City guide: Lyon, France | Private jet charter
Located in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alps, Lyon lies 300 miles south-east of Paris and is the third largest city in France. A UNESCO World Heritage city, Lyon boasts a rich cultural heritage with a Renaissance Old Town and stunning 19th century architecture, alongside modern buildings like the Musée des Confluences.
Renowned for its gastronomic excellence, the late great chef Paul Bocuse spearheaded Lyon’s gustatory prominence with his Michelin star restaurant, while the local bouchons brasseries are a delight.
An ideal weekend city break destination, Lyon is an enchanting mix of ancient and modern with luxury hotels, parks and gardens and a rich cultural life to explore.
Top five must-see sights and attractions
Musée des Confluences
This extraordinary museum is located on the southern edge of Presqu’île at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. A nod to Lyon’s futuristic architecture, this steel and glass transparent crystal building is the icon of Lyon’s exciting new district, the Confluence. You’ll need a morning at least to explore this homage to the story of mankind and the history of life on Earth.
Begin your visit with the Origins section that describes our evolution and the Big Bang; followed by the Eternity, Societies and Species areas. There are also many outstanding temporary exhibitions. Then head to the roof terrace for spectacular views over Lyon.
Best Lyon markets
Lyon is a gastronomes paradise with countless outdoor and indoor markets to explore selling all manner of local meats, cheeses, wines, bread and fruit. The very modern Les Halles Paul Bocuse – named after Lyon’s famous chef – is a superb introduction to the region’s provenance and where many of the city’s restaurants source their ingredients.
If you prefer to saunter through outdoor markets then head for La Croix-Rousse and St Antoine markets. Located along the Boulevard de la Croix-Rousse – part of Lyon’s World Heritage area – La Croix-Rousse market has more than 100 stalls to peruse with much organic produce as well as hot food to savour.
St Antoine market is more focused on gourmet produce and lies on the banks of the Saône between the Bonaparte and Maréchal Juin bridges. Jean Macé market is a true locals market, located in the city’s residential 7th district. You’ll find Arab and Italian produce here as well as local provenance.
Lyon’s Roman amphitheatres
Lyon is built on the old Roman city of Lugdunum and blessed with two well-preserved Roman amphitheatres located in the Fourvière district. The larger site dates from 15 BCE and is near the Notre Dame basilica and is still used for cultural performances – don’t miss the Nuits de Fourvière drama festival each summer. The middle and lower terraces remain, as do the decorated floors and the stage foundations – a breath-taking sight which held around 10,000 spectators in its heyday.
The smaller Odeon theatre is closer to the top of the hill and was home to Roman music and poetry recitals, and built during the reign of Hadrian. Artefacts from both theatres are displayed in the Gallo-Roman museum. To reach the amphitheatres, take the funicular train from St Just or catch a taxi.
Centre d’historique de la résistance et de la déportation
The Center for the History of the Resistance and Deportation in Lyon is a fascinating exhibition that follows the story of the French Resistance. The museum hosts a combination of multimedia exhibits, moving eyewitness accounts of those who lived through this challenging time and a collection of memorabilia.
Parc de la Tête d’Or
Lyon’s Parc de la Tête d’Or is the city’s largest urban park in France – located just north of the city centre. Created in the 1860s, this haven for Lyon’s locals and tourists boasts 117 hectares of botanical gardens, 19th century greenhouses, rose gardens and even a tourist train. Hire a rowing boat and relax on the lake, or enjoy a picnic. The international rose garden here is world famous and the gardens boast over 20,000 varieties of plant.
Once inside the centre, the most efficient way to see the city – especially the Old Town – is on foot. Alternatively buy a Lyon City Card and take the tram, bus or four-line metro. Lyon has created ‘tourist taxis’ with English-speaking drivers who take faster routes and provide commentary. The Saône and Rhône rivers can be explored by boat taxis and Lyon provides e-bikes for shorter jaunts. Taxis and car services are plentiful and can be booked from your hotel.
Best time to visit
The best months to visit Lyon are in early autumn – September and October – when the days are sunny and crisp and the number of visitors has dramatically reduced. In addition, the autumn foliage provides a stunning backdrop for this elegant city.
For milder temperatures, May is recommended – especially for the Nuit Sonores festival – while peak season in June, July and August has high temperatures and the city is packed with visitors who are in town for the Nuits de Fourvière and Jazz à Vienne events.
Lyon’s reputation as the gastronomic capital of France is well justified: visit Paul Bocuse’s Michelin star restaurant, dine in the bouchons and visit the myriad street markets for some of the very best local provenance in the country.
The city is home to an eclectic mix of ancient and modern with a thriving cultural life and outstanding Roman remains. Lyon museums are world-class, as are the galleries, architecture, parks and gardens, and retail offerings. An ideal weekend location, Lyon merits a longer stay to explore all that this charming city has to offer.
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