What to do in Lyon: must-sees and activities

What to do and see in Lyon? Discover a selection of activities and visits to discover Lyon as a couple, with family or friends

12 must-do activities and visits in Lyon

The ancient capital of the Gauls has many surprises in store for you, and welcomes you all year round for an unforgettable tourist experience

Discover a selection of 12 must-do activities in Lyon, to enjoy with your family, your friends or your loved ones.

Basilique Fourvière Lyon

1. Notre-Dame de Fourvière

The Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, was built in the second half of the 19th century on the site of the foundation of the ancient city of Lugdunum. The building, erected in a neo-Gothic and neo-Byzantine style, has become the emblem of the city. Its familiar silhouette can be seen from a large part of the Lyon area, and its golden statue attracts the attention of inhabitants and visitors alike. Inside, several mosaics represent the history of the Virgin in the history of France and of the Church. Several statues of the Virgin, coming from many countries, are presented in the crypt and allow us to grasp all the richness of the Marian cult through the civilizations of the four corners of the world. You are free to visit the basilica, the crypt and the chapel of the Virgin Mary outside of religious celebrations.

2. Lugdunum, Roman Museum and Theatres

In the first century BC, the Romans founded a city on the Fourvière Hill. Strategically located at the confluence of the Rhône and the Saône, two major communication routes during Antiquity, the city of Lugdunum quickly prospered. During your stay in Lyon, you can discover the privileged witnesses of this sumptuous period, by visiting the site of Lugdunum.
The ruins of the great theatre, the Odeon and the Roman baths plunge you into the ancient past of Lyon. A visit to the museum completes your discovery, and familiarise you with the daily life of the first Lyonnais, from prehistory to the adoption of Christianity in Gaul!

Lugdunum, musée et théâtres romains
Traboules Lyon

3. The traboules, hidden and secret passages

During the demographic explosion of Lyon during the Renaissance, the historic districts were redesigned. Newer buildings were built behind the older ones, and the mediaeval layout was respected. The long streets, without cross streets, were kept in order to optimise the urban space.

To facilitate circulation, back passages were created within the dwellings. The traboules saved time, avoiding long detours for pedestrians. They were also occasionally used as a refuge when history demanded it. During the Second World War, for example, they were used by resistance fighters to escape from their pursuers.

Today, several dozen traboules remain accessible, notably in the Vieux-Lyon and Croix-Rousse districts. Guided tours are organised throughout the year, and allow you to access the most secret of these now-forgotten passages.

Place des Terreaux Lyon

5. The districts of the Presqu'île

The Presqu'île is the name given to a strip of land that ends where the Rhône and Saône rivers meet. Place Bellecour, the largest pedestrian square in Europe, can be a starting point for your discovery of the neighbouring streets. The Presqu'île is home to some remarkable buildings, built between the Renaissance and the 19th century.

Their elegant facades bear witness to the prosperity of the town, which grew rich with the rearing of silkworms and the production and spinning of silk. Your walk can take you to the Place des Terreaux, bordered by the Hôtel de Ville and the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon. 

You can enjoy a shopping spree in the city centre's shops, or take a gourmet and convivial break in a restaurant, brasserie or café. Theatres and cultural venues also welcome you in the heart of the Presqu'île.

6. The Musée des Confluences

In the south of Lyon, the Musée des Confluences surprises with its bold and resolutely contemporary architecture. With its many facets, combining glass and concrete, the museum offers a dreamlike aspect, whose lines and colours play with the light according to the day and the seasons. The collections are organised around two main themes: the natural sciences and the humanities. The museographic tour allows visitors to admire collections of insects, palaeontology, shells, vertebrates, invertebrates, minerals, rocks and gems, and collections on the civilisations of Oceania, the Americas, the Arctic regions, Asia and Africa, as well as rooms dedicated to European prehistory and Egyptology.

Musée des Confluence Lyon
Gastronomie lyonnaise

7. Lyon's gastronomy

Bordered by the Beaujolais, Bresse, Pilat and Savoie regions, the city has privileged access to exceptional terroirs.  

Lyon's bouchons, traditional restaurants, have contributed to the city's gastronomic reputation. They welcome the Lyonnais in a warm setting, combining a counter, close tables, red and white chequered tablecloths and wooden furniture, and serve tasty local dishes prepared with fresh produce. The deliciousness and unique atmosphere have made these establishments popular all over the world.

Lyon is also renowned for its gourmet restaurants and starred chefs, whose boldness and talent have written some of the greatest pages in our culinary history. You can make the most out of your stay in Lyon to visit Les Halles Paul Bocuse, or to book a table in a prestigious establishment for a unique tasting experience.

Parc de la Tête d'Or, Lyon

9. The Parc de la Tête d’Or

Inaugurated in 1857, this immense public park covers almost 117 hectares and is the main green lung of the city of Lyon. With its shaded paths, lawns, lake and island of remembrance, it invites you to take a welcome break during your stay in Lyon. Numerous activities are available on site: ice cream, churro, candyfloss and cold drinks stands, merry-go-rounds, boat hire, pony rides, mini-train rides and Rosalies.

The park is also home to the Lyon Zoological Garden. You can observe many animal species, including primates, wild animals, savannah animals, reptiles... And the entrance to the zoo is completely free!

10. The Parc de Gerland

To the south of the city, the Parc de Gerland also invites you to relax and unwind in the heart of a Lyon holiday rich in activities and visits. A vast playground, alleys, allotments and a skate park make up the different spaces, and appeal to Lyonnais and tourists alike.

In particular, you can take the long walk along a canal lined with plants. Called Mégaphorbiaie, it offers a setting conducive to the development of numerous plants, organised into six thematic plots.

Parc Gerland Lyon
Les quais du Rhône et de la Saône

11. The quays of the Rhone and the Saône

The banks of the Rhône and the Saône have been developed to facilitate travel on foot. Pleasant walks, accessible all year round, allow you to walk along the banks of the river and its tributary to discover Lyon and its treasures in a different way. From the quays of the Saône, you can enjoy a splendid view of the Fourvière Hill and the Old Lyon district.

Sometimes tree-lined and shaded, sometimes paved, the quays of the Rhône and the Saône also offer areas designed for relaxation, where it is pleasant to settle down to relax, enjoy the panorama or chat with friends.

Bonus: How to get to Lyon easily?

You can easily get to Lyon by plane. Lyon Airport is served by direct flights from over 20 cities in France and more than 100 cities across the world. Flights are available every day, all year round, so you can visit the capital of the Gauls in any season.

You can easily reach the city centre from Lyon Saint-Exupéry Airport (LYS) by taking the Rhônexpress shuttle or Lyon public transport system, by taking a taxi, by renting a car, by opting for car-sharing or car-pooling.

All that remains is for us to wish you an excellent stay in Lyon!