Though visiting Lyon without seeing many of the tourist attractions would be a real shame, there’s no harm in experiencing the city like a local either. Below are some tips for doing just that.
Start the Day with a Sweet Tooth
Even though Vieux Lyon is a touristy area, it’s worth making your way there for a brioche praliné from the famous Boulangerie du Palais. This bakery is famous for its almond candy covered in cooked sugar, which is baked into many of the popular treats in town. Afterward, take a stroll through the cobblestoned streets and traboules while marveling at the many old buildings. The traboules are a historical attraction but are still occupied by locals who work and live among them. When the sun begins to set, head over to La Menthe on Mercière for delicious food with an authentic ambience.
Go Where the Locals Go
Although you might find this hard to believe, most locals don’t hang out at churches, castles and cheese markets. These days, you’ll find more locals at the very modern Confluence, which can be found on the opposite side of town. The area is very science-fiction-looking and is where you’ll find super-contemporary apartment buildings as well as the city’s newest commercial center.
Bike Your Way through Parc de la Tete d’Or
Renting a bike in Lyon is very cheap and will give you a fun opportunity to thoroughly explore the city’s famous Parc de la Tete d’Or, which is popular with tourists and locals alike. This is one of the largest parks in France with over 10,000 hectares of beauty and excitement. The park includes gorgeous botanical gardens, rose gardens, and a lake where you can rent a boat or canoe. There are also bumper cars, mini-golf and many other activities. You’ll also find a free zoo that houses monkeys, elephants, giraffes, flamingos and antelopes as well as many other animals. When it comes time to relax, grab some snacks and find a nice place to people-watch from the banks of the Rhône. You can also bike at night.
Learn the History of Cinema
Did you know that France invented cinema? If you love film, make sure you visit the Institut Lumière — a museum, cultural center and cinema. Throughout the year, you’ll find exhibits, guided tours and art films. There’s also an international annual festival that attracts many of Hollywood’s famous heavyweights.
Get Drunk at a Wine Fair
There are many fairs in Lyon throughout the year, but the Independent Wine-Growers Fair is the best place to score free wine and food. If you don’t get too drunk from the unlimited wine on offer, you can also take a pastry lesson at the Salon du Chocolat. With all the free snacks, cheeses and sausages available, you may not have to buy a meal for the whole day.
As you can see, once you find a hotel in Lyon, many of the activities can be free or really cheap. Lyon is certainly one of Europe’s most underrated cities, and it’s simply waiting for you to explore. After experiencing the city like a local, make sure you take time to experience the touristy side as well, which is where you’ll experience all the history that the city is known for.
This article was written as part of the hipmunk #citylove project. As a paid writer for hipmunk, I have written articles on a number of cities including Hong Kong and Osaka. I have also written about the best things to do in Vancouver.