In 2016, Lyon was France’s #1 city in the worldwide Global Liveability Ranking.  But how is it from a tourist point of view? Here’s our self-guided free Lyon walking tour to see the best of the city in only two hours… or more if you feel like it! It was a fantastic way to discover the city as I only had a short day trip from Paris to Lyon.

Lyon - Basilique de Fourvieres 01
Basilique de Fourvieres in Lyon

Not too far from the South of France, from the Alps and Paris with the high-speed train, it seems like a great starting point to explore France. Also, it has been known as the World’s Capital of Gastronomy for almost one century. It’s located in the Rhone Valley, a region reputed for its wine. It sounds like a great combination, doesn’t it?

If you have the opportunity to spend a weekend in Lyon, go for it. I wish I had more time than just doing a free walking tour in Lyon!

I only had a couple of hours to walk around Lyon and explore the inner-city, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Two hours are never enough to visit a place, but that’s sometimes all you have available because of other life commitments. Still, I’m glad I took the opportunity to have a quick look around, so I know it’s worth going back. As I was guided by a local friend, I could cover a lot during this Lyon walking tour.

Free Lyon Walking Tour: a two-hour Itinerary organised by a local

To do this free walking tour around Lyon, I followed the instructions of a local who lived in Lyon for more than 10 years. The numbers refer to the map at the end of the article.

We arrived by train at Pardieu station where we started our Lyon walking tour. From the start, we could see the Basilique de Fourviere that dominates the city perched on its hill. We walked around town with the objective to reach it. Like so many European cities, it’s full of beautiful buildings that could all be considered monuments. No doubt why it is listed as a UNESCO site. We went to Place Bellecour (1), the Bonaparte bridge (2) and finally arrived in the Vieux Lyon, at the bottom of the hill we were aiming for. In the Vieux Lyon, you cannot miss the Cathedral Saint-Jean (3).

The Vieux Lyon is the best place to experience the local cuisine in small restaurants locally called “Bouchons” (4). We had fun going through a few “traboules“, pushing doors to find secret passages leading to a maze from one street to another. If you have time, get lost in this area and try some food. We had a tight timing and we were too early for lunch anyway, so we carried on our walking tour after trying a few traboules.

If you are in Lyon for longer than two hours, you may be interested in joining a food tour. Click here for more info*

For less than 2€, we took the funicular (5), an old inclined railway from the 1850s that climbs to the impressive basilica. Make sure you take it from the right platform as there is another funicular going elsewhere on the left one. You can also walk to the top of the hill, but it’s tiring: there are many stairs to climb! This option will considerably increase the time of this Lyon walking tour. However, it will take you around a park with great views of the city so it can be worth it if you feel like exercising! Check out the map here for the details on how to go walk to Fourviere.

The view from the Fourviere basilica (6) is unbeatable. It was perfect to realise the potential of a longer visit, but mine had to come to an end already. It was an excellent free walking tour in Lyon. If you have more time to stop in the areas, you’ll enjoy it even more.

Have you been to Lyon? Did you do a walking tour? Share your recommendations in the comments below!

Where to stay in Lyon?

If you’re looking for a romantic, luxurious escape, have a look at accommodations in Le Vieux Lyon. If you’re after a cheaper option in a lively area, I recommend booking in the Presqu’ile côté Terreaux / Pentes de la Croix Rousse. Click here to view hotels in Lyon*

Where is Lyon?

Lyon is in the south-east of France, not too far from the Alps and not too far from the Mediterranean coast. There’s a hi-speed train going from Paris to Lyon in only two hours which makes it possible to explore Lyon as a day trip from Paris.

The region around Lyon, the Rhone Valley, is famous for its wineries. A visit outside the city is also an opportunity to see some typical villages. Wine lovers can join a tour from Lyon* (and enjoy the wines – no need to drive!) or, if you are limited by time, join a wine tasting class in the heart of the city*.

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Visit Lyon in two hours

This Post Has 10 Comments

  1. JJ Johnson

    O.k., so you’ve just ignited my desire to visit Lyon.

    1. Eloise

      Awesome 🙂 Let me know what I missed if you end up visiting it for longer than I did 😉

  2. Carolina Colborn

    Wow, you covered the essence of the city in two hours! 4 hours from Paris, can be a day trip of 4 hours!

    1. Eloise

      You’re right, Carolina. It can make a great day trip from Paris. There are regular trains even late in the evening so you could even have a bit longer than four hours 🙂

  3. Alli Blair

    Secret passageways? Say no more! Sounds like an amazing spot to explore and for great cuisine 🙂

    1. Eloise

      Hehe! I felt a bit lost to be honest, but it was fun! I really want to go back to try the food!

  4. Rhonda Albom

    I’ve never been to Lyon but would love to visit now. The world capitol of gastronomy sounds like my kind of place ;). The photos of the city streets look like fun, it seems like you could spend days exploring those little traboules and trying all of the food. The architecture looks gorgeous as well.

    1. Eloise

      Hi, Rhonda. Yes, I’m sure a couple of days in Lyon would be perfect. I can’t believe I didn’t get a chance to try the food in the capital of gastronomy. At least, I have an excellent excuse to go back 🙂

  5. Chloe Liying Lin

    Wow the scenery from the top is amazing. I can totally see and feel why it’s one of the most livable places in France. The architecture is simply splendid too!

    1. Eloise

      On top of looking good, having a good climate and being not too far from the ocean and the mountains, it’s also an economically alive place where a few big companies are established. I’m sure it’s not perfect everywhere there, but it does sound very good!

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