What to Do in Lyon in 36 Hours: The Ultimate Itinerary

Bell   |   03 July 24

Lyon is known as France’s gastronomical capital, but it has so much more to offer. From the picturesque Old Town to Roman Ruins and bustling markets, Lyon will provide you with an unforgettable experience.

From discovering hidden gems in Lyon to enjoying budget-friendly activities, this city is full of culture and history, perfect for a 36-hour itinerary.

I had a quick stopover in the city on my way from France to Italy and though I wasn’t sure what to expect, had the best time. You can see the main attractions perfectly in 1-2 days as the city is super walkable and there are so many unique things to see.

Whether you are here for a romantic weekend getaway or a solo, female traveller exploring France, this is the perfect itinerary to see the best of what Lyon has to offer.

If you are only looking for things to do in Lyon and want to skip the rest of the guide, click here.

How to get to Lyon:

If you are flying, Lyon has its own airport Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport. There are a couple of ways to get to the city center from the airport:

  •  The cheapest way is by public transport which will cost you 2-4 €. It takes around an hour but is way cheaper than the Rhônexpress which is the “official” transport from the airport to the city. I recommend using Google Maps to get the best option for your exact time, but the buses 47 until Les Marches du Rhône and then 1E to Mermoz – Pinel will connect you to the metro line.
  • BlaBlaCar is an intercity bus but also offers rideshares. You can often find ones from the airport to Lyon for just 4€, though the times are limited to what is on offer.
  • Rhônexpress is the tramway connection that claims to get you to the center in 30 minutes. It is the most convenient way but will set you back 15.20€ one-way or 26.70€ return. 
  • You can also get  an Uber or Taxi starting at about 40€.

 If you are coming by bus (Flixbus or BlaBlaCar), you will be dropped at Gare Routière Lyon-Perrache. From there, you can get a metro or tram to your accommodation – more on that below.

You can also get a Eurostar to Lyon from London which will get you there in around 6 hours and set you back 150€ upwards. I think if you get a good deal and have lots of luggage, this would be a valid option.

How to get around Lyon by public transport:

Lyon Public transport card
Lyon Public Transport Card

TCL - Lyon

You can get the TCL card at most metro and train stations, or directly on the bus (30 cents more). A one-hour ticket costs 2€ and a 24-hour ticket 6.70€. It is refillable at any service point.

You can use the TCL app or Google Maps to find the best way to get to your destination using Lyon's public transport system. It is really easy and very affordable!

Click here

Where to stay in Lyon:

Best hostels in Lyon for backpackers:

Yasi Hostel – I stayed in this hostel and really enjoyed it. It has breakfast included, the beds are really comfortable and there is a WhatsApp Group for all guests if you want to socialise.

Pilo Hôtel – a capsule hotel/hostel hybrid with stellar reviews and lots of privacy 

Best hotels in Lyon:

Hôtel Chromatics – a more budget-friendly option, this hotel is well-located and has small but clean rooms

Hotel de l’Abbaye – on the pricier side, this hotel is beautiful, within walking distance to the main sights and has staff that will make sure you have the best stay possible

Day 1

Start at Place Bellecour

Being the third biggest square in France, Place Bellecour is the centre of Lyon and the ideal location to start your tour of Lyon. 

Place Bellecour is the start of the shopping district and features a statue of King XIV at its center. Whether you are looking to people-watch or start a walking tour of the city, Place Bellecour is the place to be.

It also often has events on. When I went, it was a festival where each country had their own exhibition stand that showcased their culture, traditions and food. 

Stroll to Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste via Pont Bonaparte

Lyon Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste

Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste is a must-see on any trip to Lyon, both from outside and inside. Featuring both Romanesque and Gothic styles in the build, curtesy to the three-century long building process, it sits right at the heart of Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon). 

My favourite part was the stunning round-tinted glass windows with an almost petal-like pattern inside. The detail of each window was incredible and I’m pretty certain I spent half an hour just admiring them. 

Lyon Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste stained glass window

Explore Vieux Lyon and it’s Traboules

Vieux Lyon stands for Old Lyon and is arguably one of the most picturesque areas of Lyon. Its streets date back to the Renaissance-era and feature traditional Bouchon restaurants, secret courtyards, local shops as well as the famous traboules.

Traboules are explained by Lyon as “from the Latin “trans ambulare” (pass through), are shortcuts linking streets through one or more buildings”. They are secret passageways found in Vieux Lyon which often have hidden entrance way (sometimes there are signs pointing to them). There is an app that helps you find them or you can join a tour to learn more about their history:

Take the Funicular to the Basilica of Notre Dame of Fourvière

Lyon, France

If you only do one thing in Lyon, this is the one. The funicular starts in Vieux Lyon and heads up to the Fourviere hill. Tickets cost €3.50 return but are also included in your daily TCL ticket. You can also walk up the hill, but it is a bit of a trek.

At the top, you will find the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, a UNESCO World Heritage historical monument. It is often considered to be the emblem of Lyon as the “The Home of Mary”.

The exterior and interior are breathtaking and so detailed; the best part is that it is completely free. Which I thought was refreshing as Europe so often charges for their important churches and basilicas. 

Basilica of Notre Dame of Fourvière

Marvel at the view of Lyon and its surroundings

To the left of the Basilica you will find a viewing platform with vast views over Lyon and its surroundings. From here, you can take beautiful photos of some of Lyon’s highlights such as Place Bellecour. 

Did you know that all of Lyon is considered a World Heritage Site due to its collection of well-preserved, historic buildings? Certainly makes for a beautiful view from above!

Don’t miss

Lyon, France-12

Right by the viewing platform is also a cafe where you can sample pink praline brioche, a Lyonnaise delicacy. The pink praline is made from candied almonds which can then be added to any dessert. Personally I thought the brioche was delicious and the bright pink colour made it a fun treat.

Step back in time at the Théâtre Gallo Romain

Only a short walk from the Basilica you will find a Roman Amphitheatre , the Amphitheatre Gallo-Romain, the ruins of which are over 2000 years old

Entrance is once again free (well done Lyon) and it is well worth strolling around the ruins – you will feel like you stepped back in time. 

There is also a museum if you are interested in learning more about the local, ancient history. Entrance costs only 4 € or is free every Thursday,

Have dinner at one of Lyon’s traditional bouchons

Bouchon Lyon

Bouchons are Lyon’s traditional restaurants, serving delicious, regional dishes such as Grattons Lyonnais and Cardón à la moelle. They usually have a very homely and relaxing feel, attracting both locals and tourists alike. 

If you want to discover the real local spots and have a side of history with your meal, I can also recommend taking a food tour. After all, Lyon is the capital of gastronomy in France.

Day 2

Marvel at “le Mur des Canuts”

The famous mural “Le Mur des Canuts” was easily one of my top spots in Lyon. It is simply THAT impressive. From afar, the mural looks like a real house and only on closer inspection does the 3D effect lesson and reveal a skillfully crafted wall.

“Canuts” refers to the silk weavers that used to live and work in La Croix-Rousse, the quarter where the mural is located. The mural shows ordinary life in the quarter that so proudly refers to themselves as “the hill that works“.

Originally painted in 1987, it has been updated in 1997 and 2013 to reflect the changes in the neighbourhood. The detail of this mural is breathtaking, as well as the life-size figures that you can pose with for pictures. 

Check out the Place des Terreaux with the Bartholdi Fountain and Hôtel de Ville

Bartholdi Fountain Lyon

Place des Terreaux is certainly not one to miss on your Lyon trip. It features the Bartholdi Fountain, the history of which is pretty entertaining. Originally designed for Bordeaux, the fountain ended up being too expensive and was bought by Lyon out of spite – though the city failed to realise that the entire symbolism of the fountain screams Bordeaux. It was designed by Bartholdi who designed another monument you may have heard of… the Statue of Liberty.

On this square, you will also find the Hôtel de Ville, Lyon’s town hall and easily one of the most impressive buildings in the city. 

Hotel de Ville Lyon

If you have spare time, visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon or take a Saône river cruise

Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon

Just opposite the Bartholdi Fountain, you will find Lyon’s Museum of Fine Arts. The courtyard is beautiful and free to explore, while the museum itself is considered one of the best in the city. Entry costs €8 or €12 for special exhibitions. It’s well worth it if you do have some extra time.

Another perfect activity for those with spare time would be a Saône city cruise to see Lyon from a completely different angle. Boat tours start at just 13.

Is Lyon worth visiting?

Before visiting Lyon I was quite sceptical about whether it would be worth it – after all,  I had heard some differing opinions. However, I personally think it is well worth a visit.

The city is beautiful and exceptionally well preserved historically, making even a simple stroll through its streets fascinating. There are so many things to do and explore that it is perfect for a day or weekend trip. And the cherry on top, the food is amazing!

How many days in Lyon is enough?

You can see the main sights in Lyon in one day, though I would recommend two days for a more relaxed experience and maybe a museum or tour. 

If you are interested in exploring more of Lyon’s surroundings and maybe doing a wine tour in the Northern Rhône Valley, you may want to add another day or two to your itinerary.

Is Lyon a walkable city?

Yes, Lyon’s centre especially Vieux Lyon is super walkable. I would still recommend a TCL day pass if your hotel isn’t right in the centre as it includes the funicular and metro to places like the Mur des Canuts.

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Hi, I'm Bell

Bell from Travel Off Script

My blog is here to show you that there isn’t one correct way to travel the world. Together, we can figure out what that means for you. Learn more about me here!

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