The Ultimate 2 to 3 Days in Lyon Itinerary

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by Brittany Scott-Gunfield

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As France’s third largest city, there are plenty of things to do to keep you occupied when planning a 2 or 3 days in Lyon itinerary.

Its architecture and museums demonstrate its significance in Roman, Medieval and Renaissance history, while the modern centre and universities modernise the city and give way to many different artistic and cultural events that ensure you get the most out of your trip to Lyon.

How Many Days in Lyon?

Whether you’ve only just heard of Lyon and wonder what it has to offer, or you’ve known about this lively French city for a long time, working out how many days to spend in Lyon isn’t easy.

If you like to explore the city centre on foot and take in the sights and sounds, 2 days in Lyon can be perfect to witness the fantastic architecture, historical sites and indulge in French cuisine.

However, if you have a long weekend free, 3 days will allow you to do all of this and more, including visiting the numerous museums and parks and even attending one of the many cultural events that take place in the city.

A week or more in and around Lyon can also be wonderful due to its proximity to quaint alpine towns and villages, such as Annecy and Aix-les-Bains, or you can even have other city tours in nearby Geneva and Grenoble

Lyon at dusk
Lyon at dusk

Getting To & Around Lyon

Travelling to Lyon is very easy as it has excellent transport links from almost anywhere in Europe. Arriving from other continents, it’s always recommended to transit through large international airports such as Amsterdam Schiphol or Paris Charles de Gaulle to make your journey easier.

Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport is located just a 35-minute drive from Lyon city centre or can be reached via the Rhônexpress tramway and bus route 47. Lyon Airport has regular flights from several major European cities and serves a range of airlines. You can also book private transfers here.

From Paris, the best option is to take the train as it’s both simpler and more eco-friendly, while also often being much cheaper. The high-speed TGV or SNCF both have daily schedules and can get you to Lyon in approximately 2 hours.

There are also direct, high-speed trains available from other major French cities such as Strasbourg, Marseille and Toulouse as well as regional trails from places such as Dijon. You can view train schedules here.

You can also use Flixbus or Blablabus from most cities in Europe, so if flying isn’t your thing or you’re arriving from another European city or nearby these are both very suitable options. You can view bus schedules here.

Blablabus is run by ride-sharing app Blablacar, which also works very well across France, if you want to travel at short notice. Lyon Perrache bus terminal is very confusing, however, so make sure you give yourself plenty of time to navigate the hidden terminals and departure points.

Inside Lyon, the city is very easily walkable, however, to save time or energy, there are ample bus routes, a comprehensive metro system, a tramway and an old-fashioned funicular taking you around the old town and up Fourvière Hill.

If you intend to use the public transportation system in the city along with entering a few major museums, it can be worth purchasing the Lyon City Card, which includes unlimited transit along with entry into several museums in the city.

While you’re moving around the city keep an eye out for water fountains and blue/white stickers in restaurant windows – the city is making an effort to reduce plastic waste by refilling water bottles for free!

If you’re staying longer than a few days, you can easily rent a car from the airport, bus or train station to help you travel around the area.

Théâtre de Lyon
Théâtre de Lyon

2 to 3 Days in Lyon Itinerary

As it’s such a large and varied city, it’s difficult to break down Lyon into must-see items. But if you’ve just got 2 days in Lyon, the city centre and old town should be top of your list. If you’re lucky enough to spend 3 days or more in the city then you can spend more time visiting the many museums and parks.

Day 1  – City Centre and Old Town

Lyon’s city centre and old town are very close together so it makes sense to explore them on the same day, although if you’re pressed for time, just choose a couple of items from our Lyon itinerary, as you can happily spend hours in each place.

Hôtel de Ville and Opéra Nouvel

Lyon’s city centre is located in the Presqu’île district, between the Saône and Rhône rivers, and is the best place to start exploring the city.

The beautiful architecture of the buildings is very striking as you arrive in the area, particularly on the long Rue du Président Édouard Herriot that leads into the great Place des Terreaux.

Standing prominently in this square is the town hall of Lyon which was built in the late 17th century and proudly displays ornate renaissance architecture. Next to the Hôtel de Ville is a row of bars and restaurants where you can enjoy an afternoon drink or evening meal, taking in the hustle and bustle of the central square.

Behind the town hall is the Opéra Nouvel, an opera house first built in 1831 and redesigned in 1985. It’s home to the National Opera of Lyon which has many different cultural and musical events throughout the year.

From here you can take a short walk up to our next stop.

Lyon Opera House
Lyon Opera House

Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules and Murales

The Amphithéâtre des Trois Gaules is undoubtedly one of the highlights of Lyon, despite only being able to see it from the outside. It’s a Roman amphitheatre, built in 19 CE and seats around 1800 people. In spite of its size, it’s an incredible site to witness and a testament to the rich history of the city of Lyon.

From here you can either keep walking up to the impressive Mur de Canuts mural in the La Croix-Rousse area, or save your legs and head towards the Saône river.

The Mur de Canuts is reportedly one of the largest murals in Europe, and is a breathtaking piece of artwork. Created in 1987, the Mur de Canuts is a trompe d’œil that depicts the silk weavers that lived and worked in Lyon; at the height of the silk industry in Lyon, more than 50% of the working population of the city worked in the industry.

In the same neighbourhood is the Museum of the Canuts, where you can learn about the history of Lyon’s silk industry.

Down towards the Saône river, is another enormous mural, this time showing 30 famous people from in and around Lyon. Painted on an 800m2 bare wall, this trompe d’œil makes it hard to know who’s painted and who’s real, and is a must-see stop on your Lyon itinerary.

Head down to the corner of Rue de la Martinière and Quai Saint Vincent and see if you can spot famous author Antoine de Saint Exupéry, or masters of cinématographie, the Lumières brothers in the mural.

Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon)

Crossing the Saône via the Passarelle Saint Vincent takes you into Lyon’s old town – which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are several fantastic museums and historical sites to fill your whole afternoon or a whole day.

If you want to learn more about the area, there are several guided tour options such as this walking tour, this food tour and this bike tour. You can also take a short river cruise.

Musée des Arts de la Marionnette is a great museum for the whole family, as they perform shows and have child-friendly activities as well as exhibitions detailing the history of the classic French puppets. Alternatively, a short walk away is the Musée Cinéma et Miniature which has incredibly realistic famous film scenes and props.

Deeper into Lyon’s old town, you’ll come across the impressive Gothic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste – the Lyon Cathedral. With a cute, picturesque square in front, this impressive cathedral underwent 300 years of construction, finally completed in 1480. At the cathedral, you can also see the astronomical clock, which is one of the oldest in Europe.

If you’re lucky enough to visit in December, you can see a light display cast onto the facade of the cathedral for the Festival of Lights.

From here, the road becomes steeper, so if you don’t want to walk up the hill, you can choose to take the funicular to the Gallo-Roman Theatre instead.

The Théâtre Gallo Romain de Lyon-Fourvière is an incredibly impressive remnant of the past and is still in use today. You can walk around the huge amphitheatre, and the smaller “Odeon”, visit the museum and see the Roman baths and churches, all in one huge site.

The amphitheatre seats up to 10,000 spectators and you can still see concerts and shows there, mostly during the summer months.

If you’re not too tired after your day exploring Lyon’s old and new centres, one of the best places to watch the sunset from is the Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.

Sat on top of a hill next to the Roman amphitheatre, this 19th-century basilica is iconic to Lyon’s skyline and shines brightly as the colours of the sky fade to darkness. This is absolutely one of the best things to do in Lyon.

Head back down to the Saint Jean Baptiste Cathedral to find a cosy restaurant in the old city streets to complete your day. 

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourviere

Day 2 – Riverside and Parks

Lyon has two rivers flowing through it: the Saône and the Rhône, and both have beautiful riverside walks taking you through different neighbourhoods and parks.

Explore the historical monuments and buildings close to Place Bellecour and Place des Jacobins as you amble through the city and finish in the contemporary art museum or the orchid garden.

Grand Hôtel-Dieu de Lyon

The Grand Hôtel-Dieu de Lyon (located close to central Lyon’s main square, Place Bellcour) is very aptly named, as it stands out from every other building on the riverside.

Formerly a hospital, this huge 12th-century building is now a luxury spot for shopping, dining and relaxing, with a spa, bar and restaurant tucked away amongst the designer shops.

If your trip is more about culture than splashing out, you can take a guided historical tour of the building, or simply take in the mesmerising exterior as you walk northward along the Rhône.

Porte des Enfants du Rhône

Approximately 30 minutes walking along the river, or 15 minutes via the C5 bus from Cordeliers to Parc Tête d’Or Churchill, is the Porte des Enfants du Rhône.

This decorative gate is one of the seven entrances to the Parc de la Tête d’Or and by far the most striking, exemplifying classic French Rococo design. The gate’s name comes from the war monument just in front, dedicated to the “enfants du Rhône” who defended the country.

Head on through the gate and start exploring the park!

Parc de la Tete d'Or
Parc de la Tete d’Or

Parc de la Tête d’Or and Jardin Botanique

Lyon’s Parc de la Tête d’Or is one of the biggest urban parks in France, covering a massive 105 hectares of land, and if you’re visiting Lyon in 2 days, it’s a must-see part of the city.

It’s free to enter and opens at 6.30 am throughout the year, closing at 10.30 pm April through October, and 8.30 pm for the rest of the year.

Stroll around the lake, visit the animals in the zoo or wander through the almost 200 year old botanic garden filled with thousands of plant species, there are plenty of activities within the park to keep you occupied.

If that’s not enough, there’s also a deer park, a place to meet and ride horses, and a rose garden, which is best viewed in late spring, early summer. Don’t feel like walking any more? Take a ride on the Petit Train that does a lap of the whole park for a very reasonable price!

Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon or Parc Naturel de la Feyssine

Leaving the park to the north side by the river, you can continue your outdoors day with a walk through Parc Naturel de la Feyssine, or stop by the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon to add a splash of the arts to your day out in Lyon.

As many contemporary art museums, the Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon holds a variety of pieces, some bizarre and others fascinating. Entrance to the museum costs €9 for a standard ticket for over 25s, although there are many reductions on offer.

The collection comprises around 1500 works, and there are regular temporary exhibitions to explore as well. If you’re not sure contemporary art is your thing, take a walk around the building and see the sculptures so you have a taste of what’s inside the museum first.

If you’re more of a nature lover or still have time on your second day, you can continue along to the Parc Naturel de la Feyssine.

This vast natural area even has its own beach, so you can still enjoy a spot of sunbathing despite the distance from the coast. While predominantly wild, this park does have an orchid garden, so if you’re visiting during spring or autumn, make sure you stop by.

Also, bear in mind, if you’re planning on having a picnic in the park – which we thoroughly recommend – make sure you get your food and drink beforehand as there aren’t many shops immediately surrounding the park.

Musée d'Art Contemporain de Lyon
Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon

Enjoy Lyon’s Cuisine

As the sun sets, head back into the city centre for dinner via tram line 1 from Université Lyon 1 to Charpennes, where you can change to the Metro line A to arrive at the Hôtel de Ville, or walk back along the riverside.

With a gastronomic history of over 500 years, Lyon is famous for its high-quality cooking with simple ingredients. In the centre, look for Bouchons Lyonnais to sample some local food such as andouillette, cervelle de canut, quenelle, or Lyonnaise potatoes.

Don’t miss your chance to taste the red wine from nearby Beaujolais either, especially from the end of November when the renowned Beaujolais Nouveau is released yearly. Pair this with a local charcuterie board, a Rosette lyonnaise, for the perfect hors-d’œuvre.

After your meal, head to the Monkey Club Bar in the centre. It appears quite small, but the aesthetics, ambiance and service, along with the most incredible tasting drinks, make this the best cocktail bar in Lyon by a country mile.

Day 3 – Day Trip Options

Seeing Lyon in 3 days gives you extra time for an excursion or day-long activity. Choose from visiting the enormous natural area of the Grand Parc Miribel Jonage, going to a prestigious Olympique Lyonnais football match and attending a concert at one of the many arenas across the city.

If you’re into wine, it is possible to also take a half-day tour to Beaujolais or a full-day tour to some wineries in the Côtes du Rhône.

Grand Parc Miribel Jonage

If the Parc de la Tête d’Or wasn’t enough nature for you, just outside of Lyon is the Grand Parc Miribel Jonage. Covering a massive 2200 hectares, this nature reserve is the perfect spot for walking, mountain biking and even playing golf.

Although possible to reach by public transport (metro line A, then take bus route 7 or 57), it’s easier to reach the huge park with a rental car. Plus, with your own car, you can take the opportunity to visit one of the many beautiful auberge restaurants that serve fresh local food in the outskirts of the city.

Olympique Lyonnais

Avid football fans should not miss the chance to witness one of France’s best football teams in action. Playing in France’s top tier, Ligue 1, as well as the Europa League, Olympique Lyonnais have matches most weekends and occasionally mid-week games too. You can check their website for fixtures and ticket information to get your place in the 60,000-seater Groupama Stadium.

The ground also hosts large concerts and events, which you can find out about on their website too.

Jardin des Curiosités

Slightly further away from most attractions in Lyon, the Jardin des Curiosités is a great stop if you have time. With a great panoramic view over the whole city, this hilltop makes a great location for your last sunset in Lyon so you can reflect on your time spent in this wonderful city.


Lyon is home to a great many concert venues, all with different qualities. The Théâtre Gallo Romain de Lyon-Fourvière is an incredible place to watch concerts in summer, sitting as the Romans did thousands of years before.

The Opéra Nouvel has many different musical, dance and artistic performances throughout the year and the Halle Tony Garnier has every kind of performance, from hip-hop and rock concerts, to comedy and ice skating, all in the former cattle market.

You can also find cinemas, jazz halls and auditoriums dotted across the city, if your tastes are more niche.

Theatre Gallo Romain de Lyon Fourviere
Theatre Gallo Romain de Lyon Fourviere

Where to Stay in Lyon

Bayard Bellecour – This 3-star hotel in the centre of Lyon is perfect for mid-range travellers to this French city. They have comfortable rooms on offer along with a great breakfast available for guests each morning.

Hôtel de l’Abbaye – For those looking for luxury in Lyon, this sophisticated hotel is an excellent option. They have lovely rooms to choose from along with countless great amenities for guests to enjoy. They also have a great, central location for exploring the city.

Aparthotel Adagio Lyon Patio Confluence – These apartments in the centre of Lyon are perfect for those who want self-catering accommodation without sacrificing the amenities of a traditional hotel. There are a range of flats to choose from and there is also breakfast available in the mornings.

SLO Lyon Saxe – This hip hostel is an excellent choice for those looking for budget accommodation or are after a convivial social atmosphere. They’ve got a range of both dorms and private rooms on offer and an excellent, central location within easy reach of Lyon’s top sites.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Lyon hotels!

It’s impossible to see all of Lyon in 3 days, but our Lyon itinerary demonstrates some of the key sights and activities within the city. Are you ready to delve into Lyon’s rich history and immerse yourself in its culture?

Are you planning to visit Lyon? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!

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Brittany Scott-Gunfield

Brittany is a writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from Colchester, England, she is slowly but surely travelling the world as a digital nomad. She loves to hike around different landscapes and has a deep love for travelling around France (and elsewhere in Europe).

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