10 Budget-Friendly Things to Do in Lyon, France

When you get a chance to travel to France, Paris may be your first stop to explore the country. However, there are many places in France that are sometimes overlooked despite being as beautiful and worthy of visiting. From Nice, Bordeaux, and this time… We're going to talk about Lyon!

This week, we have Guiga of Expat in France to talk about some budget-friendly activities to do around one of the UNESCO's World Heritage in France.

So, what are budget-friendly things to do in Lyon? What can you do to explore the city without breaking the bank? Here's what you could do in Lyon for $10!

10 Things You Shouldn't Miss When You're in Lyon, France

You made it to France! It's been on your list for a while now and you are finally here.

And visiting Lyon should definitely be on your roadmap! It has the intimate charm of a smaller town with the excitement of a big French city without Paris's stress and expensive prices.

Lyon goes back to before the Roman Empire and was actually at that time the Capital of Gaules (France's name before JC). So if you are also looking for Historical landmarks, the charm of an old European city with good food, visiting Lyon is now at the top of your list!

I'm a Lyonnaise, and today I'll share with you all my best tips to visit Lyon on a budget. Most of the tips I share are free, and others are under $10 USD (EUR 8.50 in 2021).

Many French people are also looking for good deals since the French average income is not that high. This will give you an idea of the local purchase power.

Did you know?

INTERPOL, or International Criminal Police Organization, has its headquarter in Lyon, France since 27 November 1989.

the city view of lyon

1. Lyon Cathedral and other churches

Lyon's city centre is home to a large number of remarkable religious monuments. And all of them are free to visit! A few dollars to support the maintenance of the religious place is of course welcomed but optional.

The most famous ones are, without doubt, the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the Cathedral of Saint-Jean-Baptiste.

The Vieux Lyon area, the Renaissance neighborhood, alone has no less than four churches. The city's most beautiful include the church of Saint-Nizier in the street of the same name, the church of Saint-Georges on the Quai Fulchiron and the abbey of Saint-Martin d'Ainay in the rue Bourgelat.

The architecture and decorations of these places will not fail to amaze you.

Recommended for: Adults, History, Photography

Lyon cathedral
Lyon cathedral.

2. Explore the Parc de la Tête d'Or

The Parc de la Tête d'Or (The Golden Head park – which you can see on the main entrance door) is one of France's largest public urban parks.

In addition to the many paths that criss-cross it, offering miles of jogging and cycling tracks, the park is home to a botanical garden and a zoo, which can be visited free of charge.

Other attractions and inexpensive activities include a boat trip on the lake, a ride on the miniature train and a carousel. Restaurants and snack stands also dot the park.

Recommended for: Families, Adults, Photography
Location: Parc de la Tête d'Or, 69006 Lyon, France. Metro Masséna
Opening hours: Every day from 6.30 AM to 10.30 PM

Tips from a local: Bring your picnic and your set of outdoor games (ball, molkky, beach rackets…).

3. Climb Fourvière Hill

A view of Lyon from its highest point and visit the splendid basilica.

The top of Fourvière Hill offers the best views of the city of Lyon. Once up there, you can also visit the remarkable 19th-century Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, one of the city's main sites of interest.

The climb is quite difficult, but you can also reach the top with the funicular. A single ticket costs less than €2.

Recommended for: Adults, Families, Photography
Location: Place de Fourvière, 69005 Lyon, France
Tip from a local: the funicular ride is included in the price of a 1-day Freedom Ticket. Otherwise, transport tickets are cheaper when bought buy 10 at the ticket machines.

4. Discover the secret historical passages through the traboules of Old Lyon

The traboules are a network of hidden passages that wind through Vieux Lyon and the Croix-Rousse district. These covered corridors, which link the streets together among the old buildings, are a real emblem of the city of Lyon. About forty passages are open to the public.

You can get a map of the traboules at the Tourist Office in Place Bellecour, which will allow you to explore them on your own. Guided tours are also available.

Visit Lyon passage ways.
The traboules of Old Lyon

Recommended for: Adults, Families, History, Photography
Location: Metro Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse
Tip from a local: Watch out for the signs of a lion's head near the building doors. They indicate the traboules entrances open to the public.

5. Shopping at the Second-Largest Flea Market in France

The Puces du Canal is the second-largest French flea market. It takes place 3 times a week in Villeurbanne, 5 kilometers northeast of Lyon's city center. You will find around 400 stalls offering an eclectic choice of items, from vintage clothes to furniture, household goods, and much more.

You can really get lost in this huge second-hand market. The atmosphere is friendly and there are restaurants, cafés, and a bakery.

I rarely buy anything over two euros, it also helps if you can bargain a bit. I like going just for a stroll and taking pictures.

If you are looking for off-the-beaten-track discoveries while visiting Lyon, taking the time to stroll through this huge vintage market is a must-do.

Recommended for: Bargain shopping, Photography
Location: 3 rue Eugène Pottier, 69100 Villeurbanne, France
Opening hours: Thursdays from 7 am to 1 pm, Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm, Sundays from 7 am to 3 pm
Tip from a local: Sundays are the best day to go to the Puces du Canal as most vendors will be open.

6. Must-See: The Gallo Roman Theater and the Odeon

Go back in time to Lyon's distant past.

Built between 15 BC and the 1st century and still in use today for cultural events, the Gallo-Roman theater and the Odeon are remarkable illustrations of the ancient city of Lugdunum, the Roman name for the city of Lyon when it was the Capital of France.

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, they can accommodate up to 13,000 people and are accessible free of charge. The nearby museum traces the history of the Roman occupation of Lyon.

Recommended for: History, Families, Adults, Photography
Location: 17 Rue Cléberg, 69005 Lyon, France

Opening hours: April 15 to September 15 from 7 am to 9 pm, September 16 to April 14 from 7 am to 7 pm
Tip from a local: The Gallo-Roman museum entry is free on the first Sundays of each month.

Villa Lumière in Lyon, France.

7. Visit the Lumière Institute movie theater

Did you know Lyon was the birthplace of cinema thanks to the Lumière brothers?

I couldn't help but talk about French cinema! The first public cinema broadcast happened in 1895 in Paris, showing workers as they left the Lumière brother's factory in Lyon.

The Lumière brothers' house, a beautiful bourgeois house, was transformed into a museum and a cinema.

You can visit the museum for under $10 USD to discover the history of cinema in France.

Recommended for: History, Adults, Photography

8. Visit Lyon for Its Free Festivals

Lyon has a vibrant cultural scene. And, here are the 2 free festivals you shouldn't miss if you visit Lyon at that time of the year.

Lyon Free Summer Festival – “Everyone Outside”

If you visit Lyon in summer, Tout l'monde dehors festival will enchant your stay. It is a festival organized by the City of Lyon every summer with more than 150 free outdoor events.

You will enjoy plays, concerts, film screenings, dance performances, storytelling and much more.

It is a 100% artistic and cultural program in the parks, gardens and other public places that you will be able to fully enjoy the whole festival.

Recommended for: Families, Adults, Culture
Location: All over Lyon
Tips from a local: Bring your French picnic with Breach, cheese, dry sausages and drinks to eat after or even during the event

The Lyon Festival of Lights (le Festival des Lumières)

If you visit Lyon in December, make sure you go to the Lyon Lights Festival on December 8.

It is a true institution and gathers thousands of people for four days. The last 2019 edition attracted more than 1.8 million people!

The city's emblematic monuments are transformed with magical illuminations and sound effects.

Every year, the visitor is transported into a new universe making their pathway around the city to enjoy the local specialties and artworks.

If you like free festivals, you may also want to look into the European Night of Museums (May), La Fête de la Musique (June), Les Invites de Villeurbanne (June), European Heritage Days (September).

Tip from a local: Weekdays are recommended if you want to avoid the busiest crowds of the week.

9. Eat Out for Cheap in Downtown Lyon

Lyon is renowned for the high quality of its cuisine. Often considered the capital of French gastronomy, you will find delicious restaurants ranging from reasonable prices to the top Michelin stars restaurants.

The average price for lunch would be 15 euros (about USD 18 in 2021), and you can find quite a few options for 10 euros (about USD 12 in 2021).

But I really wanted to share with you a good quality option under $10 USD!

I have chosen two restaurants for you:

Gourmix Terreaux

Gourmix Terreaux in the city center, where 106 different sandwiches are prepared with local ingredients.

Address: 22, rue de la Platière – 69001 LYON (they also have a second branch in the Confluence Shopping Mall)

Opening hours: Tuesday to Thursday (11.30 AM to 3 PM), Friday (11.30 AM to 3 PM and 6.30 PM to 10 PM), and Saturday (11.30 AM to 10 PM).


L'Epicerie is in the student area in the 8th district of Lyon. With this cold weather, who wouldn't want a nice warm sandwich?

It's just the comfort food we like. So for $10 USD, you can choose the one that catches your eye and you can even add a salad from the market. Tomato-Mozza-Pesto, 3 pieces of cheese, pear, honey goat… the choice is tough!

All the sandwiches are under $10 USD. The small market salad, served as an accompaniment, costs $3 USD.

Address: 24 Cours Albert Thomas, 69008 Lyon

Opening hours: Every day from 11 AM to midnight

10. Take-aways

Visit Lyon if you like the French charming cities and the abundant culture with a lot of fun activities. I have selected for you my favorite selection of the many free and cheap options available in Lyon.

However, if I'd choose to spend more, I'd spend it on food!

Lyon has such a huge offer in terms of good middle-range prices restaurant with amazing quality that I'd go to free visits to spend my budget on the restaurant bill.

Contributor: Guillemette from Expat in France

Guillemette, alias Guiga, is a French serial expat that loves discovering new places. She has lived in many different countries and helps expatriates to relocate to France as a living. So if you dream of moving to France, you will find the best relocation tips and information to plan your move.