8 Cool Things to do in Lyon, France – Maybe even better than Paris?
You had two great ideas today: One is to travel to Lyon, and the second is to check out the best things to do in Lyon. Now it is on us not to disappoint you.
Lyon is a fantastic city because it’s much smaller than Paris. We have written a super detailed guide on the 3 best hostels in Lyon. You can read it and find the best accommodation for you!
Yet it’s still big enough to have tons of cool restaurants, cafés, bars, shops, museums, and music venues (it’s one of the three biggest cities in France).
It’s a city of locals, not tourists, and it’s getting more and more international every year. I could write pages about my adopted city, but here are a few tips to get you started…
Lyon is famous for its food scene (Paul Bocuse has several restaurants and a culinary school here) but it isn’t always cheap.
To save money, go to those nice restaurants at lunchtime – most have a menu (appetizer and main, or main and dessert) for much less than you would pay at dinner.
The one time of the year when Lyon is filled with tourists, and I mean filled to the brim (the population supposedly triples over the weekend) is at the beginning of December for La Fête des Lumières, a spectacular festival of lights.
If you want to attend the Fête des Lumières, plan far in advance before everything is sold out.
If you just want to visit Lyon sans lights, absolutely avoid this week!
The best part about Lyon is that there’s no pressure to visit all the world-famous historic sites like in Paris, so you can just stroll, eat, and enjoy.
Things to do in Lyon, France
Let us have a look at a few of the coolest things to do in Lyon; from food, drinks, and things to see. And no, these places are not touristic.
Where to eat in Lyon?
Lyon is culinary heaven – the options are endless!
Two good places to start:
L’Epicerie is a local institution. It’s a no-frills place with affordable tartines and drinks, kitsch decor, and little jars of sweets to raid at the end of the meal.
Try an apéritif or a digestif (or both!) — they have a few specialities that you’re not likely to find in other restaurants, for only a few euros. Their desserts are quite tasty (I always go for the crumble). It’s open seven days a week (rare in France!) and it’s always packed.
Visit the beautiful Place des Jacobins down the street while you’re in the neighborhood.
Address: 2 rue de la Monnaie, 69002 Lyon
2. Le Kitchen Café
For something a little more sophisticated, Le Kitchen Café in the 7th arrondissement is the place to be.
It opened in 2014 and immediately became a giant in the local culinary scene (ironic, because the restaurant itself is tiny!)
They offer a few seasonal options for lunch that change frequently, and their café or thé gourmand (coffee or tea with four mini desserts) is to die for.
Seriously exquisite desserts! (Open Wednesday through Sunday, 8:30 a.m. — 6:30 p.m. Reservations recommended for lunch.)
Address: 34 Rue Chevreul, 69007 Lyon
3. Where to drink? Les Frères Berthom
Les Frères Berthom is famous for its brews, and it has the best happy hour in town (until 8:00 p.m.)
My fiancé and his buddies can be found here drinking pints of Chouffe after work. There is one bar near Hôtel de Ville in the 1st (24 rue Pizay) and one in Vieux Lyon (2 place Ennemond Fousseret), open seven days a week.
4. For the Wine Lover
If you prefer wine, Lyon has no shortage of great wine bars.
Some of my favorites:
La Cave d’à Coté (cozy)
Les Pralins (hip)
Autour d’un Verre (classy)
Mademoiselle Rêve (classic)
or for a romantic view of the city, Le Phosphore.
5. Take a break at Jeannine & Suzanne Café
Jeannine & Suzanne in the 2nd arrondissement is my new favorite café because it is pretty and quirky at the same time: gorgeous design, cozy corners, chairs on the ceiling, blue tables on the terrace.
Their French desserts are simply art, and they have a long list of teas and other beverages to choose from.
Address: 34 Rue Sainte-Hélène, 69002 Lyon
(For top-notch coffee, try Le Tigre or Puzzle Café in the 1st.)
6. Where to go a-marketing?
Marché Saint Antoine runs along the beautiful Saône river on Quai Saint Antoine six mornings a week (closed Monday).
It’s calm during the week and bustling on the weekends.
You’ll find fresh seasonal fruits and vegetables, flowers, wine, cheese, meat, olives and tapenade, and on the weekend, a few food trucks. (If you have a sweet tooth, track down the turquoise pastry truck Trop Chou on Sundays. Trust me.)
Afterwards, you can stroll along the Saône river (bring your camera).
7. Café experts – Puzzle Café
For one of the best coffee in Lyon, simply head to Puzzle Café. Located in the city center, Puzzle café offers a great roasted coffee and a cosy, hipster design.
It combines the best coffee with a local touch, the French pastries: lemon cakes, chocolate tartines…
A perfect contrast of acid and sweet to blend your coffee with the French flavors.
Address: 4 rue de la poulaillerie, Lyon 69002
8. Get lost in Lyon
Les Pentes de la Croix Rousse is the neighborhood of winding, hilly streets that lead up to the Croix Rousse neighborhood.
You’ll find lots of independent boutiques and street art around here.
The pedestrian street Montée de la Croix Rousse leads straight up the hill, but it’s worth wandering a little from side to side to check out the stores and cafés, and hidden spots like the colorful stairs on Rue Prunelle.
Alternatively, you can go right under Les Pentes – ride your bike or walk through the Tunnel de la Croix Rousse and you’ll be greeted with tinkling music and colorful images projected on the walls of the tunnel.
As a bonus, it serves as a refuge from the summer heat.
Bon séjour à Lyon!
Where to stay in Lyon?
Luckily for you, dear reader, we have a super detailed guide on the 3 best hostels in Lyon. You can choose whatever accommodation you like.