Choosing whether to visit Lyon or Paris is a difficult one. As somebody who has lived in both cities I feel a sense of loyalty to both. Here’s what I would consider when thinking about visiting either city:
- If you’re looking for an activity filled getaway….go to Paris
Given that Paris is much bigger than Lyon, it’s unsurprising that it offers significantly more things to do. There is something for everyone in Paris- the Eiffel tower, Moulin Rouge and the Louvre to name but a few. I personally feel that Paris offers more “wow” moments- for me nothing really compares to the view from the Eiffel Tower over sunset. It’s worth mentioning that Lyon is far from boring- it just has less things to offer. It’s less tourist motivated than Paris but there are still so many interesting things to do- visiting the Basilica, the old town, Roman ruins and the Parc de la Tete d’Or to name but a few. Lyon’s tourist attractions are significantly less crowded with less queues than Paris. I do feel that Lyon offers a more “authentically French” experience than Paris- a direct result of the smaller size and the fewer numbers of tourists.
- Remember that with Paris….comes pace.
Personally, this is the most significant point for me. I moved to Lyon after living in Paris and I couldn’t believe the difference in the two. Gone were the days of overcrowded metros, overpriced everything and ridiculous queues for any remotely touristy landmark. I revelled in the calmness of Lyon. Lyon exudes calm. It’s surrounded by two rivers- just like Paris. However, there are no overcrowded touristy boats in the Lyon river-unlike Paris. Instead, the rivers promote a real sense of serenity and peacefulness. I returned home from living in Paris utterly exhausted and in need of rest. Returning home from Lyon was the exact opposite. My friends visited me in both cities and both noted the difference in pace. On a side note- if you’re considering going to Paris in August you’re braver than me. I’m still looking for compensation from the bruises achieved from trying to enter the Notre Dame in the middle of the month.
- The price differences
You can of course argue that you can visit Paris cheaply- there are plenty of cheap bakeries, cafés and hostels if you’re savvy enough to find them. However, the reality is that a break in Paris is often expensive- a bottle of Coke in a café/restaurant normally costs at least €6. Similarly, the constant influx of tourists means that quite a lot of restaurants that grossly overcharge for horrendous food. Lyon, on the other hand, is the gastronomic capital of France. There are so many bouchons (restaurants) that offer really high quality food for a really fair price. Similarly, staying in Lyon will be significantly cheaper than staying in Paris. The transport network is equally efficient in both cities- metros, trams and bike schemes. If you’re a foodie, visit Lyon.
- The unique histories of each city
It’s difficult to escape the magnificent history of each city when you’re visiting it. Paris is stooped in history and the evidence is everywhere- the imposing Notre Dame, the stunning Grands Boulevards and the magnificent Champs Élysées. Lyon is also swooped in history- the Roman ruins, the traboules and the Roman ruins. Not only do these offer wonderful sightseeing opportunities, but both cities offer wonderful, interesting archecture and facts essential for those mildly interested in history. If you’re interested in history, I would recommend bearing this in mind and perhaps researching each city’s history before making a choice.
- The day trips from each city
Paris offers day trips to the magnificent Versailles, the Loire valley and of course Disneyland Paris. Lyon offers day trips to Geneva, Annecy and the South of France. Lyon’s proximity to the Alps makes skiing day trips a possibility in Winter months. Again, these day trips (if you want to take one) do depend on your personal preferences.
In summary….I think I’ll just visit both. 😉