Why is Lyon called Lyon?
From ‘Lugdunum’ in antiquity, to ‘Lugdon’ in the Middle Ages, and then ‘Luon’, the city’s name finally became ‘Lyon’!
There are two competing etymologies: the origin of ‘Lugdunum’ could be from the Celtic words ‘Lougon’ (crow) and ‘dounon’ (high place), or from ‘Lug’ (light) and ‘dunum’ (hill).
Over the centuries, the city’s name evolved: ‘Lyduum’, ‘Lugdon’ and then ‘Luon’, before arriving at ‘Lyon’ around the thirteenth century.
What are the essential things to do in Lyon?
With a history stretching back 2000 years, Lyon has a rich past to explore: Fourvière, with its basilica and ancient theatres, Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon), with its Renaissance architecture, and the Presqu’île, with its iconic monuments and squares, are districts that have their own unique identity. They are all listed as UNESCO World Heritage, as are the slopes of Croix-Rousse hill and the silk industry.
The Musée des Beaux-arts (Museum of Fine Arts), the Musée des Confluences and Lugdunum Museum are fascinating for both their architecture and their collections. Find out more about the museums.
The rivers Rhône and Saône run through Lyon and come together in the Confluence district, making the city an excellent place for river cruises. Find out more about cruises
Tête d'Or Park is a green haven, with an internationally renowned rose garden and a lake, right in the city centre.
Lyon is also famous for its gastronomic tradition, with delicacies including quenelles (dumplings), pork products and praline tart, and its authentic restaurants known as ‘bouchons’. Click here to find out more about gastronomy.
Many events and festivals are held in the city, including the Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights), offering something for all tastes.
When is the Fête des Lumières held in Lyon?
The Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights) is held for four days around the 8th of December, always including a weekend.
For four evenings, starting at 7 or 8 pm depending on the day, Lyon is bathed in light: iconic buildings in the Presqu'île and Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon) districts, the hill of Fourvière and the banks of the Rhône, as well as Tête d'Or Park and Blandan Park, are illuminated by artists and designers from around the world and young local talents.
On the evening of the 8th of December, the people of Lyon place lumignons (small candle lanterns) on their window sills and balconies.
Discover the recommended routes to see all the festival’s main attractions, as well as practical info and the origins of the festival.
Is there are a special pass for visitors to Lyon?
The Lyon City Card is a contactless pass that provides access to museums, various discovery activities and shows, as well as public transport, for one to four days, with the option to include a return ticket on the Rhônexpress airport shuttle. Junior, student and family prices are available.
It pays for itself with just two activities per day and transport, so it is a very economical way to make the most of your stay in Lyon.
A 365-day version is also available for residents of Lyon, without transport, including three activities and a guided tour.
Find out more about Lyon City Card
How to take a guided tour in Lyon?
The Tour Guides Bureau offers many themed guided tours throughout the year, in French or English. To choose one and book it at our online store, click here...
There are also various tour options, including theatrical, storytelling, unusual, gourmet and fun tours, to discover the city.
What are the opening hours of the Lyon Tourist Office?
What is the best time of year to visit Lyon?
Each month of the year has its own charm and Lyon has a busy diary of events. The choice of when to come depends on your preferences.
In terms of the weather, Lyon has a semi-continental climate, with Mediterranean and oceanic influences. The winters are cold and the summers hot and sunny, sometimes stormy. The spring and autumn are mild.
In terms of events, the cultural season is rich and varied, including opera, drama, music, dance, circus arts, exhibitions, café-théâtre shows, and more...
There are many festivals throughout the year: Nuits givrées, Plug & Play, Yggdrasil, Wintower... with a burst of activity in the spring: Chants de Mars, Quais du Polar, Ecrans Mixtes, Opera Festival, Reperkusound, Nuits Sonores, which continues on into the summer: Nuits de Fourvière, 24H de l'INSA, Lyon BD, Lyon Street Food Festival, Festival de l'eau (festival of water), Tout l'monde dehors, Woodstower... In autumn, there is the Peinture Fraîche festival, Festival Lumière, Biennale de la Danse (alternating with the Contemporary Art Biennale), with the Fête des Lumières (Festival of Lights) as the high point.
Not to forget the many sporting events and the seasons of the major sports clubs, including Olympique Lyonnais (OL), LOU Rugby, ASVEL and Lyon Hockey Club.
What events will be on during my stay in Lyon?
To see upcoming events, go to the page What's on.
Select the dates of your stay in the search engine and confirm.
You can narrow down your search by selecting the type of events you prefer: music, exhibitions, festivals, sports, shows (theatre, café-théâtre, dance, circus arts, etc.), trade shows, conferences, celebrations, and so on. There is vast choice because Lyon’s culture and events scene is very lively and creative.
For leisure and discovery activities, go to the page Things to do in Lyon": choose your tours, tastings, cookery classes, river cruises, bicycle or Segway outings, etc. You will find many things to choose from.
Where can I find WiFi connections?
It’s easy to access WiFi networks in hotels, co-working spaces, stations, airports and at the Tourist Office.
How to get around the city on public transport?
Thanks to the extensive TCL public transport network, including bus, metro, tram and funicular lines, it’s very easy to get around Lyon and its metropolitan area.
If you’re driving in from outside the city, you can leave your car at a free park-and-ride facility on the outskirts and then use public transport.
You’ll find all the information you need to easily use the public transport network and park-and-ride facilities here.
What’s more, with Greater Lyon’s Vélo'v bicycle sharing system, you can hire a bicycle at one of the 428 stations around the clock, every day of the week, for one or more journeys, at a very reasonable price. Find out more
How to find accommodation in Lyon?
In Lyon, you’ll find a varied accommodation offering that caters to all tastes and budgets, including hotels, hostels, hotel complexes, guest houses, seasonal rentals, youth hostels and camp sites.
Choose the accommodation type that suits you in the accommodation section.
What is a ‘traboule’?
A ‘traboule’ is a hidden passageway through a building that links one street with another. They are mainly located in the Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon), Croix-Rousse and Presqu'île districts.
These passageways go through private residential buildings, so it’s important to avoid disturbing residents by speaking quietly and not running.
Find out more about the traboules and miraboules (courtyards)
Where can I find a Lyonnais ‘bouchon’?
Lyon’s bouchons can be found all over the city, but they are concentrated mainly in the city’s oldest districts.
A bouchon is an excellent place to taste authentic and traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.
To make sure you choose a “real” bouchon, look for the ‘Les Bouchons Lyonnais’ quality label on the front of the restaurant.
Find out more...
Are there bicycle paths to follow in Lyon?
There are many paths to choose from in Lyon and its metropolitan area, for bicycles and even Segway personal transporters.
For cyclists, there are many cycling paths in the metropolitan area, including the ‘ViaRhôna’ bike route that goes right across France following the course of the Rhône, as well as the ‘Voie Bleue’, which follows the Saône. You can set off for a few hours or even a few days with stops at establishments certified by the 'Accueil vélos' quality label.
In Lyon, you’ll find bicycle and electric bicycle rental companies, Vélo'v bicycles for short rentals, and various guided tours on bicycle, electric bicycle and Segway to choose from. Find out more
People with reduced mobility can also hire a Benur handbike.
How to get to the city centre from Lyon-Saint-Exupéry airport?
If you’re flying to Lyon and would like to get to the city centre as quickly as possible, take the Rhônexpress shuttle service, which runs from 5 am to midnight and will take you to Part-Dieu railway station in less than half an hour.
You can also reach Lyon by public transport (number 48 bus, T3 tramway and then the metro), taxi, chauffeur-driven car or rental vehicle. You should bear in mind that, if you’re on a tight schedule, you need to take traffic into account, which is very heavy at rush hour.
Find out more...
How do I get to Fourvière Basilica?
Standing on top of the hill of Fourvière, the Basilica of Notre Dame is one of Lyon’s iconic landmarks.
The simplest way to get there is to take the funicular, or ‘la ficelle’ (literally ‘the string’) as it is known by locals. It leaves from Vieux-Lyon station and climbs up to the top of the hill in just a few minutes.
Once you reach the top, you can visit the basilica and enjoy the stunning panoramic of the city from the esplanade.
To get back down to Vieux-Lyon (Old Lyon), you can take the funicular again or, if the weather is pleasant, follow the gently sloping path down through the charming Jardin du Rosaire (Rosary Garden).
Another option, if you have the time, is to take a detour via Lugdunum Museum and the ancient theatres, and then walk back down to Vieux-Lyon via Montée du Gourguillon.
What is the name of Lyon’s largest square?
The largest square in Lyon (and the largest pedestrian square in Europe) is Place Bellecour, which covers an area of 62,000 m².
In its centre stands a statue of Louis XIV, sculpted by François-Frédéric Lemot (1658), which is also one of the favourite meeting places for people in Lyon, who will often rendezvous ‘sous la queue du cheval’ (under the horse’s tail).
On the Saône side of the square stands a statue of Saint-Exupéry and the Little Prince by Christiane Guillaubey.
On the square, two buildings house Lyon’s Tourist Office.
A shaded path crosses the square from east to west, lined with pools, flowerbeds, a children’s play area, two bars and shops (flowers and bicycle hire), as well as public toilets.
Find out more about Place Bellecour
What are the market days in Lyon?
There are food markets every day in Lyon, except Monday, in the morning or evening.
Find out more about markets in the metropolitan area...
Where to see a Guignol puppet show in Lyon?
There are several Guignol puppet theatres in Lyon, which put on shows for both young and adult audiences. Find out more...
Where to find a map of Lyon?
You can get a map at the Tourist Office, on Place Bellecour, or at one of our accredited reception desks located throughout the city and metropolitan area, as well as in hotels.
You can also download or order one.
Where to find public toilets in Lyon?
This is very important to know! Find out more about public toilet locations in Lyon... public toilet in Lyon...
Find out more about toilets in Lyon that are accessible to people with reduced mobility
Where to see the local football team ‘OL’ play a match?
Can I visit Lyon with a dog?
Dogs are welcome in Lyon, as long as certain rules are respected. Find out more...
Where to taste Lyon’s specialities?
Make the most of your stay to taste Lyon’s specialities!
The best places to make sure you get an excellent gastronomic experience are the certified 'bouchons' restaurants. You’ll also find specialities at Lyon’s caterers or cake shops for praline tart and bugnes (deep-fried dough sprinkled with sugar).
The most well-known specialities include plump ‘quenelle’ dumplings, Lyonnaise salad, ‘salade de pieds’ (calves' feet salad), ‘salade de museau’ (pork snout salad), ‘tablier de sapeur’ (breaded fried tripe), ‘andouillette’ (chitterlings sausage), rosette sausage, ‘saucisson chaud’ (cooked saucisson), ‘saucisson brioché’ (sausage in brioche), ‘gâteau de foie’ (liver cake), ‘poulet au vinaigre’ (chicken in vinegar), and ‘cervelle de Canuts’ (herbed cheese spread).
You may also want to try Mère Brazier’s legendary ‘poularde demi-deuil’ (fattened chicken stuffed with truffles)!
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