Who says you can’t travel with kids? How to enjoy Lyon with children
Exploring a city with children can be a daunting task. Every summer I have to take my children to Lyon to visit family. To be honest I would prefer to spend my summer at the beach.
Yet somehow, we always end up having a wonderful time in Lyon and my children look forward to going there. Lyon with children need not be a chore.
Your guide to Lyon with children
Whether you have a little climber, a nature, or a history lover, Lyon offers a wide array of activities and places to discover. This partly explains why it has just received the 2016 World Travel Awards as Europe’s Leading City Break Destination. There has never been a better time to visit Lyon with children.
Here is your Lyon guide containing my tried and tested ideas which will surely appeal to your children and will make your trip to Lyon fun for the whole family.
If your child is a history lover
If your child is a history lover, he/she will be very easy to please. You can literally walk through history in Lyon. You don’t even need to go to a museum. Start with showcasing Antiquity by taking your children up to the Fourvière Hill where you will find the Gallo-Roman ruins of an amphitheater as well a museum. Remind your child that Lyon was the capitale des Gaules, called Lugdunum at the time.
While in Fourvière, make sure to visit the magnificent Basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière dedicated to Mary and built in the XIXth century. When outside, enjoy the beautiful views of Lyon and the surrounding mountains. Also check out the little replica of the Eiffel Tower.
Now continue your walk by simply going downhill through the gardens. Please note that the hill is very steep and it might not be easy at times with a stroller. Make sure to avoid the stairs! You will arrive directly in the Vieux-Lyon which represents the Renaissance period and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The best way to enjoy the old town in Lyon with children is to simply get lost in its narrow streets and look for the hidden passages called traboules; these allow you to go from one street to another by using corridors through buildings and their courtyards. If you can’t get enough of traboules, the Croix-Rousse district also has some. Kids will love looking for traboules while you will have a chance to admire jewels of the Renaissance architecture.
The Vieux-Lyon also offers many opportunities for shopping and dining. Note that the Cathedral of Saint-Jean is worth the visit for its Gothic architecture that will take you back to the Middle-Ages. In a couple of hours, you will have traveled from Antiquity to the Renaissance making your child a master of time.
If you want to know more, make sure to visit the Museum of Lyon History – Gadagne Museums. It is located in a beautiful Renaissance building. In addition to the historic exhibits, it also hosts a museum dedicated to puppets of the world which children will enjoy. Don’t forget to go to the garden terrace for a break and a light snack at the café.
If your child is a puppet lover
If your child loves puppet shows, Lyon is the place to be. The world puppet museum is a must-see, but two other small museums are dedicated to Guignol – the most famous puppet in France, who was created in Lyon. Four venues present Guignol shows. It is a unique and quintessentially French experience. In France, you don’t say that you take your children to a puppet show, you say: “on va au Guignol”. Guignol shows are also played in many Parisian parks.
If your child is an animal and nature lover
After the historic visit to Fourvière and the Vieux-Lyon, head to the quiet Parc de la Tête d’Or. It boasts a free zoo, a botanical garden and a lake that your little animal and nature lover will treasure.
It’s almost like an amusement park in the city; it includes rides for the little ones (carousels, mini karting, pony rides…), and for those who like to cycle – the famous rosalies (pedal cars that will accommodate the whole family). If you prefer, you can also rent pedal boats to enjoy the lake and the beautiful surroundings. Better yet, bring a picnic or grab a bite to eat at one of the many little snack stands.
If your child is a sports lover
Does your child love sports? Why not take him/her climbing? It’s perfect for a rainy day in Lyon with children. The city has two indoor climbing centers, the Mur de Lyon or Azium. My boys just loved spending an afternoon at Azium last summer and so did we. It is appropriate for younger children (four and up) who have a special play place while the older and braver ones can enjoy climbing.
I loved it because I finally had time to drink coffee and enjoy a well-deserved break without having to watch the kids. More seriously it was the opportunity to discover Confluences, the brand-new urban development of Lyon which includes restaurants, shopping and a museum.
Another option if your child loves sports would be to visit the stadium of the Olympique Lyonnais soccer team. Soccer fans would surely enjoy watching a game. If you can’t make it, an alternative could be to shop at one of its stores. This is a rare occasion where my boys tolerate shopping.
If your child is fascinated by means of transportation
I remember when my children were younger they were fascinated by means of transportation. When exploring Lyon, there are many ways of getting around including; trams, buses, funiculaires going up the hills, the underground (with no visible driver!), boats, or even bicycles. These will be rides the kids will remember.
If your child is a food lover
Finally, if your child is a food lover, Lyon – the gastronomic capital of France – will satisfy any craving of your petit gourmand. When it’s time for a snack, Lyon has some amazing ice cream parlors. Our favorite is Terre Adélice for the choice and the quality of the organic ingredients. Pralines are a wonderful specialty to eat in a little brioche or tarte that you can find in most bakeries.
Of course, for dinner, you will want to try a bouchon lyonnais, the famous restaurants of Lyon serving regional specialties. Some of them have a terrace which should make your dining experience enjoyable for the whole family.
As you can see, it is possible to visit Lyon with children while keeping everyone happy and exploring the city. I hope you’ll have a wonderful time in Lyon with your children, as I do every year.
Have you ever been to Lyon with children? Do you have other tips to try in Lyon with children or elsewhere in France? Let us know how Sophie’s mini-guide works for you and leave your suggestions for her or us in the comments box below.
1. ‘Lyon from Fourviere’, Carlos de Paz via Flickr
2. ‘The Roman-era Theatre on the Fourvière hill’, Vincent Bloch via Wikimedia Commons
3. ‘Vieux Lyon place de la Baliene’, Dominique Chanut via Flickr
4. ‘Guignol de Lyon’, Tusco via Wikimedia Commons
5. ‘Euronews (Lyon Confluence)’, Jean-Pierre Dalbéra via Flickr
6. ‘Petits bouchons Lyonnais’, Mout1234 via Flick
This popular article was refreshed and republished in 2020.