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Traveling from Montpellier to Lyon, France for a Weekend

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.

pond Parc de la Tête d'Or
With Charlotte on the left (from Cambridge) and Elena in the middle (from Wales), in front of a pond at Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Parc de la Tête d'Or entry in lyon france
Beautiful gate at the entry to Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Parc de la Tête d'Or gardens
Example of the gardens at Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Evening bike ride through Parc de la Tête d'Or.
Evening bike ride through Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Quiet benches and bridges in Parc de la Tête d'Or.
Quiet benches and bridges in Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Rose garden in Parc de la Tête d'Or.
Rose garden in Parc de la Tête d’Or.

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.

rhone river bridge lyon
Bridge crossing the Rhone River. Part of my route to the market.
Steps leading up to the 4th arr from the Rhone river.
Steps leading up to the 4th arr from the Rhone river.
lyon steps up to the market
View from the steps I just climbed up to the market.

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.

La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
Big looming La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière gardens
Gardens surrounding La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.
View of Lyon from the grounds of La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.
View of Lyon from the grounds of La Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière.

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.

Some kind of meat bread at Halles Lyon-Paul Bocuse in Lyon.
Some kind of meat bread at Halles Lyon-Paul Bocuse in Lyon.
Paella at Halles Lyon-Paul Bocuse in Lyon.
Paella at Halles Lyon-Paul Bocuse in Lyon.
Beautiful desserts at Halles Lyon-Paul Bocuse in Lyon.
Beautiful desserts at Halles Lyon-Paul Bocuse in Lyon.

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.

Enjoying the sunshine on a Sunday morning in Lyon along the Rhône River
Enjoying the sunshine on a Sunday morning in Lyon along the Rhône River.
running trail lyon
Walking along the Rhône River, we also discovered a running and bike path that was well marked and seemed to be a popular destination for some weekend exercise. After doing some online research, I found out the trail runs between Gerland Park in the south, to Parc de la Tête d’Or in the north, a distance of 8.6 km (5.3 miles) one-way.
lyon cycling trail
Signage along the Rhone River trail. Would be easy to get around by bike.

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!

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