FACTS

  • Third largest city in France, with a population of around 720,000.
  • Renowned for gastronomy and silk, Lyon is also where the Lumiere brothers developed the photographic equipment that gave birth to the first projector cinema.
  • Nickname: Capital of Gaul

PRACTICAL INFORMATION

  • Currency: Euro (EUR).
  • Spoken languages: French.
  • Best time to visit: from April to September (summer season, with a humid subtropical climate). Expect average temperatures of 25 C (77 F).
  • Arriving via airport: Saint-Exupéry Airport (LYS) connects to the city centre with Rhônexpress for €13 one-way. Taxis charge €40-50.

WHERE TO STAY

Young and fashionable La Croix-Rousse used to be home to silk weavers, and is the now the ideal base for interesting squares, winding streets, and bistros. Bellecour is  the city’s elegant quarter, with high-end restaurants and retail businesses, while Perrache is the new business and commercial district.

GETTING AROUND

  • TLC runs all public transport in the city, from buses, trams, and subway to the funiculars. A single ticket costs €1.70, and allows for unlimited travel across all platforms for 1 hour from validation (verified by inspection). Bundles of 10 rides can be purchased for €14.70. An alternative is the Liberté 1 jour ticket, which provides unlimited travel on the TLC network for the whole day, priced at €5.
  • Taxis are quite expensive in Lyon, with a minimum fare of €6.60 or a standard €2 for rental plus €1.48/km if returning to the rank empty or €0.74 if with passenger. Supplements for baggage, animals and bulky equipment range from an extra €1-€1.54 per ride. Call 0687 974 790 for pick up.
  • Vélo’v operates a public bicycle service, with more than 340 stations for easy pick-up and drop-off. The bikes are available 24/7, every day of the year and can be used on a subscription method. First 30 minutes are free, while a day ticket costs €1.50.

LYON NIGHTLIFE

  • Drinking age is 18, and last call is in the early hours of the morning after.
  • Hip/local scene: Presqu’île is excellent for dining and clubbing together with the locals,
  • University scene: the Vieux Lyon area is popular among Erasmus exchange students, who head to the pubs for cheap draft beer and the English speaking crowd.
  • The best area for casual bars and wine lounges is found along the Rhône, aboard riverboats serving as nightclubs.

UNIQUE LANDMARKS TO VISIT

  • Lyon is as beautiful during the day as it is at night, with lights illuminating the cobbled streets and the famous monuments across town. Vieux Lyon is the heart of the Renaissance area, and affords a tour of historic buildings and artisan workshops.
  • Traboules are passages and served as tunnels in the resistance against German invasion during World War II. 
  • Lyon Cathedral in St. Jean is a World Heritage Site that serves as the seat of the Lyon Archbishop. Stop to admire the 14th century clock and the stained glass windows.
  • Take the funicular up to Fourvière Hill, the seat of the ancient Roman settlement and home to the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière. The views across Lyon are unrivaled from this vantage point.
  • Parc de la Tête d’Or is the perfect way to spend an afternoon amid botanic gardens in view of a lake, and to visit the wild animals housed in the zoo.
  • Monet, Matisse and Picasso works are all on exhibit at the Musée des Beaux-Arts. The museum rises over a former Benedictine convent, and is the pride of the city for its collection of fine arts.

INTERESTING WALKS

  • Follow the footpath along the banks of the Saône until Île Barbe, the island once home to a 5th century monastery, for a welcome respite from the crowds.
  • Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse hosts an open-air market for farmers to sell their homegrown, organic produce; in the winter this becomes a dazzling array of Christmas bazaar stalls. The neighbourhood is known as the “hill that works” due to the Italian immigrants who flocked to the area and breathed life into the silk industry.
  • Place Bellecour is a popular square hosting a year-round ferris wheel and an ice rink in the winter. From here, head to Rue de la Republique and stop to relax at a café.

LOCAL WISDOM

  • Try to learn a few basic phrases in French before arriving. While the locals are becoming increasingly used to foreign tourists, they appreciate those who make an effort.
  • The Lyon City Card serves as a day pass to 18 participating museums, a river cruise along the Saône, tours of silk workshops and unlimited access to public transportation. The 24 hour pass retails at €21, €31 for 48 hours and €41 for 72 hours. It can be ordered online prior to arrival.
  • On the 8th of December of each year, Lyon celebrates the Fête des lumières (Festival of Lights), an event witnessed by over 4 million tourists and whose tradition began in honour of the Immaculate Conception.
  • Lyon’s reputation for gastronomic heights is well justified: there are over 1,800 places to eat out around the city. from Michelin-starred restaurants to traditional bouchons specialising in Lyonnaise cuisine.
  • Where to find good cheap food: take this chance to savour the local cuisine that put the city on the map. Traditional ingredients used in cooking include tripe, black pudding, offal sausage, and pig’s brain, to name a few. Head to Rue des Marronniers for cheap but satisfying menus. Finish the meal with tarte aux praline, another local legend.
  • Dangerous areas: avoid Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) and the suburbs at night.

RECOMMENDED LYON GUIDE BOOKS

Recommended trip duration: 2-3 days


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Lyon Travel Guide was last modified: September 25th, 2016 by Nick
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