Lyon or Toulouse – Which city should you visit?
Are you torn between Lyon and Toulouse for your next travel destination? Whether you’re seeking rich history, mouthwatering cuisine, or vibrant cultural experiences, Lyon and Toulouse have something to offer. Let us help you discover which city is the perfect match for you. Here’s a quick rundown.
🏛 History Buffs: Lyon’s blend of Roman, Renaissance, and modern architecture, makes it a great destination for history enthusiasts. Toulouse can’t quite match Lyon’s historical sites but it is a short train journey away from the Medieval city of Carcassonne.
🏖 Beach Lovers: Neither cities is close to the beach, but both cities have freshwater beaches nearby like at La Ramee in Toulouse and Plage de L’atol in Lyon. They’re both great for a relaxing day swimming but if you want the full beach experience you’d be better off visiting somewhere else.
🥐 Foodies: Known as the culinary capital of France, Lyon’s range of bouchons, bistros and high-end restaurants wins this one.
🌳 Nature Enthusiasts: This is a difficult one, Toulouse has the Canal Du Midi on its doorstep, perfect for cycling along. It’s also not too far from the Pyrenees. But, Lyon is very close to the Alps and all the incredible scenery there. Which you choose is all down to what you’re into.
🏢 Urban Explorers: Both of these cities have plenty to see and do. Toulouse has a more relaxed vibe, but Lyon’s proximity to Geneva and Grenoble makes it a great destination if you fancy visiting nearby cities.
🛍 Shopping Enthusiasts: Both cities have plenty to keep shopaholics happy, We’d say Lyon’s range of shops is a bit bigger though.
🍷 Wine Lovers: We’d probably say this one is a draw. Lyon is located in the Rhône wine whilst Toulouse has the Languedoc and Gascony regions on either side of it. I suppose it all depends on which wine you prefer!
🎒 Backpackers: Toulouse’s youthful energy and lower cost of living suit backpackers more. Lyon would be a better option if you’re planning on travelling through the Alps though.
👵 Over 60’s: Lyon’s diverse cultural attractions and incredible cuisine offer a more sophisticated experience, but it is quite hilly for those less mobile. Toulouse’s relaxed southern vibe is perfect for those who don’t plan on doing all that much.
If you want to dig deep into traditional French cuisine, a varied history or maybe a visit to the Alps, Lyon is the destination for you. But, if you’re looking for a more relaxed holiday with easy access to the relaxing Canal Du Midi and the Medieval city of Carcassonne Toulouse should top your list.
Still not sure? Continue reading for a more thorough breakdown of both cities.
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.
Toulouse, a city perfectly perched between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, offers an intriguing mix of history, innovation, and charm. Its historic centre, known as Vieux Toulouse, boasts a tapestry of coral-hued buildings that have earned it the moniker ‘La Ville Rose’, or ‘The Pink City’. But Toulouse is not just about reminiscing about the past. It’s a dynamic city teeming with academic vigour, courtesy of its vibrant student population, and is a hotbed for aeronautics and space exploration.
With an array of museums, a thriving arts scene, and lively local markets, this city caters to a broad spectrum of travellers. Plus, the local cuisine, characterized by hearty Southwestern French specialities, is a gastronomic adventure in itself. If you’re seeking a unique and vibrant destination for your next vacation, Toulouse should unquestionably be on your radar!
While we’re comparing Lyon and Toulouse in this post, we’ve also looked at how Lyon stacks up against other cities like Montpellier, Cannes and Marseille. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Lyon and Toulouse
- 🥐 Gastronomic Delight: Lyon is renowned as the food capital of France, offering a culinary paradise with its traditional bouchons, Michelin-starred restaurants, and vibrant food markets.
- ⛪️ Rich History: Lyon boasts a rich history showcased through its well-preserved Renaissance Old Town, ancient Roman ruins, and impressive architectural landmarks like the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
- 🏛 Cultural Abundance: The city is a cultural hotspot, home to numerous museums and galleries, including the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon, showcasing a vast collection of art from different periods.
- ⛰ Accessible Nature: Lyon is nestled between beautiful natural landscapes, such as the picturesque vineyards of Beaujolais and the stunning landscapes of the French Alps, making it an ideal base for outdoor enthusiasts.
- 👫 Crowds: As a popular tourist destination, Lyon can get crowded during peak seasons, especially in popular areas like Vieux Lyon and Fourvière. It’s advisable to plan your visits accordingly and explore lesser-known neighbourhoods for a more authentic experience.
- 💶 Higher Prices: Lyon’s reputation as a gastronomic and cultural hub means that certain attractions, dining options, and accommodations can be relatively more expensive compared to other cities in France.
- 👩🎓 Vibrant Atmosphere: Toulouse exudes a vibrant and youthful energy, thanks to its thriving student population and lively cultural scene, making it a city brimming with festivals, events, and live music.
- 🏛 Architectural Beauty: The “Pink City” charms visitors with its stunning architecture, including the iconic Place du Capitole and the breathtaking Basilica of Saint-Sernin, both showcasing the city’s rich heritage.
- ✈️ Aerospace Hub: Toulouse is home to the headquarters of Airbus and boasts a remarkable aerospace industry, making it a fascinating destination for aviation enthusiasts.
- 🌳 Proximity to Nature: The city is surrounded by beautiful countryside, including the Canal du Midi, the picturesque Pyrenees Mountains, and the scenic vineyards of the Languedoc region.
- ⛪️ Limited Historical Sites: While Toulouse offers architectural gems, it may have fewer historical landmarks compared to Lyon. However, it compensates with its vibrant contemporary atmosphere.
- 🥐 Less Culinary Fame: Toulouse is known for its hearty regional cuisine, but it may not have the same level of international recognition as Lyon when it comes to gastronomy.
Which City Has Better Food? Lyon or Toulouse?
Lyon is often hailed as the gastronomic capital of France (if not the world). Its traditional “bouchons” serve hearty, comfort food that goes down a treat – think “quenelles” and “Pâté en route “. Not to mention, the city’s array of Michelin-starred restaurants that push culinary boundaries like Le Neuvième Art and La Mère Brazier. If high-end dining isn’t your thing Restaurant Le Musée is definitely worth visiting, the lunch menu offers great value too!
But, let’s not dismiss Toulouse just yet. Known for its robust and richly flavoured dishes like “cassoulet”, Toulouse offers a distinct gastronomic journey that’s all about the love for slow-cooked, traditional meals. The city’s food markets, like Marché Victor Hugo, are a delight for fresh local produce and mouthwatering street food. If you fancy trying a very good cassoulet, Le Dahu should be on your list.
Which City is Better For Couples? Lyon or Toulouse?
If you and your other half are deciding between Lyon and Toulouse for a romantic getaway, both cities have lots to offer.
Lyon, with its blend of old-world charm and modern sophistication, is a popular choice for couples. Wander through Vieux Lyon’s cobblestone streets, dine by the river at one of the many gourmet eateries, or enjoy a panoramic city view from Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière. It’s practically made for those lovey-dovey Instagram snaps!
Toulouse, with its beautiful architecture and laid-back vibe, is equally enticing. The area around Place du Capitole is full of cool bars and great restaurants, perfect for couples that love to get out and get a feel for the city. The Garonne River is a great place for a romantic walk or a relaxing picnic on the bank! Toulouse has a distinct relaxed charm that can make any couple’s getaway feel extra special.
Which City is Better For Families? Lyon or Toulouse?
Planning a family vacation and caught between Lyon and Toulouse? Let’s weigh in. Lyon, renowned for its historical and architectural landmarks, is a city that’s both entertaining and educational for kids and adults alike. The city offers a host of family-friendly attractions, such as the Parc de la Tête d’Or with its zoo and puppet theatre. And let’s not forget about the Mini World Lyon, which is a massive hit with the kids!
On the other hand, Toulouse, the city of space, provides a slightly different but equally exciting family experience. How about a trip to the Cité de l’espace, a massive theme park dedicated to space exploration? Trust me, it’s a big hit with the young ones! Add in the city’s beautiful parks and child-friendly museums, and you’ve got yourself a winner. So, Lyon’s historical charm or Toulouse’s space-age appeal? Your choice!
Which City is Better For Partying? Lyon or Toulouse?
Looking to paint the town red and can’t decide between Lyon and Toulouse? Here’s a bit of insight. Lyon, with its vibrant nightlife, offers a mix of trendy clubs and cosy pubs. It’s hard to resist the pulsating energy of the city after dark, especially in districts like Vieux Lyon and Croix-Rousse. The variety of music scenes on offer is impressive, so you’re guaranteed to find something that’ll get your foot tapping!
On the flip side, Toulouse is a lively student city that never seems to sleep. From relaxed bars to buzzing clubs, there’s a venue for every party-goer. The Saint-Pierre district is where the magic happens, with its multitude of bars and clubs offering a great mix of music and atmosphere. So, whether it’s the electric energy of Lyon or the vibrant student vibe of Toulouse, both cities offer nightlife to remember!
Which City is Safer? Lyon or Toulouse?
When it comes to safety, Lyon and Toulouse both have good reputations. Both cities are well-policed and have good public transport systems allowing you to get around safely and securely. As with all major cities, they do suffer from petty crime so it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings and don’t go wandering around alone 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 Toulouse
Figuring out how long to stay in Toulouse? That’s a great question and depends on what kind of trip you’re planning. If you’re popping by for a quick visit, I’d say two to three days should suffice. This will give you enough time to visit the main sights, such as the iconic Capitole de Toulouse, the Basilica of Saint-Sernin, and the Toulouse Museum of Natural History.
But if you’re anything like me and love to delve a little deeper, immersing yourself in the local culture and lifestyle, you might want to consider staying a little longer – perhaps around five to seven days. This will allow you to explore at a leisurely pace, have time to appreciate the city’s vibrant arts scene, meander through the charming neighbourhoods, and even try out some of the local bistros and cafes. Trust me, the cassoulet is to die for!
Toulouse is also a great base to explore the surrounding region. If you plan on taking day trips to places like Carcassonne or Albi, then a week or even ten days would be a good estimate.
In the end, remember this – travel isn’t a race. It’s about the experiences, the people, the food, the culture, and the memories you make. So, take your time in Toulouse and enjoy what the ‘Pink City’ has to offer!
Which City is More Budget-Friendly? Lyon or Toulouse?
Lyon, known for its historical architecture and gastronomic scene, can be a bit pricey especially when dining out in top-notch bouchons. However, you can easily find budget-friendly alternatives like local markets and lesser-known eateries that offer just as delightful experiences. We highly recommend Le Bistrot Nicéphore and Empanadas Club for good, reasonably priced food! There are also plenty of outdoor places to explore like Vieux Lyon and the Parc de la Tête d’Or.
Toulouse offers excellent value for your money. Being a university town, it’s brimming with affordable eateries, budget accommodations, and heaps of free or inexpensive activities. If you like Lebanese food, O Saj is amazing for a quick, cheap lunch! Basilique Saint-Sernin de Toulouse is free to enter and has a beautiful interior. Jardin Japonais is also great to visit on a nice day and is completely free to enter!
So, if you’re a bit tight on budget but still want a fulfilling French getaway, Toulouse might just be your perfect match.
How much is food and drink in Lyon and Toulouse?
|€5 – €7
|€5 – €7
|Glass of wine
|€3 – €10
|€3 – €10
|€1.50 – €3
|€1.50 – €3
|Meal at midrange restaurant
|€20 – €40
|€15 – €30
How much is it to stay in Lyon or Toulouse?
Here is the updated information organized into a table format:
|€180 – €500+
|€150 – €500+
|€80 – €160
|€70 – €150
|€60 – €80
|€40 – €70
|€30 – €50
|€20 – €40
Please note that these prices are estimates and may vary depending on the specific hotel, location, and seasonal factors.
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.
When is the best time to visit Toulouse?
Picking the best time to explore Toulouse is a big part of your planning. Known for its temperate climate, Toulouse can be great to visit throughout the year, each season bringing its own charm and unique experiences.
🌼 Spring (March to May) in Toulouse is a beautiful season, the trees will be blossoming and the temperature won’t be too high. This time is ideal for sightseeing and soaking in Toulouse’s distinct architectural beauty, particularly the Capitole and Saint-Sernin Basilica. Spring is also the start of the outdoor festival season, adding an extra dash of liveliness to your visit.
☀️ Summers (June to August) in Toulouse are warm and vibrant. This is a great time to indulge in outdoor activities, such as a leisurely stroll along the Garonne River or a picnic in the lush Japanese Garden. Summer evenings in Toulouse are particularly charming with open-air concerts and night markets for you to explore.
🍁 Autumn (September to November) brings a beautiful colour palette to Toulouse, with the tree-lined avenues transitioning to shades of gold and red. The weather remains pleasant for outdoor exploration. In addition, the cultural calendar is full, making it a perfect time for art and music lovers to visit the city.
❄️ Winter (December to February) in Toulouse is typically cool and sometimes rainy.. With fewer tourists around, you can explore the city’s impressive museums and galleries at your own pace. Don’t miss the Toulouse Christmas Market for a dash of festive spirit and warm, comforting treats.
Average Monthly Temperatures
|Lyon (High/Low °C)
|Lyon Rainy Days
|Toulouse (High/Low °C)
|Toulouse Rainy Days
|6° / 0°
|10° / 2°
|8° / 1°
|11° / 3°
|13° / 4°
|14° / 5°
|16° / 6°
|17° / 7°
|20° / 10°
|21° / 11°
|24° / 14°
|25° / 14°
|27° / 16°
|28° / 16°
|27° / 15°
|28° / 16°
|22° / 12°
|25° / 13°
|17° / 9°
|20° / 10°
|11° / 4°
|13° / 5°
|7° / 1°
|10° / 3°
Please note that the values represent the average high and low temperatures for each month, followed by the average number of rainy days.
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 Toulouse:
Toulouse is very easy to get around, with regular buses, trams and a metro system there are plenty of options. The public transport system is clean and well-maintained. You’ll find it easy to get around the city when using it. The Toulouse city pass is well worth getting if you plan on using public transport a lot. If you want a more active holiday, the city is very walkable. You could even hire a bike if you wanted to get around a bit quicker. As with any city, taxis and Uber are readily available.
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.
Top things to do in Toulouse
- Capitole de Toulouse: This stunning city hall and opera house is an iconic sight in Toulouse. Its grand façade and beautiful square are absolute must-sees when in the city.
- Cité de l’espace: A unique experience for space enthusiasts, Cité de l’espace offers fascinating insights into the universe and space exploration. You can see life-sized rockets, try astronaut activities, and even observe the skies in the planetarium.
- Basilique Saint-Sernin: This UNESCO World Heritage site is the largest remaining Romanesque building in Europe. Its stunning architecture and rich history make it a highlight of any visit to Toulouse.
- Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine: As a main shopping street in Toulouse, Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine offers a vibrant mix of shops, boutiques, and cafés. It’s a great place to soak up the city’s lively atmosphere.
- Banks of the Garonne: Enjoy a leisurely stroll along the picturesque Garonne River. The riverside is beautifully developed and offers spectacular views of Toulouse’s historic buildings and bridges. Consider a river cruise for a different perspective of the city.
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 Toulouse
Day 1: Explore the Vibrant City Center
Kick off your Toulouse adventure in the bustling city centre. Start your day at the Capitole de Toulouse, a magnificent city hall that also houses an opera house. Be sure to take memorable photos of its grand façade. Stroll down Rue d’Alsace-Lorraine for some retail therapy and grab lunch at one of the many inviting cafés. In the afternoon, visit the Basilique Saint-Sernin, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and marvel at its Romanesque architecture. Conclude your day with a delightful dinner in the lively Saint-Georges district, a hotspot for local gastronomy.
Day 2: Immerse Yourself in Science and Space
Begin your second day at the Cité de l’espace, Toulouse’s famous space city. Dive into the world of space exploration and get a closer look at rockets, satellites, and more. Post lunch, head to the Musée des Augustins to admire a rich collection of fine arts from the Middle Ages to the early 20th century. Later in the afternoon, visit the modern art museum, Les Abattoirs. Round off the day with a relaxing dinner in the Carmes district, renowned for its chic bars and restaurants.
Day 3: Venture Beyond the City
On your last day, consider exploring the surroundings of Toulouse. Take a half-day trip to the medieval city of Carcassonne, where you can explore the old town, fortified city walls, and its fairytale-like castle. Back in Toulouse, spend the rest of your afternoon strolling along the banks of the Garonne River, or relax in the expansive Prairie des Filtres park for a leisurely end to your trip.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org