Planning a solo trip to Lyon? Here’s everything you need to know for your visit:
- Third largest city in France, with a population of around 1.7 million (metro area).
- 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
- 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
- Best Lyon hostel for solo travelers: SLO Living Hostel. Just 1km from Place Bellecour, this is a centrally-located hostel with clean rooms, comfortable beds, and friendly staff. Great hangout area for meeting other travelers. Plenty of storage for guests. Great breakfast available (cheap). Book ahead!
- 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.
- TCL runs all public transport in the city, from buses, trams, and subway to the funiculars. A single ticket costs €1.90, and allows for unlimited travel across all platforms for 1 hour from validation (verified by inspection). Bundles of 10 rides can be purchased for €18. The 72-hour pass is especially popular with visitors (only €16.50). See the TCL website for more information.
- 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.
- Instead of taxis, try using Uber for faster pick up and lower rates.
- 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.
- 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.
- Great bars in Lyon to stop for a drink: Les Fleurs du Malt le Bar and Les BerThoM.
- Want to go clubbing? For the young crowd (EDM): Le Petit Salon. Live music? Transbordeur.
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.
- Lyon photography tips! Here are some great spots to take sweeping panoramic pictures of the city:
– The classic shot from Basilique de Fourvière
– Continuing from Fourvière, follow the Chemin du Viaduc to the cemetery (Cimetière de Loyasse). Great views here.
– Go to the Jardins des Chartreux for a great view of Fourvière
– View from the top of Jardin de la Grand Côte
– View from beside the Gros Caillou
- 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 neighborhood 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.
- Tired and need to rest your legs? Why not stop for a tea or coffee at the nearest La Route des Arômes (very popular with locals).
- 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 honor 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 specializing in Lyonnaise cuisine.
- Great restaurants in Lyon that locals love: Daniel et Denise ($$ – three locations), Brasserie Georges ($$), Le Café Des Fédérations ($$), Le Saint-Vincent ($$ – nice terrace), Le Bœuf d’Argent ($$$), Le ch’ti Pot Ney ($$), Bistrot de la Botte ($$ – Italian with great wine selection).
- Where to find good cheap food: take this chance to savour the local cuisine that put the city on the map (Lyon is known as the “gastronomy capital” of France, after all! 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 trip duration: 2-3 days