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How Many Days Should You Spend in Lyon? What to Know Before Booking

Are you wondering how many days you need to see Lyon? Here’s what you need to know and how long you should spend in the gorgeous city of Lyon.

How Many Days Should You Spend in Lyon?

In order to see all of Lyon without rushing, I think you need at least 3 full days. That doesn’t count the days where you are traveling to and from Lyon.

If you want to take your trip a bit slower, I recommend 4-5 full days.

Here’s my full 3-Day Lyon itinerary which makes sure you don’t miss anything while on your trip.

I absolutely loved my time in Lyon, so I wanted to make sure to really document and plan out that itinerary to make sure whoever read it would really love Lyon like I did!

view of Lyon from Fourviere

Lyon is often called a small Paris, with the charm of a smaller French village on one side of the river and a more modern Parisian look on the other.

Colorful buildings wrap around the Saône River with hills behind them that allow for incredible views that overlook the city, making Lyon one of the most beautiful cities in France.

With 3 days in Lyon, you’ll be able to visit each area of Lyon, through all the can’t-miss spots as well as a few hidden gems along the way.

Why Do You Need at Least 3 Days in Lyon?

What you need to know about Lyon before going there is that the city is split into 3 different main areas/neighborhoods in Lyon:

  • Vieux Lyon & Fourviere
  • Presqu’île
  • Croix Rousse

Each area has plenty to do and you’ll want to dedicate a day to each one.

However, if you really are short on time and only have 2 days, I would skip the Presqu’île section of the city unless you really love shopping!

Obviously, the number of days you should spend in Lyon is going to depend on your personal preferences, the purpose of your visit, and the amount of time you have available.

Lyon is a vibrant city with a rich cultural heritage, delicious cuisine, and numerous attractions.

Here are a few factors to consider when deciding how many days to spend in Lyon and reasons why you need at least 3 days in the city:

1. Enough Time to Explore the City

To get a good sense of Lyon’s main attractions, neighborhoods, and local culture, plan to spend at least two to three days.

This will allow you to visit landmarks like the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, Vieux Lyon (the old town), Place Bellecour, and the traboules (hidden passageways).

The photo below is a street in Vieux Lyon:

Vieux Lyon

3. Time to Try All the Amazing Food

Lyon is renowned for its gastronomy and is often referred to as the gastronomic capital of France.

If you’re a food lover and want to fully immerse yourself in Lyon’s culinary scene, consider allocating an additional day or two to enjoy the city’s traditional bouchons (local restaurants), try local specialties like quenelles and saucisson, and explore Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, a famous indoor food market.

The Praline pastries were a major highlight for me during our trip, so you’ll want to try a different kind at least once a day! (Or maybe that’s just me!)

Praline pastry in Lyon

A visit to Lyon wouldn’t be complete without a visit to the Boulangerie Du Palais, which is so well-loved that there is a line out the door no matter what time of day you visit.

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However long the wait, it is definitely worth it to get your hands on some of the best pastries in town.

The famous praline pastries, which are dyed deep red, are incredibly sweet and very unique to Lyon. I recommend the Allumettes aux Pralines, which are one the best pastries I’ve ever had!

4. Possibly Take a Day Trip from Lyon

Lyon’s central location in the Rhône-Alpes region makes it a great base for day trips to nearby destinations.

If you plan to explore the surrounding area, such as visiting the picturesque Beaujolais wine region or taking a day trip to the medieval town of Pérouges, add an extra day or two to your itinerary.

If you want to take a day trip from Lyon that involves wine tasting, this tour is a great option. You can travel stress-free to try some of the best wines in all of France, in the nearby Côte-Rôtie vineyards.

5. Attend an Event or a Festival

Lyon hosts several exciting events and festivals throughout the year, such as the Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières) in December and the Lyon International Fair (Foire de Lyon) in March.

If you want to attend any specific events, be sure to consider the duration of those events and plan your stay accordingly.

6. Take a Walking Tour, Food Tour, or River Tour

One thing I wish we had done while in Lyon (especially Vieux Lyon) was take a walking tour. It’s such a historic city and I definitely plan to head back and learn more about it next time.

Another option if you are looking for traditional restaurants in Lyon, is to try a food tour or a dinner cruise along the river if you want to try some of the best food in Lyon without some of the stress of planning and finding the restaurants yourself.

I definitely plan on doing the dinner cruise along the river the next time I’m in Lyon (which there will be a next time since I loved it so much!).

Taylor Swift is actually performing there so if I get tickets, I’ll be seeing Lyon very soon!

7. Learn About Wine & Become a Wine Connoisseur

Want to become a wine connoisseur while on your trip to Lyon? Check out this wine-tasting tour that takes you through all the best wines of the region, while also teaching you everything you need to know to become a true wine expert.

The wines are all local and include Beaujolais, Burgundy, and the Rhône.

8. Take Some Time to Attend a Puppet Show at La Maison de Guignol

The Maison de Guignol is the House of Puppets. Lyon is famous for its puppet shows, and if you would like to see one, this is the best place to do it!

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You’ll most likely have to plan in advance and you can find the scheduled puppet shows on their website.

The shows last about 50 minutes and cost about 11 euros per person.

Maison de Guignol Schedule

However, even if you’re not interested in viewing a puppet show, the outside of this shop is one of the most beautiful areas of Vieux Lyon.

9. Shop for Used Books at Le Bal des Ardents

Come on, there’s nearly nothing more romantic than spending some time in a used bookstore while in a foreign country, ESPECIALLY if that country is France! (Check out my used bookstore walking guide for Paris here).

So, if you’re a fan of searching out quaint bookstores, you’ll love this little stop called Le Bal des Ardents! You can find used and new books (although it was still a bit expensive).

Le Bal des Ardents

But I love being able to slow down a little on my trips and look through all the different books and genres and even buy one or two to bring home with me.

10. Go Shopping in Presqu’ile

If you are big into shopping, then Presqu’ile might be your favorite day in Lyon!

You can find most major stores in this area as well as a few European favorites like Decathlon and Monoprix on the streets Rue de la République (a UNESCO-protected shopping street) and Rue Tupin.

If you’re from the US and haven’t heard of Decathlon or Monoprix, I highly recommend taking the time on your trip to go through them.

Decathlon is like if Dick’s Sporting Goods or Cabela’s met Walmart. It’s so cheap and you can basically get anything from $3 swimsuits to $10 tents for camping.

Whenever my husband and I see a Decathlon in any city, we can’t help but go in, including when we were in Zermatt, Switzerland!

11. Take a Long Break to Relax & Take in the Views at Jardin Des Rigolards

The Jardin Des Rigolards is a small park area with benches and one of the most incredible views of Lyon that you’ll ever see. If you follow my three-day itinerary for Lyon, this stop is on day 3 in the Croix Rousse neighborhood.

Jardin Des Rigolards

You can sit and soak in the view for a while, if you like, or take a million pictures like I did!

Consider Your Pace and Travel Style To Decide the Number of Days

Ultimately, the number of days you should spend in Lyon depends on your personal pace of travel and what you like to do on your trips.

If you prefer a more relaxed and leisurely visit, you may want to allocate more time to fully experience the city.

On the other hand, if you have limited time and prefer a faster-paced visit, you can still cover the main highlights of Lyon in a shorter period.

I usually like to spend 4-5 hours exploring the city each day, and the remaining time would be spent in cafés, restaurants, or even heading back to my hotel or Airbnb.

However, if I were traveling with someone with a different travel style, I would take that into account.

Some Questions to Ask Yourself & Your Travel Companions:

  • How much walking do you want to do? Are you okay with walking 10-15,000 steps per day?
  • Do you mind taking public transport or do you prefer using Uber?
  • What is the priority of the trip: city exploration or leisure time?
  • What restaurants, cafés, foods, or landmarks are an absolute must-see in Lyon for you?
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Once you get started asking questions like the ones above, I’m sure you’ll naturally come up with a few more that will help you plan the trip according to how your group likes to travel.

After many trips with in-laws and families of 8+, I definitely think having a good talk before the trip will make the trip more enjoyable for everyone involved!

Spending at least three days in Lyon will allow you to explore the city’s main attractions and will fit most travel styles.

However, if you want to delve deeper into Lyon’s culinary scene, take day trips, or attend specific events, consider adding a few more days to your itinerary.

What Time of Year Are You Visiting Lyon?

Another thing to consider when deciding how many days you’ll need in Lyon is the season. Are you visiting in the high season, the shoulder season, or the off-season?

If you’re traveling in the high season, you might want to afford yourself one extra day to account for the extra time you’ll spend waiting in lines or trying to get to the front of a viewpoint. Everything will take a bit longer and since the high season is in the summer, it’ll be a lot hotter as well.

We all know that we move a lot slower and tend to do a bit less in the summer. You might want to split up some of your days and make sure to include more rests throughout the day.

If you haven’t chosen a season to visit yet, I highly recommend the fall (the shoulder season). We visited in October and it was gorgeous, plus we didn’t have to share the city with hardly any tourists.

Honestly, traveling in the fall in Europe is WAY better than in the summer. But maybe don’t tell too many people that lol.

Overall, 3 Full Days in Lyon is Perfect

For most travelers, 3 days spent in Lyon will be the perfect amount. If you’ve been to Lyon, definitely leave a comment with how many days you spent and whether you felt like it was enough.

Have a great trip to Lyon!

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