It’s all too easy to overlook Lyon as a random city smack in the middle of Paris and the French Riviera. Skipping over it may seem, at first blush, like a small sacrifice for the beaches of Nice or the mélange of culture in Marseille. But to do so would be a grave mistake and spending 24 hours here offers plenty of things to see and do. Lyon, the gastronomic capital of France, has much to offer in the form of delectable bouchons, hearty meat-centric dishes paired with all your French favorites: bread, cheese, and wine. Here, you can spend each night trying a different edible part of a pig or cow after a day of climbing Roman ruins, admiring masterpieces in the city’s many museums, or roaming the cobblestone streets of Vieux Lyon—a UNESCO World Heritage Site in itself. Gear up for bouchon after bouchon, and get ready to immerse yourself in the vibrant culture of Lyon—influenced by its importance in the Roman Empire, its deep ties to Catholicism, and its status as an epicenter of intellectual development throughout the years. If you have one day to spend in Lyon, this itinerary can help you get the most out of your stay.
Morning: Start your day off at the Musée des Beaux Arts
At last, the chance to hang with our artistically inclined pals: Monet, Picasso, and Gauguin. It feels like centuries since we’ve last gotten together! Probably because their art is from hundreds of years ago. Man, walking through all these carefully curated wings with art from Impressionists, Modernists, and Renaissance art really takes us back to Monet’s fascination with landscapes, that time Pablo discovered Cubism, and Paul’s trip to Tahiti that he won’t stop painting about! When we’re finished with our rendezvous, we’re going to the extensive sculpture hall featuring works by Rodin, as well as the antiquities wing with Ancient Egyptian, Greco-Roman, Muslim, and Ottoman relics. The museum also puts on outstanding temporary exhibits, such as the one featuring Mexican artists like Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Grab a Lyon City card for free admission.
Lunchtime: Pack a picnic and stroll through Parc des Hauteurs
Directly meaning “park of heights,” it’s more a hiking trail than anything else. The park, or trail, rather, connects the top of Fourvière Hill to the cemetery of Loyasse. There’s a gold rose petal path that you can follow towards the La Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière or explore the rosary garden within the park. Head to the top and enjoy the views of Lyon’s orange-tiled rooftops and the Sâone River as you nosh. Or, if you’re feeling ambitious, take guided bike tour for a scenic tour of Lyon and its parks.
Afternoon: Make your way through Passage Thiaffait
Passage Thiaffait used to be a crime-infested alley, but, today, you need not fear anything so much as a stray cat. Named after Monsieur Thiaffait, the alley, which connects Rue René Leynaud and Rue Burdeau via two white staircases, is lined with chic boutiques, cafés, and artist workshops. Grab a coffee, peruse the shops’ offerings, and snap some pics of the surrounding pastel-colored buildings. Looking for more shopping? Head to Place Bellecour for even more window shopping, an outdoor market, and cute places to grab a bit.
Another option, if time allows or shopping isn’t your thing, is to head to Lugdunum: Musées Gallo-Romain de Fourvière. If we had to name one thing Lyon is proud of, it would have to be its importance during its time as Lugdunum, a city of the Roman Empire founded in 43 BCE. Now, we agree, it’s kind of weird to look back fondly on practically being colonized and ruled by an outside power (Stockholm Syndrome, anyone?), but Lugdunum was a powerhouse that laid the groundwork for the city Lyon became. The museum, which details everything about the ancient city—from its religious practices to palace structures to stunning mosaics—is expansive, spanning four descending floors. If walking between artifact after artifact gets a little dusty and dry, climb the steps of the Gallo-Roman theatre outside. Just don’t fall—it’s steep!
Evening: Dinner in Vieux Lyon
Lyon is the gastronomic capital of the world, so you definitely want to take full advantage of stuffing your face while you’re here. Head to Old Town to experience what the city is best known for—bouchons. If you’re feeling fancy, go for a Michelin-starred restaurant (Lyon has over a dozen!), or keep it low-key by settling into a cozy bistro. No matter where you choose to eat, we promise you won’t find a bad meal anywhere. Another option is to take a Lyon food tour and let a local guide show you some hidden gems, where you’ll sample and sip to your heart’s content.