France’s third biggest city is a perpetual awe.
It is diverse, culturally rich, and has the vibrancy of any metropolitan area. I never found myself wondering what there was to do in Lyon. Every turn you will make offers something new and unique. Sometimes it was trying out yet another espresso at a local cafe, and other times it was walking through the outdoor markets on Sunday mornings. Regardless, the city has an interesting way of charming you, a typical characteristic of France.
With so much to see, I’ve crafted a list of the top places you MUST experience. Here is what truly defined my time in Lyon.
When you’re in France, expect to visit a cafe literally every day (totally not an exaggeration). Some of my friends claimed to not be “coffee people” in the early days of being in Lyon, now they reluctantly admit to being taken by the delicious espresso-based drink. Within close proximity to the University are plenty of cafes. Here are some of my favorites:
Cafe Labo: Ever dream of being served tasty cafe lattes in hipster laboratory with zen vibes? Then Cafe Labo is the perfect place for you.
This extremely popular place is located just behind the University. Although it gets packed at lunchtime, you can surely find a seat in the mornings and late afternoons. This quirky cafe has 1 euro pain au chocolats and beautifully crafted latte art. If you want a coffee that is Instagram-worthy, then look no further.
PAUL: PAUL is like your reliable best friend because PAUL can be found just about anywhere and always has a treat for you. If you have some time, grab a seat and enjoy any of their diverse sandwich options and a nice hot drink. Or, if you are like me and are sometimes running late for class or a rendez-vous, take it to go. I can’t even count how many times PAUL has been there waiting for me with a croissant and an expresso. #friendforlife.
Slake Coffee House:
The most impressive thing about this coffee house is that it casually has a bathtub couch as part of its decor. The first time I ordered I briefly considered asking for the number of their interior decorator (okay maybe not but you get the point). This cafe is always switching up its sandwich options, so you are never eating the same one. Fresh, delicious, and located near Bellecour, you will be glad you visited this cute coffee spot. Something to keep in mind is that the weekends don’t offer wifi, but that is OK because you can easily get wrapped up in a book while enjoying your meal.
Arguably one of the most important neighborhoods to visit in Lyon is Vieux Lyon. Dating back to the renaissance era, this remarkable part of the city is now a modern-day wonder. You can spend your day climbing up the pathway towards the La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière or grab a gourmet pastry down on the cobbled-stoned streets. Vieux Lyon will simultaneously take you back to the middle-ages and make you realize just how amazing well-preserved history is today. If you are looking for a gift to buy a loved one, this would be the spot for you.
I remember when I first ventured out to Croix-Rousse and was blown away. A perfect way to spend a day in Lyon would include visiting this quirky part of the city. Hills are what makes this area interesting, as it is set on top of one. Niche stores and cafes are placed on the winding and sometimes steep streets of Croix-Rousse. If you are ever looking for a view to remember, go to the open passage of the city right above Hotel De Ville and watch the sunset. When you are done with that, enjoy the open carnival and arcade games.
Rested right next to the lovely Saône river, the Confluence is dramatically different compared to the historic Vieux Lyon. In fact, this portion of the city is brand new. Although it is mostly a shopping district, you can also spend some time at the human science museum, Musée des Confluences. Its futuristic exhibitions are definitely worth examining if you’re feeling up to it, try going into the museum guided. You’ll learn a ton of science terms in French that you can totally show off in class the next day.
If I have any suggestions about what to do when you go to Lyon, these would have to be them. Probably because they are what I remembered most. What is nice about this city is that you will never be bored. Another really great feature is that it’s very easy to navigate. I found that even if I always knew where I was going, everywhere I ended up was somehow was entirely new.
And that’s pretty awesome.
Maya Valentine attends Simmons College. She studied abroad in Lyon, France and served as a digital communications intern during her time abroad.