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Visit Lyon in 2 Days
Lyon is the capital of the region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes and one of the most beautiful French cities to visit. Set between the rivers Saône and Rhône, the Gauls’ ancient capital and later the capital of silk and printing works, has become in the last years one of the most attractive European cities from a cultural and gastronomic point of view.
Lyon is history but also the city of painted walls, bouchons, and pretty cafés. Over the last few years, the city has re-conquered its river banks, now car-free, and a stroll along the Saône or the Rhône followed by a visit to Parc de la Tête d’Or is one of the musts of any Lyon itinerary.
Overall, Lyon is a great city for a cultural weekend and also for a gastronomic weekend. We recommend spending at least 2 days in Lyon, a reasonable amount of time to cover most of the best things to do in Lyon, and for a couple of leisure strolls. With more time, there are many interesting day trips from Lyon of all kinds (more on this at the end of the post).
What to do in Lyon for 2 days? Here’s the ultimate Lyon itinerary for a perfect weekend in Lyon.
HOW MANY DAYS IN LYON? Two days in Lyon are enough to visit the city’s main sights. However, Lyon is an excellent base camp to explore other places around on day trips, with accommodation options to suit all budgets.
Weekend in Lyon: Where to Stay?
Wondering where to stay in Lyon? For your 2 days in Lyon, we recommend staying central, close to the proposed sights.
Villa Florentine is a former convent located in the heart of Old Lyon. This unique hotel offers elegant guest rooms and fabulous panoramic views of the city. Don’t miss the rooftop pool!
Hotel Le Lumière is an excellent hotel for people traveling on a budget. It is located near the metro station Sans Souci, which offers direct connections to the historical center of Lyon. The rooms are simply decorated, and they all come with a private bathroom and WI-Fi access.
MiHotel Sala is a beautiful hotel with an excellent location near Place Bellecour. The rooms are beautifully decorated, very clean, and comfortable.
Intercontinental Lyon Hôtel Dieu this first-class hotel is set in the former (and historic building) Hôtel Dieu, and it has a restaurant, fitness center, bar, and garden. The rooms are large, and beautifully decorated, with comfortable beds, and the river’s views are amazing.
What to Do in Lyon for 2 Days – A Detailed Lyon Itinerary
For this Lyon 2-day itinerary, we recommend arriving on Friday night, so you have two full days to visit Lyon.
TIP: the Lyon City Pass is valid for 1-4 days and includes access to the city’s main museums, public transportation tickets, a cruise along the Saone River, and many discounts on shopping and theaters.
Two Days in Lyon: Day One
1. Learn about Lugdunum
This Lyon itinerary starts traveling back in time, at the Lugdunum – Musée et Théatres Romains. This superb underground museum describes life in Lugdunum, one of Gaul’s most important Roman cities during the first centuries AD. If you are very interested in history, you can visit the area with this audio-guided walking tour at your own pace
To complete the visit, admire the spectacular remains of the Roman Grand Theater and Odéon, next to the museum, both listed as UNESCO World Heritage.
2. Walk up to Basilique de Fourvière
From the Lugdunumum, walk rue Roger Radisson up to the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière for one of Lyon’s top sights and one of the city’s best views.
Built on the top of the hill with the same name, Notre Dame de Fourvière has watched over the Lyonnais since the second half of the 20th century. Because many religious communities settled around the basilica, the Fourvière Hill is nicknamed ‘the Praying Hill.’
Like the Sacré Coeur in Montmartre, Notre Dame de Fourvière was built with private funds, and it is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. According to locals, She pushed away a Cholera epidemic in 1832 and prevented the Prussian invasion in 1870 during the Franco-Prussian War.
Designed by Pierre Bossan, Fourvière Basilica draws from both Romanesque and Byzantine architecture, two non-Gothic models that were unusual choices at the time.
After a quick tour around the basilica, you will realize that not everything was sculpted or decorated due to a lack of funds. But it is an interesting building to explore, with its underground passages, tribunes, secret spaces, and crypt.
Finally, admire the view from the basilica’s esplanade. When the weather is good, you can see Mont Blanc in the French Alps!
4. Visit Saint-Jean Cathedral
This Lyon France itinerary heads now to Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon). From Fourvière, you can take the funicular to Vieux Lyon-Cathédrale Saint-Jean station or walk down through Parc des Hauteurs. This 2,5 Ha garden with 1,400m of paths, between Fourvière and Saint-Jean, has a design based on the abandoned private gardens that originally occupied this place.
Saint-Jean Cathedral is Lyon’s beating heart. The cathedral’s construction took three centuries to finish, from 1175 to 1490, and the building is a beautiful blend of Romanesque and Gothic styles.
Visit the cathedral inside and admire its 16th-century astronomical clock and the beautiful stained-glass windows from the beginning of the 12th century.
5. Get Lost in Vieux Lyon
This Lyon itinerary continues with a stroll around Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) along the Saône River’s right bank. This area is home to the largest Renaissance area in Europe after Venice, with pretty craft shops, restaurants, and bars.
Vieux Lyon is also home to superb mansions – most of them listed historical monuments –, old signs, and traboules. The traboules are Lyon’s unique private passages that allowed the connection of two streets through pretty courtyards. The most beautiful traboules are concentrated between the churches of Saint-Georges and Saint-Paul, which we also recommend visiting.
Another fun way to explore Vieux Lyon is through a food tour. Discover some of the secret passageways while sampling the foods of Vieux Lyon. This 4-hour food-tasting tour, for example, always has the best ratings.
2 Days in Lyon: Day Two
Day two of this Lyon in 2 days itinerary starts in Lyon’s Presqu’ile, between the rivers Saône and Rhône. If the weather is good, this is an excellent place for a stroll.
6. Place Bellecour
Place Bellecour is the third largest square in France (67,120 m2) and the city’s central point. Here, you will find the Km 0 of all the region’s routes.
In 1658 King Louis XIV obtained for the city the final possession of the square – in private hands until then – and ordered the erection of a statue representing him. The facades bordering the square were rebuilt between 1807 and 1813, and they are all listed as Historical Monuments. From here, you have a beautiful view of Fourvière Hill and the basilica.
Place Bellecour is one of the main sights hosting Lyon’s Light Festival, one of France’s best Christmas events! Because of this festival and more, we voted Lyon as one of the best places to visit in France in winter.
7. Place des Terreaux
From Place Bellecour, walk to the north to Place des Terreaux, another elegant square in Lyon. Here, you can see the Hôtel de Ville, the Opera, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts. In the north of this square, there’s a beautiful fountain by Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor who designed the Liberty Statue.
8. La Croix Rousse and its Colored Walls
La Croix Rousse was the neighborhood where the canuts (the silk workers) lived. Since the 19th century, this is ‘the Working Hill,’ in opposition to Fourvière’s ‘Praying Hill.’ Today, La Croix Rousse is a trendy-bohemian neighborhood and a great place for a stroll.
Thanks to La Croix Rousse’s 30,000 canuts or so, Lyon became a major hub for textiles in Europe. You can learn more about this trade so important for Lyon at the Maison des Canuts (10 Rue d’Ivry, Lyon), with three exhibition rooms and a workshop, or at Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs (34 Rue de la Charité, Lyon) located south of Place Bellecour.
Get lost in this interesting neighborhood, with many buildings specially built to house the weaving looms amid a maze of traboules and stairwells. Don’t miss the painted walls (street art is another Lyon specialty) like the Fresque des Canuts or the one at Cour des Voraces.
9. Afternoon at Parc de la Tête d’Or
A stroll around this park is one of the best things to do in Lyon. The Parc de la Tete d’Or is the largest urban park in France and a great place for an afternoon stroll. The park includes dozens of trails for walking, jogging, and bicycling, and there are also numerous attractions for all the family.
Spend 3 Days in Lyon (if you can…)
If you visit Lyon in 2 days you will get a good overview of the city and its main sights. Suppose you can make your weekend in Lyon longer, then visit Lyon in 3 days with a day trip to visit something else. There are lovely places around Lyon, easy to reach with your car or by train. Check out this list of the best day trips from Lyon with proposals for all kinds of travelers.
During your 3 days in Lyon, you can also consider a day trip to Annecy from Lyon and see and do some things proposed in this Annecy itinerary.
If you prefer to spend one more day in Lyon, that’s fine too! Unfortunately, there are many interesting museums in Lyon that we could not include in this list of what to see in Lyon in 2 days. Here’s the list of the best museums in Lyon:
- MAM – Musée des Arts de la Marionette (1 Place du Petit Collège, in Lyon 6)
- Musée des Tissus et des Arts Décoratifs (34 rue de la Charité, in Lyon 2), which was suggested as an option in our 2 days in Lyon itinerary
- Institut Lumière (rue du Premier Film, in Lyon 8)
- La Maison des Canuts (10 rue d’Ivry, in Lyon 4), which was suggested as an option in our Lyon 2-day itinerary
- Centre d’Histoire de la Résistance et de la Déportation (14 Avenue Berthelot, in Lyon 7)
- Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon (20 Place des Terraux, in Lyon 1).
Practical Information for your 2 Days in Lyon
How to Travel to Lyon
BY PLANE: Airport Lyon-Saint-Exupéry (LYS) is one of the main international airports in France, and it covers many international destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and America via regular or seasonal flights – Click here for flight schedules and prices. The Airport Lyon-Saint-Exupéry is located 25 km east of the city. To get to Lyon from the airport, book your transfer here.
BY TRAIN: Lyon’s main station is Lyon Part Dieu, and it is well connected to most of the main cities in France. Count on it taking 2 hours from Paris, 1hr 50 min from Marseille, 3hrs from Lille, and 4hrs from Strasbourg – Click here for schedules and prices.
Two Days in Lyon: Where to Eat?
In Lyon, they say that the city is watered by three rivers: Saône, Rhône, and Beaujolais! Therefore, you don’t need to walk much in Vieux Lyon to find a cool bar for a couple of glasses of Beaujolais wine.
You may want to try a bouchon, Lyon’s typical restaurant serving traditional cuisine in a popular atmosphere. You will find typical Lyon dishes like sausages, salade lyonnaise, quenelles, duck pâté, or roast pork on the menu. There are many bouchons Lyonnais north of Place Saint-Jean, along rue Saint-Jean; it will be hard to pick just one!
LES LYONNAIS BOUCHON: this is a good address in the heart of the Old Town (1, rue Tramassac, Lyon). Get a taste of Lyon’s culinary specialties in the typical atmosphere of bouchons.
VICTOIRE ET THOMAS: located in the Presqu’Ile (27, rue de l’Arbre Sec), this is a good restaurant offering good and inventive cuisine made only with local, seasonal produce.