About one week after moving to Montpellier for French language school, a few of my classmates and I decided to take a weekend trip to Lyon. We’d heard that it was almost like a miniature Paris with culture, museums and fantastic food. It was also a bit further north and considered to be the gateway city to the Alps. Cooler temperatures and mountain views sounded great.
Traveling from Montpellier to Lyon via Bus
My friends were coming in on Saturday, but I left a bit earlier and booked a bus ticket on GoEuro and departed from the local mall in Montpellier on a Friday at around lunchtime. The ticket was affordable and the buses had wifi. I think one-way was about 20€ and the bus ride took about 4 hours. I arrived at the main train station in Lyon around 5pm and walked to lodging to drop off luggage. I’d arranged to stay at Hôtel Tête d’Or for a modest $80. It was quite nice and central and safe. Plus, it was only for two nights. Then, since it was still summer with long days, I took advantage of the remaining daylight and walked around the neighborhood. The first destination was Parc de la Tête d’Or and the Lyon Botanical Gardens. The park was bustling with families on evening walks, groups of young people picnicking and more. The grounds were beautiful and featured multiple fountains, a rose garden, a zoo and lots of smooth trails for bike rides.
I grabbed a sandwich and had a picnic in the park and then walked back to the hotel for the night. I wanted to do some more research on what to see and do in Lyon.
Visiting Lyon Markets and Other Sights on Foot
The next day was Saturday and my friends would be arriving from Montpellier after lunch. So, I did some exploring on my own. Saturday is a big day for markets, especially in Lyon which has plenty of good ones. I walked across a bridge to the 4th arrondissement, which is known for steep stone stairways winding uphill from the River Rhône banks. I’d read online that the Marché de la Croix-Rousse was in this neighborhood and one of the best markets in town. Packed with produce vendors, people selling roast chicken, buckets of fresh flowers and cheese producers, it was filled with everything you could ever want and packed with locals toting their purchases.
I bought a baguette at the market and some fresh fruit and paused for a quick snack, but it was a bit cold and dreary and I wanted to keep moving. From the market, I walked over to La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière, which is a Catholic Basilica welcoming 2 million visitors annually and featuring some of the best views of the city. I walked around the grounds, checked out the view and took some photos. I don’t know why, but I didn’t go inside.
That evening, I met up with Charlotte and Elena for dinner. Lyon is known for its gastronomy (think duck fat this, and roast pork that, etc) and from what I’d read online, Halles Lyon-Paul Bocuse was a must-see for anyone wanting a true Lyonnaise experience. By the time we got to the Halles, it was about 8pm and most of the vendors had already closed up shop and dinner options were limited. Plus, my two travel companions were vegans and we were all trying to be frugal, so we had falafel at a local spot called Yaafa. It was actually really good and I’d go back! I think mine had eggplant and roasted vegetables and we all shared french fries.
A Lyon Running Trail with a River View
Then on Sunday, our last day in Lyon, we awoke to sunshine and blue skies and lots of locals enjoying the nice weather. We walked along the river and saw families enjoying breakfast outside, people playing chess and even stumbled upon a small flea market.
After our little exploration, it was time to go back to the bus station and return to Montpellier for class on Monday morning. We had a picnic of snacks in a small park and then carried our backpacks to the station for departure. We just barely scratched the surface on Lyon and didn’t even make it out to any of the nearby spots, like Grenoble and the beautiful Lake Annecy, but that’s okay. We had fun visiting a completely new place and maybe the three of us will have a reunion there someday!