Lyon On a Rainy Day: 10 Things To Do
While (almost) no one likes walking around in the rain, there are few better places better suited for fun than Lyon on a rainy day. Lyon has plenty of lush green space, beautiful parks, and miles of river banks to stroll through, but that’s hardly what makes this city a world-class tourist destination. Lyon is the pinnacle of French culinary excellence, and its remarkably well-preserved architecture creates a historic backdrop to any vacation. There are also plenty of renowned museums to explore, with history, art, cultural activities, and science all represented.
With the river, the wonderful stone architecture, and the dark green of the tree-lined streets, a gray day in this city is hardly a reason to stay inside. So drop your luggage at a Bounce storage facility, open up that umbrella, and go explore this beautiful, rain-soaked French city. Here are the best things to do on a rainy day in Lyon:
Start Your Day By Cozying Up In A Lyon Café
France is famous for its vibrant café culture, with most locals partaking in the ritual of lounging with an espresso or coffee and nibbling on a croissant in the mornings. It’s no different in Lyon, and there are quality cafés in just about every neighborhood. Here are a few of the best:
My Petite Factory
Also one of the best vegan restaurants in Lyon, this small café is right off the bustling Avenue Jean Jaurés in the 8th Arrondissement. The coffee is excellent, but the pastries are definitely the highlight here. Anyone with a sweet tooth would do well to grab a chocolate croissant or vegan cookies while they’re waiting out the rain in one of their comfy booths.
Located in the 2nd Arrondissement near Place Bellecour, this is a local’s hangout if there ever was one. The coffee is top-notch, and if the rain lasts long enough, their Les Cafetiers’ lunch menu is perfect for a quick and hearty bite before you grab your raincoat and brave the storm.
Slake Coffee House
Another stalwart café in the 2nd (located not far from Le Perrache Bounce locations), Slake is the go-to for local coffee nerds. With an unassuming exterior, it’s easy to walk past Slake, but those in the know stop here for excellent locally-roasted coffee and exceptional pastries (the carrot cake is famous). There is ample and comfortable seating for posting up with a book or laptop.
Visit The Place des Terreaux
The (Palace) Place des Terreaux is a UNESCO World Heritage site located on the peninsula between the Rivets Saône and the Rhône on the 1st Arrondissement. There is plenty to do here that’s both outside and inside. They have a patio café that serves coffee, wine, and beer that’s a popular meeting spot for locals and tourists alike. It has a beautiful view of the Bartholdi Fountain, City Hall, and Musée des Beaux-Arts de Lyon.
The palace grounds have some fantastically well-preserved buildings, including Saint Pierre (a former nunnery), The Hôtel de Ville de Lyon, and the fine arts museum. All of these can be toured and are definitely worth checking out. The square is infamous for being the site of more than its fair share of beheadings throughout history. Amidst the carnage of the French Revolution, a guillotine was installed during the siege of Lyon, and 79 revolutionaries were beheaded here.
Place des Terreaux is open 24 hours, every day of the week, so you can visit whenever you’d like (and when the rain starts).
Basilique Notre Dame de Fourvière
Perched atop the Fourvière hill, the iconic Notre Dame Basilica of Lyon overlooks the River Saône and Vieux Lyon. The gorgeous neo-Byzantine design of this beautiful church is highlighted by a robust interior, with mosaics, stained glass of every color, and sculptures scattered throughout the building. Outside, there are gardens to explore if the weather allows.
On rainy days, before you head to the basilica, it’s best to take a taxi up the hill, as the walk uphill from the riverbank can take some time. Even better, the Lyon Funicular is the most fun way to scale the hillside, with incredible city views for your entire trip. Admission to the Basilica is free; however, the guided tour can be booked for less than $10. The tours will take you all over the grounds and up to the rooftop for a stunning view of the entire city.
Hours: Open every day from 8:00 AM to 6:45 PM.
Institut & Musée Lumière
Located in the 8th Arrondissement on Avenue Lumière (named after the brothers that founded this institute and museum), this is one of Lyon’s most famous landmarks. The Lumière brothers invented the Cinematograph in 1895, the first device of its kind that has evolved into today's modern motion-picture and film institutions.
The museum is housed in the Lumière family home and is a testament to their discovery. The museum takes you through their backstory and method for discovery and contains vital artifacts from the cinematograph’s conception, including prototypes, tools, and the autochromes (first color photos). There is also a section called the First Film Warehouse, where the Lunière movie was shot.
If exploring the cinematograph’s invention has put you in a mood to take in a film, you're in luck! The Institute Lumière Cinema has daily showings of historical films. This is the perfect place to seek shelter on a rainy day in Lyon. Between the museum and the cinema, you can easily spend a full afternoon!
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 10:00 AM–6:30 PM (Closed Monday)
Grab Some Cheese and Wine at Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
If you’ve arrived via train to find a rainy Lyon day, stop by the Bounce storage spot near the Part Dieu train station, open your umbrella, and head towards Le Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse. This is one of France's most famous indoor food markets, where even the most prominent Lyonnaise chefs source their produce and ingredients.
The market is huge, with over 50 vendors, several bars, and a dozen restaurants serving everything from the best Lyonnaise street food to sushi. You’ll find locals sipping on spritzes and wine most afternoons while they peruse the market for dinner’s ingredients.
This is your place for supplies if you plan a picnic (highly recommended, if the weather cooperates). The selection of French gourmet cheese is world-class, with knowledgeable vendors that will guide you through the regions and styles. Most importantly, you can sample your way through your French cheese journey. The produce here is top-notch, with local farms setting up stalls daily.
Hours: Tuesday to Sunday 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM (Closed Mondays). Certain vendors might close before 4:30 PM. Restaurants might stay open until 10:00 PM.
Museum of Fine Arts of Lyon
Located just down the street from Place Des Terreaux, The Museum of Fine Arts is one of the best museums in Lyon. Located in a repurposed Benedictine convent that dates back to the 17th century, the museum houses an extensive range in its varied collection. Everything from ancient antiques from Egypt and China to modern European art is on display. Visitors have 35 different rooms to explore, with various Medieval and Rennaisance sculptures, Byzantine and Roman jewelry, and everything in between. There are also rotating exhibits and historical pieces that are on display for limited periods of time. The headlining program at the Museum of Fine Arts has to be the Egyptology section, with perhaps the largest collection in all of Europe.
The museum is large enough that you can spend the better part of a rainy day perusing this incredible collection.
Hours: Wednesday to Sunday 10:00 AM - 6:00 PM (Closed Tuesdays)
Musée des Confluences
Most travelers don’t associate France’s museums with the sciences. Sure, the world’s most famous museum happens to be in France and happens to be an art museum, but Lyon is different. In Lyon, food, history, and science are at the forefront of the culture. The Musée des Confluences is one of the best museums in Lyon, one that focuses on science and biology and tells the story of mankind’s origins and evolution.
The various sections of the museum focus on various stages of human society’s story and even display “scenographies.” Some displays include wildlife, like hummingbirds, Siberian tigers, and more. The museum is located in a beautiful building right at the tip of the peninsula between the Rhône and Saône rivers.
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 10:30 AM–6:30 PM
Spend An Afternoon or Evening at A Lyonnais Wine Bar
While it isn’t feasible to set up a vineyard in a city like Lyon, you can still have incredible wine experiences in town. Lyon has one of the best restaurant scenes in Europe, but don’t sleep on the wine bars! They’re a perfect way to relax inside on a rainy day in Lyon, and you can taste a variety of styles and flavors. Here are the best in Lyon:
La Cave des Voyageurs
Located in Vieux Lyon, a UNESCO Heritage Site, La Cave des Voyageurs is one of, if not the most beloved wine institutions in all of Lyon. Though not the biggest, their menu features some of the best curations of obscure and iconic wines from the region. There’s a reason that tables can be hard to come by because local and traveling wine connoisseurs treat visiting this quaint bar as a pilgrimage!
O Vins d’Anges
This wine cellar, with one of the deepest lists in all of France, specializes in a program of tastings and educational events. Producers and vintners are common guests at the tasting room, so keep an eye on the calendar to plan your visit.
While Lyon’s restaurants and wine bars are most often associated with traditional French gourmet, Odessa Comptoir takes a modern approach to its wine program. Natural wine has taken the world by storm, and this tiny bar has been at the forefront. Expect friendly service from a knowledgeable staff that loves to walk about wine.
Equal parts wine cellar, bar, and gourmet restaurant, Pierre Orsi specializes in traditional French cuisine and a deep regional wine list.
Maison des Canuts (Silk Workers' Center)
Located in the stylish La Croix Rousse neighborhood (4th Arrondissement), the Maison des Canuts has a museum, boutique, and workshop celebrating Lyon’s rich history of silk-making. Canuts is the French for silk workers, of which there were many throughout the 500 (and counting) years that Lyon has been at the forefront of Europe’s silk-making industry. The museum displays artifacts from various eras with a guided tour. One of the most fun features has to be the workshop, where curious visitors can learn the tricks of the trade for silk making. Fittingly, the gift shop is a luxury boutique, selling the finest silk products produced in the workshop.
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 AM–1:00 PM and 2:00 PM –6:00 PM (Closed Sunday and Monday)
Discover How The People of Lyon Fought The Nazis
Located just down the street from Bounce’s Perrache Storage locations, The Centre d'Histoire de la Resistance et de la Deportation is a museum that tells the vital story of Lyon under Nazi Occupation. The center is located (literally) in the building the Gestapo used as their headquarters in Lyon until the city’s liberation in 1944. There are exhibits, guided tours, artifacts, and more detailing the brutal occupation and the French resistance activity in Lyon.
And, if you're looking for more rainy day museum options, check out our guide to the best museums in Lyon.
Tuesday to Saturday 10:00 AM–6:00 PM (Closed Sunday and Monday)
No one wants it to rain during one of their precious vacation days. Luckily, Lyon has amazing museums, cafés, wine bars, and restaurants to spend time indoors during a storm. So drop the bags off with Bounce, open the umbrella, and go explore the incredible history and culture of Lyon!