Paris or Lyon? That’s the question many travellers ask when planning a trip to France. Both cities have their unique charms and attractions, making the decision a tricky one. Paris, the sparkling City of Lights, famed for its iconic landmarks and chic style, or Lyon, the gastronomic capital, known for its rich history and vibrant cultural scene. In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into both cities, helping you decide which French destination is perfect for your next city break.
Paris, it’s so much more than just a city; it’s a world in itself. Imagine this – you’re sitting in a sidewalk café, sipping your coffee as you watch the world stroll by. You can almost hear the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame whispering stories of love, art, and history.
And trust me, the charm of Paris extends far beyond these famous landmarks. Each neighbourhood, or ‘arrondissement’ as locals call it, is like a mini-city with its own personality. You could be hunting for vintage treasures in the bustling flea markets of Saint-Ouen one moment, and enjoying a peaceful picnic in the quiet parks of Montmartre the next.
Foodies, prepare to fall in love because Paris takes its food very, very seriously. Think fresh baguettes from local ‘boulangeries’, pastries that are too pretty to eat, and restaurants that turn every meal into a feast for the senses.
And let’s not even get started on the art. With a legacy that stretches from Da Vinci to Dali, Paris is a playground for art enthusiasts. Whether it’s classical masterpieces or edgy contemporary works, this city has it all.
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 Paris and Lyon in this post, we’ve also looked at how Paris stacks up against other cities like Lille and Nantes. We’ve linked to those articles below if you want to take a look!
Pros and Cons of Paris and Lyon
Pros of Paris:
- 🗼 Endless Exploration: With numerous global landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre, there’s always something new to discover in Paris.
- 🥐 Culinary Delights: The city’s cuisine is legendary – from crepes and croissants to a diverse range of cheeses and wines.
- 🖼 Artistic Center: Paris hosts some of the world’s most esteemed art museums, including the Louvre and Musée d’Orsay. Plus, it’s a hotspot for contemporary art and theatre.
- 👗 Fashion Capital: Paris sets global fashion trends. From luxury brands to chic boutiques, it’s a fashionista’s dream.
Cons of Paris:
- 💶 Costly Experience: Paris is notorious for its high cost of living. Even as a tourist, be prepared to shell out those extra Euros.
- 👫 Tourist Traps: Due to its popularity, Paris can be crowded and some attractions may feel overwhelming during the peak seasons.
- 🏃♀️ Rush Hour: Life in Paris can be extremely fast-paced. If you’re hoping for a laid-back vacation, it might be a bit too much.
Pros of Lyon:
- 🏛 Heritage Haven: Lyon is a UNESCO World Heritage site with fascinating Roman ruins and Renaissance architecture. Its old town, Vieux Lyon, is a step back in time.
- 🥘 Foodie Destination: Known as the gastronomic capital of France, Lyon is renowned for its traditional Lyonnaise cuisine.
- 🎶 Festivals Galore: Lyon is famous for its festivals like the Festival of Lights and Nuits Sonores, an electronic music festival.
- 🌳 Outdoor Activities: From parks like Parc de la Tête d’Or to nearby vineyards and the Alps, Lyon offers many opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.
Cons of Lyon:
- 🏛 Less Iconic: Lyon doesn’t have as many iconic attractions as Paris. If world-famous landmarks are your focus, you might prefer Paris.
- 🍺 Nightlife: While Lyon has decent nightlife, it doesn’t compare to the variety and vibrancy that Paris offers.
- 🛍 Shopping Variety: When it comes to shopping, especially high-end fashion, Paris outshines Lyon.
- 🏴 Language Barrier: Lyon is less touristy than Paris, so you might find fewer English speakers here.
Which City Has Better Food? Paris or 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? Paris or Lyon?
Think ‘The City of Love’, and Paris pops right into your mind. This place is a favourite with couples, and why not? You could be taking a slow walk along the Seine, enjoying a lazy picnic near the Eiffel Tower, or stealing a kiss in Montmartre – it’s love at every step. There are great places to eat out, or cosy cafes to hang out in. And for the romantics, there’s no end to things you could do together, from boat rides to evening strolls.
But Lyon has its own charm, it’s a less obvious choice, yet full of romantic possibilities. Known for its food, Lyon has a quieter, slower pace that’s great for couples who want a break from the rush. It’s a city of hidden corners and secret passageways, a shopper’s delight with small boutiques and an old-world charm in Vieux Lyon, the Old Town. And with its focus on food, you can bet you’ll have some of the best meals here.
So here’s the deal – if you’re all about the grand gestures of love and breathtaking sights, Paris is your spot. But if you’re looking for a slower, cosy romance, give Lyon a shot. You won’t be disappointed.
Which City is Better For Families? Paris or Lyon?
Paris is a hit with families. From iconic attractions like the Eiffel Tower and Disneyland Paris to kid-friendly museums like the Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, there’s plenty to keep children entertained. And let’s not forget the pleasure of a simple boat ride down the River Seine, taking in all the sights.
But Lyon, the ‘Gastronomic Capital’, offers a great family-friendly alternative. The city’s large parks, like Parc de la Tête d’Or with its zoo and boating lake, are a delight for children. There are interactive museums, such as the Musée des Confluences, that will engage kids and adults alike. And with its pedestrian-friendly old town and relaxed pace, Lyon is a comfortable city for a family vacation.
So, which is better for families? If you’re after world-famous sights and have a liking for Disney magic, Paris is your answer. But for a laid-back vibe, outdoor activities and an immersive cultural experience, Lyon is a top pick. Each city has its own family-friendly appeal, so it really depends on your family’s preferences.
Which City is Better For Partying? Paris or Lyon?
Paris is an excellent place for party-goers. Its nightlife is legendary, with a mix of chic cocktail bars, trendy nightclubs, and traditional taverns. Whether you’re into dancing the night away in hip clubs like Rex or enjoying live music in atmospheric bars like Le Caveau de la Huchette, there’s a party scene for every taste.
Yet Lyon, the ‘Gastronomic Capital’, has its own dynamic nightlife. With its student population, Lyon boasts a lively bar scene, especially in the areas around Rue Sainte-Catherine and the Quais de Rhône. Nightclubs like Le Petit Salon and Le Sucre are known for hosting local and international DJs, catering to a diverse crowd.
So, which city is better for partying? If you’re after glitzy clubs, world-class DJs, and a variety of music genres, Paris will surely deliver. But for a more laid-back, student-friendly atmosphere with a range of music scenes, Lyon won’t disappoint. Both cities promise a good time, so it all depends on your party style.
Which City is Safer? Paris or Lyon?
When it comes to safety, both Paris and Lyon have their share of safe and less safe areas, like any large city. As a rule of thumb, it’s always important to stay vigilant, especially in crowded tourist areas and late at night.
Paris is generally safe, but it has its high and low points. Most tourist areas are secure, and there is often a strong police presence. However, petty crimes like pickpocketing can occur, especially in crowded areas like popular tourist attractions and public transport.
Lyon, on the other hand, tends to have a lower crime rate than Paris. It’s known as a calm and safe city. Of course, some neighbourhoods are safer than others, and it’s always important to be aware of your surroundings. But overall, visitors usually feel safe while exploring Lyon.
While both cities are generally safe for visitors, Lyon often ranks higher in safety than Paris. However, safety can vary widely depending on the specific area in each city, and it’s always essential to exercise standard safety precautions regardless of where you are.
How long to stay in Paris
Paris is an expansive city, not just in terms of geographical size but also in its cultural, historical, and artistic breadth. It is often said that every street corner in Paris tells a story, every neighbourhood exudes a unique vibe, and every building holds a piece of history. This multitude of offerings can make the city feel vast and overwhelming to the first-time visitor.
If you’re hoping to fully experience the city’s iconic landmarks – from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre, from the Champs-Élysées to Montmartre – you will need a few days just to scratch the surface. Each of these sights isn’t merely a quick photo opportunity, but rather they each offer a deep dive into the city’s history, architecture, and way of life.
Furthermore, Paris is a city of neighbourhoods, each with its own distinct character. Exploring these diverse areas, such as the bohemian Latin Quarter, the bustling Marais, or the trendy Canal Saint-Martin, can easily fill several days.
And let’s not forget the world-class museums and galleries that dot the city. Art lovers could spend an entire week in Paris and still not see everything the city has to offer in this regard. The Louvre alone, the world’s largest art museum, can take a full day to explore – and that’s if you’re moving quickly.
Paris is also renowned for its culinary scene, and foodies will want to allow plenty of time to explore the city’s bistros, patisseries, markets, and wine bars.
Given all this, a trip of 3 to 5 days allows for a good overview of Paris, but to truly appreciate all that the City of Light has to offer, a stay of a week or longer allows you to explore at a more leisurely pace, delve deeper into the areas that interest you most, and even make a few day trips to the surrounding regions. Remember, Paris is a city that rewards those who take the time to wander its streets and absorb its charm.
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? Paris or Lyon?
When it comes to budget-friendliness, Lyon tends to edge out Paris. Paris is a dream destination for many, but it’s also one of the most expensive cities in France, and the world. Accommodation, dining out, and even entry fees to certain attractions can put a significant dent in your wallet.
Lyon, on the other hand, offers more bang for your buck. The ‘Gastronomic Capital’ provides more affordable accommodation options, from budget hotels to cheaper Airbnb rentals. Eating out can also be more wallet-friendly, especially if you venture outside the tourist hotspots. Entry fees to many of Lyon’s museums and attractions are also generally lower than in Paris.
So, if you’re looking to stretch your budget further, Lyon might be the better choice. But remember, with a bit of planning and savvy choices, even expensive cities like Paris can be made more affordable. Little things like staying further out of the centre and finding more local restaurants can save you money.
How much is food and drink in Paris and Lyon?
|Price Range in Paris
|Price Range in Lyon
|€5 to €8
|€5 to €7
|Glass of Wine
|€5 to €15
|€3 to €10
|€2 to €4
|€1.50 to €3
|Meal at Midrange Restaurant
|€25 to €50
|€20 to €40
Please note that these are estimated average prices and can vary depending on the establishment and location within the city.
How much is it to stay in Paris or Lyon?
|Price Range in Paris
|Price Range in Lyon
|€300 to €800+
|€150 to €500+
|€100 to €200
|€70 to €150
|€50 to €100
|€40 to €70
|€20 to €40
|€20 to €40
Please note that these are estimated average prices and can vary depending on the specific hotel, location, and time of year.
When is the best time to visit Paris?
Deciding when to visit Paris can make all the difference in your experience, from crowd sizes to weather conditions. Paris enjoys a temperate climate that allows for relatively comfortable conditions throughout the year, though each season offers its own charm.
From March to May, Paris experiences Spring – a season known for its blooming beauty and refreshing temperatures. As trees and flowers throughout the city burst into bloom, the City of Love turns into a picturesque wonderland. This is also a perfect time for open-air picnics in parks like the Champ de Mars or the Tuileries Garden.
June through August mark the summer season in Paris, offering long, sunny days and a lively atmosphere. This is the peak tourist season when you can enjoy alfresco dining, boat cruises on the Seine, and the famous Fête de la Musique, a city-wide celebration of music. Just be prepared for the crowds at major tourist sites!
Autumn graces Paris from September to November with mild weather and beautiful changing foliage in city parks. It’s also a fantastic time to experience the cultural life of Paris, with plenty of exhibitions, concerts, and theatre performances going on. The grape harvest in nearby wine regions, like Champagne and Burgundy, might be of interest to wine lovers!
December through February, winter in Paris is marked by chilly temperatures and festive cheer. Tourist crowds thin out significantly during this time, making it easier to explore the city’s landmarks. Don’t miss out on charming Christmas markets and the city’s grand holiday decorations. If you don’t mind the cold, winter in Paris can be quite magical.
Weather: Paris has a relatively mild climate. Summers can get warm, but not usually excessively hot, while winters are chilly but rarely below freezing. For the most comfortable weather, consider visiting in the shoulder seasons of Spring and early Autumn.
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.
Average Monthly Temperatures
|Paris Temperature (°C)
|Lyon Temperature (°C)
|Paris Rainy Days
|Lyon Rainy Days
|8°C / 3°C
|6°C / 0°C
|9°C / 3°C
|8°C / 1°C
|13°C / 5°C
|13°C / 4°C
|17°C / 8°C
|16°C / 6°C
|20°C / 11°C
|20°C / 10°C
|24°C / 14°C
|24°C / 14°C
|26°C / 16°C
|27°C / 16°C
|25°C / 16°C
|27°C / 15°C
|22°C / 13°C
|22°C / 12°C
|17°C / 10°C
|17°C / 9°C
|11°C / 6°C
|11°C / 4°C
|8°C / 4°C
|7°C / 1°C
Please note that the temperatures are displayed as the average high and low values, and the number of rainy days is indicated for each month.
Getting around Paris:
Paris boasts an extensive public transportation network that includes the Métro (subway), buses, trams, and a bike-sharing service called Vélib’. The Métro is particularly convenient as it connects all major tourist attractions and extends well into the suburbs. It’s fast, efficient, and a great way to avoid the city’s notorious traffic congestion.
The buses and trams are also reliable options to get around Paris, offering the added benefit of sightseeing as you travel. The tickets you purchase are valid across buses, trams, and the Métro for a certain period of time, typically an hour and a half. This means you could take a bus and a metro ride on a single ticket as long as your journey falls within the valid period.
For those looking to add a bit of exercise to their exploration, the Vélib’ bike-sharing scheme is a fun option. Paris is becoming increasingly bike-friendly, with many dedicated cycle lanes across the city.
Walking is also a fantastic way to explore Paris. Many of the city’s iconic landmarks are conveniently close together, and strolling along the Seine River or through charming neighbourhoods like Montmartre and Le Marais is a pleasure in itself.
Taxis and ride-sharing services like Uber are also widely available throughout Paris. However, in high-traffic areas and pedestrian-only zones, they might not be the most efficient choice. Do keep in mind that Parisian traffic can be heavy, particularly during rush hour.
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 Paris
- Eiffel Tower: No trip to Paris is complete without a visit to this iconic landmark. For an unforgettable experience, take the elevator up to the viewing deck for panoramic views of the city, or enjoy a picnic in the park below.
- Louvre Museum: Home to the Mona Lisa and countless other art treasures, the Louvre is one of the world’s most famous museums. Be sure to explore its grand architecture, including the striking glass pyramid at the entrance.
- Montmartre: This historic and artistic neighbourhood is a must-visit. Climb the steps to the stunning Sacré-Cœur Basilica for a fantastic view of Paris, and wander the cobblestone streets to discover charming cafés, boutiques, and the bustling Place du Tertre, where artists sell their work.
- Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe: Stroll down the world’s most famous avenue, lined with shops, theatres, and cafés. At the end, you’ll find the Arc de Triomphe, another iconic Parisian monument, offering beautiful city views from its top.
- Notre Dame Cathedral: Although currently under reconstruction after the fire in 2019, Notre Dame’s grandeur can still be admired from the outside. It’s also a great starting point for a leisurely walk along the banks of the Seine River, which are lined with bookstalls, artists, and charming views.
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 Paris
Day 1: The Heart of Paris
Begin your Paris adventure in the heart of the city. Start your morning with a visit to the iconic Eiffel Tower. Take the elevator up for an amazing view of the city, or simply admire it from the ground. From there, make your way to the Musée d’Orsay, which boasts an extensive collection of Impressionist masterpieces. After lunch, head to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Even though it’s currently under reconstruction, its facade is still worth seeing. Walk along the banks of the Seine River to the famous Louvre Museum, and spend the rest of your afternoon exploring its vast collections. Finish your day with a delicious dinner in the Latin Quarter, a vibrant area known for its bustling bistros and cafés.
Day 2: Arts and Bohemian Flair
Start your second day in Montmartre, the historic arts district known for its bohemian past. Visit the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and enjoy a panoramic view of Paris from its steps. Explore the area’s charming streets, and check out the Place du Tertre, where local artists sell their work. For lunch, grab a crepe from one of the street vendors. In the afternoon, head to the Centre Pompidou, a modern art museum with a unique architectural design. End your day in the Marais district, where you can enjoy dinner and explore the area’s diverse boutiques and galleries.
Day 3: Chic and Glamour
Begin your final day on the famous Champs-Élysées. Start at the Place de la Concorde and make your way up the avenue, window shopping and enjoy a coffee at a streetside café. At the end, you’ll find the impressive Arc de Triomphe. Afterwards, take a metro to the stylish Saint-Germain-des-Prés district, where you can enjoy a relaxed lunch and explore its chic boutiques. Spend your afternoon at the Musée Rodin to admire the sculptor’s masterpieces, including The Thinker. As the sun begins to set, take a scenic cruise on the Seine River, a perfect and romantic end to your three days in Paris. Enjoy your final dinner at one of the cosy bistros along the river.
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.
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