A shade under 2 hours on a fast train from Paris will bring you to the south of France and the lovely city of Lyon. The gastronomic capital of France, Lyon is a feast for the eyes, the soul and the stomach. Janine Marsh seeks out tempting visits for culture vultures and shoppers and finds that in the old town, almost every other building seems to house a restaurant, bakery, wine bar or somewhere to tempt your taste buds.
What to do in one day in Lyon
Let’s assume you arrive in time for breakfast and will stay for an early dinner catching the 21.04 train back to Paris.
Lyon At a Glance
It’s a long walk to the old town from the station and as you’re only there for a day it’s worth taking the metro to Place Bellecour. Get a map from the tourist office which is in Place Bellecour and from where you can take a guided tour on an open top bus. It stops at 13 key sites and you can get on and off as you like, so you can spend time where you want and it saves you the trouble of buying a one-day travel pass, making it really good value at €19.00.
If you don’t want to take the guided tour, from Place Bellecour you can walk over Pont Bonaparte, the bridge that crosses the River Saône and straight into the Old Town – a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a place of medieval towers, renaissance mansions, cobbled streets, amazing restaurants and a fascinating history. It’s also a must-see, so if you don’t take the tour, make sure you grab a map from the tourist office and visit this outstandingly beautiful old town. You can in fact spend the whole day here, just wandering, eating and shopping…
There are several museums including the huge, recently opened Musée des Confluences in the regenerated docklands area. Its radical design has raised eyebrows but the exhibition of the story of mankind shown through a collection of two million objects is very popular.
You’re bound to come across the word “traboules” in Lyon. These are a network of medieval covered alleyways and stairs in the Croix Rousse district linking courtyards and houses to the river. Lyon was famous for its silk weaving industry and the traboules enabled goods to be transported without getting wet. It’s a great area for a wander.
Cinema fans will enjoy the fascinating museum dedicated to famous residents of Lyon – Auguste and Louis Lumière, the world’s first film-makers, located in their former, art deco home.
Shopping in Lyon
Lyon has a sweet tooth so there’s plenty of opportunity to take home some luscious memories, Violette & Berlingot is a sugary feast (52, Passage de l’Argue). You might not be so keen on the local speciality, andouilette, a sausage made from offal, it’s a bit of an acquired taste and one day may not be long enough to acquire it!
Where to eat in Lyon
It’s hard to know where to start in a place that has more restaurants per head than any other town in France including 14 Michelin star restaurants. Eating out is a passion and hobby for the Lyonnais and there’s a huge choice. Head to the old town to experience Bouchons, traditional Lyon eateries that are very charming. Fun dining to fine dining, microbreweries, ultra-posh to gourmet burger – this town has it all, and then some. Rue Mercier in the newer part of town is brilliant for restaurants too.
Du Pain, du vin, du train to Lyon
Du Pain: Not strictly a bakery but a very special patisserie and chocolate shop – Bernachon of Lyon is an institution and a must visit for any sweet tooth. 42, cours Franklin Roosevelt
Du Vin: Les Vins des Vivants – a wine bar that’s run by two brothers, a great setting in the Croix Rousse district, charming venue and absolutely brilliant wines. 6 Place Fernand Rey
Du Train: Trains from Paris (Gare de Lyon or Bercy) to Lyon are direct and the shortest journey time is 1h57. Between Monday to Saturday the earliest train from Paris to Lyon leaves at 5:50am, arriving at 7:56am, in time for breakfast. The last train back to Paris is 21.04 arriving 23.12
Note: times are subject to change so please check the departure and arrival times carefully via SNCF or your ticket operator.
More on Lyon
How to spend 3 days in Lyon
10 free things to do in Lyon
Lyon, gastronomic capital of France
Old Lyon, pickled in the past