Lyon is France's second-largest urban area—behind Paris, of course—and is home to a slew of historical and architectural landmarks that have earned it the coveted title of a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the most dynamic French cities, Lyon also has a reputation for being the top gastronomic hub in the country and the proof is in the handful of brasseries it boasts from the legendary Paul Bocuse, not to mention those region-specific bouchons.
The food alone is worth traveling for, but visitors will also find plenty in the way of medieval and Renaissance architecture. It isn't as popular with international tourists as Paris can be, but that's part of its charm. Here is where you'll find authentic French culture in a less chaotic setting. The flying distance from Paris to Lyon is 244 miles (393 kilometers) and the driving distance is 288 miles (463 kilometers). People drive between the two cities, stopping in Burgundy and other destinations along the way, more often than they fly. However, the direct train takes half the time.
How to Get from Paris to Lyon
- Flight: 1 hour, starting at $100
- Train: 2 hours, starting at $65 (fastest)
- Car: 4 hours, 30 minutes, 288 miles (463 kilometers)
- Bus: 6 hours, starting at $16 (slowest, but potentially the cheapest)
The flight from Paris to Lyon takes only about an hour; getting to and from airports is the time-consuming part. Charles de Gaulle is Paris' primary (and most affordable) airport and it's located 22 miles (35 kilometers) outside of the city center. It can take 30 minutes to an hour just to get there, then after your hour-long flight, you're faced with another 30-minute express train ride from the Lyon Airport on the other end. In the amount of time it takes to fly, you can take the train and still have time to settle into your hotel room.
If flying is your preference, though, there are more than 500 direct flights from Paris to Lyon per week, so you shouldn't have a hard time finding one. Seven airlines fly direct, with Air France being the most popular option. During the slow season (February through April), you can snag a one-way ticket for about $100. During peak travel times, however (pretty much every other time of the year, but especially January), flight prices surge to $200 or more. This is the most expensive option and it certainly is not the fastest.
As far as public transportation goes, the train is the fastest and most popular mode of transport. The TGV, France's intercity high-speed rail service, takes only two hours to travel from Paris Gare De Lyon to Lyon Part Dieu—because it goes 186 miles (300 kilometers) per hour, which is almost three times as fast as a car would go. Trains leave from this conveniently-placed station in Place Louis Armand (Paris' 12th arrondissement) pretty much every hour of the day. Tickets cost between $65 and $130.
There are pros and cons to driving your own car (or a rental car). Having the freedom to stop off in places like Burgundy, Dijon, and Geneva for a night is pretty priceless, yes, but driving out of Paris can be a nightmare for someone who is unfamiliar with the area.
The driving distance from Paris to Lyon is 288 miles (463 kilometers) and there is a handful of routes that'll get you from Point A to Point B—depending on whether you want to do a side trip to the Ardeche or to the Alps—but the most direct autoroute takes about four and a half hours.
From the center of Paris, take the A6 to Exit A6B toward Lyon. Keep following the A6 almost the entire way until you get to Exit 39B, which will take you right into the center of Lyon.
The bus isn't typically the first choice because it takes the longest (about six hours); however, it can be the cheapest mode of transport if you happen to snag a ticket for $16. Tickets can go up to $40 at times, but even that is cheaper than taking the train. Budget travelers who have more time to spare might rather save a few bucks on the FlixBus, the BlaBlaBus, or Eurolines FR, which depart from Bercy Station in the center at all times of the day and night. You can save even more money by taking an overnight bus (11:30 p.m. to 5:30 a.m.) instead of paying for a hostel or hotel room.
What to See in Lyon
France's third-largest city, founded around 2,000 years ago, is packed with culture and history. There are more museums, historical buildings, and amazing restaurants than you could count, but you can have just as much fun wandering the streets or hanging out in the city's many green spaces.
Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste is a popular attraction in the foodie district of Vieux Lyon. The majestic Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière that sits atop a hill overlooking the city is a living church that doubles as an art museum, and you can waste away an afternoon dancing to the buskers that linger around this part of town, called Fourvière. Then there's Place Bellecour, a massive square where you can get lost in the crowds while devouring a pastrami sandwich or one of those delectable street crepes.
Speaking of food, this city is known for its old-fashioned, rustic fare. Michelin-rated restaurants are certainly not hard to come by and rest assured they're worth the splurge. You can save a little bit of money by going at lunchtime rather than dinner. The top eateries will usually feature set menus in the afternoon for as cheap $20. Artisan coffee and mixology reign in the beverage department.
After your lunchtime indulgences, get some fresh air at Parc de la Tête d'or, a sweeping park in the center with statues and gardens. Or dip into one of the world-class museums: the Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière or the Museum of Fine Arts.