Located in the southeast of France in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, Lyon is a captivating city that is often overshadowed by some of the better-known areas of the country.
Those who do decide to add Lyon to their itineraries will not be disappointed, as this city is often considered the foodie capital of France. The city is also home to some seriously impressive architecture and history, and the surrounding area is full of charming villages, medieval towns, and breathtaking natural areas. Make Lyon your home base and explore all that this stunning region has to offer.
Scroll down to see our guide to the best day trips from Lyon that’ll help you plan the perfect trip to this part of France.
Table of Contents
- 1. Annecy
- 2. Pèrouges
- 3. Vienne
- 4. Beaujolais Wine Region
- 5. Grenoble
- 6. Dijon
- 7. Ambronay
- 8. Domaine de Lacroix-Laval
- 9. Bourg-en-Bresse
- 10. Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez
- 11. Cerdon
- 12. La Clusaz
- 13. Château de la Roche
- 14. Aix-Les-Bains
- 15. Abbey of Hautecombe
- 16. Château Grillet
- 17. Geneva, Switzerland
- 18. Morvan Regional Natural Park
- 19. Chalon-sur-Saône
- 20. Chazelles-sur-Lyon
The lovely city of Annecy is one of the most popular day trips from Lyon, and for good reason. It’s not too far away – about 1.5 hours by car – and it’s main draw is the incredible sightseeing and food tasting this town provides. No food lover can come to Annecy without tasting some of the local delicacies including raclette, rissoles, or polenta.
There are perfect photo-ops around every corner, from the colorful houses with blooming flower boxes to the mountainous backdrop that peeks out from behind the city. The canals are also particularly photogenic, as are the Jardins de l’Europe situated on the waterfront of Lake Annecy.
The lake is considered to be the purest in Europe, and on warm days you can cool off on the beach or partake in a variety of water activities.
No matter what time of year you visit, you won’t want to miss the town’s two medieval castles. The Palais de l’Isle was used as both a castle and prison in its day, and now houses a local history museum. Even if you don’t enter the building, you should not miss this stunning edifice located along the main canal. The Château d’Annecy is a bit larger and further from the center, but equally impressive – and home to a great art museum.
Step back in time into one of France’s most beautiful villages, Pèrouges. This enchanting town is impeccably preserved with medieval architecture, narrow cobblestone streets, and historical undertones that’ll leave you feeling like you stepped into a storybook.
Fill your day by wandering the cobblestoned streets and admiring the half-timbered houses, or head to one of the two museums to learn more about the town’s history.
Stop at the town’s gastronomy restaurants, and , and enjoy a meal at the Hostellerie de Pèrouges if you’re really looking to play into the medieval fantasy of the town. Waiters dress in period costumes and serve up delicious meals in the old-fashioned dining room of the hotel.
The small town sits upon a hill overlooking the Ain River, and the surrounding fields add to the pleasant charm. There are several trails outside of town, and you could spend the whole afternoon hiking.
Not to be confused with the Austrian city of Vienna, this French town makes for a great day trip from Lyon. Located just 30 minutes south along the Rhône River, you’ll have plenty of time to explore all that this ancient city has to offer.
The town is packed with Roman ruins, the most noteworthy being the Temple d’Auguste et de Livie, a well-preserved structure dating all the way back to the 1st century B.C. The city’s Thèâtre Antique is equally as impressive, if only slightly younger, and could seat up to 13,000 spectators.
Other noteworthy structures that shouldn’t be missed include the Cloître de rune-le-Bas and the Cathèdrale Saint-Maurice. There are also numerous museums in this historic city for those looking to learn a little more about its past.
Wine lovers will find the best day trip within the Beaujolais Wine Region, which starts just outside of Lyon. You’ll drive past some incredible scenery as you make your way through this region, with plenty of picturesque vineyards, mountains, and greenery around every turn.
The small villages along the route are, of course, the highlight. Do some wine tasting, explore cellars, and even visit family-run wineries that’ll show you the process and explain the history of making the light-bodied reds that Beaujolais is famous for.
Situated at the bottom of the Alps, the city of Grenoble is another must-see city when you’re considering day trips from Lyon. Although known for being a great base for winter sports due to its proximity to the mountains, this city has a lot to offer no matter what time of year you’re visiting.
Besides admiring the beautiful backdrop, you can spend the day meandering through the city center, visiting museums, or people watching on a bench in the Place Victor Hugo.
One of the main draws of Grenoble is La Bastille, the city’s hilltop fortress. More active travelers can make the steep, one-hour climb to the top – while those looking for a more relaxing experience can take a ride in the iconic cable cars. No matter how you get there, you’ll be rewarded with incredible views across the city and surrounding alps.
Although the city is famous for its mustard, Dijon is worth a visit even if you aren’t a fan of the condiment. The town is both beautiful and historic, with a fascinating culture to boot.
You could spend the whole day strolling around the old town as you take in views of half-timbered houses, check out the impressive Church of Notre Dame, or climb the Tour Philippe le Bon for sweeping views over the whole city. The Musée des Beaux-Arts is also worth a stop, as it is located inside the former Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy.
Dijon is in the Burgundy region, so both mustard and wine tastings are compulsory for foodies who stop by the town. For a more filling experience, head to the Les Halles Market, designed by the same architect who designed the Eiffel Tower.
Those looking for a quiet day trip from Lyon will find a welcome reprieve in the small town of Ambronay, located about an hour away to the northeast.
This sacred city was built around the Abbey of Ambronay over the course of several centuries, and the architecture is a sight to behold. The Abbey and its ornate Gothic style church is the main point of interest in this small village.
If you’re visiting during the months of September and October, check out the Festival d’Ambronay, which takes place inside of the church and features concerts of classical music from celebrated composers.
Ambronay is also home to a Michelin-star restaurant, the Auberge de l’Abbaye, which is famous for its fresh ingredients sourced from the local market.
Another fun day trip not too far from Lyon can be found in Domaine del Lacroix-Laval. This countryside estate is surrounded by verdant parkland and is a great place to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city.
The former castle has been open to the public since the 1980s, and is a popular place to enjoy a picnic, go for a nature walk, or simply relax on the well-manicured grass. There are also fitness trails, an eco garden, playgrounds, and even pony rides.
History lovers will not want to miss a day trip to Bourg-en-Bresse while they are in Lyon.
Voted as the favorite monument of the French, the Monastère Royal de Brou is one of the top attractions in this city. The Gothic-style monastery dates back to the 16th century and is now used as an art museum.
The city’s Old Town is also an impressive sight to see, thanks to the Bourge-en-Bresse Cathedral and the half-timbered farmhouses – one of which, dates back to the 15th century.
The region was once famous for the high quality and tasty chickens it raised, and Bresse chicken is on the menu of a few of the finer restaurants in town if you’d like to taste one for yourself.
One of the most beautiful villages in France is located less than an hour away from Lyon in the verdant hills of the Pilat Regional Natural Park. Sainte-Croix-en-Jarez is simply stunning, and makes for a great day trip.
The charming village’s original construction has been nearly perfectly preserved since the middle ages. The town sits inside the walls of a former Carthusian monastery, and visitors can explore the village’s church, hermitage rooms, and cloister, if you decide to book a tour.
After you finish exploring this ancient walled city, you can spend the rest of the day hiking along scenic trails that stretch across the surrounding area.
Known for its pink sparkling wine, one-of-a-kind copper factory, and outlying caves, the commune of Cerdon makes for a great day trip from Lyon.
The village itself is steeped along the hills of the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region and is surrounded by vineyards and miles of hiking trails. This historical town dates back to the 13th century, and you’ll be able to see some of the original architecture if you take the time to wander the streets.
The most popular thing to do in this area, however, is exploring the caves. Over time, the caves have served as shelter, a refuge for lepers, and in more recent times, a storage space for aging cheese. You can take a guided tour or explore them yourselves, but either way, you will not be disappointed by these incredible mounds.
If you’re visiting Lyon during the winter, don’t miss your chance to visit the French Alps. La Clusaz makes for a great day trip or a pleasant weekend getaway, as it’s just a couple of hours away from the city.
Skiers of all skill levels will find runs suited to their experience, and backcountry skiers will also have plenty of terrain to carve up. If you’re not a fan of skiing, the city also has ten bars and restaurants and hundreds of shops to keep you busy.
Looking like it came straight out of a fairytale, Château de la Roche is one of the most beautiful castles in France and is only about an hour’s drive from Lyon.
The castle sits on an island in a lake formed by the Villerest Dam in the Loire River, adding to its charm and storybook appeal. Although built in the 13th century, the castle underwent some much-needed restorations in the early 1900s, resulting in the Gothic-like style that we see today.
This is a great day trip for families, as the Château de la Roche often hosts fun activities like costume parties, treasure hunts, and escape games.
Those looking for a little R&R during their time in Lyon should consider a day trip to the lovely town of Aix-Les-Bains. This lakeside resort town is only about an hour and a half away and offers an array of beautiful architecture and verdant scenery.
Sandwiched between the Bauges Massif Regional Nature Park and the stunning Bourget Lake, you’ll have plenty of incredible views during trip. It’s also an international hot spot thanks to the nearby thermal pools and sulfur springs.
Those hoping to relax can book a day at the Chevalley Thermal Baths, and those looking for a more active experience can head to the lake for a variety of hiking trails and water sports.
While you’re visiting Aix-Les-Bains, take a boat trip out to the stunning monument of Abbey of Hautecombe, located on the other side of Bourget Lake. It’s definitely worth the detour before heading back to Lyon.
The historic Cistercian Abbey dates back to the 12th century and is home to the Maison de Savoie’s medieval tombs. There’s a lot to see, including a church, cloister, chapel, lighthouse, and the King’s apartments.
Another charming day trip awaits in the small town of Vèrin, about an hour south of Lyon. Located in the hillside of the Northern Rhône region, the main draw to this little village is the Château Grillet. It was one of the first vineyards in the region to produce its own wine, all the way back in 1830.
This vineyard has a long history dating back to the times of the Romans, and you can even see ruins from this period just a short distance away from the estate. Nowadays this small vineyard produces some of the rarest wine in the country – and it’ll cost you a pretty penny to taste some.
Why not head across the border and see some of Switzerland for the day? It’s less than a two-hour trip from Lyon and is easily reachable with public transportation.
This international city is a global hub. Geneva is surrounded by the alps, and the picturesque Lake Geneva adds to the astounding beauty of this city.
There is a lot to see here, but you shouldn’t miss the St. Pierre Cathedral. After you admire its beauty, you can climb to the top and be rewarded with sweeping views over the city and surrounding landscape.
Other popular activities in Geneva include strolling through Old Town, shopping, and of course, enjoying a tasty meal with a glass of wine. Geneva is notably expensive, so going here for the day might just be the best way to experience it!
Immerse yourself in nature and spend the day at the Morvan Regional Natural Park. Located 2.5 hours away from Lyon, it’s a bit of a trek, but those that make the journey will be rewarded with some peace and quiet that’s hard to find in the bustling city center.
Once there, spend the day hiking, visiting waterfalls, or even visiting the little museums that dot the area. The natural park stretches over a large area, so be sure to plan your visit well so you can get the most out of it.
One of the lesser-known day trips from Lyon is the town of Chalon-sur-Saône, located on the banks of the Saône River.
After a walk along the river, head into town to the Place Saint-Vincent and admire the medieval architecture of the half-timbered houses and the beautiful Chalon Cathedral.
Another point of interest is the Musée Nicéphore-Niépce, named after one of the town’s most famous residents who is credited as being the inventor of photography.
An interesting day trip awaits in you Chazelles-sur-Lyon, the former center of hat making in France.
The main reason for visiting this small town is the Musée du Chapeau ,or “Hat Museum”. While it may sound a bit dull, the museum takes you through the history of hat making and fashion in an interesting and engaging way.
You can even order a custom hat for a special occasion or as a unique souvenir!