Are you finding it hard to choose between visiting Bordeaux or Lyon on your next French adventure? In this blog post, we’re going to dive into what makes each city special. We’ll compare the sights, the experiences, the food, and everything else in between. By the end, hopefully, we’ll make that decision a little bit easier for you. So, shall we get started? Here’s a quick rundown of both.
🏛 History Buffs: Often called the ‘Capital of Gaul’, Lyon has an irresistible blend of Roman, Renaissance and modern history. More than enough to get any history nerds very excited! Bordeaux’s 18th-century architecture and history of wine are very interesting but can’t quite match the diverse historical attractions in Lyon.
🏖 Beach Lovers: Neither of these cities are close to the sea but Lyon is close to a few natural lakes with their own beaches.
🥐 Foodies: Known as the culinary capital of France, Lyon is definitely the winner here. The food in Bordeaux is incredible but it can’t quite match Lyon’s reputation and range of high-end restaurants.
🌳 Nature Enthusiasts: Although Bordeaux has the Garonne River and is 55km away from the sea, Lyon has the Alps and numerous National Parks on its doorstep.
🏢 Urban Explorers: Lyon’s Old Town, Le Vieux Lyon is renowned for its beautiful architecture. Along with its range of museums and the fascinating “traboules” Lyon wins this round.
🛍 Shopping Enthusiasts: Bordeaux chic French boutiques and designer stores make it a clear winner here. Lyon’s eclectic stores are cute to spend the day wandering around but won’t satisfy serious shoppers.
🍷 Wine Lovers: Whilst Lyon might be close to the Rhône wine region it can’t match Bordeaux’s range of vineyards and reputation for winemaking. You can’t even say Bordeaux without automatically thinking of wine.
🎒 Backpackers: Lyon’s cultural and culinary diversity, make it a better choice for backpackers. Its proximity to the Alps and the opportunity to explore local Alpine towns and cities also give it an edge.
👵 Over 60’s: Bordeaux’s laid-back atmosphere, beautiful public squares and cafe culture make it the perfect destination for a relaxing getaway. Lyon’s busy feel and hilly terrain might put off the over-60’s
For an incredible culinary experience, historical depth, and the opportunity to explore the Alps and its beautiful Alpine towns, Lyon is the perfect destination. Bordeaux should jump to the top of your list if you want to spend a few days visiting vineyards, learning about the history of winemaking and relaxing in pretty public squares and wine bars.
If you’re still not sure about what city you’d rather visit, continue reading to learn more about both of these incredible cities.
Now, if you’re a wine lover, you’re probably already grinning because Bordeaux is like the holy grail of vineyards. Nestled in the southwest of France, this city is famed for producing some of the world’s finest wines. But it’s not just about the wine here.
Bordeaux is a city that wears its history proudly. It’s got grand squares lined with elegant 18th-century buildings, bustling street markets, and stunning gardens. Stroll along the Garonne River at sunset and you’ll quickly understand why it’s often referred to as ‘Little Paris’. And foodies, don’t feel left out because Bordeaux’s culinary scene is every bit as enticing as its wines!
Lyon might not have the worldwide fame of Paris or the glamorous beaches of the Riviera, but boy, does it have charm! Set between two rivers, Lyon is like a treasure chest for history buffs. It’s crammed full of Renaissance-era architecture, with the old town, Vieux Lyon, being a UNESCO World Heritage site.
But that’s just scratching the surface. Lyon’s also known as France’s ‘culinary capital’, and once you’ve tried a local ‘bouchon’ restaurant, you’ll see why. The city is also famed for its vibrant cultural scene, with a host of museums, theatres, and festivals that keep the city lively throughout the year. If you love good food, rich history, and a city that pulses with life, Lyon’s got you covered.
While we’re comparing Bordeaux and Lyon in this post, we’ve also looked at how Bordeaux stacks up against other cities like Biarritz and Montpellier. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Bordeaux and Lyon
When it comes to food, both Bordeaux and Lyon are excellent choices. They both have a rich culinary history that’ll make your mouth water. In Bordeaux, you’ll find a focus on local wines and fresh, locally sourced seafood – oysters from Arcachon Bay are a must-try. But, remember, Bordeaux is also known for its ‘canelés’, a small sweet pastry flavoured with rum and vanilla.
Lyon, on the other hand, holds the title of ‘gastronomic capital of France.’ It’s famous for its traditional ‘bouchons’, small restaurants serving hearty local dishes. You can’t leave Lyon without trying ‘quenelles’ (a kind of dumpling) or ‘coq au vin’ (chicken in a wine sauce). Plus, they have a great selection of sausages and cheese, along with local wines.
It’s a tough call. If you’re into seafood and sweets, Bordeaux might edge out, but if you prefer hearty, traditional dishes, Lyon might be the winner. Remember, though, that part of the joy of visiting a new place is trying the local cuisine, so no matter where you go, be sure to sample widely!
Which City is Better For Couples? Bordeaux or Lyon?
If you and your partner love wine, then Bordeaux is a must-visit. The city is world-renowned for its vineyards and wineries, and you can spend days exploring them together. Besides, the city’s romantic riverfront and beautiful architecture, including the Place de la Bourse, make for great evening walks. There are also numerous high-end restaurants for romantic dinners.
For couples that enjoy history, culture, and food, Lyon is a fantastic choice. The city is rich in history, with Roman ruins and Renaissance-era architecture. The Old Town of Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site, perfect for romantic strolls. Additionally, Lyon’s status as a foodie destination means you can enjoy cosy meals in traditional ‘bouchons’. Plus, Lyon offers lovely parks, like Parc de la Tête d’Or, ideal for picnics or afternoon walks.
In the end, both cities are great for couples, but Bordeaux might be a little more romantic because of its wine culture and riverfront, while Lyon might appeal to couples seeking historical and culinary adventures.
Which City is Better For Families? Bordeaux or Lyon?
Bordeaux offers lots of kid-friendly activities. Visit the Miroir d’eau, where kids can run through the mist in the summer. The Cap Sciences Museum has interactive exhibitions that are educational and fun for children. For a day out, the Zoo de Bordeaux Pessac is not far and is a hit with the little ones. Also, Bordeaux is a bit smaller and easier to navigate, which can be a plus when travelling with kids.
Lyon also has a wealth of activities for families. The Parc de la Tête d’Or offers a zoo, a lake with paddleboats, and large play areas. The Mini World Lyon will impress with its miniature city models, and the Museum of Cinema and Miniature is fun for movie-loving families. Lyon also has a historic puppetry tradition with shows that may appeal to children.
In conclusion, both cities have plenty to keep kids entertained. Bordeaux might be a little easier to get around, and its attractions are a bit more centrally located, while Lyon offers a variety of unique cultural experiences.
Which City is Better For Partying? Bordeaux or Lyon?
Bordeaux is known for its lively student population, which keeps the city’s nightlife energetic and diverse. You’ll find a mix of traditional wine bars, trendy cocktail lounges, and pulsating clubs, particularly in the Saint Pierre district. If you’re a fan of electronic music, I.Boat is a must-visit club situated on a boat. Bordeaux also hosts numerous music and wine festivals throughout the year, making it a fun destination for party lovers.
Lyon, on the other hand, is renowned for its cultural scene and a variety of nightlife options. The city has a vibrant student population, providing a lively atmosphere. Lyon’s Vieux (Old) Lyon and Croix-Rousse districts are filled with traditional bouchons (Lyonnais taverns), cool bars, and clubs. The city’s reputation for electronic music is well deserved, with venues like Le Sucre offering fantastic views and beats from top DJs.
So, in summary, both cities offer dynamic party scenes. Bordeaux might appeal more to wine lovers and fans of varied music genres, while Lyon has a strong electronic music scene and a mix of traditional and modern nightlife spots.
Which City is Safer? Bordeaux or Lyon?
Bordeaux is generally considered a safe city to visit. As with any large city, there can be issues with pickpocketing, especially in tourist-heavy areas, but serious crime is relatively low. It’s always important to take the usual safety precautions, such as being aware of your surroundings, especially at night, and keeping an eye on your belongings.
Lyon, similarly, is viewed as a safe city overall. However, like Bordeaux, certain areas can see more petty crimes like pickpocketing, particularly in crowded areas and on public transport. As always, vigilance is key, especially at night.
In terms of safety, both cities are on par with each other. You should feel comfortable visiting either city, but remember that staying safe involves taking common-sense precautions no matter where you are.
How long to stay in Bordeaux
Figuring out the ideal duration for your stay in Bordeaux can be tricky. As someone who’s been there, I can tell you that the city has enough to keep you occupied for days. However, the optimal length of your stay depends largely on what you want to do and see.
If you’re in Bordeaux primarily for the wine, you’ll want at least a few days. This will allow you to visit several châteaux, take part in wine tastings, and possibly engage in a wine-making workshop. Remember, the Bordeaux wine region is vast, and it’s worth taking the time to explore it thoroughly.
For those interested in the city’s rich history and culture, a two to three-day stay might be sufficient. This should give you enough time to visit major attractions like the Gothic Cathédrale Saint-André, the Musée d’Aquitaine, and the contemporary art installations at CAPC, not to mention leisurely strolls along the Garonne River and through the charming city streets.
However, if you’re like me and enjoy immersing yourself in the local culture, you might want to stay longer. A week in Bordeaux would give you ample time to visit the city’s attractions, dine in its best restaurants, explore the surrounding vineyards, and simply soak up the atmosphere.
How long to stay in Lyon
Deciding how long to stay in Lyon truly depends on your personal interests and the pace at which you prefer to travel. Known as the gastronomical capital of France, with its rich history and vibrant cultural scene, Lyon offers a wide variety of experiences for every type of traveller.
If you’re mainly keen to absorb the unique vibe of the city, enjoy its amazing food, and stroll through its historical streets, a weekend getaway of 2-3 days might be sufficient. This gives you time to explore Vieux Lyon (Old Town), visit a traditional “bouchon” for some authentic Lyonnaise cuisine, and perhaps enjoy a relaxing evening walk along the Rhône River.
However, if you have a passion for art, history, or culture, I’d recommend staying in Lyon for around 4-5 days. This allows enough time to discover the city’s key cultural landmarks, including the Musée des Confluences, the Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon, and the stunning Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, without feeling rushed.
For those who prefer a more leisurely pace or wish to delve deeper into what Lyon and its surroundings have to offer, consider a week-long stay. This provides ample opportunity to fully appreciate the city’s charm, take day trips to the nearby vineyards or beautiful towns in the region like Annecy or Perouges, and truly immerse yourself in the Lyonnaise lifestyle.
Which City is More Budget Friendly? Bordeaux or Lyon?
Bordeaux, known worldwide for its rich wine culture, can be a bit pricier especially if your itinerary includes multiple vineyard tours or fine dining experiences. Accommodation prices and dining in this city can sometimes lean towards the upper end, compared to other French cities. However, Bordeaux still presents a good number of budget-friendly options, including its local markets for food lovers and a range of affordable attractions for those seeking culture and history.
On the other hand, Lyon, often referred to as the gastronomic capital of France, also offers a spectrum of experiences that cater to diverse budgets. Although Lyon’s renowned culinary scene can sometimes be a bit pricier, the city makes up for it with a good variety of accommodation options that are generally more affordable compared to Bordeaux and a reliable and economically priced public transportation system.
In conclusion, if budget is a significant deciding factor for your trip, you might find Lyon a slightly more budget-friendly option. However, remember that with careful planning and smart choices, both Bordeaux and Lyon can offer amazing experiences without causing a strain on your wallet.
How much is food and drink in Bordeaux and Lyon?
|Glass of wine
|Meal at a midrange restaurant
How much is it to stay in Bordeaux or Lyon?
When is the best time to visit Bordeaux?
Choosing the perfect time to visit Bordeaux can be as important as deciding what to see and do. The city has a temperate oceanic climate, which means it can be visited at any time of the year, but some seasons offer unique experiences.
🌼 Spring (March to May) in Bordeaux is a beautiful time, with moderate temperatures and the vineyards coming alive with new growth. This is a great time to visit if you’re interested in wine, as many châteaux begin to offer tours and tastings for the new season.
☀️ Summers (June to August) in Bordeaux are warm and sunny, perfect for exploring the city’s historical sites or enjoying a cruise on the Garonne River. This is also the time for numerous festivals such as the Bordeaux Wine Festival and the River Festival, offering an extra layer of entertainment for visitors.
🍁 Autumn (September to November) is grape harvest time, a significant event in any wine region. This season allows visitors to experience the winemaking process firsthand. The weather during this period remains pleasant, and the changing colors of the vine leaves add an extra charm to the city’s surroundings.
❄️ Winter (December to February) in Bordeaux is relatively mild, with fewer tourists around. While not the peak season for outdoor activities, it’s the perfect time to explore the city’s museums, enjoy its culinary delights, and perhaps get a chance to attend the Bordeaux Christmas Market.
When is the best time to visit Lyon?
🌼 Spring (March to May) marks the city’s awakening post-winter. The temperatures are pleasant, and the city’s parks and gardens come alive with blooming flowers. If you appreciate outdoor activities and want to avoid the summer rush, this is an ideal time to visit.
☀️ Summers (June to August) in Lyon are warm and energetic, making it an excellent time for exploring the city’s historical old town and lively food markets. The city comes alive with numerous festivals, such as the Fête de la Musique, a nationwide music festival celebrating the summer solstice.
🍁 Autumn (September to November) in Lyon brings mild weather and a change of colours, painting the city in vibrant hues. The falling leaves in the city parks offer a delightful visual treat, creating an ideal environment for photography enthusiasts.
❄️ Winter (December to February) in Lyon can be quite chilly, but it’s also when the city exudes a festive charm. The Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières), one of Lyon’s most renowned events, transforms the city into a mesmerizing display of light, offering a unique experience despite the cold weather.
Average Monthly Temperatures
|Bordeaux Rainfall (days)
|Lyon Rainfall (days)
|10° / 3°
|6° / 0°
|12° / 3°
|8° / 1°
|15° / 5°
|13° / 4°
|17° / 7°
|16° / 6°
|21° / 11°
|20° / 10°
|24° / 14°
|24° / 14°
|27° / 15°
|27° / 16°
|27° / 15°
|27° / 15°
|24° / 13°
|22° / 12°
|19° / 10°
|17° / 9°
|14° / 6°
|11° / 4°
|11° / 3°
|7° / 1°
Please note that the given data includes the average high and low temperatures in Celsius (°C) and the number of rainfall days per month.
Getting around Bordeaux:
The city’s public transportation system consists of trams, buses, and a bike-sharing service. The trams are well-connected and cover most of the city’s major attractions. The tickets allow you to use any form of public transport for a certain period of time, (usually an hour). So if you needed to get one bus and a tram to get somewhere you’d only need one ticket if the journey was less than an hour.
Bike sharing is a good option for people who want to be a bit more active. Bordeaux has a lot of small windy streets so we spent most of the time walking, which I feel is the best way to see a city. Taxis and Ubers are readily available but you might struggle to get one right in the heart of the old town where a lot of it is pedestrianised.
Getting around Lyon:
Lyon has a great public transport system. With buses, trams and a metro system it’s very easy to get around the city. If you’re planning on making the most of the public transport here, make sure you get a City Card they’re great for saving money. Walking is always a good option, it is a big city but it doesn’t take hours to walk between attractions like Paris can do.
Taxis are readily available but not particularly cheap.
Top things to do in Bordeaux
- Place de la Bourse: One of the city’s most iconic sights, Place de la Bourse is a must-see. Be sure to check out the ‘Miroir d’Eau’, the world’s largest reflecting pool, located directly across from the square.
- La Cité du Vin: A modern museum dedicated to the world of wine, La Cité du Vin is a unique experience. Learn about the wine production process and enjoy tastings with an amazing view of the city.
- Saint-André Cathedral: This impressive Gothic cathedral offers a stunning view over Bordeaux from its bell tower, Tour Pey-Berland.
- Rue Sainte-Catherine: As one of the longest pedestrian streets in Europe, Rue Sainte-Catherine is perfect for shopping enthusiasts. It’s lined with a variety of shops and restaurants, offering a real taste of Bordeaux’s vibrant culture.
- Bordeaux Riverfront: Take a stroll along the picturesque Garonne River, which offers lovely views of Bordeaux’s historic facades. Consider a river cruise to truly appreciate the city’s beauty.
Top things to do in Lyon
- Visit Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière: Perched on the top of Fourvière Hill, this magnificent basilica offers breathtaking panoramic views over Lyon. Whether you’re a history buff, architecture enthusiast, or just looking for a great view, this is a must-visit.
- Stroll Through Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon): This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the largest Renaissance neighbourhoods in Europe. Its narrow, cobbled streets, charming courtyards, and historic “traboules” (hidden passageways) are super cool!
- Explore Parc de la Tête d’Or: This expansive urban park is perfect for a leisurely day out. It houses a zoo, botanical gardens, and a beautiful large lake. Whether you want to picnic, boat, or just relax, this park has something for everyone.
- Discover Lyon’s Culinary Scene: Lyon is often referred to as the gastronomic capital of France. Try local specialities at a traditional “bouchon,” visit a local market like Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse, or take a cooking class.
- Visit the Musée des Confluences: This science and anthropology museum is renowned for its modern architecture. It’s located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, thus the name. The exhibitions are as impressive as the building itself.
How to spend three days in Bordeaux
Day 1: Discover the City Centre
Start your Bordeaux adventure in the city centre. Begin at the Place de la Bourse and marvel at its grandeur. Don’t forget to take a memorable picture at the Miroir d’Eau. Continue to Rue Sainte-Catherine for a spot of shopping and lunch. In the afternoon, explore the Gothic Saint-André Cathedral and climb the Tour Pey-Berland for panoramic city views. End your day with a delicious dinner at a restaurant in the historic Saint-Pierre district.
Day 2: Dive into Wine and Culture
Begin your second day at La Cité du Vin. Immerse yourself in the world of wine and enjoy a tasting with a view. After lunch, head to the Musée d’Aquitaine to learn about Bordeaux’s history from prehistoric times to the present. Spend the rest of the afternoon at the CAPC, Bordeaux’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Finish the day with a relaxing dinner at the Chartrons district, known for its wine trading history and trendy eateries.
Day 3: Explore the Outskirts
On your last day, consider exploring beyond the city. Take a half-day tour of the Saint-Émilion wine region, where you can visit vineyards, enjoy tastings, and discover the charming namesake village. Back in Bordeaux, spend the rest of your afternoon strolling along the Garonne River, or explore the Public Garden for a leisurely end to your trip.
How to spend three days in Lyon
Day 1: Introduction to Lyon and Its Historical Centre
Start your Lyon journey by wandering the streets of Vieux Lyon, the city’s old quarter. Appreciate the charm of Renaissance architecture, visit the majestic Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste, and perhaps engage in a little retail therapy at some chic boutiques. After lunch, make your way over to the Place Bellecour, one of the largest open squares in Europe, where you can admire the statue of Louis XIV and the stunning surrounding buildings. Finish off your day with a delightful meal at one of the local ‘bouchon’ restaurants in the area, savouring Lyon’s unique culinary heritage.
Day 2: Delve into Lyon’s Cultural Riches and Parks
Start your second day by immersing yourself in some of Lyon’s renowned museums. Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts to appreciate masterpieces from artists like Rubens, Monet, and Picasso. After lunch, take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic in the Parc de la Tête d’Or, home to a zoo and a beautiful lake. In the evening, venture back to Vieux Lyon for dinner, opting for a cosy bistro to experience the enchanting nighttime atmosphere of this historic district.
Day 3: Embrace the Local Atmosphere and Farewell Meal
On your final day, delve into the local vibe at Lyon’s Croix-Rousse district in the morning. Known for its history of silk production, the area is now teeming with local markets and boutique shops. Consider having lunch at one of the quaint cafes in the area, sampling some more Lyonnaise delicacies. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, which offers breathtaking views over the city. To wrap up your Lyon trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.
Gareth is an avid city adventurer with a particular passion for finding amazing food! There’s quite literally nothing he doesn’t like. He spends most of his travelling time trying to find great restaurants and cafes to eat at. Alongside trying local street food which he loves! He’s done most of his travelling in Europe so far but would love to visit Japan and Mexico
When not travelling you can find Gareth boxing, running, or in the gym. He’s got a passion for exercise and loves physical challenges.
You can contact him at email@example.com