Lyon is an ideal basecamp for exploring southeast France, with the French Alps, the Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhône wine regions, and the Swiss border all within day-trip distance. If you’re visiting Lyon for the France Rugby World Cup 2023, why not make the most of the time between matches and take in some of the regional highlights?
Ready to sample famous French wines, ride a mountain cable car, and visit one of France’s most beautiful villages? Here’s our pick of the seven best day trips from Lyon.
There’s much more to Dijon than its namesake mustard. The capital of the Burgundy wine region is also renowned for its regional cuisine and grand architecture, all of which can be found in the Old Town. Once you’ve enjoyed the view from the Philippe le Bon Tower and followed in the footsteps of the Dukes of Burgundy at the Palais des Ducs, head to the Gustave Eiffel-designed Les Halles covered market, where you can feast on regional specialities and pick up a pot or two of the yellow stuff.
Speaking of mustard, a visit to the Mustard Museum will reveal everything you ever wanted to know about Dijon mustard, and Moutarderie Fallot offers mustard tastings. Or, perhaps wine tasting sounds more appealing, in which case, the wineries of the Côte d’Or lie just outside the city.
Distance from Lyon: 122 miles (197 km)
How to get there: Drive (2 hours 10 mins) or take the train (2 hours 4 minutes)
Don’t miss: Buying some Dijon mustard from the local market.
2. Beaujolais Wine Region
North of the Lyon, the Beaujolais wine region benefits from its unique location, where the foothills of the Massif Central meet the Saône River plains, affording a unique terroir. Gamay grapes are the prize crop here, from which Beaujolais’ light-bodied red wines are made, but you’ll also find a few Chardonnay white wines thrown into the mix.
The wine capital of Villefranche-sur-Saône is the obvious starting point for a wine tasting tour, from where you can drive or cycle around the vineyards, visit family-run wineries along the Beaujolais Wine Route, and admire the region’s ochre-coloured ‘Pierres Dorées (Golden Stones) villages. Don’t miss the Beaujolais Nouveau; a young wine served each year right after the harvest.
Distance from Lyon: 28 miles (45 km)
How to get there: Drive (45 minutes) or join a tour from Lyon.
Don’t miss: Wine tasting at a traditional winery
Skiers and snowboarders make a beeline for Grenoble during the winter sports season, but the ‘capital of the French Alps’ is more than just a ski resort. Bordered by the Drac and Isère rivers, and encircled by snow-hatted peaks, this scenic city has world-class hiking and spectacular views.
Ride the ‘Les Bulles’ cable cars up to the medieval hilltop fortress, La Bastide, for a view over the city, or take the scenic route and climb up from the Jardin des Dauphins. Afterwards, stroll through the cobbled Old Town, grab lunch at a restaurant along the quayside, and be sure to visit at least one of Grenoble’s museums—the Museum of the French Revolution and the Grenoble Museum are among the most popular.
Distance from Lyon: 68 miles (110 km).
How to get there: Drive (1 hour 35 mins) or take the train (1 hour 24 mins).
Don’t miss: A ride on the Grenoble cable car.
4. Geneva, Switzerland
Hemmed in by the French and Swiss Alps, with the storied peak of Mont Blanc looming on the horizon, Geneva serves up mountain views from all angles. Equally mesmerising is the glittering Lake Geneva, Switzerland’s largest lake, where boat cruises and ferries set sail to Lausanne and Montreux along the Swiss Riviera.
Lake Geneva might be the headliner, but the city has plenty of worthy support acts—visit the Palace of Nations, the headquarters of Europe’s United Nations; take a walking tour of the atmospheric Old Town; admire quirky landmarks including the Flower Clock and the Jet d’Eau; and discover the legacy of Swiss watches at the Patek Philippe Museum.
Distance from Lyon: 93 miles (150 km)
How to get there: Drive (1-hour 43 minutes) or take the train (1 hour 57 mins).
Don’t miss: A scenic cruise around Lake Geneva.
5. Rhône Valley
France’s second-largest wine-producing region (that honour goes to Bordeaux) stretches south of Lyon all the way down to the south coast, passing through the rugged foothills of the Massif Central. The wine-making villages of Côte-Rôtie and Hermitage are closest to the city, and renowned for their red Syrah wines, sometimes blended with white Viognier grapes.
Further south, the famous vineyards of the Côtes du Rhône are also within day-trip distance. Combine a wine tasting tour with a visit to the UNESCO-listed city of Orange, renowned for its evocative Roman ruins, or Valence, with its 11th-century cathedral and riverside park.
Distance from Lyon: 25 miles (40 km)
How to get there: Drive to Côte-Rotie (45 minutes) or join a tour from Lyon.
Don’t miss: Tasting Côtes de Rhône wines.
Proud of its status as one of “Les Plus Beaux Villages de France” (The Most Beautiful Villages of France), Pérouges is deserving of its title. Step through the ancient city gates, the Porte d’en Bas and Porte d’en Haut, and let yourself be transported back to medieval times as you walk its bumpy cobbled streets (sturdy footwear is a must) through rows of brick and half-timbered buildings.
Stop by La Place de la Halle where the Hostellerie du Vieux Perouges is one of the oldest inns in France, and peek inside the many artisan shops, wine caves, and bakeries that pepper the Old Town. Don’t forget your camera—the medieval town is impossibly picturesque.
Distance from Lyon: 25 miles (40 km)
How to get there: Join a guided tour from Lyon, take the train (31 mins), or drive (40 mins).
Don’t miss: A tasty Galette de Perouges.
Annecy has everything you could want from an alpine resort town—soaring snow-capped peaks, a glittering lake, and a waterfront medieval castle. Come on a sunny day, when the sandy shores of Lake Annecy are ideal for a beach day, whether you prefer to cool off with a swim, try water sports (waterskiing and wakeboarding are popular choices), or rent a pedal boat for a leisurely cruise around the lake.
Leave yourself time to explore the picturesque Old Town, with its pastel-painted houses, cobbled lanes, and flower-lined canals. The best views are from the Château d’Annecy, while other must-sees include the Jardins de l’Europe (Gardens of Europe) and the Pont des Amours (Lover’s Bridge).
Distance from Lyon: 90 miles (145 km)
How to get there: Drive (2 hours) or take the train (1 hour 51 mins).
Don’t miss: A boat cruise around Lake Annecy.
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