10 fabulous things to do in Lyon

When planning to visit big cities in France, Lyon might be the very first names that come up to your mind. The Gaul capital is rich with memorable history, culture and beautiful sightseeing that have been collecting for more than 2000 years.

Today people come to Lyon with different reasons: gastronomy, historical and architectural landmarks, arts, light festival…you name it! And here is the selected list about things you can do in the city of light

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1. Climb up to the top of Fourvière hill

Challenge your friends, running to the top of the hill with over than 300 steps (or so) to reach the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, one of the city’s symbols. Outside of these alluring towers, toward the east, a panoramic view of Lyon is provided all day and night for you to explore. Heading further to the center of the hill, don’t miss to see the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière. Despite being built in the 1st century after Christ, this immense Roman theatre is still in a good shape. Since 1946, the historical stage is served for various performances for the Fourvière Night Festival each summer.

Little tips: If you are not sporty to beat those steps, taking a funicular is a good option for the visit, especially for a romantic trip, watching the sunset with your love.

2. Discover “Traboules”

Traboules_Lyon

The secret passages, one of Lyon’s identities. We don’t know that much about the origins of Traboules. They were probably first built as shortcut by the Romans on the 4th century. But they were for sure really useful when it was used by French resistance group during WWII. After, in the 19th century, the Traboules facilitated the silk workers to carry quickly their works from the upper Croix-Rousse to the foot of the hill where the textile merchants met. From around 400 traboules in Lyon (some books claimed that there were 700!), only around 40 are opened to public. These hidden traboules can be found mostly in Vieux Lyon, old city area and also in Croix-Rousse area. So don’t forget to bring the map to explore them!

3. Hop on and cruise along the river(s)

Whether you have a few hours or a half day to spend, Bateaux Lyonnais is another interesting choice to visit closely the two rivers. With this Lyon City Boat, you can choose to enjoy the view along Saône river for an hour or spend more hours to fill up your tummies in a restaurant boat during lunch time while admiring the river views. You can as well, cruise romantically, enjoy Lyon by night under the moonlight with a dinning cruise that guide you along the beautiful stream.

4. Cycle in Parc de la Tête d’Or

Parc Tête d'or

Despite being a frequent destination of joggers and sportive cyclists, the Park of the Golden Head is evenly a relaxing place for a slow living mode. Being considered as one of the largest park in France (290 acres), cycling inside here with a rental bike or scooter is utterly recommended.

Aside from a beautiful lake view and fresh air, this public park generously provides a free entry zoo, a botanical garden, rose gardens, greenhouses sheltering various kind of odd plants and sportive areas where you can do a mini-golf, boules sports, hose riding or even learn to bike or skate!

5. Eat like Lyonnais at a bouchon restaurant

Besides ancient architectures and history, Lyon is famous for being a French capital of gastronomy. Once you are in Lyon, “bouchon” is another French word that you need to learn. To simply explain, bouchon is a type of traditional restaurant in Lyon that serves local food and wine. Bouchon restaurants provide mostly typical Lyonnais dishes that are quite fatty and meat-based when comparing with modern French cooking. So when looking at the bouchon’s menu you will find something like andouillette (pork offal sausage), quenelles (ground fish dumplings), boudin noir (blood sausage), tête de veau (calf’s head) or salade Lyonnaise (bacon and poached egg salad) that are heavy but super tasty for your belly.

Little tips: If you are looking for an authentic Lyonnaise cuisine, La Tête De Lard, Café des Fédérations or Chez Grand-Mère are highly recommended by us.

6. Join free walking tour

2018-07-23 Monday Tour

Stroll around Lyon while learning more about the city from a local expert guide, this is fun and free! Discover the ancient ruins, abandoned church, Traboules and street arts in the city of light. Together with a Lyon brief history and surprising stories, you will get a list of recommendations for the best bakery, museums, bars, activities, restaurants and places to visit by yourself. The free walking tour is available day and night with different themes and atmospheres. And if you have some particular interests, just try a Private tour; one that will be designed exclusively for you!

7. Inspect the museums

Museums visiting may not be an indispensable activity in Lyon but tons of them are totally worth to step inside. To learn about the city’s culture, going to museums where detailed information is collected is a good start. In Lyon, you will find different themes of museums and here are some top picked museums that we would like to recommend: Museum of Fine Arts – a paradise for art lovers, Confluence Museum – a story of mankind and history of life, Resistance and Deportation History Centre – WWII history witnessed by Lyon city, Musée Miniature et Cinéma – a world of cinema and art of miniatures, Gadagne Musuem – a place to learn about Lyon history and puppets, and many more.

8. Watch Guignol puppet show

Guignol

He is not only a star of French puppet show but Guignol is as well another symbol of Lyon City. Created and presented in front of a dentist chair, the puppet show was not initially for entertaining but for distracting patients who came to pull their teeth out. However, as the show was so hilarious, more and more people came to the dentist’s just to watch this unique show. And the show finally became too successful that the creator abandoned his dentistry career to be a full time puppeteer.

Little tips: To watch Guinol’s show today, Théâtre la Maison de Guignol and Guignol un Gone de Lyon provide it throughout the year.

9. Hunt for mural and street art

Enjoy your trip in a Lyonnais free and open-air gallery! If you are a street art fan, merely walking around Lyon already satisfies your visit.

As a mural city, Lyon is embedded with tons of wall paintings, graffiti, tiles, sculptures, etc. Some of them are “trompe l’oeil” (optical illusion), some are cheeky, some are philosophic and some are so ironic. Besides the famous Lyonnais Mural (La Fresque des Lyonnais), the Garnier and Canut mural, and the City Library, you will spot David Bowie’s eyes, some boobs and monkey heads, 8-bits game images and many more! Countless of artworks are there, waiting for you to discover. Anyway, just be hurry especially for those who are called “street art” because tomorrow some of them might disappear already.

10. Picnic on the Croix-Rousse Hill

It’s time to go up again, but don’t forget to grab something to eat ‘cause once you get there, you won’t want to get down easily. Despite an old silk production area, Croix-Rousse today became one of the most expensive areas in Lyon which makes the neighborhood remarkably peaceful. Although there are steep walkways and long steps to go, many open-air areas such as Place Colbert, Sutter Park, Botanical garden are totally worth to settle down, absorbing high quality oxygen before starting the meal with a breath-taking view from the height. Whether your food is a homemade bento or a cold sandwich from a fast food restaurant, a lovely view at this attitude will make your stomach happy for all day long.

Little tips: Street art is mostly found in Croix-Rousse area, you can also climb up the hill while doing street art hunt on the way before enjoying your supper up there.

Fourviere Hill

This is just a short list of the things you can do in Lyon but there are still plenty other things that you can discover in town. So, just be curious, walk around, ask people, and enjoy the best city in France !

Written by Pat the Expat

La Limonade de Marinette, Nostalgic restaurant

My mother is 60 years old. Sometimes she’s visiting me in Lyon. Last time she came, she tried our new Night Tour. Of course she loved it but that’s not the point… The point is : When we passed in front of the restaurant “La limonade de Marinette” during the night tour, she stopped. She tooks a look by the window and she smiled. She smiled like I never seen her smile before. Something different, something special… Nostalgia !Unaffected by the passing of time, this place stayed stuck in the 60’s… And we love it ! Why do we love it ? Let me explain to you…

La Limonade De Marinette - Enseigne

Nostalgia

Nostalgia is probably one of the most powerful feeling in human beings… It could make you cry, laugh or stay hours staring at nothing… And most of the time it’s good ! And what I love about nostalgia is that you can feel it even for something you never really knew. Yes I’m not that young anymore but still ! I wasn’t born in the 60’s ! But I don’t know. This smell, these old boxes of chocolate. These Formica tables… These Playmobil… It makes me feel something. Happiness… And it’s so fun ! Because yes, it’s easy to travel through the world… But traveling through time is not a piece of cake. That’s when you go to Marinette… There you’ll have a real taste of France, so typical, directly from the 60’s !

Food and hospitality

La Limonade De Marinette - Restaurant

Here it’s not a Michelin-starred restaurant… You won’t have complicated or expansive courses… Here it’s homemade, simple, no expensive but very good food. In France quiche it’s not as fancy as in the US. That’s why you’ll find a very good quiche in this restaurant. Desserts are no exceptions… You can even come just for a snack in the middle of the afternoon. A coffee, an hot chocolate or a lemonade and a nice dessert… This is heaven ! Like if you were stopping at your Grandma’s place !

And like at your Grandma’s place (hopefully), you’ll be always welcome at “La limonade de Marinette“. I love the convivial spirit that you can feel at this place… It’s the best !

Location

La Limonade De Marinette - Devanture

“La limonade de Marinette” is very well situated… 46 Rue Saint-Georges, 69005 Lyon, in front of the Saint Georges Church. It’s in the non touristic part of the old district. my favorite one. In Saint Georges. Very close to my favorite Irish pub “Johnny Walsh“. So it’s the best. It will give you the opportunity to walk a bit around this so well preserved part of Lyon. An old town street for an old spirit restaurant. Marinette fits perfectly here. Authentic, slow, relax, original… Far away from  the hustle and bustle of the street Saint Jean. Breath slowly and enjoy, you’re in the best place in the world !

Lemonade (After all that’s in the name of the restaurant)

For the ones which already know Marinette and are still reading this article, you’re probably wondering why I didn’t yet talk about the Lemonade… That’s because I’m the kind of guy which like to keep the best for the end… Because yes… How can we talk about Marinette without talking about her Lemonade ! It’s just the best ever… I would have never thought there were good or bad lemonades. For me lemonade was lemonade. But no ! When you tasted the Marinette’s Lemonade, there’s no way back… Ok… I won’t lie, At night, I prefer a nice pint of beer or a glass of wine… But in the middle of the afternoon, in summer, when it’s particularly hot… Marinette’s lemonade is all you need !

So : Fun design, good food, good lemonade, well situated and not expensive… What are we waiting for !

La Limonade De Marinette - Caisse de Limonade

Sunday night in the first district of Lyon

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During my free walking tour, a lot of people ask me where they can go out at night. Personally, I really like to go to the old city or in the first district to have a drink at night. There’s so many places where you can have fun when the night is on. But, when we talk about Sunday night… That’s not the same story… Empty streets ! Empty or closed pub… What’s suppose to be an awesome night become a nightmare.

Lyon, the City of Light. So lively, so vibrant from Thursday to Saturday, die at the end of the week-end. Sad people go back to their caves, waiting reasonably Monday morning. But you, happy tourist, unemployed, freelancer or rebel who refuse to accept the code of our society. You ! Who refuse the power of the Monday morning… What can you do ?

Live music in a bar on Sunday night ? No. Crazy atmosphere with crazy drunk people on Sunday night ?? No. Bar open on Sunday night ??? Yes… Maybe… Few of them…

From Thursday to Saturday, that’s always the same debate :

– Where do we go ?
– Johnny Walsh ? There’s live music and it’s easy to meet people there. It’s seems so nice ! And the guy talked about it in the free walking tour !
– No ! I more in the mood for a cocktail…
– So let’s go to the Florian. He said it was the best cocktail bar in Lyon during the free walking tour
– Or a wine bar ?!
– Cave des voyageurs ! There’s nothing better he said in the free walking tour
– Can you stop with your f*** free walking tour !
– Decide something and I’ll stop f*** b*** ! I just want to drink and have fun !
– Or a beer ? I heard there was a huge choice in les Berthom…

And when it’s Sunday :

– Where do we go ?
– I don’t know. What’s open with more than two people ?
– Wellll…

But don’t worry ! I’ve the solution. Go to the Dam’s Pub on place Sathonay ! It’s a bar with a terrace where you can have beer, cocktail or wine. Barmen and barmaids are incredibly nice and for around 11 euros, you’ll have a nice pizza. It’s the best !

Dam's Pub

Always open and always lively. There’s people there everyday and every time. And, most of the time, people going there are nice and easy going. It’s easy to meet people and to talk with them. Even better, there’s a Velo’v station on the terrace. So you won’t have any excuse. It’ll always be possible for you to come or leave with a Velo’v. And the last but the probably best reason to go there : If you come, you’ll probably meet me there… 

Eh !!! Pssstt…. This tip also works on Monday night…

Rakwe, the not to be missed cafe in Lyon

There is one thing that I’m sure about… After a good Free Walking Tour, nothing is better than a good coffee ! And for this, there is Rakwé… Coffee shop, colaborative space, art gallery… But what is this place which was established at 26 rue René Leynaud a year ago ?

Rakwe cafe des pentes

Rakwe, The best cafe in Lyon for the experts

Rakwe specialiste cafe

Rakwe is, above all, the best place to taste amazing coffees… with coffee beans imported from all over the world. Sometimes, the beans are even home-roasted. Brazilian coffee, Italian espresso, Lebanese… Every kind of coffee for every kind of taste. Even the name Rakwe is a reference to this universal drink. Indeed, Rakwe is the name of a Lebanese coffee maker. (Yes, for free, you also learn things !)

Experts will be able to talk for hours with Élias. This guy is so passionate about his work ! How do you want your coffee ? Immersion ? French press ? Infusion ? I have to admit, I’m not an expert at all and still, I love to listen to him explain everything about the different techniques. But not to worry ! You don’t need to be an expert. If you don’t know anything about coffee, he will help you and give you some recommendations based on your tastes.
And if coffee is not your thing, it’s not an excuse to not come. It is in Rakwe that I tasted the best Chai Latte in Lyon. And one of the best hot chocolates too… Ok, I haven’t taste all the chocolates or Chai Lattes in Lyon… But believe me, I have tasted many of them !

Rakwe, less expensive collaborative space in Lyon

Rakwe coworking

Yes ! It is not just a coffee-shop but it’s also the best collaborative space. And the least expensive one… Because, yes… it is free ! Wifi is very good, it’s a lovely place to work and you’ll never be by yourself. Many students are coming here every day, freelancers, creative people…
In Lyon, most of the collaborative space will charge you between 5 and 10€ per hour. Here, you can just take a coffee or anything else and stay as long as you want. No pressure. No need to take a look at the clock every minute. It’s just perfect. And, in fact, that’s where the website LyonExplorer was created one during very long afternoon.

Rakwe, authentic and original art gallery in Les Pentes

The slope (“Les pentes”) of La Croix Rousse is a very famous place because of its intense cultural activity. I have to say, I’m very proud and happy to live in this area ! The street Burdeau is full of little art galleries. I love every one of them. They are so interesting ! But Rakwé has not to be ashamed…

Obviously, the coffee shop and the collaborative space is quite new, but the art gallery activity is not that new. Élias Sfeir has been between these walls for seven years now. And he’s always happy to meet new artists and to create exhibitions for them. The result : very diverse kinds of exhibitions and ever-changing pieces of art. And he always chooses artists that he loves. It’s not a commercial art gallery that tries to sell you stuff… It’s pure art…

Subjective conclusion from someone in love with Rakwe

I arrived five years ago in Lyon. I tried many cafes, I discovered many nice places… I tried many collaborative spaces. And finally, I found the best… A place which reflects my own personality. A place which shares the same values and beliefs as me. A very human and comforting place. A place where you can speak English or French. A little cocoon where working is a pleasure.
So, I know it’s look like a big advertisement but it’s not… Like I did before for the Dam’s pub and like I’ll do for my favourite wine bar, I write about what I like. About the places that I discovered after a long time spent searching for it around Lyon. Places that I really love. And, in fact, I’m writing these lines at Rakwe… So, when will you come to say Hi ?

Rakwe Elias

Johnny Walsh’s pub – A little part of Ireland in Lyon

During the Free Walking Tour, many people ask me where to go out at night… It’s a tricky question because it depends on what you like. But, if like me you’re a huge fan of Irish pubs and live music, the anwser is easy ! Go to the Johnny Walsh’s, 56 rue Saint Georges 69005 Lyon.

Johnny Walshs

Johnny Walsh’s – Live music every night

Johnny Walshs Live Music

The pub is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 9pm to 3am. And, something unique in Lyon, every night it’s live music ! I’ve to admit, I’m a huge fan of Ireland, I went to Dublin seven times. And one thing that I really loved there was the pubs… Every pubs I visited had a special atmosphere with of course, live music every night. And when I came back to Lyon after spending a week in Dublin, I looked for Irish pubs… And I found what I was looking for. The Johnny Walsh’s, a genuine Irish pub in Lyon ! I found even better that what I was looking for… Because, yes there is live music every night, but, on Wednesday, it’s open mic ! And nothing is better than Open Mic ! So fun. I spent my best nights at those events…

Johnny Walsh’s, an international place for meetings

Johnny Walshs portrait

One of the reason why I created the Free Walking Tours was to meet people from all over the world. I always loved meeting people from abroad. And the Johnny Walsh’s is a perfect place for this. In Lyon, there are many places to speak English and meet people. But sometimes it’s way too formal for me. And that’s why Johnny Walsh’s is the best for me. Because you will meet people from all over the world in a very casual atmosphere, listening to music and drinking beers or cocktails… So if you don’t speak French, that’s perfect for you. Even the staff is not French ! Of course, if you want a typical French place to go out, don’t go there. But if you want to have fun, meet people, relax and not have to speak French, go there !

Johnny Walsh’s, live sports events

I’m not a huge fan of sport on TV but, when you watch a soccer or rugby game in a pub… It is something ! People are crazy and I love it. It’s so fun… Most of the “Olympique Lyonnais” games are broadcast on a giant screen. So bring your scarf and support your favorite team ! You can find all the informations about the different events on their facebook page. And if you really don’t like live sports, you can just come later because after the broadcast, it will be live music again ! So don’t worry !

Ok but really, why should I go to Johnny Walsh’s ?

If the live music, the open mics, the live sports events, the Irish atmosphere and the opportunity to meet people from abroad didn’t convince you… You probably shoudn’t go there ! But if someday you do our Night Free Walking Tour, you will discover the peculiar atmosphere of Saint Georges. The less touristic part of Vieux Lyon. I really love going there at night. It’s so beautiful and authentic but also very calm. A totally different part of the old town. And that’s where the Johnny Walsh’s decided to open 24 years ago. So even if you really don’t want to go to this pub, go take a look around the pub. At least to the Saint Georges church. And who knows… Maybe you’ll meet someone in front of the pub, smoking a cigarette. Maybe a beautiful girl or a charismatic man… And maybe she/he will convince you 😉

Johnny Walshs Irish Pub