Lyon is a city that, in my opinion, is much too overlooked in favor of tourist favorites like Paris and Bordeaux. However, this French city has a lot to offer and as Europe’s gastronomical capital, should be a definite addition to your list of places to see. If you’re planning your first trip to Lyon, it can’t hurt to get a few tips and suggestions from someone (like me) who has been there before, so check out my Lyon’s Starter Guide and prepare for your exciting journey!
Visit the Tourist Centre
First things first, you’ll want to pay a visit to the Lyon Office de Tourisme (located at Place Bellecour, 69002) as early as possible. The people working at the center are unbelievably helpful and, for those who don’t know French, speak fluent English. They can offer you all kinds of suggestions on museums to visit, tours to take, and restaurants to eat at. Trust me, you’ll avoid spending a lot of time stumbling around lost in Lyon if you just visit these guys first and have them show you the best places to see in the city.
Buy a Lyon City Card
I highly recommend purchasing the Lyon City Card if you’re staying in the city for a few days (you can buy the Card at the Office de Tourisme). You’ll have the option of purchasing a Lyon City Card for either 1, 2, or 3 days and the price ranges between 20 – 40 Euros. The Card offers excellent value for money because you can ride all forms of transportation, including metro, bus, fernicular, tram, etc., for free. You also have free entry into a multitude of museums, boat rides, and guided tours.
Make reservations for activities
Although most activities are the do-at-your-own-pace sort, there are some that will require you to make a reservation if you want to enjoy them. Again, you can make reservations at the Office de Tourisme (learn this now, the Office de Tourisme is your best friend). A few of the activities that require a reservation include the Guignol Puppet Theatre (which I highly recommend) and tours of Lyon’s cathedral and traboules. Check with the Office de Tourisme right away regarding these events because not all of them are held every day.
Know the closing days
You’ll want to plan your visits to many sites carefully because not everything is open every day. A lot of museums close either on Mondays or Tuesdays, so be sure to plan around the individual schedules of the places you really want to see. For example, Musée des Confluences (which is a Lyon must-see) is closed on Mondays, so make sure you get it in during the weekend or you’ll miss out on some really beautiful exhibits!
There’s not always English options
While most places you visit in Lyon do have English speakers available, there are some activities which are French-only. Two of particular to note are the Guignol Puppet Theatre show which is performed in local Lyonese French, and the tour of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière which, when I was there, had only French-speaking guides. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do these activities. Watching the Guignol Puppet Theatre was a lot of fun, even though I didn’t understand anything, because it’s aimed at children and you can really enjoy watching the children interact with the puppets. And the tour of the Basilica is a huge Lyon highlight and very awe-inspiring because you get to go inside the building and walk the rooftop – all places your average tourist can’t go without a guide!
At the end of the day, the most important thing is to have fun while you’re in Lyon! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to plan the trip out to perfection, half the fun is not knowing what will happen next. Be sure to share your tales from Lyon with me by either leaving me a comment below, or dropping me an e-mail at: firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy travels!