There are many reasons for travelling to any city in the world. But when it comes to Lyon, France we are sure that “10 reasons” will never be enough. So, let’s start with the 10 best reasons to visit Lyon and once you arrive there, you might add 10 more yourself.
1- It’s almost impossible to find bad food
Good food itself is enough reason to go visit Lyon. An epitome to the “profound” French cuisine, Lyon is adorned with Michelin stars from tip to toe. Lyon represents the heart of the French gastronomy. Combining quality materials, tradition and mastery, this city gives you high standards even in the simplest, cheapest or fastest food. Paul Bocuse is a legendary name in French cuisine and is among the names who bestowed the city with its current richness and appeal.
Beside the Michelin-star restaurants, which may come across a little too expensive, you can find a variety of different cuisines in Lyon as well, from Indian to Japanese. And they’re all good.
But the real deal is the “bouchon” venues here. Bouchon literally means “cork” (you can remember it from “tire bouchon” which is the French equivalent of “corkscrew”) and indicates the places where you can open your own wine bottle. However, here it is used to denote comfortable places which generally cook offal.
In Lyon you are likely to see the “Brioche aux Pralines” everywhere, which look like huge cookies stuffed with pink candies inside. They are too sweet for my taste, but I advise you not to come back without eating one!
2- A city you can explore on foot
By force of habit, I first like to discover a city by car before going on foot. But when the wheather is right, you definitely need discover Lyon by walking.
Inhabitants of this city, which is listed in the Unesco World Heritage Sites, are called “Lyonnais”.
The city is established at the junction point between rivers Rhone and Saone. For this reason
it has been a centre of commerce, industry and banking since the Roman age. This is also the reason why the newest, highest quality and freshest products are found in this city.
The city is also home to many bridges, each more spectacular than the other. You can use a different one in each crossing.
The city is home to many squares which are always bustling with people.
Place Bellecour is the largest square in Lyon, and the third largest in France. The square is always home to activities, concerts and protests in the city. You can recognize it by the huge Ferris wheel that is located in the middle.
The old settlement Vieux Lyon, which can be said to consist of three sections, is also a must-see. Here you can find many materials or toys related to the famous French theatre-puppet character Guignol.
3- Fans of The Little Prince, step forward!
Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the author of The Little Prince, was born and raised in Lyon.
The architecturally appealing Lyon airport is named after him and the airport is decorated with The Little Prince symbols inside.
In a very central but secluded part of the city, there is a sculpture of Antoine de Saint-Exupery together with his little hero, The Little Prince, peeking through the trees. You look up to them…
The author being Lyonnais, you’d think that there would be merchandise related to The Little Prince everywhere. But actually that’s not the case. Quite the contrary; you begin to suspect whether you’re in the right place.
You can find licensed products in the “Old City” Lyon and in the airport.
Lyon has an abundance of museums. In addition to this, the city has museums dedicated to special areas of interest. Considering that the Lumiere brothers are from Lyon, it is only natural that there is a cinematography museum (Musee Lumiere) in Lyon.
Some of the other remarkable museums are the Printing/Graphics Museum (Musee de l’Imprimerie de Lyon) where you can see historical timeline of the development of printing systems and the Fabric and Decorative Arts Museum (Musee des Tissus et des Arts Decoratif) where you can likewise see the historical stages of patterns and textures.
The Musee Miniature et Cinema, where miniatures of famous film scenes are demonstrated, is also a must-see for cinema enthusiasts.
The Lyon Fine Arts Museum (Musee des Beaux-Arts), where you can see the works of many famous painters from Degas to Renoir and El Greco to Picasso, is another must-see with its vast building in classic style with its many different sections and its garden.
The Musee des Confluences, which I could only see from outside (could tell that it is very beautiful and distinctive in its own way), is very impressive too as far as I read about it. This is a nature and science history museum.
5- What a park!
The Parc de la Tête d’Or is like a whole other city specifically designed for nature and animals.
This is one of the favourite stops of the Lyonnais and it is frequented by the tourists too.
It is an interesting park with a botanic garden, a river for boat trips, a zoo along with walking and biking tracks. It is open till late up to 22:30 in summer months.
6- I’ll beat you Lyon!
The Notre Dame de Fourvière Basilica (La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière) resembling a Disney castle from the distance and visible from many locations in the city, is also a remarkable building. It is easily accessible via the funicular train. It is also an important religious centre point for the Catholics. Here you can see some of the best examples of stained glass works, which is common for churches. Each of the pictorial boards inside tell a story of its own.
After the museum a panoramic view of Lyon will be waiting for you to enjoy. Here you can see how rivers and bridges make the city even a more beautiful place.
By the way, if you have a special interest in churches and cathedrals you can see the famous St. Jean Cathedral in Vieux Lyon, the old city.
Is Lyon worth visiting just for shopping?
I think not! Especially with the present-day currency exchange rates. However, it is definitely one of the cities with good shopping alternatives. You can find both luxury brands and the classical chain stores you know from home. The specialties are boutique stores with their genuine decors.
Being a haven of beauty products and creams, it is still cheaper to buy cosmetics in France despite the high exchange rates of Euro compared to TRY. There are many stores which I could call “pharmacy-markets”, which typically offer pharmacy products in a small section and cremes and vitamins in the rest of the store.
By the way, you need to see the food, antique and book markets daily set up along the river.
Lyon is also a city of fantastic bookstores, especially for enthusiasts of comic books, art and food. The only problem is, they’re generally in French!
8- While gastrophiles can book tickets for the exhibition Sirha, show lovers can book tickets for the Festival of Lights!
This article as a matter of fact, does not cover all the things to enjoy in Lyon, I’m rather trying to list the essential “things to do” in Lyon in a subjective way. Sirha could be one of these. Sirha is a gastronomy exhibition which is organized at the centre of gastronomy world, we can say that it’s the largest and most prestigious gastronomy exhibition in the world. World-famous -and especially French- chefs work their magic here; they cook their specialties for the exhibition. Expectedly, the world’s most famous chef competition, Bocuse d’Or is also held here. The next one is in 2021.
One of the most popular stops on the way to the Alps, Lyon gets its fair share from the cold. If you like going around the streets in December watching the lights in the streets, I can recommend visiting Festival of Lights, when they adorn the city with lights all over.
9- What can “one building with paintings on the side” can change?
I said one, but there are a few. The most famous one is the Fresque des Lyonnais, which depicts 24 world-famous histories and 6 current personalities and showcases them on the side of the building. On Rue de la Martinière…
A Google image search for “Les Murs des Canuts” would exactly show what I’m trying to say.
Walls of the buildings such as The Cite Library, The Cinema Wall, The Charpennes Theatre are also worth seeing.
10- Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
Halles literary corresponds to our marketplaces for fruits and vegetables at home. But here at
Halles there is something different and special. Even the doors open with respect to the legendary chef, Paul Bocuse as a sign of gratitude. Here you can do all kinds of shopping and eat too.
You can buy many different things from cheese to mushrooms, chocolate to shellfish directly from their masters. I especially recommend the cheese stores here. Chocolates are a bit too expensive.
You will also see a crown emblem on the door here.
I heard that this represents their motto of “Good ingredient is top priority. You can’t cook good food without good ingredients!”.