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Visit Lyon, France
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 interesting European cities from a cultural and gastronomic point of view.
Lyon is history but also the city of painted walls, bouchons, and pretty cafes. Over the last 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 weekend in Lyon.
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 good amount of time for exploring some of Lyon’s main sights, 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? What to see in Lyon in 2 days? Here’s our proposed two days in Lyon itinerary for a perfect weekend in Lyon.
TIP: Save money and time with the Lyon City Card for 1, 2, or 3 days. Enjoy access to 23 museums, walking tours, activities, river cruises, and unlimited public transport access.
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Things to Do in Lyon in 2 Days – Map
GOOD TO KNOW: Like Paris, Lyon is divided into different Arrondissements or Districts. During these 2 days in Lyon, we will explore the most touristy Arrondissements.
2 Days in Lyon, Day 1
1. Learn about Lugdunumum
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 the most important Roman cities in Gaul, during the first centuries AD.
To complete the visit, admire the spectacular remains of the Roman Grand Theater and Odéon, next to the museum, both listed UNESCO World Heritage.
2. Walk up to Basilique de Fourvière
From the Lugdunumum walk rue Roger Radisson up to Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière for one of Lyon’s top sights and one of the best views of the city.
Built on the top of the hill with the same name, Notre Dame de Fourvière watches 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. 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 the crypt.
Admire the view from the basilica’s esplanade. When the weather is good, you can see the Mont Blanc!
Afternoon in Vieux Lyon
From Fourvière, go down to explore Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon). You can take the funicular to Vieux Lyon-Cathédrale Saint-Jean station or walk down through Parc des Hauteurs (#3). This 2,5 Ha garden with 1,400m of paths, between Fourvière and Saint-Jean, has a design based on the original abandoned private gardens’ remainders.
4. Visit Saint-Jean Cathedral
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
Take the time to 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, Lyon’s unique private passages that allowed the connection of two streets through pretty courtyards. The most beautiful buildings are concentrated between the churches of Saint-Georges and Saint-Paul, which we also recommend to visit.
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 always has the best ratings.
Apéro Time & Dinner in Vieux Lyon
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.
For your first dinner in Lyon, you may want to try a bouchon, Lyon’s typical restaurant serving traditional cuisine in a popular atmosphere. On the menu, typical Lyon dishes like sausages, salade lyonnaise, quenelles, duck pâté, or roast pork.
Les Lyonnais Bouchon (1, rue Tramassac, Lyon) is a good address in the Old Town’s heart. Get a taste of Lyon’s culinary specialties in a typical atmosphere of bouchon.
2 Days in Lyon, Day 2
PRESQUE’ILE AND PARC DE LA TÊTE D’OR
Morning in the Presqu’ile
Day 2 of this two days in Lyon itinerary starts in Lyon’s Presqu’ile, between the rivers Saône and Rhône. If the weather is good, this is a great 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 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 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. Here, you can see the Hôtel de Ville, the Opera, and the Musée des Beaux-Arts on this elegant square. There’s a beautiful fountain by Auguste Bartholdi, the sculptor who designed the Liberty Statue in the north of this square.
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 3 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 (another Lyon specialty) like the Fresque des Canuts or the one at Cour des Voraces.
Afternoon at Parc de la Tête d’Or
The Parc de la Tete d’Or (#8) is the largest urban park in France and a great place for an afternoon stroll. The park includes dozens of trails for walking, jogging, or bicycling and numerous attractions for all the family.
Dinner at Presqu’ile
For your second dinner in Lyon, go back to the Presqu’Ile and book a table at Victoire et Thomas (27, rue de l’Arbre Sec), for a good, inventive cuisine made only with local, seasonal produce.
Spend 3 Days in Lyon (If You Can…)
Suppose you can make the weekend in Lyon longer, then visit Lyon in 3 days with a day trip to visit something else. There are wonderful places around Lyon, easy to reach with your car or by train. Check out our list of best day trips to Lyon with some suggestions for a wonderful day out of Lyon.
You can also consider a day trip to Annecy from Lyon and see and do some of the things proposed in this Annecy itinerary.
If you prefer to spend one more day in Lyon, that’s fine too! There are many interesting museums in Lyon that, unfortunately, we could not include in this Lyon itinerary. Here’s the list of 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) 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) suggested as an option in our 2 days in Lyon 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)