12 Top-Rated Day Trips from Lyon
In the countryside around Lyon, visitors can explore cute villages, prehistoric caves, castles, and a trove of other cultural treasures. For a relaxing jaunt, spend a day at the beautiful grounds of the Domaine de Lacroix-Laval, unwind at Le Corbusier's ultramodern convent at the edge of the forest, or visit the picturesque country village of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez. History buffs will enjoy Vienne, with its ancient temple and theater dating from 25 BC.
Not far from Lyon, Chazelles-sur-Lyon will appeal to the fashion conscious. Once a center of hat making, the town features a museum on the subject, and custom-made hats are available from its atelier. Adventure seekers will want to explore the Grottes de Cerdon. These mesmerizing caves were once inhabited by prehistoric humans and are now used to make blue cheese. Whatever the choice of excursion, visitors will be delighted by the tourist attractions around Lyon.
On the left bank of the Rhône River, 30 kilometers south of Lyons, Vienne is renowned for its well-preserved ancient buildings. The city boasts incredible Gallo-Roman ruins as well as interesting Romanesque and Early Gothic churches. The top attraction is the Temple d'Auguste et de Livie (Place Charles de Gaulle) built in 25 BC. During the Middle Ages, the Roman temple was converted into a church, and during the Revolution, it became a "Temple of Reason" and later a courthouse. Another impressive Roman monument is the Théâtre Antique southeast of the Place de l'Hôtel de Ville on the Rue du Cirque. This large Roman theater was built in the 1st century AD and originally had seating for 13,500 spectators. For a deeper insight into the world of antiquity, visit the Musée Archéologique Saint-Pierre at Place Saint-Pierre. This museum is housed in the 6th-century Eglise Saint-Pierre, one of France's oldest churches. The Romanesque Cloître de Saint-André-le-Bas (Cour Saint-André-le-Bas) dates from the 11th century and now houses a museum of Christian art. The Cathédrale Saint-Maurice (Place Saint-Pierre) has precious relics from the 8th century.
The walled medieval town of Pérouges (40 kilometers from Lyon) is found in a pleasant pastoral environment, perched on a hilltop overlooking the Ain River. With its cobblestone streets, atmospheric squares, old stone buildings and artisanal boutiques, the town gives visitors the impression of stepping back in time. Pérouges also has plenty of cultural and outdoor activities. Favorite things to do while visiting Pérouges include nature walks, hiking, and dining. The countryside outside of Pérouges has many trails (the town's tourist office provides a variety of guided walks). After an invigorating hike or a long day of sightseeing, tourists will appreciate an authentic meal at one of the town's traditional restaurants. The local gastronomy is well known for its culinary specialties.
3 Domaine de Lacroix-Laval
Encompassing 115 hectares of tranquil parklands, the Domaine de Lacroix-Laval (13 kilometers from Lyon) offers a peaceful retreat from city life in a splendid location. The lush estate features large meadows that are used for outdoor sports and children's pony rides. There are also elegant manicured areas with tree-lined paths, woodlands, ponds, and streams. Distinguished as an EcoJardin (for its ecological gardening practices), the Domaine de Lacroix-Laval is the perfect day-trip destination for picnics, relaxation, and nature walks. Visitors enjoy jogging on the property's fitness trails or taking a leisurely stroll through the conservatories, rose garden, and vegetable garden.
Address: Route de Sain-Bel, 69280 Marcy-l'Étoile
The elegant town of Chazelles-sur-Lyon was once famous as a center of hat manufacturing and has a wonderful Atelier - Musée du Chapeau (Hat Museum and Atelier). This museum presents interesting information about the history of handcrafted hats with their ever-changing fashions. The museum's atelier creates handmade hats in the latest styles available for sale in the boutique. The hats can be custom-ordered. They are often requested by drama professionals for theater performances. Visitors can also order custom-made hats for upcoming events such as weddings and other special occasions-it's worth the drive from Lyon, 50 kilometers away.
5 Couvent de la Tourette
Nestled in a small, idyllic valley at the edge of a forest, the Convent de la Tourette is a unique spiritual place well designed to encourage meditation and prayer. Constructed between 1953 and 1960, the stunning modern building was created by the renowned French architect Le Corbusier. Considered a contemporary architectural masterpiece, the Couvent de la Tourette was built for the Dominican monks of Lyon and consists of study halls, a library, refectory, and church. There are also work spaces, recreational areas, and dormitory cells for teachers and students. (Visitors may stay overnight in one of the dormitory rooms for a small fee. In addition, a restaurant is open to visitors for lunch and dinner if meals are ordered in advance.)
The different areas and rooms of the covent encircle a courtyard, which acts as a traditional cloister. As in many religious buildings, light is used in symbolic ways. Le Corbusier employs color and light "cannons" to specifically direct sunlight into the airy rooms, creating an effect of brightness for inspiration. Located in the town of Eveux (a 25-kilometer drive from Lyon), the Convent de la Tourette is only open to the public through guided tours offered on Sunday afternoons.
Address: Route de La Tourette, 69210 Eveux
Ambronay is a quaint little village about 60 kilometers from Lyon. The village grew up around a Benedictine abbey during the 13th century to the 15th century. The magnificent Abbaye d'Ambronay has a lovely church, cloister, and chapter house. The best time to visit the village is during its annual Festival d'Ambronay. This classical music festival offers a series of weekend concerts in September and October held in the Abbey church and at a church in the nearby village of Pérouges, both splendid venues with incomparable acoustics, as well as at other venues in Lyon, Lagnieu, and Bourg-en-Bresse. The festival presents a wide variety of classical music, including Renaissance choral songs, Baroque chamber music, and all-time favorites such as Bach's sacred music for mass and Vivaldi string quartets.
Listed as one of France's "Plus Beaux Villages" (Most Beautiful Villages), the picturesque village of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez is 50 kilometers from Lyon, tucked away in the rolling foothills of the Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat, a protected nature reserve centered on the Mont Pilat mountain range. The village of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez was originally a Carthusian monastery (La Chartreuse de Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez) in the 13th century. Today, most of the buildings and houses in the town were once part of the monastery property. Tourists can visit the monastery's exquisite medieval church, original hermitage rooms, and a serene cloister, which are open to the public on guided tours.
In the area outside of Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez are many other ancient Carthusian buildings and old hermitages, and the surrounding Parc Naturel Régional du Pilat is also dotted with historic villages. Another feature of the Pilat Regional Park are the hiking trails that weave through pine forests, pastures, and vine-covered hills, including a section (the GR 65) of the medieval Chemin de Saint-Jacques pilgrimage route to Santiago de la Compostela in Spain.
8 Maison d'Ampère (Electricity Museum)
Less than 20 kilometers outside of Lyon, this excellent museum educates the public about the history of electricity. The exhibits begin at the time of the Greeks and continue up to the developments of Coulomb, the French physicist who discovered the principles of electromagnetism and the law of electric force. The exhibits are presented in a simple fashion, so that anyone can understand the concepts behind the science of electricity. Inaugurated in 1931, the museum occupies the house where André-Marie Ampère (French physicist who founded the science of electromagnetism) lived as a youth.
Address: 300 Route d'Ampère, 69250 Poleymieux-au-Mont-d'Or
Historically an important market town in the region, Bourg-en-Bresse is famous for its chickens. Poularde de Bresse, the specific type of chicken raised in this region, has the status of an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée for its quality and exceptional flavor. Bresse chickens are served at some of the finest gastronomic restaurants in France. Besides its prized poultry and old half-timbered farmhouses, Bresse is noteworthy for its 16th-century monastery. The Monastère Royal de Brou has a remarkable Flamboyant Gothic church built on the orders of Marguerite of Austria (daughter of Emperor Maximilian) in memory of her late husband, the Duke of Savoy. Up until the French Revolution, the monastery was home to Augustinian monks. Today, the monastery is open to the public year-round (except on holidays); the rooms are used as a museum space, displaying works of art from the 17th-century to the modern era.
10 Grottes de Cerdon
The Grottes de Cerdon (Caves of Cerdon) is a unique nature site that was used during prehistoric times. The caves are in Labalme, a place of beautiful natural scenery, about 75 kilometers northeast from Lyon. The system of underground caves begins where a river once flowed below ground. During prehistoric times, the caves served as shelter, and during the Middle Ages were turned into a refuge for lepers. More recently, the caves have provided storage for maturing blue cheese. The caves awe visitors with many geological wonders, including formations called the "Cambodian Statue" and the "Canopy." Go on a guided tour to discover this magical environment. After the visit, take a footpath to the nearby park and spend some time admiring the pristine landscape.
Address: Domaine des grottes du Cerdon, 01450 Labalme
11 Château de Rochetaillée
Just 11 kilometers from Lyon, the historic village of Rochetaillée-sur-Saône (on the Saône River) is dominated by the Château de Rochetaillée, which belonged to the Counts of Lyon. Built in the 12th century, the spectacular medieval château houses the Musée de l'Automobile Henri Malartre (Henri Malartre Automobile Museum). This unique museum displays more than 130 old cars, motorcycles, and bicycles.
Address: 645 Rue du Musée, 69270 Rochetaillée-sur-Saône
12 Château Grillet
Enveloped by the rolling hills of the Northern Rhône region, the Château Grillet enjoys a charming setting. The château lies in the village of Vérin, which is 43 kilometers south of Lyon. The château has an illustrious history. Girard Desargues, who was an architect, mathematician, and the adviser to Cardinal Richelieu, retired in the Château-Grillet from 1648 during France's civil war. One of Desargues' friends was the famous mathematician Blaise Pascal who visited the château in 1652.
Address: Château Grillet, 42410 Verin