9 Free things to do in Lyon, France

Published 22/04/2023

9 Free things to do in Lyon, France

Published 22/04/2023

Lyon is a beautiful city in France that is known for its gastronomy, architecture, and culture. Visiting a new city can be expensive. Are you travelling on a budget and are you looking for things to do in Lyon? There are plenty of free things to do in Lyon that will allow you to experience the city’s charm without breaking the bank. In this blog, you’ll find some of the top things to do in Lyon that are perfect for budget-conscious travellers. Whether you visit Lyon for the first time or have been before, I’m sure you’ll appreciate these free activities.

1. Free Lyon walking tour through “Vieux Lyon”

Vieux Lyon (or Lyon old town) is the city’s historic district and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. One of the easiest things to do in Lyon, to get a feel to the city, is to take a walking tour of Vieux Lyon to get to know the city’s history and architecture. Most big cities offer free walking tours, where you just give your guide a tip based on what you think it’s worth. So, technically, not entirely free, unless you skip on the tip. But at least you decide the budget. Find the free Lyon walking tours here. Not up for an organized tour? Of course you can also just walk around on your own.

2. Visit the “Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière”

Visit Lyon’s number 1 attraction! The Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière, located on Fourvière Hill in Lyon, is a magnificent architectural gem that attracts visitors from around the world. It’s hard to miss, as you can see it from every angle of the city. And it’s free to enjoy.

This grand basilica, constructed in the late 19th century, showcases a stunning blend of Byzantine and Gothic architectural styles, with marble columns and light falling through the stained-glass on the inside.

One of the highlights of a visit to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière is the panoramic view it offers of Lyon. By climbing to the observation deck, you get treated to an overview of the city’s rooftops, the Saône and Rhône rivers, and the surrounding landscape. It’s a perfect spot to appreciate Lyon’s beauty from a different perspective.

Entry to the basilica is free, as most churches in Europe are. There’s a train that brings you up the hill if you don’t want to walk, which is paid.

3. Roman theatre – “Théâtres Romains de Fourvière”

Right next to the basilica, you can find the Roman Theatre. Or at least, what’s left of it. The Roman Theatre in Lyon is an impressive archaeological site that dates back to the 1st century AD. This ancient amphitheatre once hosted theatrical performances and could accommodate up to 10,000 visitors.

Today, visitors can explore the ruins of the Roman. The well-preserved seating area, stage, and surrounding structures provide a glimpse into the scale of the original structure. The Roman Theatre is not only a historical landmark, but also serves as a venue for cultural events and concerts during the summer months, continuing the tradition of entertainment that began centuries ago.

You can walk around the whole site for free and get a stunning view over Lyon as an added bonus.

For only € 10 pp you can book an audiotour through Fourvière for more backgroundinformation.

4. Discover “Parc de la Tête d’Or”

Parc de la Tête d’Or is a large urban park in Lyon that is perfect for a relaxing day out. The park covers over 117 hectares and features a lake, botanical gardens, and several walking trails. A unique feature of the park is its completely free zoo. This is probably the most unique free attraction in Lyon because how often are zoos free? It’s not the biggest, but for animal lovers, it’s a nice visit. During the summer you’ll find plenty of activities like free concerts, exhibitions and festivals. 

5. Visit free museums 

No lack of museums in Lyon! There are a few museums in Lyon that are (partially) free to visit:

  • Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon
    European art, including masterpieces by Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh.
  • Musée d’Art Contemporain de Lyon
    Experience contemporary art through installations, multimedia, and sculptures.
  • Musée d’Histoire de Lyon (Gadagne)
    Dive into Lyon’s history with archaeological artifacts and historical displays.
  • Musée des Confluences
    Enjoy free access to temporary exhibitions on the first Sunday of each month, exploring science, history, and anthropology. (€9 On the other days)
  • Musée de l’Imprimerie et de la Communication Graphique
    Discover the history of printing and graphic communication.
  • Musée de l’Automobile Henri Malartre
    Admire classic cars, motorcycles, and vintage vehicles, showcasing automotive engineering.

6. Take a stroll along the banks of the “Rhône” and “Saône” rivers

The Rhône and Saône rivers run through Lyon, and taking a stroll along their banks is a great way to see the city from a different perspective. You can see most of the highlights from here and get a great idea of the vibe in the city. During sunny days, you’ll find plenty of locals hanging around the riverside, enjoying a picnic or a drink. I recommend a visit around sunset or sunrise, to add a bit of extra magic.

7. Visit the “Marché de la Croix-Rousse”

The Marché de la Croix-Rousse is a famous market in Lyon that takes place every day except Mondays. It is located in the Croix-Rousse neighborhood and features dozens of stalls selling fresh produce, cheese, bread, and other local delicacies. I always love exploring markets like this, because it will give you a glimpse of daily life.

8. Street-art walk

Lyon has some street-art pieces that would impress even the least artistic person. Head to the “Croix-Rousse” neighbourhood to find these amazing pieces. You can do a whole tour around the neighbourhood, or visit the most impressive ones “Mur des Canuts” or “Fresque des Lyonnais”. Trust me, you won’t regret it! As a free option, you can find the route here.

If you’d prefer to get a little more background information about the art pieces you can book an audiotour for € 10.. It’s still a self-guided tour but with information through your smartphone.

9. Attend a free concert or festival

Lyon hosts numerous concerts and festivals throughout the year. Many of these events are free to attend and offer a great opportunity to experience the city’s music and culture. You can probably get some tips from the staff of your accommodation, but otherwise a quick Google search should get you some results as well. 

Cheap activities in Lyon

Do you feel like these free activities might not give you the full experience of your visit to Lyon? Then, of course, you can find plenty of paid activities as well. Here are some cheap things to do in Lyon:

Or buy the Lyon city pass, which gives you free public transport use and access to over 40 activities, including a citywalk and cruise. Prices start at € 29 and the pass in available for 1 to 4 days.