I love Lyon all year round, but there’s something about summer. (For one thing, it’s the only time of year I actually want to leave my apartment after 9 pm.) Summer means rosé-drenched picnics, sunny afternoons with a cone of melon sorbet, and finally being able to wear that sundress that sits untouched in my closet nine months a year.
I admit that last summer, there was a period when it was so hot that I spent three days prone on the couch in front of the fan watching Orange is the New Black and drinking grapefruit Pulco like it was my job.
But when you’re not hiding from the scorching heat, Lyon is pretty great in the summer. Here are a few things I love to do during the estival months in Lyon.
Walk through the Tunnel de la Croix Rousse
The Tunnel de La Croix Rousse runs from the Rhône to the Saône under the hill that leads up to the Croix Rousse neighborhood. Last summer during the heat wave, Hugo and I took a stroll from one side to the other, and the cool, cement tunnel was the perfect refuge from the heat.
What makes it fun is that there are animated light projections all throughout the tunnel with music, kind of like a mini Fête des Lumières. Its about 1.8 kilometers across (or just over a mile) and you can walk or bike through it.
How to get there: Enter from Quai André Lassagne on the east side, or from Quai Joseph Gillet on the west side.
Eat gelato in Vieux Lyon
There are many places in Lyon where you can get a nice scoop of something cold, but I always go to Vieux Lyon. My favorite place is Terre Adélice (which is known for its extensive flavor offerings) and René Nardone is popular as well. They’re right around the corner from each other, so you can even try both if you want to see who really makes the best glace à la menthe. You’ll probably have to wait in (a massive) line, but then you get to stroll the cobblestone streets with your sweet treat.
Where to go:
- Terre d’Adélice: 1 place de la Baleine
- René Nardone: 3 Place Ennemond Fousseret
Listen to jazz on the terrace at the opera
The Lyon opera house is a landmark in the center of town. It’s a popular meeting spot since it’s right next to the métro, and during the day you often see people breakdancing on the shiny black stone terrace.
In the summer, this space turns into an outdoor jazz club with a bar. There are free shows on Monday through Saturday at 7 pm, 8:15 pm, and 10 pm. Go early to snag a table.
How to get there: Take the métro to Hôtel de Ville – Louis Pradel.
Ride a Vélo’v
Vélo’v is the name of Lyon’s bike sharing system – you’ll see the red bicycles at stations all over town. They are incredibly cheap to rent, especially if you’re staying awhile, and Lyon is conveniently flat (except for the massive Croix Rousse hill!) If you’re able to ride a bike, it’s a much nicer than the muggy metro in the summer.
- One-day pass: €1.50
- Three-day pass: €3
- Week-long pass: €5
Frolic at Île Barbe
Île Barbe is a little slice of an island in the middle of the Saône river, about 6 km north of Presqu’île, the city center. It’s the perfect place for picnicking, swimming, and snapping pictures of the sunset. Don’t forget to stop at Boulangerie Jocteur on the west side of the Saône.
How to get there: Take a Vélo’v (about 30 minutes) or bus number 40 to Île Barbe (plan your trip on public transport here.)
Hit the pool
You don’t have to go far to take a dip in Lyon. You can hit up one of Lyon’s municipal pools. Centre nautique Tony Bertrand is right next to the Rhône near Guillotière, but there are other (cheaper) pools in the city as well. The regular entry fee at Tony Bertrand is €8 (or €5.50 for students under 26), whereas Piscine de Gerland, Piscine de la Duchère, and Piscine Jean Mermoz all charge €3.40 (or €2.60 for students).
You can see a complete list of swimming pools here (some are indoor pools).
Enjoy Parc de la Tête d’Or
What is summer in Lyon without Parc de la Tête d’Or? Take advantage of the sunshine and explore the botanical gardens, stroll around the lake, admire the roses, or gawk at the many exotic animals in the free zoo. (You may be tempted to kidnap the cuddly red panda.) You can also rent a paddle boat, explore by bike, or settle down on the grass for a picnic with friends.
How to get there: Take the métro to Massèna and walk north to the entrance.
Dine al fresco at the market
Open air markets are nice all year round, but I think they’re the nicest in the summer. You can grab a bite from a food truck and enjoy it outside or indulge in fresh tapenade with a crunchy baguette. (Don’t you love tapenade in the summer? I can’t resist it when I smell the olives at the market!)
The biggest markets are on Quai Saint Antoine (Presqu’île) and Boulevard de la Croix Rousse (Croix Rousse) every morning but Monday. I particularly like Marché Saint Antoine because you can have a picnic with a beautiful view of the Saône river.
I recommend going on the weekend; it will be more crowded, but there will be a lot more vendors. (If your goal were simply to buy produce, I would give you the opposite advice.)
You can also find some food trucks parked at a smaller market by Quai Augagneur Thursday afternoon and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday morning.
Have apéro along the Saône or the Rhône
An evening picnic along the river is a classic French summertime experience. Delicious, romantic, great for people watching, and cheap! Grab a bottle of wine (screw cap or sparkling if you don’t have a corkscrew), plastic cups, and whatever you desire for your apéro spread. (Apéro is the official French meal of “drinks with snacks” from about 6 to 8 pm.)
I recommend picking up a baguette (from one of my favorite boulangeries, obviously!) charcuterie, cheese (if you’re into that), and maybe some of that tapenade you bought.
Relax at Calicéo
Calicéo is a spa and aquatic center just outside of Lyon. They have indoor and outdoor pools with waterfalls and whirlpools, and you can also relax in a jacuzzi, the hammam, or the sauna. (They also have centers in Capbreton, Bordeaux, Nantes, Pau, Perpignan, and Toulouse.)
Entry fee: €16.50 for two hours (€14.50 for students)
How to get there: Take bus C19 to Plan du Loup Les Razes
Le Plan du Loup
Rue Sainte Barbe
Explore Grand Parc Miribel Jonage
This giant green space on the northeast outskirts of Lyon dwarfs the sizable urban Parc de la Tête d’Or. It has just about everything; you can bike, play golf, stroll, hike, picnic, go kayaking or stand-up paddleboarding, or just enjoy the beach.
How to get there: Take métro A to Laurent Bonnevay and then take bus 83 to Grand Parc Miribel Jonage. The bus ride takes a little over 20 minutes.
Have a drink on a péniche
The Rhône and the Saône are lined with péniches, or riverboats that have been turned into bars and restaurants. (Tip: You’ll find a lot of them at Quai Augagneur.)
You can have a beer and burger in the sun at the popular Star Ferry (definitely go early to get a table), enjoy some music at La Marquise, or hit up Le Sonic for a late-night rock club scene.
Cruise down to Confluence on Le Vaporetto
There are big cruise ships and little motor boats that float up and down the Saône, but you can also sail down the river by hopping on the water shuttle that runs down the Saône river to Confluence in the summer. It’s an inexpensive way to see one of the prettiest parts of Lyon by boat.
There are four stops: Vaise (24 Quai Arloing), Saint Paul (Quai de Bondy), Bellecour (Quai des Célestins), and Confluence (Place Nautique).
It costs €2 (buy tickets on board) and for the return from Confluence, it’s €1 with proof of a purchase at Confluence from the same day.
It runs from about 9:30 am to 9:30 pm with departures every hour. If you’re heading south towards Confluence, the first departures are around 10:10 am. See the schedule for more information.
More local tips for summer in Lyon:
If it’s broiling hot (hello, canicule) and your Airbnb doesn’t have air conditioning (it won’t), look for cafés with signs that say “clime” or “salle climatisée” – French for AC. (Most of my favorite tea rooms have it!)
If you’re near the 3rd, you can escape the heat in the mall at Part Dieu. The behemoth shopping center is not my favorite place, but it is an AC refuge. You can even jump in one of those indoor fountains (no, but don’t.)
The other good thing about Part Dieu in the summer? It’s les soldes – the summer sales. Almost all retail stores have major sales from the end of June to the beginning of August.
If you track down the best rooftop everywhere you travel, you might like Le Sucre, which is known for its rooftop bar down near Confluence. It also hosts a lot of concerts and other events. (Buy tickets online to save a little €€.)
Good news! I just updated my guide to my favorite wine bars in Lyon to tell you which ones have outdoor seating. (I recommend La Voguette or Le Vin des Vivants in particular. Go early to get a table.)
If you’re in town in August, always, always double-check opening hours. Many places shut down for several weeks or even the entire month.
Are you visiting Lyon this summer? Have a wonderful time! Let me know if you discover anything to add to the list 🙂