Lyon or Lille – Which City Will You Visit?

Lyon or Lille

Lyon or Lille – Which city should you visit?

Planning a trip to France but can’t decide between Lyon or Lille? In this blog post, we’ll delve into the key aspects of both cities, from affordability to the best attractions and everything in between. The choice between Lyon and Lille might be a difficult one but we’ll help you decide which city is for you!


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.


Nestled near the border with Belgium, Lille has a unique charm that’s all its own. This vibrant city blends French and Flemish influences, creating an ambience that’s distinct yet welcoming. The old town, Vieux Lille, enchants visitors with its narrow cobbled streets and colourful old houses.

But it’s not just about the past here. Lille is also a young city, thanks to its large student population, and this brings a dynamic, energetic feel to the place. Whether you’re exploring the bustling markets, diving into the lively arts scene, or just relaxing in a cosy café, Lille has something for everyone. It’s a city that knows how to live well and invites you to share in that.

While we’re comparing Lyon and Lille in this post, we’ve also looked at how Lyon stacks up against other cities like Nantes and Strasbourg. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!

Lyon or Nantes

Lyon or Strasbourg

Pros and Cons of Lyon and Lille

Lyon Pros:

  • 🥐 Gastronomy: Lyon is renowned as the gastronomic capital of France. It offers a wide range of culinary delights, including traditional Lyonnais dishes like coq au vin and quenelles, as well as a thriving food scene with numerous Michelin-starred restaurants and bustling markets.
  • ⛪️ Historical and Architectural Beauty: Lyon is a city steeped in history and boasts a UNESCO World Heritage-listed old town. Visitors can explore its narrow cobblestone streets, visit the impressive Lyon Cathedral, and admire the beautifully preserved Renaissance and Gothic architecture throughout the city.
  • 🏛 Cultural Hub: Lyon is known for its vibrant cultural scene. It hosts numerous festivals throughout the year, including the famous Festival of Lights (Fête des Lumières), showcasing stunning light displays across the city. Lyon also boasts excellent museums, art galleries, and theatres, catering to a variety of interests.
  • 🚄 Central Location: Situated in the heart of France, Lyon serves as a convenient base for exploring other regions. It is well-connected by train, making it easy to take day trips to nearby cities and towns, such as Annecy or Beaujolais.
  • ⛰ Natural Beauty: Lyon is surrounded by picturesque landscapes, including the nearby Beaujolais wine region and the Alps. Outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy hiking, cycling, and wine tasting in the beautiful countryside surrounding the city.

Lyon Cons:

  • 👫 Crowds: Lyon is a popular tourist destination, especially during peak seasons. The city can get crowded, particularly in popular areas like Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) and during major events, which may detract from the overall experience.
  • 🚗 Traffic and Parking: Like many major cities, Lyon can be congested, and finding parking can be challenging. Public transportation, such as trams and buses, is readily available and recommended for getting around the city.
  • 🇬🇧 Limited English: While Lyon is a cosmopolitan city, English may not be as widely spoken as in some other popular tourist destinations. It is advisable to have some basic French phrases or a translation app handy to navigate daily interactions.
  • 💶 Cost: Lyon is generally more affordable than cities like Paris, but it can still be relatively expensive for travellers, especially when it comes to dining out and accommodation. Budget-conscious travellers may need to plan their expenses accordingly.

Lille Pros:

  • 🇧🇪 Blend of Cultures: Located near the Belgian border, Lille offers a unique blend of French and Flemish influences. The city’s architecture, cuisine, and atmosphere showcase this cultural fusion, providing a distinctive experience for visitors.
  • ☕️ Grand Place: Lille’s central square, the Grand Place, is a magnificent hub of activity. Lined with beautiful Flemish-style buildings, it features a vibrant market, numerous shops, restaurants, and cafes, making it a bustling and lively gathering place.
  • 🏛 Museums and Art: Lille is home to several outstanding museums, including the Palais des Beaux-Arts, one of the largest fine arts museums in France. The city also hosts regular art exhibitions and cultural events, catering to art enthusiasts.
  • 🛍 Shopping: Lille is known for its excellent shopping opportunities. The city offers a mix of international brands, trendy boutiques, and unique local shops. Rue de la Grande Chaussée and Rue Esquermoise are particularly popular for their diverse retail options.
  • 🚄 Access to Europe: Lille’s strategic location makes it a convenient starting point for exploring other European destinations. The city is well-connected by train, with high-speed services to major cities like Paris, Brussels, and London.

Lille Cons:

  • 🌧 Weather: Lille experiences a relatively cool and damp climate, with frequent rainfall throughout the year. Travellers should pack accordingly and be prepared for the possibility of inclement weather during their visit.
  • 🧳 Limited Tourist Sites: While Lille offers charm and cultural experiences, it may have fewer prominent tourist attractions compared to larger French cities. Visitors seeking a wide range of historical landmarks or iconic sights may find other destinations more suitable.
  • 🍺 Nightlife: Lille’s nightlife scene is vibrant but somewhat limited compared to larger cities. While there are plenty of bars, pubs, and clubs, the overall nightlife options may be more modest in scale, especially for those seeking a bustling clubbing scene.
  • 🇬🇧 Language Barrier: Similar to Lyon, English proficiency may vary among locals in Lille. It’s advisable to have some basic French phrases or a translation app to help with communication, especially in more remote areas or with older generations.

Which City Has Better Food? Lyon or Lille?

Welcome to Lyon, a paradise for food enthusiasts. If your taste buds crave tantalizing flavours and exquisite creations, Lyon is the place for you!

Start your culinary adventure by stepping into a traditional Bouchon. These cozy establishments serve up Lyonnais classics like quenelles, saucisson brioché, and the iconic coq au vin.

For those seeking a Michelin-star experience, Lyon has no shortage of renowned restaurants, showcasing the region’s finest ingredients and culinary techniques.

Let’s head north to Lille, a city that offers a delightful blend of French and Flemish influences in its cuisine.

Here you’ll find cosy eateries serving up hearty Flemish dishes like carbonnade flamande (beer-braised beef stew) and moules-frites (mussels and fries). From trendy bistros to gourmet food markets, the city offers a range of options for every palate.

Make sure you explore the Wazemmes Market, where you can sample regional specialities and browse stalls brimming with fresh produce and local delicacies.

Choosing between Lyon and Lille when it comes to food is a challenge. Lyon’s rich culinary heritage and Michelin-starred restaurants make it a haven for gastronomes seeking classic French flavours. On the other hand, Lille’s fusion of French and Flemish influences creates a unique dining experience that showcases the city’s cultural diversity.

A selection of cheeses at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
A selection of cheeses at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse

Which City is Better For Couples? Lyon or Lille?

Lyon is a romantic city perfect for couples looking for a blend of history, culinary delights, and natural beauty. Its picturesque old town, with its cobblestone streets and beautiful architecture, is perfect for a romantic weekend away. The city’s gastronomy scene offers incredible dining experiences in Michelin-starred restaurants and cute little bistros.

Also, the city’s proximity to beautiful regions like Beaujolais and the Alps allows you to venture into the scenic countryside for outdoor activities and wine tasting if that’s what you’re into.

If you like the idea of a culturally unique city then Lille might be the place for you! The city’s blend of French and Flemish influences creates a distinctive feel that you can immerse yourself in. Exploring Lille’s architectural gems, vibrant markets, and charming streets together can be really special.

Lille is also known for its art museums, including the Palais des Beaux-Arts, where you can appreciate world-class artworks. Additionally, Lille’s convenient location provides easy access to other European cities, making it an ideal base to explore other easily accessible cities like Brussels, Ghent or even Paris.

Both of these cities make a nice little romantic break, but when it comes down to which one is right for you. It completely depends on what you’re into. If you want a relaxing weekend wandering around and eating amazing food Lyon might be the place for you. But if you want to experience an interesting mix of cultures city and a city that is less touched by tourism, Lille might be the place for you.

Which City is Better For Families? Lyon or Lille?

Lyon offers a perfect blend of history and entertainment for the whole family. Vieux Lyon (Lyon’s Old Town) is perfect for a relaxing day wandering around with the kids and exploring the quirky shops and cafes.

Lyon also has several interactive museums like the Musée des Confluences where kids can learn all about science and anthropology. For some outdoor fun, Parc de la Tête d’Or is a great place to spend a day. It’s a huge park next to the river that has a zoo, playgrounds and even a boating lake.

Now, Lille, this charming city holds its weight against Lyon when it comes to family-friendly activities. Lille’s natural history museum is bound to be a hit with the kids. This museum is full of animals from all corners of the globe, including the skeleton of an elephant which is bound to amaze the kids.

Citadelle de Lille is a star-shaped 17th-century fortress that any little history buff will love. Located on an island just next to the centre of Lille, there’s also a zoo here and the Cita-Parc, a theme park for younger children with plenty of rides that will keep the little ones happy for hours.

Whether you choose Lyon or Lille, both cities offer a fantastic range of attractions and activities for families. Lyon’s historical charm, interactive museums, and sprawling parks create an immersive experience for kids. Meanwhile, Lille’s cultural offerings, interactive exhibits, and family-friendly parks offer endless fun for the whole family.

Which City is Better For Partying? Lyon or Lille?

Lyon is a city that knows how to celebrate, The buzzing Presqu’île area is the place to be, with its wide selection of bars, clubs, and live music venues. From trendy cocktail bars to energetic dance floors, Lyon has it all.

Don’t miss La Marquise, a popular nightclub known for its eclectic music and lively atmosphere. Plus, with its renowned Fête des Lumières festival, where the city comes alive with stunning light installations, Lyon knows how to take the party to the next level!

But, Lille has its own party spirit that shouldn’t be underestimated! The city’s lively atmosphere and youthful energy make it a hotspot for partygoers. Rue Masséna is a must-visit, packed with bars and clubs that offer diverse music genres and exciting vibes.

Le Bistrot de St So is a favourite among locals and visitors alike, serving up delicious drinks and hosting live music performances. And let’s not forget about Lille’s annual Braderie de Lille, Europe’s largest flea market, where the city is full of people eating, drinking and watching live music.

Both Lyon and Lille know how to throw a party, but it ultimately depends on the atmosphere you’re seeking. Lyon offers a dynamic nightlife scene with a wide range of venues to suit different preferences, while Lille’s youthful energy and festive events create an exciting party atmosphere.

Which City is Safer? Lyon or Lille?

Lyon is known as being a safe city. The city’s well-preserved Renaissance Old Town, Vieux Lyon, is generally considered safe for exploring, even at night. Lyon’s commitment to safety is evident in its numerous CCTV cameras and well-lit streets, ensuring a comfortable environment for visitors.

Additionally, Lyon’s reputation as a gastronomic capital attracts a vibrant crowd, contributing to a lively and secure atmosphere.

Similarly, Lille prioritizes safety, making it a welcoming destination for travellers. The city’s central areas, such as Vieux Lille, are known for their friendly and secure environment. The lively atmosphere in the city, especially during festivals or events is always well-policed adding to the overall feeling of safety.

Both Lyon and Lille place great emphasis on maintaining safe environments for residents and tourists alike. From well-lit streets to efficient public transportation systems, these cities prioritize your peace of mind, allowing you to explore and enjoy your visit without worry. But, it’s always advisable to keep your eye on your belongings and don’t go wandering into unknown areas late at night.

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.

How long to stay in Lille

“For a short trip, 2-3 days in Lille should give you enough time to see the main sights. You can explore the charming old town, visit a museum or two, and enjoy some local food. This is a good option if you’re on a tight schedule or if you’re visiting Lille as part of a larger trip.

If you have a bit more time, a week in Lille allows you to experience the city more fully. You can take your time exploring the city’s different neighbourhoods, visit more museums, and even take day trips to nearby cities like Bruges or Ghent.

So, whether you’re planning a quick visit or a longer stay, Lille has plenty to offer. But remember, the best trip length for you will depend on your personal interests and how much time you have available.”

Which City is More Budget-Friendly? Lyon or Lille?

Lyon, often hailed as the food capital of France, offers plenty of affordable dining options to satisfy your taste buds without breaking the bank. From delicious street food to traditional Lyonnais bouchons, you can indulge in culinary delights without hurting your wallet too much! Lyon’s public transportation system is also budget-friendly, with affordable tram and bus fares that make getting around the city a breeze. The city also has plenty of free or low-cost attractions like the
Parc de la Tête d’Or and the captivating street art scene in the Confluence district.

On the other hand, Lille is also a city that knows how to please budget-conscious travellers. The city’s vibrant markets, like the Wazemmes Market, offer an array of fresh produce and local delicacies at affordable prices. Lille’s extensive public transportation network provides convenient and affordable options for exploring the city and its surroundings. And don’t forget about the free attractions, like the beautiful Citadel Park and the charming streets of Vieux Lille, where you can wander and soak up the atmosphere without spending a dime.

Both Lyon and Lille can be enjoyed on a budget. Whether it’s affordable dining, budget-friendly transportation, or free attractions, these cities offer plenty of options to keep your wallet happy.

How much is food and drink in Lyon and Lille?

Lyon (€) Lille (€)
Beer 5 – 7 5 – 7
Glass of Wine 3 – 10 3 – 10
Coffee 1.50 – 3 1.50 – 3
Meal at a Mid-range Restaurant (per person) 20 – 40 20 – 40

Please remember that these are estimated average prices and can vary depending on the specific establishment, location within the city, and time of year. Always check current, local prices when planning a budget.

How much is it to stay in Lyon or Lille?

Lyon (€) Lille (€)
Luxury Hotel 150 – 500 150 – 500
Midrange Hotel 70 – 150 70 – 150
Budget Hotel 40 – 70 40 – 70
Hostel 20 – 40 20 – 40

Please remember that these are estimated average prices and can vary depending on the specific establishment, location within the city, and time of year. Always check current, local prices when planning a budget.

When is the best time to visit Lyon?

In Lyon, springtime (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.

When is the best time to visit Lille?

In Lille, Spring (March to May) is a time when the city begins to revive after winter. The temperatures are mild, and the city’s parks and gardens are blossoming. This is a great time to visit if you enjoy outdoor activities and want to avoid the summer crowds.

Summers (June to August) in Lille are warm and lively, perfect for exploring the city’s charming old town and its vibrant markets. The city is bustling with festivals like the Lille Braderie, a huge flea market event and a unique cultural experience.

Autumn (September to November) in Lille brings mild weather and changing colours, turning the city into a vibrant palette. The falling leaves in the city parks create a beautiful spectacle, making it an ideal time for photographers.

Winter (December to February) in Lille is fairly chilly, but it’s also when the city turns into a festive wonderland. The Christmas market lights up the city, and while it might be cold, the magical atmosphere more than makes up for it.

Average Monthly Temperatures

Month Lyon Temp (°C) High/Low Lyon Rain (days) Lille Temp (°C) High/Low Lille Rain (days)
January 6 / 0 9 6 / 1 11
February 8 / 1 8 7 / 1 9
March 13 / 4 9 11 / 3 10
April 16 / 6 8 14 / 5 9
May 20 / 10 10 18 / 9 9
June 24 / 14 8 21 / 11 9
July 27 / 16 6 23 / 14 9
August 27 / 15 7 23 / 13 8
September 22 / 12 7 20 / 11 8
October 17 / 9 9 15 / 8 9
November 11 / 4 8 10 / 4 12
December 7 / 1 9 7 / 2 11

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.

Getting around Lille:

Getting around Lille is a breeze thanks to its efficient public transport system, which includes buses, trams, and a metro. The Lille Metro is particularly notable as it was the world’s first fully automated light rail network. For shorter distances, walking or cycling is quite feasible as Lille is a compact city with many pedestrianized areas. There’s also a bike-sharing program known as V’Lille.

If you plan on exploring the wider region, trains from Lille’s stations offer quick connections to other major cities in France and Belgium.

Lille is easy to get around due to its buses, trams and metro system. City passes are a good way to save money if you plan on making the most of public transport. Lille’s city centre is quite compact so it’s very walkable. You could hire a bike too if you wanted.

Top things to do in Lyon

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Basilica of Notre Dame of Fourvière

Top things to do in Lille

  1. Visit the Palais des Beaux-Arts: As the second-largest general interest museum in France, the Palais des Beaux-Arts in Lille houses an impressive collection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings from the likes of Rubens, Van Dyck, and Delacroix.
  2. Stroll around the Vieux Lille: The old town of Lille, with its cobblestone streets, beautiful old houses, and chic boutiques, is perfect for leisurely walks. Take time to enjoy the area’s charm, and don’t forget to try a Merveilleux, a local pastry.
  3. Explore the LaM: Standing for Lille Métropole Museum of Modern, Contemporary and Outsider Art, the LaM holds over 4,000 works including pieces by Picasso, Modigliani, and Miro. Its beautiful park is also a must-see.
  4. Take a walk through the Citadel: Designed by Louis XIV’s engineer Vauban, the Citadel is a star-shaped fortress. The surrounding park, Bois de Boulogne, is a great place for a picnic or a jog.
  5. Visit the Wazemmes Market: This is one of the largest markets in France and a must-visit spot in Lille. From fresh produce to clothing, you’ll find almost everything here. Try to catch it on Sunday when it’s at its liveliest.

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, offering breathtaking views over the city. To wrap up your Lyon trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.”

How to spend three days in Lille

Day 1: Get Acquainted with Lille and Its Historic Heart

Begin your Lille adventure by meandering through the streets of Vieux Lille, the city’s old quarter. Marvel at the charming Flemish architecture, visit the imposing Lille Cathedral and indulge in some retail therapy at upscale boutiques. After lunch, head over to the Grand Place, the city’s main square, where you can admire historic buildings like the Vieille Bourse. Cap off your day with a delicious meal at one of the local French or Flemish restaurants in the area.

Old Buildings in Lille

Day 2: Dive into Lille’s Cultural Treasures and Parks

Start your second day by visiting some of Lille’s renowned museums. Explore the Palais des Beaux-Arts to see masterpieces from Goya, Rubens, and other great artists. Post-lunch, take a leisurely stroll or have a picnic at Citadel Park, home to the impressive 17th-century Citadel. In the evening, venture back to Vieux Lille for dinner, opting for a cosy bistro for its delightful atmosphere.

Day 3: Embrace the Local Atmosphere and Farewell Meal

On your final day, immerse yourself in the local vibe at Wazemmes Market in the morning. Here you can sample local delicacies and pick up fresh produce. Consider a picnic lunch at the beautiful Jardin des Plantes, one of the city’s lovely green spaces. In the afternoon, pay a visit to the Maison Natale de Charles de Gaulle, the birthplace of the former French president. To wrap up your Lille trip, enjoy a farewell dinner at a restaurant serving traditional Northern French cuisine.




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