Situated south of Burgundy, northeast of Provence, and west of the Alps, Lyon is ideally placed for exploring these adjoining regions. From vineyard tours in Beaujolais and Mâcon to city breaks in old Dijon and jaunts to nearby Alpine mountain towns, these are some of the best day trips from Lyon. Most are easily accessible by train, and those that aren't can be booked as part of a guided tour if you don't plan to rent a car.
Geneva: Mountains, Chocolate Tours, & Architecture
Just a couple of hours from Lyon, the Swiss city of Geneva makes an excellent day trip, especially if you want to take a quick hop over the border into another European country. Arrive in the morning and start your day with a stroll around Lake Geneva, offering stunning perspectives over the Alps and Mont-Blanc, as well as sights like St. Peter’s Cathedral and the modern-day waterfront.
Next, visit the Old Town, full of handsome medieval and Renaissance-era facades, secretive passageways, and quaint shops. In the afternoon, take a guided chocolate tour at the workshops of legendary Swiss chocolate maker Stettler. End your day with a boat cruise to see even more of the sights from the relaxing vantage point of the water.
Getting There: The easiest way to get from Lyon to Geneva is by train. Trains leave regularly from the Part-Dieu station and the trip takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes. By car, take the A40 or A43 from Lyon (around 1 hour, 40 minutes and 1 hour, 58 minutes, respectively). Be prepared to pay toll fees along the way.
Travel Tip: If you'd like to explore the nearby Alps and popular mountain towns like Chamonix, ski stations, and (in the warmer months) Alpine hiking trails are easily accessible from Geneva.
Villefranche-Sur-Saône: Gateway to Beaujolais Wine Country
A good starting point for a wider exploration of the Beaujolais winemaking region and tasting route, the town of Villefranche-Sur-Saône is situated just over 20 miles north of Lyon. Use the town as a gateway, arriving in the morning and making your first stop at the Tourist Office, where you’ll find the Espace des Vins du Beaujolais (Beaujolais Wines Space). Here you'll learn about the region’s winemaking history and sample from a few bottles—assuming you don’t mind morning tastings.
From here, explore the rolling hillsides of the Beaujolais, studded with miles of vineyards and perched chateaux at their heights. You can either drive to wineries and towns of your choice along the Beaujolais wine route or opt for a guided tour (an excellent option if you don’t want to drive or prefer not to). If you can, take the picturesque road that leads to Mount Brouilly. You'll be able to take in memorable panoramas over the vineyards and rustic houses from the top.
Getting There: Direct trains depart regularly from the Lyon Part-Dieu station and take around 35 minutes. By car, take the A6 or A46 (around 30-45 minutes; be ready for minor toll charges en route).
Travel Tip: Consider going during the mid-fall (late October to early November) to see the Beaujolais vineyards and countryside in a bright palette of fall colors.
Annecy: Nature & Architecture in “Alpine Venice”
Nestled in France’s Haute-Savoie region on the lake of the same name, Annecy is a storybook-pretty town that has much to offer, from natural landscapes to photogenic lanes flanked by canals. Arrive early to make the most of it, starting your day with a walk around the town. Punctuated with canals and footbridges, you’ll soon see why Annecy’s often referred to as “Alpine Venice.” Many of the warm-hued buildings date to the 16th and 17th centuries, but the city is even older, established by the Counts of Geneva during the 10th century.
After exploring the town and spending some time browsing boutiques for gifts and local products, visit the Palais de l’Íle—a 12th-century castle on the Thiou river that served as a fortress and later a prison. If it’s warm enough out, have lunch on the waterside, then take a stroll around the lakeside paths. In the winter, enjoy a cozy lunch indoors in one of the city’s excellent restaurants and tearooms.
Getting There: From Lyon, trains run daily to Annecy from the Part-Dieu station; the trip takes around 2 hours 10 minutes on average. If driving the easiest and quickest route is via the A43 from Lyon (around 1 hour 35; expect toll charges along the way).
Travel Tip: Annecy is especially magical at year-end, during the run-up to Christmas. Holiday lights, festive markets, and cozy shops are all recipes for an idyllic day out.
Chalon-sur-Saône: Vineyard Tours & Photography History
Another picturesque town in Southern Burgundy, Chalon-sur-Saône offers more opportunities for wine-tasting in surrounding vineyards. The town itself is rustic and charming, notable not just for its centuries of history, but also for being one of the birthplaces of photography.
Begin with a stroll through the town, stopping to admire the imposing St-Vincent’s Cathedral. It preserves some elements from the 8th century however the facade is mostly neo-Gothic and dates to the 19th century. From here, pay a visit to the Musée Nicephore Niépce, dedicated to the history of photography and one of the key 19th-century contributors to the technology. Finally, take a wine-tasting workshop or guided tour in nearby vineyards and cellars.
Getting There: Trains from Lyon Part-Dieu depart daily; the trip takes roughly an hour and 20 minutes. By car, take the A7 (around 30 minutes; expect minor toll charges along the way).
Travel Tip: The waterways around Chalon are picturesque and memorable, so consider booking a sightseeing cruise.
Avignon: Architecture & Art in the Heart of Provence
Nestled in the heart of Provence on the banks of the Rhone, the major medieval city of Avignon is a bit further afield than some of the other day trips suggested here. But it’s well worth the trip.
Get there as early as possible to take full advantage of your day in the city, starting with a full exploration of the fortified city and the Pope’s Palace at its northern end. For a time during the 14th century, the Catholic papacy was based at Avignon, rather than in Rome and the grandeur of the period remains visible in the vast Gothic palace.
After wandering through the enormous complex and its many courtyards, make sure to see the impressive art collections at the Petit Palais Museum, before paying a visit to the iconic Pont-Saint-Bénézet Bridge, often referred to simply as Le Pont d’Avignon (the Avignon bridge). Finally, explore the newer part of the city for a sense of how most residents live in the present-day.
Getting There: Direct high-speed trains from Lyon Part-Dieu depart regularly, and the trip takes around an hour. If you choose to drive, take the A7 south (around 2 hours and 20 minutes; anticipate significant toll charges along the way).
Travel Tip: In the summer, fans of art and performance will find plenty of ways to stay entertained, since Avignon is home to lively theater and music festivals.
Macon: Burgundy Wine Tasting and History Tours
One of the prettiest towns in southern Burgundy, Macon is nestled along the Saone River, around an hour from Lyon. Like the latter, it boasts thousands of years of history and was once a Gallo-Roman settlement. Start your exploration by admiring the Romanesque, medieval, and Renaissance-era buildings in Old Town, and strolling around the riverside paths. The 11th-century Saint-Laurent Bridge is widely considered the town’s emblem.
From here, visit the Ursuline Museum, which traces Mâcon’s intriguing history from the prehistoric period to the present day, then embark on a wine-tasting tour in nearby cellars and vineyards—either on your own or as part of a guided tour. You can easily get recommendations (and book tours) at the tourist office.
Getting There: Trains depart regularly from Lyon Part-Dieu (around an hour). By car, take the A6 (around an hour; plan for toll charges along the way).
Travel Tip: If you have a bit more time to explore the region, Macon makes an ideal gateway to southern Burgundy and its many prestigious wineries, producing coveted wines such as Pouilly-Fuisse.
Vienne: Roman History and Riverside Strolls
Vienne is a charming town that lies at the meeting point of the Gere and Rhone rivers, just over 20 miles south of Lyon. An important settlement in Gallo-Roman France, it’s an unassuming little city with a rich history and plenty of charm. Begin with a stroll around the town center, focusing on impressive monuments and ruins such as the Gallo-Roman amphitheater and Pyramid, as well as several abbeys and castles dating to the medieval period and beyond. Next, explore the Rhone riverside paths by foot or bike, and if it’s warm out, enjoy lunch on a terrace overlooking the water. You can also book a wine-tasting tour of nearby vineyards.
Getting There: The easiest way to get to Vienne is by train. Trains depart several times a day from Lyon Part-Dieu, arriving in just under 30 minutes on average. If you decide to drive, take the A7 (around half an hour; expect minor toll charges along the way).
Travel Tip: You can easily visit Vienne in a single morning or afternoon, but we recommend spending the full day in the area, perhaps exploring the wine regions of the Southern Rhone by car or guided tour.
Dijon: Medieval Architecture & Local Cuisine
Tourists may primarily associate Dijon with its famed mustard, but it has much more to offer including a handsome medieval city center and excellent restaurants. Located in northern Burgundy, Dijon was once the seat of the powerful Dukes of Burgundy, and that grandeur is reflected in its historic Palace, timbered houses, churches, and Gothic Cathedral.
Plan to arrive early in the morning, starting with a trip to the imposing Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy, originally built in the 13th century atop Gallo-Roman foundations. Today, it serves as City Hall. From here, wander through the Old Town to admire its handsome medieval houses and churches and consider taking a food tour to taste local specialties including mustards and gingerbread. You can even participate in a mustard-making workshop. Since the city is noted for its cuisine, book a table for lunch or dinner at one of its best restaurants.
Getting There: Trains depart regularly from Lyon Part-Dieu, and the journey takes about two hours. By car, take the A6 (around two hours; expect significant toll charges).
Travel Tip: Dijon isn’t primarily associated with wine, but it’s an excellent gateway to Northern Burgundy and some of France’s most-prestigious winemaking areas, such as Nuit-Saint-Georges.