While there are plenty of beautiful French cities to include in a France itinerary, Lyon is one you don’t want to miss. Found in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region of eastern France, Lyon is the gateway to a corner of the country that travelers often miss. So once you’ve spent a couple days in Lyon seeing the sights, you’ll want to start thinking about all the great places within reach. To help you get a better idea of which places will best suit you, we’ve assembled this guide of the best day trips from Lyon.
How to Get Around
Although many of the day trips mentioned below can be done by public transport, consider renting a car for the day to give yourself more flexibility and independence. Your own four wheels allow you to be in control of your time and schedule, and depending on how many people are in your group, renting a car might even work out cheaper than other forms of transportation. You can compare car rental deals and find the cheapest prices at Rentalcars.com, an aggregation site that searches and displays prices and availability from hundreds of car rental companies so that you can be sure of getting the best possible car for your budget
Don’t want to drive or deal with the hassle of public transport? No worries, we have listed the best tour for each day trip (where available).
There’s no doubt that one of the first Lyon day trips you’ll want to look at is to the town of Annecy. This alpine town is adored for its picturesque combination of gorgeous canals and old town character. Start in the city’s old town of Vieille Ville, where you’ll be treated to a picture-perfect scene of old world France. Wander the cobblestone streets, admire the colorful houses with their vibrant window boxes and take photos to your heart’s content. Right on the main canal you’ll find the Palais de l’Isle, a medieval castle-turned-prison which is now a local history museum. Next, take a walk up to Château d’Annecy, another medieval castle that now hosts an art museum. Following the canal you’ll soon come to the lovely Jardins de l’Europe which is on the scenic waterfront of Lake Annecy and boasts perfect mountain views.
Getting there: Regular buses and trains travel from Lyon to Annecy, with the fastest connections taking 2 hours. Price will likely be the biggest deciding factor as to which transport you choose as the buses are generally cheaper.
Sitting on the Rhône river, Vienne was once a major regional capital under the Romans and there are still several Roman ruins that visitors can see there today. Begin your visit with the well-preserved Temple of Augustus and Livia which dates back to the 1st-century B.C. A short walk away you’ll find an equally impressive ancient site – the city’s Roman Theatre which sat 13,000 spectators. Back in the heart of the city you’ll want to see the extravagant Gothic facade of the Vienne Cathedral, one of Vienne’s major medieval landmarks alongside the Abbaye de Saint-André-le-Bas. If you head across the river you’ll come to the Musée Gallo-Romain de Saint-Romain-en-Gal which will tell you more about Vienne’s ancient history.
Getting there: It takes just 30 minutes to get from Lyon to Vienne by train and with regular departures it’s definitely one of the many easy train trips from Lyon. If you’d like to combine Vienne with some wine-tasting, a guided tour is a good way to go.
3. Beaujolais Region
For a day out among the wineries of Burgundy, the Beaujolais region is one of the most popular day tours from Lyon. Set amongst countryside reminiscent of Tuscany, there’s more to the Beaujolais region than just its famous wine. Of course, you will want to have the opportunity to taste different wines from the region, which is known for its light-bodied reds. But it’s also possible to visit family wineries where they’ll take you through local processes and tell you more about the region’s history of wine-making. The area around Beaujolais is home to plenty of quaint stone villages like Oingt which allow visitors get a better understanding of the region’s history and what local life is like. Plus, there’s that gorgeous landscape scenery. There’s no shortage of things to enjoy about the Beaujolais region.
Getting there: Exploring a wine region isn’t really something that public transport is designed for, so taking an organized wine tour is the best way to see the Beaujolais Region from Lyon.
Switzerland isn’t far from Lyon, so why not take the opportunity to visit one of the country’s most important cities, Geneva? You’ll see why it’s one of the best side trips from Lyon as you walk the streets of this truly international city. Start out at the elegant Brunswick Monument by the shores of Lake Geneva, a pretty mausoleum to the Duke of Brunswick. Following the lakefront you’ll soon spy the towering jet of water erupting from the Geneva Water Fountain. Over in the city center the Place du Bourg-de-Four is one of Geneva’s most scenic squares and is just a short walk from the St. Pierre Cathedral, which is also worth seeing. Geneva is also a very popular place for shopping. There are loads of high-end boutiques selling local specialties like Swiss watches and chocolates.
Getting there: There are regular trains that make the journey from Lyon to Geneva in just under 2 hours. It is possible to take the bus but there are fewer connections and it is a slower option.
Further reading: 3 Days in Geneva: The Perfect Geneva Itinerary
Just a short trip from Lyon, the medieval town of Pérouges is bound to leave you thoroughly charmed by its quaint character. Not only is Pérouges a pretty hilltop town within medieval walls, but it’s surrounded by a gentle rural countryside that amplifies its small-town atmosphere. It’s best to start in the town first before venturing out into the country, so find your way to the Church of Saint Mary Magdalene at the heart of the old town. From there you can wander the cobblestone streets and look up at the traditional yellow-stone and half-timbered houses. Pérouges is home to two museums, the Musée du Vieux Pérouges and the Les Medievales de Perouges both of which look at the village’s history. Afterwards, head off into the neighboring fields for a pleasant nature walk.
Getting there: The best way to get from Lyon to Pérouges is to take the train, there are regular departures and the journey only takes 30 to 40 minutes.
After Lyon, another large city in this region of France is Grenoble, which is located at the foot of the Alps. While its proximity to France’s mountains makes it a popular winter getaway, there’s actually a lot more to Grenoble. A pleasant first stop is the Jardin de Ville which is bordered by the elegant Jardin de Ville Library. Next, meander through the city center to see squares like Place Victor Hugo or one of Grenoble’s many excellent museums. Having explored the center, get a fresh perspective and see the city’s true highlight by taking the distinctive spherical pods of the Grenoble-Bastille cable car to the top La Bastille hill. From the fortress there you can savour sublime views of Grenoble and the French Alps.
Getting there: You can travel from Lyon to Grenoble by train in 1½ hours, with trains departing every 30 minutes to 1 hour. There are also buses roughly every hour but they take up to 2 hours to get there.
The city of Dijon is in fact one of the best places to visit in France. Those who visit this compact city in the Burgundy region often come away completely enchanted by it. You’ll want to begin in Dijon’s historical center to see its classic medieval half-timbered houses and Renaissance buildings. It’s there that you’ll find the magnificent Church of Notre-Dame of Dijon and the 15th century tower of Tour Philippe le Bon with its city views. One of Dijon’s most prized attractions is the Musée des Beaux-Arts, housed inside the stunning Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy and boasting a fantastic collection of art and antiquities. A stop at the Les Halles Market is also in order, both for the food being sold there, but also for the architecture designed by Gustave Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame.
Getting there: To travel to Dijon from Lyon take one of the regular trains that make the trip in 2 hours.
8. Domaine de Lacroix-Laval
If you’re looking to escape the urban jungle for a bit, then a trip to Domaine de Lacroix-Laval might be exactly what you need. Domaine de Lacroix-Laval isn’t far from Lyon but it will feel a world away as you explore the parklands of this country estate. Paths make their way through the woods and past the ponds of this enormous 115-hectare park, so you’ll have plenty of scenery as you walk about or sit for a picnic. Beyond meadows and woodlands, you’ll also find rose and vegetable gardens to stroll through. There’s plenty of space for kids to play, as well as playgrounds, and even pony rides.
Getting there: The best way to reach Domaine de Lacroix-Laval from Lyon is to take the local 142 bus that runs every hour and stops outside the park entrance. There are also hourly trains that take 35 minutes to reach the far side of the park.
Visiting Chazelles-sur-Lyon is a shorter day trip from Lyon. There’s really only one reason to visit this town west of Lyon and that is the Atelier – Musée du Chapeau. This museum focuses on the town’s long tradition of hat manufacturing, taking you through how hats are crafted and how their fashion has evolved over the years. It may sound like a dry subject to learn about but this museum does an excellent job of making the topic interesting and engaging. If you particularly like the look of the hats being made there you can custom-order one for yourself.
Getting there: To get from Lyon to Chazelles-sur-Lyon take a bus which leaves every 30 minutes and makes the journey in 1¼ hours.
When it comes to historic towns in this region with impressive attractions, Bourg-en-Bresse is sure to be near the top of the list. The star attraction in town is the majestic Monastère Royal de Brou. This 16th-century monastery is a French national monument and has a striking Gothic facade. The monastery also hosts the Musée de Brou within one of its cloisters which features paintings from French and Flemish artists. Over in the town center you’ll find quite an impressive Old Town, its streets lined with traditional half-timbered homes, including the Demeure Hugon which dates from 1496. One more landmark not to miss is the Bourg-en-Bresse Cathedral which has elements of both Renaissance and Gothic architecture.
Getting there: The easiest way to reach Bourg-en-Bresse from Lyon is to go with one of the regular trains, which take 1 hour to get there.
Exploring big cities can sometimes get a bit repetitive, so villages like Ambronay can be a great addition to a trip. Ambronay lets you embrace the slower side of life in France. The big attraction to the village is Ambronay Abbey, which the village was gradually built around. The Benedictine abbey features a pretty church and Gothic cloister, with some parts dating back to the 13th century. Ambronay is most popular though for the Festival d’Ambronay, an annual music festival held in September and October. During the festival, concerts of classical music from well known composers like Bach and Vivaldi as well as Renaissance choral songs and Baroque chamber music, are all performed in the church.
Getting there: Getting to Ambronay from Lyon involves first taking a train to Amberieu En Bugey and then taking an hourly local bus. The whole trip with changes will take about 2 hours.
12. Grottes de Cerdon
Historical attractions in this part of France tend to relate to the Middle Ages, but at the Grottes de Cerdon the history goes much further back. These caves, northeast of Lyon, have been used by humans since prehistoric times and are also an incredibly beautiful place to visit. There you can learn about the human history of the caves, from providing refuge for lepers to helping locals stores mature cheeses. The geological formations of the Caves of Cerdon though is just as impressive. Not only will you see the usual formations like stalactites and stalagmites, but you’ll also reach an exterior outcropping with wonderful views over the Valley of Cerdon.
Getting there: Public transport is too infrequent to make it viable to get from Lyon to Grottes de Cerdon, so your best option to do this day trip is to drive yourself.
France’s “Plus Beaux Villages” is a list of the country’s most beautiful villages and Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez is one such village you can easily visit from Lyon. Sitting inside the Pilat Regional Natural Park, Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez offers travelers the perfect combination of village charm and nature. The village actually sits inside the walls of what was once a Carthusian monastery, giving it a unique appeal. Both houses and the monastery church have been preserved as they were during the Middle Ages, with the houses centered on two main squares. To leave town, follow a stone tunnel to outside the walls and you’ll quickly find yourself among the forests that surround Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez.
Getting there: Because of its remote location, public transport doesn’t get you close enough to Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez. This means driving yourself is the best option when coming from Lyon.
Although it may seem quite a distance from Lyon, the magical city of Avignon is well worth the trip. Avignon is one of the top things to see in France outside of Lyon thanks to its history as the home of the Pope during the 1300s. Learn more about this remarkable period of history and start at the grand Palais des Papes, the fortress and palace that was the papal residence. Next, head across to the Avignon Cathedral to see its exquisite interior before continuing up the hill to the Jardin des doms. The gardens are not just a pretty place to walk, but also have fantastic views of the Rhone river. Afterwards, take some time to explore the city’s historic center and traditional architecture, before finishing up at the Pont d’Avignon. The bridge only reaches halfway across the river, which makes it a unique as well as a pretty landmark.
Getting there: High-speed trains travel from Lyon to Avignon hourly and the trip takes about 1 hour 20 minutes.
Maybe a little less well-known than other destinations in France, Chalon-Sur-Saône is nevertheless an interesting place to visit. As its name suggests, this small city rests on the banks of the River Saône and has quite a pretty riverfront as a result. Begin with a wander around the town center, stopping in at Place Saint-Vincent where you can see half-timbered houses and the graceful sight of Chalon Cathedral. Then it’s on to the Musée Nicéphore-Niépce to learn about the town’s favorite son, Joseph Nicéphore Niépce. Niépce is generally accepted to be the inventor of photography, so the museum focuses on the history of photography and its instruments. Finally, head down to the river and cross over onto the L’île Saint-Laurent to see the beautiful Doyenne Tower.
Getting there: Regular regional trains travel from Lyon to Chalon-sur-Saône, with the trip lasting around 1 hour 20 minutes.
Those are just some of the best places to visit from Lyon for the day. It’s a great idea to leave a bit of wiggle room in your itinerary so you can tack on some day trips during you visit to Lyon.