We've put together a list of all the fun things you can do in Lyon. We've divided it up into different categories, from the vibrant neighborhoods of Lyon, the museums, churches and best places to go out at night. Don't forget to visit one of the magnificent parks in Lyon or to climb up to one of the amazing viewpoints overlooking the city!
All the neighborhoods in Lyon have a distinct atmosphere and these all have to be explored.
Vieux Lyon is the old part of the city. In fact, this little stretch of land between the Saône and the Fourvière hill used to be the whole city. In many other cities the old centre has been destroyed and rebuilt but not in Lyon. Here, we still have Lyon like it was so many centuries ago. The area is UNESCO protected and very charming.
Presqu'île is the modern city centre of Lyon. It stretches out between the two rivers, from Place des Terreaux to Place Bellecour. It is very beautiful, with a lot of impressive architecture from the 19th century. Here, you find great shops, impressive boulevards and some of the finest dining places in Lyon.
Confluence is the area where the Rhône and Saône come together. This area used to be a run-down port, but now it has been completely rebuilt with very futuristic architecture. It does not look like any place else in Lyon. There is a new museum here, that looks like a space ship. The Musèe des Confluence is well worth a visit. It's a science museum with amazing exhibitions.
This neighborhood used to very working class but now it's quickly gentrifying. Many new small shops have opened here, from bicycle repair shops to hipster coffee houses and vintage clothing boutiques. The neighborhood is filled with Traboules that you can find by folling the arrow signs on the houses. A lot of the nightlife of Lyon can also be found in the little backstreets above Place des Terreaux.
Fourvière is the hill where it all started. This was the location of Roman Lugdunum. You can still see some remains of the old Roman town on this hill. Take the funiculaire from metro stop Vieux Lyon up the hill and visit the Roman Theater. It is for free. Above it, you find the impressive Gallo-Roman Museum. But the highlight of this area is the Basilique de Notre Dame de Fourvière. Rising high above the city, this is one of the most impressive buildings in Lyon. Check out the impressive mosaics on this inside and enjoy the splendid view over the city from the outside.
Guillotière is the immigrant area of Lyon. Here, you find great ethnic restaurants. Rue Pasteur is the Chinese/Vietnamese part of town. Down Rue de la Guillotière you will find great West-African eateries and grocery shops. North of the metro stop is where you go for North-African food. Walking towards the University on Rue Pasteur, you also find a few nice bars, like the Baryium and Live Station. Rue de Marseille has some great Halal burger places, the great Indian Restaurant Bollywood Tandoor, Chinese supermarkets and African barber shops.
There are some great museums in Lyon. Go and check some out!
The Fine Arts Museum of Lyon houses the biggest art collection in France outside of Paris. The collection is very diverse. You'll find paintings from the early Middle Ages and Picassos. The enormous building used to be a monastery. The courtyard is very pretty (especially in spring) and free to visit. There is a great sculpture collection in the old church of the monastery. If it's raining, you could spend the whole day here (provided you like art).
The Musèe des Confluences is the new science museum designed by Coop Himme(l)blau. It is a fantastic building, shaped like a cloud of steel and glass, or like a futuristic space ship (depending on your point of view). It is an excellent museum. The permanent collection is very interesting and the temporary exhibitions are always a success.
The Gadagne Museum is housed in a very pretty building in Vieux Lyon. It is a museum about the history of Lyon. Besides that, there is also a Puppet Museum inside, the Musèe des Marionettes. Unless you are very interested in any of these two subjects, we recommend skipping this museum. However, it's nice to visit the rooftop bar of the museum. You don't need to pay entrance fee, just take the elevator to the top floor. There is a nice garden and bar at the top.
This excellent museum houses all the finds from the Roman and Gallic periods from around Lyon. It is located just above the Roman Theater on Fourvière hill. If you are interested in Roman history, this is the museum for you. Lyon used to be the Capital of France during the Roman Empire and it was a big Roman city. So archeologists to this day unearth interesting objects from this period and all these objects end up in the Musèe Gallo-Romain.
If you are interested in cinema, this is the place to go. This museum is housed in the family villa of the Lumière brothers. Their family had a big factory here, where film was produced for photo cameras. The brothers started experimenting and invented cinema. This is where it all started. Obviously, the museum also has a movie theatre where films are shown and a yearly film festival.
The Silk Industry used to be extremely important for Lyon. In the 17th century, one third of the city was fed by profits from silk. Now, just a few small silk workshops are left. They produce mainly for the luxury market. It's a lot of fun to visit one and to learn about the production of silk. The Association Soierie Vivante keeps the tradition alive and is well worth a visit.