The 15 Best Day Trips From Lyon, France

City of Lyon in daytime

Lyon, France’s third largest city, is perfectly located in eastern, central France, and is considered by many to be France’s heart of cuisine. And with good reason: The famous chef, Paul Bocuse, hailed from Lyon, and since he made his mark, the city has produced an incredible number of award-winning chefs. This beautiful city has two major rivers that run through it, the River Rhône and the River Saône, which converge in the center of the city and from there travel, now as the Rhône, all the way to the Mediterranean. And this remarkable international city is home to not only the “practice Eiffel Tower,” but also the Fourvière (a medieval cathedral that sits high above the city in a strategic location, and can be reached on foot or by historic cable car), Roman ruins, and the awe-inspiring Musée des Beaux Arts. The city center has old, bendy streets, mediterranean colors, and a laid-back vibe. For some this is enough for an extended trip.

But for those on a longer sojourn, or who want to leave their bags and venture forth from Lyon, Frenchly editors have come up with a list of day trips from Lyon that are not only doable, but will offer some extra dimensions to, perhaps, fall a tiny bit more in love with France. (If that’s at all possible!)

The Internet is rife with advice for fun or adventure-filled day trips from Lyon, Paris, Dijon, Nice—anywhere in France, according to the Google, is a day trip from somewhere else. Most of this advice is absurd. However, if you do it right, you can venture out in the relatively small country of France for a day and still adhere to the relaxed pace of a vacation. The important thing to do is be realistic. For instance, Versailles as a day trip from Paris = doable. Lake Annecy as a day trip from Lyon = a tad ambitious. You may not enjoy this charming lakeside city in the French Alps in the time that you have before you need to hop back onto a bus to slog back to Lyon for almost 2 hours; you’ll probably wish you’d brought your bathing suit and booked a night in a nearby hotel. Avignon from Lyon in one day on the expensive high speed train = ridiculous.

The great news is that Lyon has the advantage of being an easy city to navigate out of by train, bus, car, or scooter, making day trips from Lyon a snap. It is so perfectly and centrally located in France that there are many options in the surrounding area to enjoy a lake, a small medieval town, beautiful villages with spectacular views, a castle, and more. And what’s wonderful is that the choices below are not American tourist traps–instead, they are tasteful, wonderful, unusual place, sure to add dimension to your time in France. Keep in mind, too, that, in general, public transport works beautifully in France, so buses and trains may be the easiest way to get anywhere. You can also rent a car at the St. Exupéry Airport in Lyon and go from there.

We like to use the Rome2Rio trip planning app, which will show you how to plan your day trips from Lyon and how much it will cost via train, bus, car, or taxi. 

Top 3 Day Trip Tips

Before you start planning your next day trip from anywhere to anywhere, take a moment to ask yourself these three questions: 

1) Will it expand what you are already doing where you are?

2) Is it cheaper to go for a day rather than decamp? (For instance, if you are in Lyon and want to go to Paris for a day, that is likely more affordable than staying overnight in Paris, but that’s going to depend on the season, train fares and other factors.)

3) Will it be fun to take the train or bus back to your base camp? (As opposed to a miserable slog.)

If you get a yes on all three, then go for it. Enjoy the adventure and bring a great book for the ride.

The 15 Best Day Trips from Lyon

  1. Pérouges
  2. Vienne
  3. Chazelles-sur-Lyon
  4. Chalon-sur-Saône
  5. Pont-en-Royans
  6. The Hautecombe Abbey
  7. Château de Septème
  8. Domaine de Lacroix-Laval
  9. Lac D’Aiguebelette
  10. Plan d’Eau du Bourdelan
  11. Lac des Sapins
  12. Grand Parc Miribel Jonage
  13. Beaujolais
  14. Grottes du Cerdon
  15. Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave
Pérouges

Charming Villages

France, as everyone knows, is replete with beautiful small villages where a passerby can have an authentic experience as long as they avail themselves of the idea that France is full of unique history, food, wine, outdoor spaces and small gifts that are doled out to the keen observer.


1. Pérouges

An easy day trip is to voyage out of Lyon to the Alpine town of Pérouges. Only 25 miles Northeast of Lyon, Pérouges is a tiny village of only 100 year-round inhabitants. Kept immaculately preserved, clean and distinct in its vibe, Pérouges is considered by many to be the most beautiful town in all of France. (It’s actually on France’s list of Les Plus Beaux Villages de France.) The old town of Pérouges is perched on a hill, with the Alps as a backdrop. Hidden behind fortress walls, this medieval town has two entrance gates, cobblestoned streets, narrow alleys, secret byways, and Liberty Square, named for a towering Linden tree that was planted during the French Revolution. History buffs will want to pay a visit to the Musée du Vieux Pérouges, a historical manor dedicated to local lore. The town’s vieille ville is full of bakeries, artisan shops, restaurants, cafes, and wineries, and is also home to a sweet leavened bread called Galette de Pérouges, created in 1912 to keep people fed on Fridays during Lent. More like a sweet pizza, the dough is flavored with lemon and cooked to perfection with caramelized butter and sugar on top. Served out of windows and in paper napkins, it can be enjoyed while strolling the lovely streets, or you can settle in for a more formal version at the restaurant inside the Hostellerie du Vieux Perouges.

  • How to get there: Train, car, or bus
  • Distance from Lyon: 25 miles
  • Time to get there: 35 minutes by car, 33 minutes by train, and 1 hour and 20 minutes by bus

2. Vienne

The Roman Amphitheater at Vienne

A little over 20 miles south of Lyon is the small city of Vienne, located along the banks of the Rhône river as it meanders south from Lyon. Originally the capital for the Allobroges, a Gallic people, it was captured during Roman times and transformed under Julius Caesar into a Roman Colony in 47 BC. It remained part of the Holy Roman Empire until it was transferred to French sovereignty in 1450.

The old town lies in a valley surrounded by steep hills and some of the oldest and best preserved Roman and medieval buildings in all of France, including a 1st century theater and a Roman temple consecrated to the eastern divinity, Cybele. The theater was uncovered during the construction of a new hospital in 1945, and then in subsequent archaeological digs in the 1960s and 70s. There is also a Roman amphitheater that can seat 13,000 people, and was built between 40 to 50 AD. Not to mention an impressive Roman monument called the ‘Temple d’Auguste et de Livie’ which was constructed between 20 to 10 BC and converted into a church during the Middle Ages. 

  • How to get there: Train, bus, or car
  • Distance from Lyon: 20 miles
  • Time to get there: 30 minutes by train, 50 by bus, 25 by car

3. Chazelles-sur-Lyon

Former hat factory in Chazelles-sur-Lyon.

About an hour outside of Lyon is the tiny town of Chazelles-sur-Lyon, which has a unique and wonderful museum unlike anything you will find anywhere else. It is the Atelier-musée du Chapeau, where the history of hat making in France through time is celebrated and demonstrated. Afterward, there are several Michelin starred restaurants in the area, one right in town and the others no more than 10 minutes away by bus or car. A long lunch and a look at some hats of ages past before journeying back to Lyon is just what the doctor ordered.

  • How to get there: Bus or car
  • Distance from Lyon: 30 miles
  • Time to get there: 50 minutes to one hour

4. Chalon-sur-Saône

Chalon-sur-Saône.

This charming town is located on the Saône and is about an hour north of Lyon. Indeed, Chalon-sur-Saône is the place to visit if you are in France in July and looking for creative day trips from Lyon. It has one of the most famous street art festivals in all of Europe, with artists coming from all over to perform. Entry is mostly free, and you can experience a variety of acrobatics, theater, music, comedy, mime, and more. The architecture of the old town along the river is also a major draw, and includes old timber frame houses, the town’s city hall, and a stunning central square, the Place St. Vincent. A walk up the Tour du Doyenné Tower will give you pigeon views of the city and a trip to the Nicéphore Niépce Museum, a museum dedicated to the inventor of photography, who lived in the city, will give you a deeper understanding of how we take pictures today. The town also boasts several restaurants with Michelin distinctions, including the three-Michelin starred Maison Lameloise, the two-Michelin starred L’Amaryllis, and eight restaurants with single Michelin stars.  This would be a fun late afternoon and evening expedition, with dinner as the coup de grâce. 

  • How to get there: Train, bus, car
  • Distance from Lyon: Just under 80 miles
  • Time to get there: An hour and a quarter-ish for all 3 options

5. Pont-en-Royans

Pont-En-Royans, a charming picturesque medieval village in the Vercors national park, with it colorful houses overhang the Bourne river, near the Isere valley, Rhone-Alpes, Southeastern France
Pont-en-Royans

Pont-en-Royans is a charming city with colorful medieval architecture located south of Lyon, and perched right at the confluence of the Bourne and Vernaison rivers. The houses, built right into the river cliffs, appear to overhang the rivers, their bright colors mirrored in the rushing waters. In the town center, there is an interesting museum, the Museé de l’Eau, which is dedicated to the history of bottled water and water sourcing, with a bar that allows you to taste over 900 bottled waters from all over the world. The museum website says that in the museum you will “Learn about the cycle of this fundamental element, its role in our body and its distribution on our planet; wander through a tropical or a glacial environment simulation; dive through the deep sea in our 3-D cinema. At the entrance of the Vercors Natural Parc, the Musée de l’eau is located in Pont-en-Royans, one of the most beautiful and curious villages of the Dauphiné.” One of the biggest draws is in the next town over: The incredible stalactite caves, the Choranche caves, which are truly stunning–nature’s first chandeliers hanging above emerald green lakes.

  • How to get there: Train or car
  • Distance from Lyon: 83 miles
  • Time to get there: An hour and a half by train (slightly less if driving)

6. The Hautecombe Abbey

the Hautecombe abbey on the edge of Bourget lake in France

Situated about an hour and twenty minutes from Lyon, this is one of the most stunning places you may ever visit. It’s an enormous and regal monastery that was built in the 12th century by monks descended from the Benedictine order, and it sits right on the edge of the Lac de Bourget, the largest natural lake of glacial origin in France, located in the Savoie region. Used for centuries as a final resting place for local royalty, the Hautecombe Abbey was designated a French Historical Monument in 1975. Restored in 2007, one can take a tour through the large Troubadour style church and admire the frescoes, statues and intricate architecture. Afterward, extend your day and take a drive around the shimmering lake to Aix-les-Bains, a popular spa town and destination for thermal baths during the Belle Époque. It remains a destination for mineral bath therapy, spas, fresh water swimming, boating, outdoor eating and lake activities.

  • How to get there: Train or car
  • Distance from Lyon: 66 miles
  • Time to get there: An hour and a half by train (slightly less if driving)

Castles near Lyon

There are plenty of day trips from Lyon that will bring you to some of the most beautiful castles in the region. Below are two great options.


7. Château de Septème

Château de Septème.

A great option for a day trip from Lyon is the Château de Septème. An important medieval castle, it lies just to the southeast of Vienne, making it a good possibility if you want to try a two-for-one on your day trip.

There are extensive gardens and an immersion program that takes you back into the year 1480 in case you might want to channel your inner knight. A lovely tea room, shady trees and a fun gift boutique make this a perfect respite from the city.  

  • How to get there: Car, train, or bus
  • Distance from Lyon: 28 miles
  • Time to get there: 35 minutes by car, 2 hours by bus or train

8. Domaine de Lacroix-Laval

Domaine de Lacroix-Laval.

Just to the west of Lyon is the Domaine de Lacroix-Laval, a remarkable public park with orchards, gardens, meadows, lush forests, a French garden with topiary, a castle, and more. Think of this as the Versailles of Lyon. Domaine de Lacroix-Laval is a great trip for a family to see a castle, walk around the stunning grounds, get some fresh air, or take in an outdoor concert.

  • How to get there: Car, bus, or train
  • Distance from Lyon: 9 miles
  • Time to get there: 30 minutes

The Great Outdoors near Lyon

There are several wonderful lakes surrounded by natural landscapes that are perfect for Lyon day trips, where you can head on a hot day, or when you need to get out of the city center and enjoy a dose of clean, country air and a walk in nature. None of these is farther than an hour from Lyon, and all boast outdoor activities and places to swim. 

9. Lac D’Aiguebelette

Lac D’Aiguebelette

For the nature-lover who wants a bit of solitude in a day trip, the best bet is Lac D’Aiguebelette. It’s an easy hour’s drive from Lyon to where the turquoise-colored lake, called “beautiful little waters,” is edged by seven beaches, and surrounded by the Chartreuse and Alpine mountains and hiking trails. There are grassy lawns to park yourself for a picnic, and a children’s swimming areas with lifeguards. Also, no motor boats are allowed on the lake in an effort to preserve the natural tranquility of the waters. 

  • How to get there: Car, bus, or train
  • Distance from Lyon: 54 miles
  • Time to get there: 55 minutes by car, an hour by train, and up to 2 hours by bus

10. Plan d’Eau du Bourdelan

One of the easiest Lyon day trips for nature lovers is the Plan d’eau de Bourdelan, because it is only 30 minutes away. Built in a gravel pit, this lake now has a sandy lifeguarded beach, a beach volleyball court, a large lawn, snacks and refreshments. Though more like a park where you can go swimming, it’s a great option to cool down on a hot day, or just get out of the city with kids.

  • How to get there: Train, bus, or car
  • Distance from Lyon: 20 miles
  • Time to get there: 25 minutes by car, one hour 45 by train or bus

11. Lac des Sapins

Lac des Sapins in Cublize

The Lac des Sapins is just under an hour from the city of Lyon, and is Europe’s largest bathing spot. A man-made lake, it sits in the Monts du Beaujolais region, and boasts swimming, fishing, horseback riding, paddle boats, and hiking.

  • How to get there: Train, bus, or car
  • Distance from Lyon: 40 miles
  • Time to get there: One hour and 10 minutes by car

12. Grand Parc Miribel Jonage

Miribel-Jonage

The Miribel-Jonage island in the middle of the Rhône River was created in the 19th century, when canals were dug to help control yearly flooding from the Rhône. Today, an incredible 5000 acres of the small island are dedicated to the Grand Parc Miribel Jonage. Not only a beautiful recreational area for biking, swimming, walking, running, boating, hiking, and more, it also has protected areas for flora and fauna. A huge bonus is that you can rent bikes in Lyon and get there that way, if you are up for a little ride. There are places to eat and picnic, and a lifeguard on duty. This is a very French option when looking for day trips from Lyon–this is a place where the Lyonnais go to hang on hot days, or when they just need to run free.

  • How to get there: Bike, car, subway, taxi, or bus
  • Distance from Lyon: 8 miles
  • Time to get there: 15 minutes by car, around 40 minutes by bus, and about an hour by bike

Wine Tourism near Lyon

Don’t forget wine tours when planning your Lyon day trips. Just under an hour away from Lyon, the famous wine region of Beaujolais awaits, filled with parks, wine tours, amazing food, and plenty of opportunities for wine tasting. If wine is your thing, you probably already know that the wines in this region are made from the dark purple or black Gamay grape, and that the Beaujolais Nouveau wines that are produced every year make this one of the most well known wine regions in the world. (Though many scoff at Beaujolais Nouveau, the first wine of the season, it has enjoyed an unexpected popularity in recent years, and the Beaujolais region offers many other wines of varying ages and qualities.)

13. Beaujolais

Chiroubles Vineyard in Beaujolais

Most people suggest no more than 2 wine tours when doing day trips from Lyon, which means you can do one, have a sobering meal of local specialties in the middle, do another, and then take the train back to the city, where it won’t matter if you are groggy from a little too much Beaujolais. (For this reason, this is one of the Lyon day trips you might want to stick to the train for.) Lyon Wine Tastings offers a great primer to the wines of the region to study up, and here is a “how to make your own wine route” column from the same blogger, who, incidentally, will offer visitors a guided tour of Beaujolais, in case you want someone to ferry you around and take care of the details. For more wine trail day trips from Lyon, consider a touring company, which will organize it all for you. 

For those of you who might like to design your own drive/day, consider a wine tour at the 1000 year-old organic wine estate, the Château des Bachelards in Fleurie. You can sample wines, pair them with small plates, or have a bottle with a picnic, which the estate will prepare for you and bring to you out on the lawn. 

Next up, for a taste of the iconic Gamay Beaujolais, head over to the Château des Jacques. (If you aren’t driving, you can take the train to the station of Romanèche-Thorins and make the easy 7 minute walk.) There you can taste and visit the cellars and have a dessert “chocolate and wine” tasting. Appointments are needed at this old and stately winery.

  • How to get there: Train or car (no bus option)
  • Distance from Lyon: 30 miles
  • Time to get there: 40 minutes. 

Prehistoric Caves near Lyon

France boasts some of the oldest and best preserved (and recreated) caves in the world, where the entire family can learn about early human life deep under the earth. The most famous of these is the Lascaux caves in the Dordogne river basin, one of the most popular tourist attractions in France (but 5 hours from Lyon). However, not far from Lyon, there are two caves that are worth visiting as a day trip.


14. Grottes du Cerdon

Grottes Du Cerdon
Grottes Du Cerdon

The first is only an hour by car (longer by bus and train) outside of Lyon, where you can journey into the prehistoric caves of Cerdon, a long carved cave used by prehistoric peoples as a shelter and passage through mountainous terrain. Above the caves is a wonderful amusement park called the Grottes du Cerdon Parc de Loisirs Préhistorique, which is terrific for kids, and is set overlooking a stunning valley and the vineyards of Cerdon. The activities include pottery workshops for children, spear throwing, fire starting classes, painting, archaeological excavations, and more. 

  • How to get there: train, bus, car, taxi
  • Distance from Lyon: 44 miles
  • Time to get there:An hour to two hours, depending on your mode of transport

15. Chauvet-Pont-d’Arc Cave

Grotte Chauvet

A little farther out is Chauvet. This trip takes a good two hours from Lyon by car. This is one of the farthest day trips from Lyon that we’ve included, but we think it’s worth the trip. Chauvet has some of the best preserved cave art in the world. It is located in a limestone cliff overlooking the stunning Gorges de l’Ardèche, or the European Grand Canal, a canyon and series of gorges in the river surrounded by breathtakingly beautiful cliffs, which are home to the rare Bonelli’s eagle. The caves have paintings of lions, deer, hyenas—and in the soft clay floor, bear footprints and bear “nests” remain. Like Lascaux, over concerns of preservation, the actual cave was sealed off to the public in 1994. But an exact replica has been built and the entire experience has been beautifully designed to give the visitor an unforgettable experience of cave life and art. This is a trip you will never forget. 

  • How to get there: Train, bus, or car
  • Distance from Lyon: 125 miles
  • Time to get there: 2 hours by car, 2.5 by train and 4 by bus

Day Trips From Lyon – Frequently Asked Questions

How many days do you need in Lyon France?

We would recommend 5-7 days in Lyon, plus more if you’re planning on taking day trips from Lyon.

Can you do a day trip from Lyon to Geneva?

While many guides suggest crossing the Swiss border to visit Lake Geneva, the Geneva water fountain, and Europe’s United Nations headquarters, the trip is quite far and is better as an overnight than a day trip.

What cities are between Lyon and Nice?

If you wish to travel from Lyon through southeast France, you can pass through the towns of Valence, Grenoble, Avignon, Aix-en-Provence, and Cannes on the way to Nice.

Caitlin Shetterly isan Editor at Large of Frenchly. She is also the author of 4 books: Fault Lines, Made for You and MeModified, and the novelPete and Alice in Maine, which was published in 2023 by Harper. She is a native daughter and she lives with her two sons and husband in an old house on the coast of Maine. 

Also Read: The Best Things to Do in Lyon, France: A Local’s 2023 Guide

A close up of a sign

Frenchly
newsletter.

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly’s news.

Read more

France is renowned for its romantic capital, Paris. But did you know that it also offers an array of enchanting regions with their own distinct charm and art de vivre? From the picturesque landscapes of Normandy to the sun-drenched beaches of the French Riviera, each region unveils its unique culture, history, activities, and gastronomy. Voyage By Pauline introduces you these places.

Frenchly newsletter.

A close up of a sign

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly’s news.

Frenchly Newsletter.

A close up of a sign

Get your weekly dose of Frenchly stuff.