Another great city in France that has been gaining popularity for the past years among travellers is the city of Lyon. Renowned as the country’s gastronomic capital, Lyon offers a delightful experience of excellent cuisine and, at the same time, a blend of history, culture, and tradition that entice visitors from around the globe.
In this 2 Day Itinerary for Lyon, we will share with you things you can do, places to visit, and what food to try during your trip. Yet, believe it or not, with just 48 hours in this enchanting destination, you’ll still have the opportunity to experience the city’s highlights, from strolling through ancient streets to indulging in exquisite cuisine.
The city boasts a fascinating history dating back over 2,000 years. When in town, it’s hard to miss the UNESCO World Heritage site, Vieux Lyon (Old Town), which showcases well-preserved Renaissance architecture and charming cobblestone streets.
Then again, Lyon is famously known as the capital for gastronomy, which is why you can expect culinary excellence in the city. Housing numerous Michelin-starred restaurants and bustling food markets, you’ll get a taste of diverse culinary treats.
But beyond its gastronomic delights, the city offers a range of attractions, including the magnificent Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, Lyon Cathedral, La Croix Rousse, and the renowned Fourviere Hill, which blends science, anthropology, and art.
Before we delve further into your itinerary for 2 days in Lyon, you should also note the best time to explore the city.
If you want to enjoy outdoor activities and dining, day tours, and all the tourist stuff you can do in Lyon, then late spring to mid-autumn will be your best bet. Specifically, the city has few tourists from September to October, yet great weather and colourful foliage.
About your accommodation, there are several significant areas in Lyon to stay in. But if you are a first-time visitor, the La Presqu’île area would be a great place to look for a place to stay. It’s in the city centre and only a few minutes from the main attractions. But if you want to focus your trip on seeing the historical attractions of Lyon, you can stay at Vieux Lyon (Old Town).
In conclusion, Lyon is a captivating destination that promises an unforgettable experience. With its rich history, remarkable culinary scene, and diverse attractions, a weekend in Lyon will be a great choice!
So, keep reading and make sure to take down notes. This comprehensive guide will help you decide what to do in Lyon for two days.
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Overview of 2 Days in Lyon Itinerary
Here’s a glance at what you’ll see and do in two days in Lyon:
Day 1 in Lyon
- Explore Vieux Lyon
- Check out the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere
- Get lunch at Paul Bocuse
- See Place Bellecour
- Admire the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste
- Explore Lyon’s famous Traboules
- Visit the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon
- Dine & Drink at Groom
Day 2 in Lyon
- Leisurely Walk at Parc de la Tête d’Or and Jardin Botanique
- Stroll around Place des Jacobins
- Have Brunch at Halles de Lyon
- Check out Ampitheatre des trois gaules
- Spend Time at the Museum of Cinema and Miniatures
- Take a Cruise at Saône River
- Dinner at Takao Takano
Day 1 in Lyon
Explore the Historic Vieux Lyon
Exploring the historic Vieux Lyon is a must during your first day in Lyon. Vieux-Lyon is the city’s oldest district and was the first site in France protected under the Marlaux law. It was the central part of the town in the 16th century, but as the modern era arose, the Presquile became the centre of Lyon.
This is because this part of town has remained almost all its buildings and charming courtyards intact, and although the city seems old and left behind, many travellers visit the old town to explore its narrow cobblestone alleys and experience what it was like in the past.
You can also find hidden passageways in Vieux Lyon, also known as traboules. Silk merchants used these secret passages in the past, but as time progressed, residents added a sense of mystery to the area.
Check out the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere
Perched atop Fourvière Hill (the hill that prays), your next stop for your 1st day morning tour in Lyon is the majestic Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
The basilica is a registered UNESCO World Heritage site built by the famous architects Pierre Bossan and Sainte-Marie Perrin. It is considered the city’s emblem and is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Accordingly, over 2.5 pilgrims visit the Basicila each year.
But aside from the spiritual importance of Notre Dame, it also attracts tourists because of its stunning architecture and impressive panoramic city views. The inside of Notre Dame comprises two churches, each with extraordinary decor, intricate mosaics, ornate stained glass windows and grand interiors.
So, when you visit Notre Dame, you can learn about its historical and spiritual importance and, at the same time, marvel at its beautiful architectural structure.
Get lunch at Paul Bocuse
As mentioned earlier, Lyon is the country’s gastronomic capital, and it’s not surprising that you will find many Michelin-stared restaurants here, including Paul Bocuse.
Now, a trip to Lyon would only be complete with a gastronomic experience at Paul Bocuse. This restaurant is named after the legendary French chef. Here you can sample exquisite dishes that showcase French cuisine’s finest local and seasonal ingredients, prepared with innovative techniques.
The restaurant is just a few minutes from the Notre-Dame, making it an excellent place to have lunch for your first day.
See Place Bellecour
As one of Europe’s largest squares, Place Bellecour has become a prominent landmark in Lyon. It is the central historic centre of the city, home to the iconic statuaries and sculptures and also served as the military square back in Roman times.
The area has been regarded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is now a famous tourist destination with several historical implications.
As you stroll around the area, you can wander around different places, including the central equestrian statue of Louis XIV, the Saone and the Rhone figures, the Stone Watchmen and the famous Antoine de Saint Exupery statue.
The beautiful buildings, luxury boutiques, and cafes surround the square, which you can check out during your visit. At some time of the year, you might also come across significant events celebrated in the yard, whether book fairs, public concerts or local festivals.
Admire the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste
After strolling around Lyon’s busiest square, your next stop for the day is the towering Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptist. The Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste is a place of worship and a testament to Lyon’s rich history and architectural heritage. At present, it remains the seat of the city’s archbishop.
This magnificent cathedral rests in a waterfront plaza near Saone of Old Lyon and is known as the Primate of the Gauls.
What makes Cathedrale Saint-Jean-Basptise worth the visit is its stunning architectural structure. Get to admire a combination of Gothic and Romanesque styles, both interior and exterior, that took centuries to complete.
Furthermore, one of the cathedral’s highlights is its famous astronomical clock, which delights visitors with its hourly show. You can take your time to explore the tranquil courtyard and the archaeological garden adjacent to the cathedral.
Explore Lyon’s famous Traboules
Although you might already encounter a few Traboules during your visit to the Vieux Lyon, making time (about an hour or two) to explore these is necessary for your two days in Lyon.
These secret passageways are a unique feature of Lyon, offering a glimpse into the city’s history and culture. Initially used by silk merchants to transport their goods, the traboules were now open for exploration.
As you explore these, discover hidden courtyards, intricate staircases, and beautiful Renaissance-era facades. Some traboules lead to hidden gems like small gardens or quaint shops, adding to the sense of discovery.
The traboules can be found throughout Vieux Lyon, Croix-Rousse, and other parts of the city. However, only about 5% of the traboules are open and passable since the owners of the buildings have already closed off some traboules.
Visit the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon
While day one is mainly intended for exploring the city’s historical part, you must see the Museum of Fine Arts before the day ends. Lyon boasts of a rich historical heritage and is home to many Museums that showcase different kinds of arts and culture.
This is why art enthusiasts (or not) should take advantage of the opportunity to visit the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon. Housed in a majestic 17th-century building, the museum has an extensive collection of artwork spanning various periods and styles.
Some masterpieces you can admire here include the works done by Monet, Renoir, Picasso, and Van Gogh. Several sculptures, decorative arts, and archaeological artefacts are also on display.
Dine & Drink at Groom
After exploring Lyon’s attractions, enjoy a memorable dining and drinking experience at one of its best restaurants, Groom. This stylish and vibrant establishment offers a unique fusion of gastronomy and mixology.
While there are other bars and restaurants in the city, Groom is one of the most popular among travellers and locals. This trendy and upscale bar offers modern cocktails, a lineup of live music, and local DJs every night.
Their menu is carefully crafted, combining traditional French flavours with contemporary twists. So, if you’re up to enjoying the night at Lyon and at the same time want to have a delectable dinner, Groom is the best place to be at.
Day 2 in Lyon
Leisurely Walk at Parc de la Tête d’Or
On your second day at Lyon, start with a leisurely walk at the most significant urban park of the city, Tete d’Or Park. While the park is open to visit any time of the day, we suggest you go in the morning to enjoy the calmness and tranquillity of the place.
This expansive urban park in Lyon offers lush green spaces, serene lakes, and charming walking paths. It also has different attractions, including a zoo, a lake and even a miniature railroad.
If you want something more active than walking, you can also hike kilometres of trails and run and play in its rolling fields if you feel like it. But then again, you can take it slow, stop by a nearby cafe for coffee and pastry and enjoy a quick picnic.
Stroll around Place des Jacobins
One of France’s most iconic and beautiful squares is at Lyon – the Place des Jacobins.
Before it became an iconic landmark in the city, it was the first part of the Jaboin convent, named after the Jacobin monks. After it was destroyed, the square was opened and later built with a white marble fountain.
The fountain, the highlight of the square, represents France’s four famous local artists. Now, as you stroll around the square knowing its historical story, you’ll appreciate the harmonious blend of historical and contemporary elements.
Another thing you can do in the area is to admire the bronze statue of King Louis XIV at the centre of the fountain and marvel at the surrounding facades adorned with ornate balconies and balconettes.
Have Brunch at Halles de Lyon
Indulge in another delightful brunch experience at a renowned food market in Lyon. Halles de Lyon showcases the best of Lyon’s gastronomy, so this is a must-visit when in Lyon.
You can check out the market’s stalls filled with fresh produce, artisanal cheeses, cured meats, and tempting pastries. As you explore the area, select a variety of delectable treats and find a cosy spot to enjoy your brunch.
Sample local specialities such as quenelles, saucissons, and creamy cheeses, or ask a local to suggest something you can try. As you engage in conversations with friendly vendors, you will discover their passion for the culinary arts and realise why Lyon is the gastronomy capital of France.
Check out Amphithéâtre des trois gaules
The Amphithéâtre des trois gauges is another famous landmark in Lyon that holds an essential significance in the city’s history. It was formerly called Lugdunum and served as a gathering place and entertainment venue during the Roman presence.
The theatre gained popularity when the Gauls (indigenous people of the region) would gather in the area for assemblies. This made the Amphitheater more significant, especially concerning politics, religion and social implications.
With this, the ruins have been well-preserved since then and now act as a spot for locals and visitors to explore. Here you can admire the remaining stone seating tiers and the partially reconstructed stage, gaining insights into the architectural prowess of the Romans.
You can also check out an on-site museum to learn more about its history. Several guided tours can take you to the theatre, but they can also be explored independently.
Spend Time at the Museum of Cinema and Miniatures
One of the go-to interactive museums in Lyon (and France) is the Museum of Cinema and Miniatures. After learning about history and culture, here at the Museum of Cinema and Miniatures, you can unleash your inner film enthusiast as you check out an extensive collection of cinema artefacts.
Something you can see inside the museum includes props, costumes, and set designs from iconic movies. You can also marvel at the intricate details and craftsmanship of the miniature models, which bring famous film scenes to life and create awe and wonder.
This Museum is home to different galleries so each hall will be filled with memorabilia from classic and contemporary films. If you book beforehand, they also offer workshops and demonstrations to learn about the techniques and processes involved.
Take a Cruise at Saône River
Before ending your 48-hour trip to Lyon, you should take advantage of one of the city’s highlights. Home to this beautiful waterway, get ready to hop on a scenic cruise ride and see Lyon from a different perspective on the Saône River.
Several charters can take you on a cruise in the Saone River. You’ll need to board a riverboat, and from there, you can now relax as you soak in the panoramic views of the city’s landmarks and picturesque landscapes.
Plus, a sunset cruise will allow you to admire the scenic view of the sky and then end with an opportunity to witness the city illuminated at night.
Dinner at Takao Takano
After a long day of adventure, there’s no better way to end it than to have a gourmet dinner experience at the Michelin-stared restaurant Takao Takano.
Takao Takano offers traditional French cuisine combined with innovative Japanese flavours. The chef and mastermind behind the restaurant create exquisite dishes that showcase his unique culinary vision.
Expect each plate of food you get will be a work of art, combining flavours, textures, and techniques to create an unforgettable gastronomic experience.
The elegant ambience and impeccable restaurant service elevate your dining experience, ensuring a memorable evening before your trip ends.
Tours in Lyon
Get to learn more about the city’s culinary culture when you join a Food Tour in Lyon. During this tour, you will be led by a local who will bring you to areas of the Old Town where you can enjoy local and authentic food.
You will visit five restaurants, bakeries and artisan shops with a small group and try Lyonnaise specialities such as Pike quenelle, Cervelle des Canuts and Pink Praline Brioche. As you enjoy these delightful treats, you can also receive tips and information from your local guide.
Walking Guided Tour
Another tour option is the Highlights & Secrets Walking Guided Tour. On this tour, you will see the significant landmarks and attractions in Lyon, including the Place des Terreaux, Vieux Lyon and Colline de Fourviere.
These areas are home to several spots that serve as major tourist destinations in Lyon. What makes this tour worth it is that you learn about the places in Lyon from a local guide and, simultaneously find out secret routes you will only know about once you join the group.
2-Day Itinerary for Lyon Wrap-up
That’s it for this comprehensive 2-day Lyon itinerary! Now that we have shared with you the things you can do with just 48 hours in the city, you can stop doubting if this trip because it’s possible! With proper planning and scheduling, you are ready for an adventure to Lyon.
Recommended tours in Lyon
- Lyon Highlights & Secrets Walking Guided Tour (small group) including Funicular
- Secret Food Tours Lyon w/ Private Tour Option
- Lyon Old Town Half-Day Walking Food Tour with Local Specialties Tasting & Lunch
- Lyon Attractions & Museums Card & Guide with City Map
- Lyon Small-Group Guided Electric Bike Tour with a Local Guide
- 1 or 2-Hour Pedicab tour of Lyon
- Walking Food Tour in Vieux Lyon
- Food Tour in Lyon – Do Eat Better Experience
- Beaujolais Segway Tour with Wine Tasting
- Lyon Big Traboules in Little City Stories from the Past Private Guided Tour
- Wine Tasting & Meal Cheese Pairings with French Sommelier in Lyon
- Lyon Hop-On Hop-Off Tour with Audio Commentary
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