Your Ultimate Lyon Travel Guide 2023
Lyon, the capital of the Rhône-Alpes region in eastern France, is an amazing destination for budget travelers. From its vibrant historic city center to its colorful markets and stunning parks, Lyon has something to offer everyone – without breaking the bank. In this travel guide, we’ll provide tips and tricks on how to travel around Lyon on a budget, so you can experience all the best that this city has to offer without overspending. You may also want to check out our Nantes travel guide!
Top 5 Things To See And Do In Lyon
- Vieux Lyon: This is the city’s oldest district and one of the best-preserved Renaissance neighborhoods in Europe. Stroll through the cobbled streets and alleyways, admire the stunning architecture and historical buildings, and explore the quaint shops and boutiques.
- Fourvière Hill: This hilltop district offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city, as well as several iconic landmarks such as the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, the Roman Theatre, and the Gallo-Roman Museum.
- Parc De La Tête d’Or: This massive park is a popular destination for both locals and tourists alike. It offers a variety of attractions, including a zoo, a botanical garden, a lake with boat rentals, and numerous walking and cycling trails.
- Musée Des Confluences: This impressive museum showcases the history of science, technology, and anthropology. It features an extensive collection of artifacts, interactive exhibits, and immersive displays.
- Les Halles De Lyon Paul Bocuse: This famous indoor food market is a paradise for foodies. It boasts an incredible selection of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, and other culinary delights. It’s a great place to sample local specialties and to soak up the bustling atmosphere.
Where To Stay In Lyon
- Vieux Lyon: The Old Town of Lyon is one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods. With its narrow cobblestone streets, Renaissance-era buildings, and colorful facades, Vieux Lyon is perfect for those seeking a historic atmosphere. You’ll find plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars here, and the famous Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière is just a short climb up the hill.
- Presqu’île: The Presqu’île is Lyon’s city center and commercial district. Here, you’ll find grand Haussmannian buildings, department stores, and luxury boutiques. The area is lively both day and night, with many bars, clubs, and theaters. If you’re interested in shopping and nightlife, Presqu’île is the place to be.
- Croix-Rousse: This hilltop neighborhood is known for its bohemian atmosphere and artisanal heritage. Croix-Rousse was once the center of Lyon’s silk industry, and you can still find many silk workshops and boutiques here. The neighborhood also has a vibrant arts scene, with galleries, theaters, and street art. Croix-Rousse is a good choice if you’re looking for a more alternative, creative vibe.
- Part-Dieu: If you’re arriving in Lyon by train, you’ll probably end up in Part-Dieu. This neighborhood is home to Lyon’s main train station, as well as the Part-Dieu shopping mall and business district. The area has a more modern feel than some of Lyon’s other neighborhoods, but it’s still a good base for exploring the city.
- La Guillotière: South of the Presqu’île, La Guillotière is Lyon’s most multicultural neighborhood. Here, you’ll find a mix of African, Middle Eastern, and Asian communities, as well as a vibrant student population. The area has a lively street market, as well as plenty of affordable restaurants and bars. La Guillotière is a great option if you’re looking for a diverse, lively atmosphere.
Top Lyon Hotels
- Fourvière Hotel: Located on the hill of Fourvière, this luxurious hotel boasts breathtaking views of the city and the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. The rooms are spacious and stylishly decorated, and the hotel offers a spa, an outdoor pool, and a restaurant serving gourmet cuisine.
- Cour Des Loges: Housed in a 14th-century building in the heart of Old Lyon, this boutique hotel offers elegant and individually decorated rooms. The hotel also has a spa, a fitness center, and a Michelin-starred restaurant.
- Villa Maïa: This contemporary hotel is located in the upscale neighborhood of Saint-Just, overlooking the city. The rooms are bright and modern, and the hotel features a spa, an indoor pool, and a restaurant with panoramic views.
- Sofitel Lyon Bellecour: Situated on the banks of the Rhône river, this upscale hotel offers luxurious rooms with river views. The hotel also features a fitness center, a restaurant serving French cuisine, and a rooftop bar.
- Hotel Carlton Lyon – MGallery: This grand hotel is housed in a 19th-century building in the city center, close to Place Bellecour. The rooms are elegant and spacious, and the hotel features a fitness center, a restaurant, and a bar.
Where To Eat In Lyon
Lyon is the culinary capital of France, boasting some of the most exquisite gastronomic experiences in the world. Whether you are looking for a cozy bistro, a chic restaurant, or a lively brasserie, Lyon has something for every taste and budget. Here are the top 5 places to eat in Lyon:
- Paul Bocuse Brasserie: This iconic restaurant is named after the legendary French chef, Paul Bocuse, and is located in the heart of Lyon. The brasserie serves classic French dishes, such as steak frites, escargots, and pâté en croûte, in a charming Art Deco setting.
- Chez Hugon: This authentic bouchon is one of the oldest restaurants in Lyon, dating back to the 17th century. The menu features traditional Lyonnais cuisine, such as sausage in brioche, duck confit, and gratin dauphinois, all served in a rustic atmosphere.
- Les Halles De Lyon: This indoor market is a foodie’s paradise, with over 60 stalls selling local and international delicacies, such as cheese, charcuterie, seafood, and pastries. You can sample various specialties and stock up on souvenirs to take home.
4. Le Comptoir De l’Est: This trendy eatery offers a fusion of French and Asian cuisine, with dishes such as crab wonton soup, bao burgers, and kimchi risotto. The ambiance is chic and modern, with an open kitchen and a stylish bar.
- La Belle Histoire: This cozy restaurant is located in the historic Croix-Rousse district and serves homemade, seasonal dishes made from local ingredients. The menu changes regularly, but you can expect dishes like stuffed quail, roasted pumpkin, and raspberry tart. The decor is rustic and charming, with exposed stone walls and wooden beams.
These are just a few of the many amazing dining options in Lyon, so be sure to explore and discover your own favorites. Bon appétit!
How To Get Around Lyon
Lyon has an extensive public transportation system that makes it easy to explore the city. Here are some of the best ways to get around Lyon:
- Metro: Lyon’s metro system is the quickest and easiest way to get around the city. It has four lines that cover most of Lyon’s attractions. The trains run from 5 am to midnight on weekdays, and until 1 am on weekends.
- Bus: Lyon also has a comprehensive bus system, which covers areas that the metro doesn’t reach. The buses run from 5 am to midnight on weekdays, and until 1 am on weekends.
- Tram: Lyon’s tram system is another convenient way to get around. It has five lines that cover different parts of the city. The trams run from 4:30 am to midnight on weekdays, and until 1 am on weekends.
- Bike: Lyon has a bike-sharing program called Velo’v. There are over 5,000 bikes available to rent throughout the city. It’s an excellent way to explore the city and get some exercise at the same time.
- Walk: Lyon is a beautiful city to walk around. Many of the city’s top attractions are within walking distance of each other. Walking is also a great way to get a feel for the city’s neighborhoods.
- Taxi: Taxis are available throughout Lyon, but they can be expensive. It’s best to use them only when necessary.
- Car Rental: If you want to explore the surrounding areas, renting a car may be a good option. There are many car rental companies available in Lyon.
Overall, Lyon has an excellent public transportation system that makes it easy to get around the city. The metro, bus, and tram are affordable and convenient options, and walking and biking are great ways to explore the city at a slower pace.
Lyon has a temperate climate with warm summers and cool winters. The city receives rainfall throughout the year, with the wettest months being May and June. Here’s what to expect in terms of weather during each season:
- Spring (March – May): Spring in Lyon is mild with average temperatures ranging from 6°C to 18°C. It’s the rainiest season in the city, with the most precipitation occurring in April and May. However, the city’s parks and gardens bloom with colorful flowers during this time, making it a lovely time to visit.
- Summer (June – August): Summer in Lyon is hot and sunny, with average temperatures ranging from 15°C to 28°C. This is the peak tourist season, so expect crowds and higher prices. The warm weather makes it a great time to explore the city’s outdoor attractions, such as the Parc de la Tête d’Or and Fourvière Hill.
- Fall (September – November): Fall in Lyon is mild with average temperatures ranging from 8°C to 20°C. The city experiences less rainfall during this season, making it a popular time to visit. The autumn foliage in the city’s parks and along the river Saône is breathtaking.
- Winter (December – February): Winter in Lyon is cold with average temperatures ranging from 0°C to 8°C. Snowfall is rare, but it can be foggy and rainy during this time. The city’s Christmas market and light festival in December make it a popular time to visit.
Overall, Lyon is a great destination year-round with each season offering its own unique charm. Make sure to pack accordingly and check the weather forecast before your trip.
Best Time To Visit Lyon
The best time to visit Lyon largely depends on your preferences. If you’re looking for pleasant weather and less crowds, the shoulder seasons of spring and fall are ideal. From March to May, you’ll get to enjoy blooming flowers and moderate temperatures, while September to November will offer cooler temperatures and autumn foliage.
Summer, from June to August, is when Lyon is busiest and more expensive. However, it’s also the time for the famous Nuits de Fourvière, an open-air cultural festival with music, dance, and theater performances. Winter, from December to February, can be chilly but the festive lights and markets make it a great time to visit Lyon. Just make sure to bring warm clothing and check for possible snow closures.
Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide when you want to visit Lyon. Consider the weather, festivals, and events that interest you. No matter the season, Lyon has plenty to offer visitors year-round.
How To Stay Safe In Lyon
As with any travel destination, it’s important to stay safe in Lyon. Fortunately, the city is generally quite safe and doesn’t pose any significant risks to tourists. However, it’s still wise to take some precautions to avoid any problems during your visit. Here are a few tips to help you stay safe while traveling in Lyon:
- Be Aware Of Your Surroundings: As in any city, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings at all times. Pay attention to your surroundings, especially when walking alone or in areas that are not well-lit.
- Use Common Sense: Don’t wander around unfamiliar areas after dark or alone. Avoid displaying large amounts of cash or valuables in public places.
- Take Care When Using Public Transport: While public transport in Lyon is generally safe and efficient, it’s still important to take precautions. Keep an eye on your belongings and be wary of pickpockets in crowded areas.
- Stay Away From Demonstrations: While protests in Lyon are usually peaceful, it’s still best to stay away from demonstrations. If you do find yourself near one, stay calm and move away from the area as quickly and quietly as possible.
- Know The Emergency Numbers: It’s important to know the emergency numbers for Lyon in case of an emergency. The emergency number in France is 112, and the police can be reached by dialing 17.
By following these tips and staying alert and aware during your travels in Lyon, you can ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.
Lyon Customs and Etiquette
As with any foreign city, it’s important to be aware of the local customs and etiquette when traveling to Lyon. Here are some tips to help you navigate the cultural norms of the city:
- Greetings: When greeting someone in Lyon, it’s common to give two kisses on the cheeks, starting with the left. This is a common greeting not just between friends, but also in professional settings.
- Dining: When dining out in Lyon, it’s considered polite to wait until everyone at the table has been served before beginning to eat. Additionally, it’s important to keep your hands visible on the table during the meal, and to always say “please” and “thank you” to your server.
- Dress: Lyon is a stylish city, so it’s important to dress appropriately when out and about. Avoid wearing athletic gear or overly casual clothing, and opt for more stylish pieces.
- Language: French is the official language of Lyon, so it’s a good idea to brush up on your language skills before traveling. While many people in Lyon do speak English, it’s always appreciated when travelers attempt to speak French.
- Tipping: In Lyon, tipping is not as common as it is in other parts of the world. However, if you receive exceptional service, it’s considered polite to leave a small tip of a few euros.
By following these customs and etiquette tips, you’ll be sure to have a more enjoyable and culturally sensitive experience in Lyon.
Other Things To Know About Lyon
If you’re planning a trip to Lyon, it’s always a good idea to know a few things about the city before you arrive. Here are some useful facts and information about Lyon:
- Country: Lyon is located south of Paris in France, which is a member of the European Union.
- Currency: The official currency of France is the Euro. It’s a good idea to have some cash on hand when you arrive in Lyon, as some smaller shops and restaurants may not accept credit cards.
- Language: The official language of Lyon is French. While many locals speak English and other languages, it’s always helpful to know a few key phrases in French before you arrive.
- Time Zone: Lyon is in the Central European Time Zone, which is one hour ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+1).
Overall, Lyon is a charming and picturesque city that’s well worth a visit. By knowing a few key facts and tips about the city, you can make the most of your trip and have an unforgettable experience.
Lyon Travel Costs
As with any destination, travel costs can add up quickly. However, Lyon is known for being a relatively affordable city, so you don’t have to break the bank to explore all it has to offer.
- Accommodation: Lyon offers a variety of accommodation options at varying price points. Hostels can cost as little as €20 per night, while mid-range hotels typically range from €60-€120 per night. If you’re looking for something more luxurious, expect to pay around €200 or more per night.
- Food And Drink: Lyon is famous for its food, so it’s easy to overspend on meals. However, you can still indulge in the local cuisine without breaking the bank. Look for bouchons, which are traditional Lyonnaise restaurants serving hearty dishes at reasonable prices. For example, a meal at a bouchon can cost as little as €20-€30. Street food is also a great budget-friendly option, and Lyon has plenty of outdoor markets and food trucks. A pint of beer or glass of wine typically costs around €5-€7.
- Transportation: Public transportation in Lyon is affordable and reliable. A single trip on the metro, bus, or tram costs €1.90, or you can purchase a 10-pack of tickets for €16.90. If you plan on using public transportation frequently, consider purchasing a Lyon City Card, which includes unlimited public transportation as well as free or discounted admission to many museums and attractions.
- Activities: Many of Lyon’s top attractions, such as the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the Roman Amphitheatre, are free to enter. Other attractions, such as the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Lumière Institute, charge a small admission fee. Plan to budget around €10-€15 per attraction.
Overall, a budget-friendly trip to Lyon is definitely possible with some careful planning and research. Set a daily budget for food, transportation, and attractions, and consider visiting during the off-season for even more savings.
Finding Affordable Flights To Lyon
Lyon is a great destination for budget-conscious travelers, but finding affordable flights can sometimes be a challenge. Here are some tips to help you find the best deals on flights to Lyon:
- Use Flight Search Engines: One of the easiest ways to find affordable flights is to use flight search engines like Kayak, Skyscanner, or Google Flights. These websites compare prices from multiple airlines and travel agencies, allowing you to find the cheapest flights available.
- Be Flexible With Your Travel Dates: Being flexible with your travel dates can help you save money on flights to Lyon. If possible, try to avoid traveling during peak tourist seasons, as prices tend to be higher during these times.
- Book Your Flight In Advance: Booking your flight to Lyon well in advance can also help you save money. Aim to book your flight at least three months before your travel date, as prices tend to increase the closer you get to your departure date.
- Fly Midweek: Flying midweek, particularly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, can also help you find cheaper flights. Avoiding weekend flights, which tend to be more expensive due to higher demand, can help you save money on your trip to Lyon.
- Look For Budget Airlines: Many budget airlines, such as Ryanair and EasyJet, offer affordable flights to Lyon from major European cities. Keep an eye out for sales and discounts, and don’t forget to factor in additional fees for baggage and seat selection when comparing prices.
By using these tips, you can find affordable flights to Lyon and save money on your overall travel expenses. Happy travels!
Backpacking Lyon Suggested Budgets
Lyon is a wonderful destination for backpackers who want to experience the beauty of France on a budget. Here are some suggested budgets for backpacking Lyon.
Low Budget (less than €50 per day):
If you are looking to save money on your trip to Lyon, there are a few things you can do. First, opt for budget accommodation like hostels or budget hotels. You can also save money by eating street food or cooking your meals in a hostel kitchen. Visit free attractions such as the Notre-Dame de Fourvière and explore the beautiful parks and gardens of the city. Lyon has an excellent public transport system, so make use of buses and trams instead of taxis.
Mid-Range Budget (€50-100 per day):
If you have a bit more money to spend, you can enjoy a more comfortable stay in Lyon. You can choose a comfortable mid-range hotel or rent a private room in a hostel. Enjoy meals at mid-range restaurants or splurge on a few Michelin-starred dining experiences. You can also enjoy paid attractions like the Musée des Beaux-Arts and the Musée Miniature et Cinéma. Take a guided tour of the city to learn more about its rich history and culture.
Luxury Budget (over €100 per day):
For those who want to enjoy the finer things in life, Lyon offers many luxurious experiences. Stay at a luxurious hotel or rent a private apartment. Dine at Michelin-starred restaurants and indulge in spa treatments at the city’s top hotels. Enjoy private tours of the city or take a hot air balloon ride over the beautiful Rhône-Alpes region.
Remember, your budget depends on your travel style and preferences. Whatever your budget, there are always ways to save money in Lyon without compromising on the quality of your experience.
Lyon Money Saving Tips
Visiting Lyon can be an expensive affair, especially during peak tourist season. However, with some smart planning and savvy money-saving tips, you can enjoy your trip to Lyon without breaking the bank. Here are some Lyon money saving tips that can help you save some cash on your next trip:
- Utilize Public Transportation: The public transportation system in Lyon is affordable and convenient. Purchase a Lyon City Card for unlimited access to public transportation and discounted admission to museums and attractions.
- Eat Like A Local: Dine at local brasseries and bouchons (traditional Lyon restaurants) for authentic and affordable meals. Avoid tourist traps in the city center where prices are inflated.
- Visit Free Attractions: There are many free attractions in Lyon such as the Fourvière Basilica, Parc de la Tête d’Or, and the Museum of Fine Arts. Take advantage of these to save on admission costs.
- Walk Or Bike: Lyon is a walkable and bike-friendly city. Explore on foot or rent a bike for a more affordable way to see the city.
- Plan Ahead For Discounts: Check for discounts and promotions before your trip. Many attractions offer discounted admission for students, seniors, and groups.
- Avoid Peak Season: Prices for accommodations and flights can skyrocket during peak season. Consider visiting during shoulder season for cheaper prices.
- Use Budget Accommodation: Hostels and budget hotels are plentiful in Lyon. Stay in these types of accommodations to save on lodging costs.
- Drink Tap Water: Tap water in Lyon is safe to drink, so avoid purchasing bottled water to save on costs.
By following these Lyon money-saving tips, you can enjoy a budget-friendly trip to this beautiful city without breaking the bank.
What To Pack For Lyon
When packing your luggage for Lyon, it’s important to consider the season and activities you have planned. Here are some essential items to pack:
- Comfortable Walking Shoes: Lyon is a walkable city, so comfortable shoes are a must-have. You’ll be exploring cobblestone streets and hilly terrain, so make sure your shoes have good traction and support.
- Layers: Lyon’s weather can be unpredictable, so pack layers that you can easily add or remove depending on the temperature. A light jacket or sweater is also a good idea, especially if you plan to visit during the cooler months.
- Umbrella: Lyon is known for its frequent rain showers, so pack a compact umbrella that you can easily carry with you.
- Adapter: If you’re coming from outside Europe, you’ll need an adapter to charge your electronics. France uses Type C and Type E plugs, so make sure to bring the appropriate adapter.
- Camera: Lyon is a beautiful city with plenty of photo opportunities. Don’t forget to bring your camera or smartphone to capture the memories.
- Daypack: A small daypack will come in handy for carrying essentials like water, snacks, and a map while you explore the city.
- Toiletries: Pack your toiletries and medications, including sunscreen, insect repellent, and any necessary prescription medications.
- Clothes For The Season: Depending on when you visit, pack appropriate clothing for the season. Summer can be hot, while winter can be cold and wet.
By packing these essentials, you’ll be prepared for your Lyon adventure without breaking the bank on unnecessary purchases. Happy travels!
Can You Drink Tap Water In Lyon?
One of the most common questions asked by travelers visiting Lyon is whether it is safe to drink tap water. The answer is a resounding yes! Tap water in Lyon is safe and of high quality. The water is regularly tested and meets the standards set by the European Union. Drinking tap water in Lyon is not only safe but also a cost-effective way to stay hydrated while on a budget. Most restaurants and cafes will serve tap water for free, and many public fountains provide fresh drinking water throughout the city.
If you’re still unsure about drinking tap water in Lyon, you can always opt to purchase bottled water. Bottled water is widely available and affordable in Lyon, and you can find it in grocery stores and convenience stores. In summary, tap water in Lyon is safe to drink and a great way to save money while traveling. Don’t be afraid to fill up your reusable water bottle and stay hydrated as you explore this beautiful city.
Other Things To See And Do In Lyon
Aside from the main attractions, there are plenty of other things to see and do in Lyon. Here are some ideas for your Lyon itinerary:
- Explore The Traboules: Lyon is known for its hidden passageways called traboules. These covered passageways were originally used by silk workers to transport their goods without getting wet in the rain. Nowadays, many of them are open to the public and make for a unique way to explore the city.
- Visit The Murals Of Lyon: Lyon is home to some stunning street art and murals. Check out the CitéCréation murals in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood or the Mur des Canuts in the same area.
- Take A Cooking Class: Lyon is known for its gastronomy and taking a cooking class is a great way to learn about the local cuisine. Learn to make classic dishes like quenelles and tarte tatin.
- Explore The Parks: Lyon has plenty of green spaces to explore, including Parc de la Tête d’Or, which is one of the largest urban parks in France. It features a zoo, botanical garden, and lake.
- Visit A Market: Lyon has several markets, including Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, which is a famous covered market selling everything from fresh produce to cheese.
- Take A Day Trip: Lyon is well connected by train and makes a great base for exploring the surrounding area. Consider taking a day trip to Beaujolais wine country or the medieval town of Pérouges.
With so much to see and do in Lyon, you won’t be bored during your stay. Plan your trip ahead of time and make the most of your visit.
The Bottom Line
Lyon may not be the cheapest city to visit in France, but it is definitely worth the trip. With a variety of attractions, delicious cuisine, and beautiful architecture, Lyon is a destination that should be on every traveler’s list. By following these tips and tricks for affordable travel, you can experience all that Lyon has to offer without breaking the bank. From budget-friendly accommodations to local street food, there are plenty of ways to save money while exploring this vibrant city. Remember to plan ahead, budget wisely, and immerse yourself in Lyon’s unique culture. By doing so, you can make your trip to Lyon an unforgettable experience.