Six Tips for Visiting Lyon, France
Marc and I only spent a day and a half in Lyon, but we saw a lot in that time and I learned a lot about France’s culinary capitol and “third city”. While neither of us is really a “city” person, we had a good time, and I would definitely recommend visiting if you’ll be visiting central or eastern France. To facilitate potential visits, here are a few tips I have after my time in the city:
Make use of the tramway and metro. It goes almost everywhere, and though Lyon is a very walkable city, you can eat up a lot of your time getting around on foot. The tramway and metro are both reasonably cheap and easy to use and both will save you time.
If you want to eat at a traditional Bouchon Lyonnais, make sure it’s a real one. There are 22 bouchons in Lyon that are officially licensed as such, and they will be marked with a sign stating such, often featuring a bundle of wheat or a handpuppet. There are many other restaurants that call themselves bouchons to cater to unwitting tourists, so be sure to double check. Marc and I ate at one real one and one fake one and there was a very noticeable difference in both the food and the service. I personally recommend Le Petit Gluton (great food, super friendly).
Be careful about Monday closures. Many of the museums and sites are closed on Mondays, so don’t make the same mistake we did by scheduling our time in the city for Sunday and Monday. There was a lot we wanted to see that we just plain couldn’t visit because of the closures.
Check out the traboules, but be polite and remember that they’re also private buildings most of the time. For many of the people living in the Vielle Ville or in Le Croix Rousse, traboules are merely entrances to their apartment buildings. Sure, they’re also often ancient and architecturally beautiful, but they are, first and foremost, someone’s home. Feel free to step down these unique covered alleyways, but be respectful of the fact that you’re basically stepping into someone’s courtyard.
Unless you like stairs, take the funicular railway to visit Fourvieres. It’s quite a hike to get to the top of the hill over Lyon, and though the attractions there (including two Gallo-Roman ampitheatres and the most elaborate church you’ll ever see, Fourvieres) are absolutely must-sees for Lyon, it can be exhausting to get there. The funicular makes it easy and won’t set you back much.
Make use of Lyon’s cheap public bike system. The little red and silver bikes you see everyone riding are a public bike system. You purchase a ticket at the location where you pick up the bike, which you will use to unlock it. They come with a flashing headlight and a lock, and almost all of them are in great condition because a bike repairman roams the bike depots throughout the city. The bikes are 1€ per day or 3€ per week, so they’re a steal! Even the locals use them all the time.
I really enjoyed Lyon and both Marc and I wish we had more time to explore the city. I highly recommend visiting Lyon if you’re going to France, and I even heard many long-time expats in France say that they prefer it to Paris! I hope that these tips will help you out if you choose to visit Lyon.