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Lyon Backpacking Trip: Exploring France’s Culinary Capital on a Budget

Lyon backpacking trip can be one hell of an experience for travelers who are willing to explore it well. The marvelous city of Lyon provides an engaging experience to any kind of traveler. For the avid backpacker, Lyon is likely to remain in their hearts and minds, long after they have bid adieu to this wonderful city.

Be it the stunning architecture combining the finest elements of the old and new, or the delicious food available all across this gastronomic French paradise, Lyon backpacking trip can help you avail all of these experiences at quite an affordable budget. Lyon is a remarkable city that is awaiting exploration.

The magnificent Southern European nation of France has long been on the bucket list of many travelers. With the spectacular Alps in the North, enchanting castles in the centre and splendid beaches in the South, France caters to the palette of a diverse audience.

Despite the plethora of attractions scattered across the length and breadth of the nation, most travelers tend to stick to the glitzy capital of Paris when planning a trip to France. Paris is rightly regarded as the epitome of European panache. The saying goes, “Paris is always a good idea.”

However, for a backpacker, it is important to be constantly on the move and not stick to just one popular place. For me personally, my nomadic lifestyle pushes me off the beaten path and leads me to places that are unique and unconventional. That is how I found Lyon.

lyon backpacking trip

 I took the leap, found Lyon and loved it. You should go exploring as well. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

Lyon Backpacking Trip – What to Do First ?

While traveling to a new place, it is important that you know and understand the common language. It might not be possible to learn the whole language but you should surely try and learn a few phrases.

There were a few French phrases during my Lyon Backpacking trip that helped me to connect with the locals more. Also, it made travel and food experiences a tad bit easier.

I’m mentioning all the French phrases used by me during my Lyon backpacking trip.

Helpful French Phrases during My Lyon Backpacking Trip

The phrases in italics are in French language while the ones that are not in italics are the English translation.
Bonjour: Good Day/Hello
Salut: Hello (informal)
au revoir:  Goodbye
à bientôt: See you soon
Merci: Thank you
Pardon: Sorry
Excusez-moi: Excuse me
Je ne comprends pas: I don’t understand
Je ne parle pas français: I don’t speak French

Just a 2-hour train ride away from Paris lies the city of Lyon, an unheralded dreamland of food, culture and art. One of the most famous attractions of the city is the Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvière. The marvelous Basilica is located atop the Fourvière hill.

The timeless streets of Vieux Lyon (the old quarter of Lyon) come alive at night, resplendent with lively evening performances by street bands and a collection of classic restaurants serving the finest French cuisine.

The striking Musée des Confluences with its avant-garde architecture displays intriguing exhibits on contemporary science and anthropology, whereas the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon (Museum of Fine Arts) offers a refreshing look at ancient paintings, sculptures and artifacts.

Before I continue singing the praises of the place as an ideal destination for backpackers and solo travelers and elaborate on my Lyon backpacking trip, here is some basic traveler information that will make your journey to France more comfortable.


Essential Information on France and Lyon

Getting there Lufthansa and Aeroflot are the recommended airlines for travel from New Delhi (my departing city) to Lyon Saint-Exupery Airport.

Lufthansa has a layover in Frankfurt and Aeroflot offers a stopover in Moscow.

50000 INR on Aeroflot and 60000 INR on Lufthansa is the average cost of a return flight.

Weather Average summer temperature = 26 C

Average winter temperature = 4 C

Best time to visit June to August
Currency Euro (1 EUR = 84 INR)
Time Zone Western European Time Zone (GMT+1.00)

4.5 hours behind Indian Standard Time

Country Code +33

 

lyon backpacking trip

The confluence Area in Lyon. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

How to Travel Within Lyon?

Transport from Saint-Exupery Airport to the city centre of Lyon is via the Rhone Express train.

The train runs daily from 6 am to 9 pm and takes you to Part-Dieu Station in the city centre of Lyon in 30 minutes. Tickets cost 14 Euro for a one-way trip and 25 Euro for a return journey.

The major train stations in the city are Lyon Part Dieu and Lyon Perrache.

Part Dieu station is the primary railway station in Lyon with more well-maintained infrastructure and better transport links.

 This is not to say that Perrache station is not a good area to stay in Lyon. Being situated in the 2nd arrondissement of the city means that it is close to numerous city attractions.

Some of these include the wonderful Place Bellecour, a large public square lined with elegant stores and delectable restaurants, and the sublime Confluence area, a remarkable residential and commercial township with a shopping mall, upscale apartments and corporate offices.

lyon backpacking trip

The wonderful Palace Bellecour. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

Lyon City Card

On your Lyon backpacking trip, it is recommended that you minimize the internal transport plus the travel cost. This is where the Lyon City Card comes in handy.

By means of a Lyon City Card, you can go on exploring the museums and attractions of the lovely city. The card is easy to use and will provide you with unlimited access to 22 of the most prestigious museums in and around Lyon. You can also go for guided tours, self-guided audio tours and boat tours.
Lastly and importantly, the Lyon City Card will provide you with an unlimited use of the public transport system. This is much needed in Lyon or any other country of Europe for that matter.
lyon backpacking trip

Purchase a Lyon City Card for ease & affordability. Picture credits: AJB Johnston

Suggested Accommodation for a Good Lyon Backpacking Trip.

In order to have the best possible time in Lyon, I would strongly recommend staying close to train stations. This not only offers you a chance to explore the heart of the city but the strong transport links also allow you to visit other destinations in France.

Wherever you end up staying, ensure that you stay at a hostel to maximize the cultural experience during your Lyon backpacking trip.

Hostels to Live in during your Lyon Backpacking Trip

Based on my personal experience in Lyon, I am suggesting the following two hostels to any travelers who feels like visiting the city in the future.

Away Hostel and Coffee Shop

21 rue Alsace Lorraine, 1st arr., 69001 Lyon, France

SLO Living Hostel

5 Rue Bonnefoi, 3rd arr., 69003 Lyon, France

Away Hostel and Coffee Shop

Located in the 1st arrondissement of Lyon, the Away Hostel and Coffee Shop offers comfortable dorm-style rooms directly opposite to Croix-Paquet metro station, with connections to all major attractions of Lyon.

Dorm rooms, fitted with lockers, bunk beds and shared bathrooms sleep up to 10 guests. Bathroom and kitchen facilities are shared. Private rooms with an en-suite bathroom are also available on-site. A chic coffee shop and communal lounge promote social interaction between fellow backpackers.

Dorm rooms cost between 21.26 to 23.62 Euros per night, ranging from 4 to 10 beds per dormitory. Double rooms with private bathrooms cost approximately 70.87 per night.

SLO Living Hostel

Providing centrally-located accommodation in the 3rd arrondissement of Lyon, SLO Living Hostel offers plush dorm rooms with spacious bunk beds, wooden flooring and shared bathrooms.

A communal kitchen and a sophisticated lounge act as the perfect chill-out areas for your backpacking trip. The hostel is located a 3-minute walk away from Guillotiére metro station and a 7-minute walk from Le Rhône river. Lively Place Bellecour is located less than 1 km away.

 4-bed, 6-bed and 8-bed dorms are the ideal backpacking spot, costing between 22.3 to 24.41 Euros per night. Double rooms fitted with private bathrooms cost Rs. 70.87 per night on average.

You will be able to save a lot of money if you choose hostels over hotels. Invest that money else where on your Lyon backpacking trip like food tours, sight seeing, walking and biking tours. Remember that you will spend your maximum time exploring the city and not staying in a hotel. So do not waste extra money on accommodation.

Lyon Backpacking Trip – Most Essential Aspects to Keep in Mind for First Timers

While on your Lyon backpacking trip, make sure you are fully aware about the city, its rules and its culture. This is even more important if you are a first timer. Based on my own Lyon backpacking trip, I’d like to share a few things with you. They will help you understand the place better.

Take a walking tour

Walk around the streets of Lyon to explore it well. You can either do it on your own or can even go for a paid walking tour in a group.

Avoid rowdiness 

Lyon is a decent people for travelers and locals alike. Do not disturb anyone by indulging in rowdy behavior.

Rent a Bike

If you’re a rider, feel free to explore Lyon a bike. You can easily rent a bike in Lyon and go sightseeing by yourself. A recent innovation is the electric bike. Be adventurous enough and take the electric bike tour.

Grab breakfast at your place of stay

Instead of having breakfast out in some fancy cafe or eatery, purchase bread and cheese from a grocery store and consume it fresh. Feel free to have lunch and dinner outside. Surprisingly, they are cheaper than breakfast in Lyon.

Look for a ‘2 Euro Shops’

‘2 Euro Shops’ are scattered throughout Lyon and sell everyday products and gift items for merely 2 euros, hence the name. Choose a few things from here to take back home than go shopping at fancy places.

Pee before you go sightseeing

As shocking as it may sound, most places in Lyon (including shopping malls) will charge you for using the washroom. So in case you want to save on that cash, try peeing at your place of stay itself.

Learn commonly spoken French words 

It is important that you learn a few basic French words before venturing to Lyon. Else, you’ll end up being confused. Also, most French people will not respond back in English even if they know the language.

Do not kiss French folks

Unless you’re friends with some people in France, do not kiss any native French man or woman. Greet them instead by shaking hands. Kissing in Lyon is meant only for friends.

Follow basic table manners

Being the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon expects you to know your table manners well. So always display proper dining etiquette while having meals.

Tip waiters and waitresses

Common courtesy in Lyon asks you to tip people who serve you food. So make sure you do that even if the amount is less.

lyon backpacking trip

Rent a bike and explore Lyon by yourself. Picture credits: Regina

Food in Lyon – What and Where to Eat ?

As the culinary capital of France, Lyon offers travelers a plethora of delicious food and drink options. Lyonnaise cuisine is rightly regarded as sumptuous, healthy and wholesome.

One of the most famous dishes to have originated in Lyon is the ‘coq au vin’; a mouth-watering melange of chicken, mushrooms, garlic and potatoes, all braised in a dash of red wine.

As is typical of the entire French nation, the baguette is enjoyed as a satisfying meal at any time of the day. A baguette is a long, crispy loaf of bread, most often topped with fish such as salmon/tuna, lettuce, garlic and onions.

A baguette makes for a tasty, quick and affordable meal, especially suitable for backpackers on the move. Plenty of vegetarian baguettes are also available at most bakeries in Lyon.

lyon backpacking trip

Taste Coqauvin in Lyon. Picture credits: Ronnie Hedegaard Abramowski

Recommended Eating Places in Lyon

As a traveler on a Lyon backpacking trip, you have got to taste the locally prepared food. Dining anywhere in France is a delight. Lyon makes this experience even more better because it is the culinary capital of France.

The following places are surely worth visiting.

Paul

The finest baguette can be savoured at the internationally-recognized French bakery chain PAUL. For those with a sweet tooth, PAUL serves an awesome fruit tart and chocolate eclair.

Also, backpackers should make sure to try their popular millefeuille, a melt-in-the-mouth French variation of a vanilla/custard slice.

Brioche Dorée

A simple cafe chain in France, famous for their budget-friendly meal deals. Backpackers are recommended to try their freshly-baked, aromatic baguettes and the wide range of cakes and pastries on offer.

Brasserie Georges

As a globally-recognized gastronomic institution, the master chefs at Brasserie Georges conjure up an unbelievable palette of French cuisine, with magnificent Italian, Iberian and Mediterranean influences.

Bouchon Lyonnais Chez Louise

A beautifully chic and lively dine-in restaurant and bakery in the heart of Vieux Lyon (The Old Quarter).

Glacier Terre adélice Lyon

Finger-licking good gelato is served here, bang in the centre of Vieux Lyon (The Old Quarter).

405 Bar à Bières

A lovely pub with an awesome collection of beer, wine and fast food. Comfortable sofas have been provided for interaction with fellow backpackers.

lyon backpacking trip

Enjoy lip smacking Gelato at Glacier Terre adélice Lyon. Picture by Veni

Food Tours during your Lyon Backpacking Trip

If you have the time and are a foodie, you should definitely invest in a good Food Tour while in Lyon. Food tours can range from half a day to full day to even exclusive wine tasting.

Most food tours in Lyon will offer you with a unique gastronomy experience along with authentic French meal for lunch and dinner (depending on the duration of your tour).

During your food tour, there will be a local guide present who will assist you with the culinary tastings as well as explain your food to you.

Top 5 Questions that Foodies Ask on their Lyon Backpacking Trip ?

What is meant by the word – Bouchon ?

As a traveler you should absolutely be familiar with the word – Bouchon, while in Lyon. It means  restaurant found in Lyon that serves traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.

Out of all the meals during the day, which one is the best in Lyon ?

Undoubtedly, the best meal of the day in Lyon is lunch. It is unconventional, delicious and super cheap (that is correct). In fact even if you consume wine along with your meal, it still turns out to be cheap during lunch.

Are eating places closed on Sundays in Lyon ?

Yes, most places that serve food are closed in Lyon on Sundays. Some remain closed on Mondays as well.

Is there anything in store for people with a sweet tooth.

Most definitely yes. The easiest way to fulfill your desire of going on a sweet-food-spree is to stop by any of the Voisin Chocolate stores. They are located at various places throughout Lyon.

What are the three most recommended dishes that one should try while on their Lyon backpacking trip ?

I’d recommend that every traveler tries the Saucisson brioche, Lyonnaise salad and Tarte Lyonnaise. Also, try the Saint-Marcellin cheese.

lyon backpacking trip

Indulge in savoury and delectable Lyonaise cuisine at eateries across the city. Picture credits: Jadore

Attractions in Lyon – What All to See ?

A magnificent city like Lyon has no dearth of attractions and sightseeing spots. From lush public gardens to ancient basilicas and modern city squares, the city of Lyon has it all.

Before I start highlighting the notable attractions, I would encourage you to fully understand the city layout of Lyon. This would allow for an enjoyable and hassle-free Lyon backpacking trip.

Like most French cities, the land area of Lyon is divided into nine different districts, or what the French call ‘arrondissements’.

As you can see in the map below, major places of interest are mentioned alongside the district where they are located.

However, a ton of hidden gems are scattered across the city. So, I would strongly urge you not to limit yourself to the major ‘tourist’ attractions. Try your best to explore this wonderful city on foot and using public transport to discover places that you will not find online or in guidebooks.

This, I believe, requires harnessing the true spirit of a backpacker.


Must Visit Places on your Lyon Backpacking Trip

While in Lyon, make sure to visit the following places. Explore them in detail and get inspired.

Parc de la Tête d’or

The sprawling Parc de la Tête d’or is an extensive urban park located in the 6th arrondissement of Lyon. Spanning an area of over 117 hectares, this green haven contains winding walking trails and lush vegetable gardens.

There is also an aesthetically pleasing greenhouse inside the park. This contains an enormous variety of plants, trees and tubers, supplemented by interesting botanical information that is conveyed via interactive boards and signs. A large lake in the centre plays host to boating and other fun activities in the summer.

One of the most amazing features of Parc de la Tête d’or is the awesome open-air zoo present in the centre of the park. A plethora of animals are maintained in safe, private enclosures.

The fact that entry to the zoo is completely free of charge distinguishes the Parc de la Tête d’or from other gardens in France and in fact across the world. Zoo de Lyon today occupies an area of over 10 hectares, being home to over 400 animals across 64 different species.

lyon backpacking trip

The striking innards of Parc de la Tête d’or. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

lyon backpacking trip

A glimpse of wildlife at Parc de la Tête d’or. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière

 The spectacular Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière is situated atop Fourvière hill on the edge of the city. Constructed between 1872 and 1884 with a Gothic Revival architectural style, the area surrounding the Basilica offers jaw-dropping views of Lyon from its commanding hilltop position.

Make sure that you hike your way up to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière to capture incredible photos of the cityscape and simultaneously pay a visit to one of the most elaborately constructed places of worship in Europe.

The Basilica is open everyday from 7 am to 7 pm. In case you do not wish to walk up the hilly terrain, a funicular railway takes you to the top of Fourvière hill in a matter of minutes.

Take the short and sweet train ride from Saint-Jean metro station in Vieux Lyon.

lyon backpacking trip

Elegant architecture of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

lyon backpacking trip

The magical interiors of Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

Musée des Confluences

The remarkable architecture of the Musée des Confluences is worthy of praise. However, it is not just the futuristic exterior of the building that attracts visitors, but the captivating exhibits inside the museum make the Musée des Confluences an absolute must-visit.

Inaugurated recently in late 2014, the intriguing science museum plays host to interactive exhibits including ‘Stories of the World’, ‘The Web of Life’ and ‘Visions of the Beyond’.

The museum is open from Tuesday to Sunday, between the following hours.

Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday: 11 am – 7 pm

Thursday: 11 am – 10 pm

Saturday, Sunday and public holidays: 10 am – 7 pm

There are three ticket categories, varying in price.

Adults full rate — € 9.00

Adults after 5:00 pm — € 6.00

Active young people 18-25 — € 5.00

lyon backpacking trip

The phenomenally-built Musée des Confluences. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

 

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The ‘Only Lyon’ tourist sign is present at Musée des Confluences. Picture credits: Aarohan Mehra

Musée gallo-romain de Fourvière

The Gallo-Roman Museum of Lyon-Fourvière is an enchanting museum detailing the rich cultural history of Lyon.

Being housed within the Roman Theatre at Fourvière hill, the archaeological museum comprises a diverse range of ancient artifacts, statues and inscriptions, and mosiacs that collectively exhibit the era of the Gallo-Roman civilization in Lyon.

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The Roman Theatre atop Fourvière Hill. Picture by Aarohan Mehra

Lyon has been luring people to visit it since times immemorial. The city is a beautiful travel destination for those who want to stay away from the hustle and bustle of Paris.

Plan a Lyon backpacking trip and come back enriched with a song in your heart and a new travel story on your lips. Plunge into the culinary capital of France and you will surely be rewarded with the journey of a lifetime.

Happy wayfaring.

About the Author

Aarohan Mehra

Aarohan Mehra

Aarohan Mehra describes himself as a traveller on a perpetual odyssey across the globe. Aarohan finds solace in the mountains and particularly enjoys solo adventure trips to remote locations. Having embarked on trips to over 15 countries in Europe, Aarohan now hopes to tick Africa and Australia off his bucket list.

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