Even though there are plenty of things to do in Lyon, it’s always nice to get out of the city for a couple of days and explore new places. Luckily, there are so many amazing destinations around Lyon that are easy to get to. Read on to find out my favourite day trips from Lyon.
I’ve split this post into two sections: day trips from Lyon and weekend trips. This is because the last two destinations that I’ve suggested are a little further away and you would benefit with a whole weekend to make the most of your stay. However, all of these day trips could easily be turned into a weekend trip if you’d like a little more time to explore. In fact, I stayed overnight at all of these destinations, aside from Annecy.
Day Trips from Lyon
Day Trip from Lyon to Annecy
Most lists online of the most beautiful places in France don’t usually neglect to mention the Annecy. Anyone who has travelled extensively in France wouldn’t think of Annecy as an off the beaten track destination, but on the other hand, a lot of people I’ve spoken to have never heard of it, and they should! Annecy was my first day trip from Lyon and it definitely set the bar pretty high.
Its centre point is Lac d’Annecy, a bright blue gem of a lake set against a backdrop of pristine mountains. However, the town of Annecy is just as enchanting, with canals, pastel-coloured houses, flower boxes, a central marketplace under a canopy of arches and a floating church amongst it all.
Annecy is the perfect destination for a day trip from Lyon or even a weekend getaway. I beg anyone about to embark on a European road-trip to circle this place on your map right away in bright red Sharpie. It has grassy banks to sunbathe on, a crisp alpine lake to swim in, kayaks and canoes to rent, paths running all around the lake and a picture-perfect town boasting a plethora of French restaurants, patisseries, boulangeries.
How to get to Annecy from Lyon
- Getting to Annecy by car: 1 hour 39 minutes.
- Getting to Annecy by bus: 2 hour 11 minutes.
- Getting to Annecy by train: 2 hour 36 minutes.
Day Trip from Lyon to Dijon
Before this year, I had only heard of Dijon as a type of mustard and it certainly wasn’t a destination on my bucket list. I can’t remember what compelled me to visit Dijon other than desire to get away for the weekend, however, it turned out to be one of my favourite day trips from Lyon.
We visited Dijon on the first weekend of December and it was the perfect weekend trip for getting in the festive spirit. The city was fully decked out with adorable floating cloud decor and sparkling lights. In the Place de la Liberation, the Christmas Market filled up the square with beautiful festive sounds and smells.
Dijon is a haven for medieval architecture lovers like me; there are winding cobblestone streets flanked with colourful timbered houses with tall red and orange chimneys. The Cathédrale Sainte-Benigne is magnificent and the lines of intricate Gargoyles that stare down at you are slightly intimidating in their impressive details.
Les Halles Market in the centre of Dijon is a must-visit to feel like you’re fully embracing French culture. The French love their food markets and this one, designed by Gustave Eiffel is really the epitome of them all. The colours and smells that surround you as you wander through the stalls are enchanting and you have to exercise a lot of self-control not to buy all the tonnes of cheese on offer (if you’re anything like me).
In order to best explore Dijon, I recommend you download La Chouette app from the app store for the small price of £1.90. The app takes you round Dijon in a loop of 22 steps, taking you to all the best monuments whilst detailing their rich history. We absolutely loved this app as it took us down streets we would have never glanced at and told us interesting little facts along the way.
If you go in summer, don’t miss a half-day trip out to the Beaune vineyards to taste the exceptional Burgundy wines with an expert sommelier and take in the beauty of the infamous Grand Cru wine route.
Getting to Dijon from Lyon
- Getting to Dijon by car: 1 hour 50 minutes.
- Getting to Dijon by bus: 2 hours 10 minutes.
- Getting to Dijon by train: 1 hour 36 minutes.
Day Trip from Lyon to Grenoble
Grenoble is a place that I always knew of but never knew much about so when our friend invited us to stay for a weekend trip I was intrigued to find out more about the city.
The best thing about Grenoble hands-down is the mountains. Flanked by mountains on each and every side, being in Grenoble feels like being in a crystal bowl. The architecture in the centre of the town also enchanted me with its open squares, large fountains, narrow winding streets and pastel Renaissance buildings.
We spent one day wandering the streets, trying out the pizza and riding up the cable car to watch the sunset over Grenoble from Fort de la Bastille. Seeing Grenoble at dusk from the Bastille is a must, with deep sapphire skies, silhouettes of the Alps towering over the town and the web of twinkling orange lights as the streetlights illuminate the growing purple darkness.
On my last day in Grenoble whilst my friends slept off their hangover –they assure me the nightlife is also good there- I took myself off to explore one of Grenoble’s nearby national parks and I was left spoilt for choice. Les Chartreuse lies North, Les Écrins, south and Les Vercors, West; Grenoble is quite rightly called the Porte des Alpes, it is well and truly a hiker’s paradise.
I decided to take a walk in Les Chartreuse as this park is adjoining the Bastille, which I walked up to this time. My autumn solo walk in the hills and mountains of Grenoble is still one of my fondest memories from 2016 and I recommend to anyone to stop by and see what the city and its natural veranda has to offer.
Getting to Grenoble from Lyon
- Getting to Grenoble by car: 1 hour 10 minutes.
- Getting to Grenoble by bus: 2 hour 10 minutes.
- Getting to Grenoble by train: 1 hour 24 minutes.
Day Trip from Lyon to Geneva
Luckily, day trips from Lyon into neighbouring countries are extremely easy due to the city’s position in France. As soon as I moved to Lyon, I was eager to embark on a day trip to Geneva, the second busiest city in Switzerland. The city of Geneva has a rich history and is still very significant diplomatically today as it is the headquarters of various international organisations, such as the United Nations and the Red Cross.
The religious history of Geneva is also fascinating, due to its significance in the Protestant Reformation. In fact, Geneva is considered the home of Calvinism. The city served as a refuge for Protestant exiles from France in 1523 and after John Calvin broke from the Catholic Church in 1530, he moved to Geneva to join the Reformation there. He often preached at St. Pierre Cathedral, which you can still visit today. In 1541, he became the head of the church in the city, where he introduced new forms of Christian liturgy and spent the rest of his years promoting the Reformation.
One of my favourite aspects of Geneva was the interesting shapes and colours of the architecture throughout the city’s old town. However, I also enjoyed visiting the Palais des Nations, the Smurf Houses and taking a leisurely walk around Lake Geneva. A good way to see Geneva is to purchase a ticket for the Hop-on Hop-off bus. This allows you to visit all the best spots around the city while also learning a bit about its history.
Getting to Geneva from Lyon
- Getting to Geneva by car: 1 hour 30 minutes.
- Getting to Geneva by bus: 2 hour 20 minutes.
- Getting to Geneva by train: 1 hour 50 minutes
Day Trip to Clermont-Ferrand
I planned to visit Clermont-Ferrand principally to hike Puy de Dome but was actually pleasantly surprised at how pretty the actual town was, with extremely unique and quaint architecture. Although we didn’t get to see the Clermont-Ferrand Cathedral close up we did take a peek at it from afar and it was quite a mesmerising spectacle: Gothic, harsh and completely black, as though it had been charred on a barbecue.
On our first night in Clermont-Ferrand, our Couchsurfing host and his friends quite randomly took us along to an abandoned abattoir (he was interested in turning the space into an events venue) and it was quite the experience although I can’t really recommend it as a fun, day trip activity.
Then, they took us to a cosy jazz bar, which had live music playing, cheap drinks, original art on the walls and a warm living-room ambience (which I could recommend as a fun, day trip activity if I could remember its name).
Hiking Puy de Dome
As much as I did enjoy Clermont-Ferrand, the best part of this weekend trip from Lyon was hiking Puy de Dome. Puy de Dome is a dormant volcano that last erupted in 5760 BC on the central massif. It’s absolutely stunning and quite bizarre to see in person, a large grassy lump that has seemingly just arisen from the ground like a molehill. The hike up the volcano started with an hour-long leisurely stroll around its base that was pleasant and delightful amongst the deep red autumnal colours and the sweet smell of damp soil and leaves.
Then, we reached the actual starting point. The incline of the volcano was so intense at points it felt like we were trying to pull ourselves up a vertical wall. Our jumpers, hats and scarves came flying off as our relaxing autumnal walk turned into a sweaty workout.
Stopping at each viewpoint became a regular reward system, as out of breath and clammy, we looked over the panorama of immaculate pine forests. At the top of Puy de Dome, there’s a little café and we ordered a large pot of tea and overlooked paragliders floating over the vista.
Afterwards, we walked around the top and observed the old ruins of Temple de Mercure, from the Gallo-Roman. From the other side of the dome, you can see the belt of dormant volcanoes unravelled before you, an endless horizon of grassy molehills with large craters in the top. It’s quite a surreal sight. This is one of the absolute best day trips from Lyon to take in Autumn.
Getting to Clermont-Ferrand from Lyon
- Getting to Clermont-Ferrand by car: 1 hour 40 minutes.
- Getting to Clermont-Ferrand by bus: 2 hour 5 minutes.
- Getting to Clermont-Ferrand by train: 2 hour 27 minutes.
Weekend Trips from Lyon
Weekend Trip to Marseille
During the early spring months when the weather was still quite brisk in Lyon, it was imperative that I spend a weekend on the South Coast of France to bask in the warm sun.
However, due to my dwindling funds, I decided to try Couchsurfing, and as it was my first time, I was a little apprehensive. However, there was nothing to worry about as our host was lovely and accommodating, left us to ourselves and had a cat! If you’re considering embarking on one of my recommended day trips from Lyon, but are on a tight budget, consider reading my guide to Couchsurfing, to see if this is an option for you.
I’d always heard rumours about Marseille being a little bit grim and crime-ridden but in reality, there were plenty of amazing things to do in Marseille and I found the city to be surprisingly charming. We were lucky enough to have found ourselves staying in Le Panier, the old town. Every wall, window and crevice of the old town of Marseille is plastered with art and I loved it. Plants bordered the streets; paintings brightened the walls; statues and canvases were round each and every corner. Bicycles were tastefully placed against the houses and pure white sheets hung from the balconies like they were part of the mise-en-scene.
We were minutes away from the port, where lines of boats were huddled together in the twinkling water and high on a hill in the distance, the Basilique de la Garde stood proudly guarding the city, noble and painted white.
Getting to Marseille from Lyon
- Getting to Marseille by car: 3 hour 20 minutes.
- Getting to Marseille by bus: 3 hour 50 minutes.
- Getting to Marseille by train: 1 hour 45 minutes.
Weekend Trip to Calanques National Park
In order to spend the weekend exploring the Calanques National Park, you’ll want to make your way to Cassis, a town 30 minutes from the city of Marseille by train. Therefore, it’s pretty easy to combine a trip to Marseille and the Calanques into one weekend.
I found Cassis even more enchanting than Marseille, encircled by vineyards, boasting a colourful, intimate port and a beach with yellow sands and large cliffs standing by. If we hadn’t been set on exploring Les Calanques I could have easily spent the day exploring the little town and sunbathing on its sands.
The entrance to the national park is only a five-minute walk from the town. As you walk into the park, civilisation seemingly dwindles away and you step into the threshold of rugged, Jurassic precipices and dusty tracks. Les Calanques means ‘creeks’ in French and the national park is a showcase of all the deep narrow creeks that cut into the cliffs from the sea.
We hiked from Cassis to the third creek, past Calanque de Port-Miou, Calanque de Port-Pin to Calanque d’en Vau and then back again. Each calanque has a completely different personality and the trails between them lead past deep green craggy valleys on your right and views over the deep blue Mediterranean to the left. I fell in love with the Calanques National Park so entirely that I returned to it three times during my year abroad in Lyon.
Getting to Calanques National Park from Lyon
- Getting to Calanques National Park by car: 3 hour 40 minutes.
- Getting to Calanques National Park by train: 2 hour 30 minutes.
Thank you for reading about my favourite day trips from Lyon and weekend trips. If you have any questions about my experience, how I got to these destinations or where I stayed, don’t hesitate to comment below or even a drop me an email!
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