Meet Lyon: France’s Second City

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Arriving in Lyon, I only knew three things about the city: that it was the second-largest city in France after Paris (if you include the metro area), that it was France’s culinary capital, and that it was home to an amazing lights festival.

Lyon’s Fete des Lumieres was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen — but the city was beautiful to photograph during the day, as well!  Here are some of my favorite pictures from Lyon:

Unusually, Lyon sits on not one but two rivers: the Saône (pictured above) and the Rhône.  The two rivers run parallel throughout the city, creating a very long “island” of sorts.

Roman ruins?  But of course!  This amphitheatre is one of the best-preserved ruins in the region.  (And I love the landscaping they did!)

Forget summer — the ferris wheel in Place Bellecour runs year-round!  Views like this from the top were absolutely worth the chilly temperatures.  From the architecture to the shape of the fountains, this is just SO FRENCH!

Lyon had so many things that I love about France, like architecture, tiny quaint streets, and amazing foods.  This street was filled with brasseries topped with bright red awnings and Christmas lights.

One of Lyon’s most famous dishes is the tarte aux pralines — a tart packed tightly with nuts and sugar!

On our second day, we geared up for a Cyclopolitain tour, where a Frenchman with thighs of steel would pedal us all over the city…until it began to snow.  Hard.  Our guides weren’t dissuaded — they continued to pull us through the city, even as they themselves got covered in snow!

We stopped to check out Le Fresque des Lyonnais, an amazing trompe l’oeuil mural featuring Lyon’s most famous residents, including chef Paul Bocuse and Antoine de Saint Exupéry, author of The Little Prince.

In some places, it was absolutely magical.  Lyon’s Old Town in a fresh coating of snow looked like something out of a fairy tale.

And then it quickly turned ugly — snow, slush and sleet hitting from every direction.  Temperatures dropped.  Shivering underneath the blanket in the back of the Cyclopolitain, I felt like my toes were ready to freeze clean off.

Laurel and I lasted as long as we could — then we begged for a Starbucks break so we could warm up our toes.  As soon as we returned, lattes in hand, the snow had stopped!

One thing I’ve learned, however, is that the weather in France rarely stays the same for long.  By the time we had finished lunch, we came out to sunshine and blue skies.

Lyon may be known as the younger sibling to Paris, but it’s a beautiful city that absolutely deserves a visit of its own.

Many thanks to Rhône-Alpes Tourisme and Magellan PR for hosting me in Lyon.  All opinions, as always, are my own.

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35 thoughts on “Meet Lyon: France’s Second City”

  1. I’ve always wanted to go to France, and Lyon has always been on my list of 4 cities I want to visit. Found your blog recently, and really gives me more motivation to travel more. I like seeing the world through your eyes. New fan 🙂

  2. Great pictures looks like you had a great time despite the weather.

    I visited Lyon last year for a weekend and LOVED it. I had no idea it’s the second biggest city in France, and it certainly doesn’t feel anything like as metropolitan as Paris.

    I loved the market down on the riverfront, selling incredible fruit, cured meats, sausages and oysters. The cathedral is beautiful and unusual in that it’s on 2 levels.

    Lyonnaise food is incredible – I had the most amazing rabbit in a mustard sauce with a bourgogne wine.

    Definitely worth the trip, and easy to include Dijon in along the way too which is a worthwhile visit.

  3. Lyon really does look like a (French) fairy tale in the snow! Beautiful!
    I especially love that trompe l’oeuil mural — I had to look twice to realize that those are not actual façades!

  4. Great photos Kate! Lyon looks amazing with the fresh snow falling! That mural looks interesting too – not to mention the Roman ruins! I might have to make a side-trip to Lyon when I’m in France next year!


  5. Your original post on the festival of lights made me want to visit Lyon, but I forgot about it till now. But this post has reminded me. Lyon does look really beautiful! So I’ve just booked to go to this year’s festival. Can’t wait!
    I loved Up Helly Aa, by the way. I don’t think any of your recommendations can top that. Want to go back 😀

  6. I definitely need to go back to Lyon. I only spent one night there a couple of years ago on my way elsewhere, but it has two funiculars – my favourite method of transport!

  7. Thank you so much for posting about Lyon, Kate! I study French and Spanish at university and I’m going to be in Lyon for a couple of months this summer as part of my year abroad. I was determined to choose destinations that I haven’t previously visited. I feel as though this was a good decision now; your photos have definitely got me excited.

    I have been reading your blog for quite a while and I must say your love of travel and of blogging is infectious. I look forward to reading about more of your adventures!

  8. I never considered Lyons as a destination. But now I know better and through your photography, I can see many photographic oppurtunities! Thanks for this lovely article, Kate!

  9. I am sitting at the Nice airport and reading your post. Looks like my next French city to check off will be Lyon….Thanks Kate!

  10. I am planning on spending 4 nights in Lyon in October this year as part of a 3 month trip around Europe. I was just wondering which area would be the nicest/safest for accommodation, as I am travelling alone? Thanks 🙂

  11. Me and my husband are planning to visit Lyon from Geneva . We are planning to spend a weekend in Lyon. I was just wondering if we could get a car rental for the weekend and visit nearby villages. More of experiencing the culture. Any advise on car rentals in Lyon and overall experience ?

    Thank you !!!

  12. Hello from Wisconsin US, we are planning a 1 week stay in Lyon in April, everyone seems to love Lyon, I can’t wait to walk the city and eat the food. Thank you for your posts! ❌⭕️

  13. Rohit Bhatnagar

    Hello Kate ..myself along with one friend coming to Lyon this week ..could you please recommend good hotel for our stay where we can get scenaric beauty in good cost ?

  14. Great post, loved this glimpse of Lyon! Where is the quaint street with the brasseries? Or were there any particular neighborhoods you loved to walk through? Definitely going to check out the ruins & the ferris wheel!!

  15. Great read! Lyon looks so gorgeous. I’ve just been in Provence and was told to visit Lyon and now I’m super keen. Saint Rémy in Provence was a really pretty town with ancient ruins too.

  16. Lyon is a fabulous city and very much the gastronomic capital of France.

    Anthony Bourdain made a great programme on Lyon which I watched recently where he visited the city with world-renowned French chef Daniel Boulud who was born there. Very interesting!

  17. Fantastic briefing with pictures…plan to be in Lyon during this weekend and now I have a good idea what I can expect in Lyon and what should I plant in my trip..thank you

  18. Hey there Kate!
    Great post! I’m glad you enjoyed our gorgeous city so much. You came during the right time of year: Lyon during the winter/Christmastime is definitely worth the trip. I do hope that you come back soon because, I promise, the city is just as beautiful and filled with life during the summer, in a different way. There are so many things to do! Feel free to stop by (cf URL in name) and give us your feedback on the city and its attractions: opinions like these are super important! Au revoir!

  19. Hi Kate, I am going to Lyon at the end of May. Will stay there for four day. I walk a lot and I tend to go to museums as well. Do you think four days would be enough to cover everything? Many thanks, Mutlu

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