Bordeaux or Lyon? I often find myself faced with the difficult decision of choosing between these two captivating cities, particularly when it comes to the diverse offerings of France. We’ll take a closer look at the distinct features of both Bordeaux and Lyon, comparing their attractions, cultural scenes, and culinary delights to help you decide which city is best for you.
A small city in southwestern France, Bordeaux is world-renowned for its wine, cuisine and architecture. If you mention Bordeaux to anyone, the first thing they think about is wine. But, there’s more to the city than just wine. It’s a beautiful city that is compact and walkable. We highly recommend visiting. It almost feels like a miniature Paris.
A beautiful city located in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, Lyon is the third largest city in France. Once know for its role in the production and weaving of silk. It is no known as the gastronomic capital of France
Pro’s and Con’s of Bordeaux and Lyon
- World-class wine culture.
- Rich history and stunning architecture.
- Vibrant arts scene and diverse culinary experiences.
- Access to nearby UNESCO World Heritage sites, such as Saint-Émilion and the Cité du Vin museum.
- Proximity to picturesque regions like the Dordogne and the Bay of Arcachon.
- More laid-back atmosphere.
- Warmer weather compared to Lyon.
- Fewer entertainment and shopping options compared to Lyon.
- Less emphasis on diverse culinary experiences and gourmet dining.
Best for: Wine enthusiasts, history buffs, foodies, and those who prefer a warmer climate and a laid-back atmosphere.
- Renowned for its rich culinary heritage and gourmet dining.
- A blend of historical and contemporary architecture.
- Vibrant cultural scene with museums, galleries, and theaters.
- Proximity to the French Alps and Beaujolais wine region.
- Extensive public transportation network for easy exploration.
- Known for its annual Festival of Lights.
- Cooler weather compared to Bordeaux.
- Can be more expensive, particularly for dining and accommodations.
Best for: Food lovers, travellers who appreciate a mix of historical and modern architecture, and those interested in exploring nearby natural attractions and the Beaujolais wine region.
How long to stay in Bordeaux
Bordeaux isn’t a big city, but there’s plenty to do. You could get around most of the city in a day if you wanted but you’d miss all the best bits. Bordeaux is a city best enjoyed at a slow pace. Wandering around whilst stopping off at cafes and tourist attractions.
There are plenty of galleries, museums and shops to fill your time. Plus if you’re into your wine, there are all the local vineyards that you can visit. There are also some pretty local towns to visit like Saint-Émilion and Arcachon. We’d recommend staying at least two days in Bordeaux, three days would be better though. We could easily spend a few weeks here, although we’d probably be fat alcoholics by the end of it.
How long to stay in Lyon
With Lyon being the third largest city in France, there’s plenty to see and do. We’d recommend staying for at least two to three days, but you wouldn’t get bored if you stayed for a bit longer. There are plenty of museums, parks and landmarks to see. There’s also plenty of interesting places to visit nearby. You could even visit Geneva, which is only two hours away by train.
How much is food and drink in Bordeaux?
The cost of food and drink in Bordeaux can vary depending on the establishment and the location. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Bordeaux:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Bordeaux will likely cost between €5 and €7.
Glass of wine: As Bordeaux is a wine region, wine is readily available and is often a better value than beer or cocktails. A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €3 to €10, depending on the quality and rarity of the wine.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Bordeaux will likely cost between €1.50 and €3.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Bordeaux will likely cost between €15 and €30 per person, depending on the restaurant and the menu.
How much is food and drink in Lyon?
Lyon is known for its amazing cuisine and is home to many Michelin-starred restaurants. However, you can also find more affordable options that are equally delicious. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Lyon:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Lyon will likely cost between €5 and €7.
Glass of wine: Lyon is located in the heart of the Rhône wine region, so you’ll find plenty of great wines to try. A glass of wine in a typical bar or restaurant can range from €3 to €10, depending on the quality and rarity of the wine.
Coffee: A cup of coffee in a typical café in Lyon will likely cost between €1.50 and €3.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Lyon will likely cost between €20 and €40 per person, depending on the restaurant and the menu.
How much is it to stay in Bordeaux?
It’s worth noting that prices may be higher in touristy areas.
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Bordeaux can cost anywhere from €200 to €500 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Bordeaux will likely cost between €80 and €150 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Bordeaux will likely cost between €40 and €70 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Bordeaux will likely cost between €20 and €40 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
How much is it to stay in Lyon?
The cost of accommodation in Lyon can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Lyon:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Lyon can cost anywhere from €150 to €500 per night, or even higher for the most exclusive properties.
Midrange hotel: A room in a midrange hotel in Lyon will likely cost between €70 and €150 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
Budget hotel: A room in a budget hotel in Lyon will likely cost between €40 and €70 per night, depending on the location and the quality of the hotel.
Hostel: A bed in a hostel in Lyon will likely cost between €20 and €40 per night, depending on the location and the amenities.
When is the best time to visit Bordeaux?
Bordeaux has got it all: mild weather, world-class wines, and plenty of festivals and events. Here’s what you need to know:
Weather: The weather in Bordeaux is usually pleasant, with mild temperatures year-round. Summers can get a bit sticky, but winters are mild and rainy. For the best weather, plan your visit during the shoulder season of April to June or September to October.
Wine season: Wine lovers, won’t want to miss the grape harvest season from September to October. The perfect time to indulge in wine tasting and vineyard tours and sample some of the best wines in the world.
Festivals: Bordeaux loves a good party, and there are plenty of festivals and events to keep you entertained. Don’t miss the Bordeaux Wine Festival in June or the Fête le Vin in June, both of which celebrate the region’s rich wine-making culture.
Crowds: The summer months of July and August are peak tourist season in Bordeaux, which means the crowds can be pretty intense. If you prefer a more relaxed visit, consider travelling during the off-season when the crowds have thinned out.
When is the best time to visit Lyon?
Lyon has mild weather year-round, making it a great destination to visit at any time of the year. Here are some things to consider:
Weather: The weather in Lyon is pretty mild throughout the year. Summers can be dry and hot, luckily there’s plenty of outdoor space to enjoy the weather. Lyon does get colder in winter than other French cities like Bordeaux or Toulouse. It regularly drops below freezing and does snow on occasion. Luckily Lyon is famous for hot chocolate so make sure you warm up with one on a cold day.
Festivals: Lyon hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year, including the Festival of Lights in December, which is a must-see. The locals light candles in their windows in homage to the virgin Mary and there are light installations throughout the city, it’s pretty spectacular.
Crowds: As with most European cities peak time in Lyon is during the summer. But it doesn’t suffer from the over tourism as much as other better known European cities like Paris or Barcelona. Spring is a good time to visit, as the weather is nice but the city isn’t too busy.
Average Monthly Temperatures
The average monthly temperatures for Bordeaux are:
The average monthly temperatures for Lyon are:
Getting around Bordeaux:
The city’s public transportation system consists of trams, buses, and a bike-sharing service. The trams are well-connected and cover most of the city’s major attractions. The tickets allow you to use any form of public transport for a certain period of time, (usually an hour). So if you needed to get one bus and a tram to get somewhere you’d only need one ticket if the journey was less than an hour.
Bike sharing is a good option for people that want to be a bit more active. Bordeaux has a lot of small windy streets so we spent most of the time walking, which I feel is the best way to see a city. Taxis and Ubers are readily available but you might struggle to get one right in the heart of the old town where a lot of it is pedestrianised.
Getting around Lyon:
Lyon has a great public transport system. With buses, trams and a metro system it’s very easy to get around the city. If you’re planning on making the most of the public transport here, make sure you get a City Card they’re great for saving money. Walking is always a good option, it is a big city but it doesn’t take hours to walk between attractions like Paris can do.
Taxis are readily available but not particularly cheap.
Top things to do in Bordeaux
Visit the Place de la Bourse: This square is an absolute must-see, with stunning architecture and a beautiful reflecting pool called the Water Mirror. Don’t forget your camera!
Explore the historic Saint-Pierre district: This area is so charming, with cobblestone streets, cute cafes, and lots of history. Take a stroll around and enjoy the vibes.
Go wine tasting in the nearby vineyards of Saint-Émilion: If you’re a wine lover, this is the place to be! Saint-Émilion has some of the best vineyards and wineries around, and the views are pretty stunning too.
Visit the Musée d’Aquitaine: Learn more about the region’s history and culture at this museum, which has everything from prehistoric artefacts to contemporary art.
Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Jardin Public: This park is seriously beautiful, with a lake, a rose garden, and tons of trees and flowers. It’s the perfect place to unwind and relax.
Take a river cruise on the Garonne River: You’ll see all sorts of amazing architecture and landmarks, and the views are seriously good.
Visit the Basilique Saint-Michel: This church is up on a hill, so the views are even better! Take some snaps, enjoy the scenery and soak up the atmosphere.
Enjoy some of Bordeaux’s local cuisine: Bordeaux has got some seriously tasty food, including sweet pastries called canelés and a delicious steak dish called entrecôte bordelaise.
Go to one of Bordeaux’s many festivals and events: This city loves to party, so there’s always something going on. Don’t miss the Bordeaux Wine Festival in June or the Fête le Vin in June.
Take a day trip to the nearby town of Arcachon: This seaside town is seriously gorgeous, with sand dunes and beaches that will take your breath away. It’s an easy train ride from Bordeaux, so don’t miss out!
Top things to do in Lyon
Visit the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière: This hilltop basilica is very impressive, the unique architecture is very beautiful. Due to its location at the top of a hill it offers amazing views of the city and river.
Explore the historic Vieux Lyon: Wander through the narrow streets of Vieux Lyon, the city’s beautiful old town. This area is full of charming old houses, traditional restaurants and secret passageways called (les Traboules).
Check out the Musée des Beaux-Arts: This art museum in a former 17th century Abbey features an expansive collection of paintings, sculptures and decorative arts. It’s definitely worth visiting!
Visit the Parc de la Tête d’Or: With an area of approximately 117 hectares this is Lyon’s largest urban park and a great place to relax and unwind on a nice day. There’s a botanical garden, boating lake and even a zoo. Take a picnic on a warm day, you won’t regret it!
Taste the local cuisine: World renowned for its cuisine, there are more restaurant per head here than anywhere in France! Make sure you allow plenty of time to try local specialties like quenelle de brochet or poulet de bresse.
See the Hôtel de Ville: This Renaissance building is the third building that has stood there, the last building was burned down in 1871. The current building played an important role during the liberation of the city from German occupation in 1944
Take a river tour: There are plenty of tour operators on the river, tours generally take about an hour and are an interesting way to see the city and learn about its history.
Visit the Musée des Confluences: This modern science and anthropology museum is located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers. It features interactive exhibits and a stunning architectural design.
Wander around the Croix-Rousse district: Formerly the location of Lyon’s silk industry, this area is now known for its street art and lively nightlife.
See the Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste: This impressive cathedral is located in Vieux Lyon and features a mix of Gothic and Romanesque architecture. Don’t miss the astronomical clock inside.
How to spend three days in Bordeaux
To begin your day, head to the Place de la Bourse and the Water Mirror reflecting pool. Take some time to check out the beautiful architecture and take some pictures. If you want a really special experience, try and get up early to visit during the sunrise. It’s so worth it! After that, visit the Musée d’Aquitaine to explore the history and culture of the region. The museum has a fascinating collection of artefacts and exhibits. End your day with a dinner in the Saint-Pierre district, it’s probably the prettiest area in Bordeaux. There are plenty of good restaurants to choose from, make sure you sit outside if the weather is good too!
Spend your morning taking a day trip to the nearby town of Saint-Émilion, famous for its vineyards and wine. It’s only 35 minutes by train. Go for a wine tasting in one of the local vineyards then get a lovely French lunch at a local restaurant.
In the afternoon, return to Bordeaux and take a river cruise on the Garonne River. There’s something about river cruises that we love, the water is so relaxing and it’s a good way to see a city from a different perspective. For dinner visit Les Halles Bacalan, a market hall full of food vendors and bars. There’s so much food to try and wines to drink! After dinner, take a walk along the Quai des Chartrons to enjoy the views of the river and the city lights.
Start your day with a visit to the Jardin Public, one of the most beautiful parks in Bordeaux. It’s a great place to relax and people-watch. In the afternoon, head to the Basilique Saint-Michel to enjoy the stunning views of the city. There are loads of cool shops close by if you fancy looking around too. Finally, attend one of Bordeaux’s many festivals and events in the evening, such as the Bordeaux Wine Festival or Fête le Vin. If none of them are on, why not visit Musée du Vin et du Négoce de Bordeaux. This museum takes you through the history of winemaking in the region and even has wine-tasting sessions! It’s well worth a visit.
How to spend three days in Lyon
Morning: Begin the day with a coffee and a croissant in Lyon’s beautiful old town, Vieux Lyon. Spend the morning wandering around admiring the medieval architecture whilst the city wakes up. Stop off and see Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste which has it’s own astronomical clock.
Afternoon: Take the funicular to the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière to see the amazing views of the city. Have a look inside the Basilique for an interesting mix of byzantine, gothic and romaneque inspiration. The stained glass windows are especially impressive.
Evening: Try some typical Lyonnaise dishes at a local restaurant make sure you try some local wines too. After dinner take a walk along the Rhône river and enjoy the beautiful views of the city and its skyline.
Morning: Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts, one of the countries most impressive art museums. You can see works by world renowned artists such as Rubens, Monet and Picasso.
Afternoon: Spend a relaxing afternoon at Parc de la Tête d’Or. Take in the scenery and see the botanical gardens, you could even rent a boat out on the boating lake!
Evening: Spend the evening getting a feel for the Croix-Rousse, this trendy district used to be know for its silk production but now it’s full of great restaurants and cool bars. Its a bit hilly, so take some comfortable shoes!
Morning: One for the history buffs. Visit the Musée Gallo-Romain, this museum shows Lyon’s Roman past. Entry is pretty cheap and there’s plenty of mosaics, sculptures and other artifacts to see.
Afternoon: Take a guided tour of the cities traboules. There are as many as 400 of these hidden passageways throughout the city. A guided tour is definitely the best way to find and learn about them!
Evening: End your trip with a dinner at a Michelin-starred restaurant such as Paul Bocuse or Pierre Orsi. Lyon is known for its fine dining, and these restaurants are among the best in the city.
Evening: End your trip with dinner in the old town, this beautiful area is fantastic to visit at night. Make sure you go and try some local wines afterwards at a bar.
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 9
Total score: 61
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 9
Total score: 63