Lyon is the third largest city in France, the capital of Gastronomy (a foodie’s paradise), and it was my home for two and a half months. Lyon is the birthplace of the world’s first motion picture La Sortie des Usines Lumière, shown in 1895. It was also the capital city of Roman Gaul with history that dates back to 43 B.C., making it an important location during the rise of the Roman Empire in present-day France. The rich history of Lyon makes it an epicenter for the arts, with museums and theaters sprinkled throughout the city, and it’s also the home to The University of Lyon.
The city encompasses the charm and culture of Paris, but is smaller and has more of a local feel and an amazing food scene. Living like a Parisian for 3 weeks gave me the opportunity to appreciate what it was like to be a Lyonnais for two months.
From the architecture and history in the streets of Vieux-Lyon (old Lyon), to the culture and food, to the monuments in La Place de Bellecour, to the cathedrals, the ancient Roman theaters, and the people….there’s something inspiring for everyone in Lyon. I visited many museums while living there and I was so inspired by the history and art on every level.
Here is a quick local’s guide to Lyon listing some of my favorite districts, cafés, restaurants, and museums.
Les Restaurants + Les Boulangeries
Eric Kayser Bakery — famous bakery throughout France and a few spots around the globe! Amazing breads, pastries, and dishes — what France is known for right?! Here you can find an affordable breakfast and lunch and a delicious baguette for only 1 Euro!
Yabio – Hôtel de Ville — an AMAZING burger spot with organic beef burgers and home made menu items. Honestly, one of the best burgers I’ve ever had (France knows how to do meat) AND one of the most affordable restaurants that is superb with their menu
Les Retrouvailles — a super cute restaurant in Vieux-Lyon featuring traditional French dishes
Most restaurants and cafes have free water available that they will bring to your table (une carafe d’eau). If you ask for a bottle of water, or water in general, and not “une carafe d’eau” they will most likely bring you a bottle of water which you’ll have to pay for. So save some dough, and ask for “une carafe d’eau!” 😉
Some restaurants offer “le menu” each day which features all inclusive meals for a fixed price. This is sometimes a great option for affordable dining if it’s what you’re looking for. Otherwise, you can order individual items off the menu, which is “a la carte”.
Favorite Cafés in Lyon
- Cafe Mokxa (La Boîte à Café)
- Slake Coffee
- La Bicycletterie
- Raconte-Moi La Terre Librarie Cafe
- A Chacun sa Tasse
My Favorite Districts & Places of Interest
Place des Terreaux many cafes and bars; this is one of the liveliest districts of the city. There are similar vibes near Hôtel de Ville de Lyon (the town center/city hall) and near the Opéra National de Lyon.
Place des Jacobins giant fountain in the centre; surrounded by streets and shops; cafes and restaurants; all near the river — beautiful area!
Place de Bellecour
a giant courtyard in the center of the city featuring an equestrian monument of Louis XIV; usually a giant ferris wheel and street performers; outdoor shopping mall, restaurants, nightlife, and plenty of cafés and boutiques
Musée des Confluences Opened in December 2014 and includes collections of natural science, anthropology, and Earth Sciences of the Musée d’histoire naturelle – Guimet. The four major exhibitions are called “Origins – Stories of the World”, “Species – the Web of life”, “Societies – Human theatre,” and “Eternities – Visions of the beyond” (Wikipedia, 2018.)
Every exhibition in this museum was outstanding and made history come to life. Think like, American Museum of Natural History, it was so amazing that I would compare it to that and similar esteemed museums around the world.
My favorite part of this museum was the “Societies – Human Theater” exhibition which featured an homage to the history of film in Lyon (Lyon was the location of the world’s first motion picture). Being inside this exhibition was like standing in a virtual reality. There were people at a train station in a film with a train coming toward the station — a train whistle sounded, and the sound of the tracks could be felt as well. The set up of the film and screen created an experience for the audience that felt so real, as if we were standing at the train station ourselves. The people in the film got on the train and the train continued down the tracks. It was amazing. That was the exhibition I saw in January 2016.
St. George & St. Jean Cathedrals — historic churches with beautiful architecture
Vieux Lyon “old Lyon” — the city’s most historical district featuring restaurants, crêperie stands, boutiques and all the places listed below
Théâtre Romain de Lyon (outdoor Roman Theater and park)
Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon (Roman Gaul Museum of Lyon)
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière (the famous Fourvière cathedral)
Traboules (Secret Passageways) in the city used during the Silk Trade (super cool!)
Lyon sits at the junction of two rivers — la Saône and le Rhône — which divide the city into several districts with beautiful bridges. Lyon is definitely a city to see on foot and on bicycle!
If you are in France and get the chance to visit Lyon, it’s so worth it! It’s one of the many magical cities in France complete with rich history, vibrant culture, delicious food, and travel experiences that you’ll never forget.
It’s also so close to many other European cities so you can easily take the train. I took the train frequently to other parts of France and Switzerland as well! Train travel is one of my favorite ways to travel and is also super affordable. So if you’re in this part of France, don’t be afraid to explore and go see the Alps as well!
Lyon is located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and you can actually see Mont Blanc from the hilltop at la Fourvière on a clear day! Bon voyage!