Lyon or Nantes – Which French City to Visit?

Lyon or Nantes

Which city is for you? Lyon or Nantes

Lyon or Nantes? Both cities are great city break destinations, both go a little under the radar too so there’s an opportunity to explore somewhere new! Lyon is famous for its culinary scene and old town, and Nantes is famous for its arts and culture scene. but which one is for you? Keep reading, hopefully, we’ll help you decide.


A beautiful city located in the Rhône-Alpes region of France, Lyon is the third largest city in France. Once known for its role in the production and weaving of silk. It is now known as the gastronomic capital of France


Not far from France’s west coast, Nantes is the sixth largest city in France. Not as well known as some other French cities like Paris, Bordeaux and Marseille it doesn’t make it any less interesting. There’s plenty of culture to take in here, alongside some amazing food!

Pros and Cons of Lyon and Nantes



  • Gastronomy – Lyon is known for its world-renowned cuisine, with many Michelin-starred restaurants and local specialities like sausages and quenelles.
  • Cultural attractions – Lyon is home to a number of museums, galleries, and historic landmarks, including the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière and the Vieux Lyon neighbourhood.
  • Festivals and events – Lyon hosts a number of festivals throughout the year, including the Festival of Lights, which attracts millions of visitors.
  • Proximity to the Alps – Lyon is located near the French Alps, making it an ideal base for skiing and other outdoor activities.


  • Landlocked – Unlike Nantes, Lyon is a landlocked city, so there are no beaches or seaside activities.
  • Weather – Lyon has a continental climate, which can be quite hot in the summer and cold in the winter.
  • Expensive – Some parts of Lyon can be pricey, particularly dining and accommodation.

Best for: Lyon is best for foodies and culture lovers, as well as those looking to explore the French Alps.



  • Culture – Nantes is a city rich in culture, with a variety of museums, galleries, and historic landmarks like the Château des Ducs de Bretagne.
  • Green spaces – Nantes is known for its many parks and gardens, including the Jardin des Plantes and the Parc de la Beaujoire.
  • Unique attractions – Nantes is home to several unique attractions, such as the Les Machines de l’île, an artistic project featuring giant mechanical animals.
  • Affordable accommodation – Nantes offers a range of affordable accommodation options, making it a great budget-friendly destination.


  • Limited outdoor activities – While Nantes does have some green spaces, there are fewer opportunities for outdoor activities like skiing or hiking compared to Lyon.
  • Weather – Nantes has a temperate oceanic climate, which can be rainy and cold in the winter.
  • Smaller city – Nantes is quite a lot smaller than Lyon, so there isn’t as much to do.

Best for: Nantes is best for travellers looking for a unique and cultural destination with plenty of green spaces and affordable accommodation.

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 are also plenty of interesting places to visit nearby. You could even visit Geneva, which is only two hours away by train.

How long to stay in Nantes

As it’s not a particularly big city, you could easily see most of the attractions in two days. But for a more relaxing stay, we recommend staying for three days. Especially if you fancy visiting some local vineyards.

How much is food and drink in Lyon and Nantes?

Item / City Lyon Nantes
Beer (typical bar/restaurant) €5 – €7 €5 – €8
Glass of wine €3 – €10 €4 – €10
Coffee (typical café) €1.50 – €3 €2 – €4
Meal at a midrange restaurant €20 – €40 €20 – €40

How much is it to stay in Lyon or Nantes?

Accommodation / City Lyon Nantes
Luxury Hotel €150 – €500 €150 – €400
Midrange Hotel €70 – €150 €70 – €150
Budget Hotel €40 – €70 €40 – €70
Hostel €20 – €40 €20 – €40

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.

When is the best time to visit Nantes?

When planning any trip, timing is always important. But, we’re sure whenever you visit you’ll have a good time.

Weather: Nantes has a mild oceanic climate, which means it’s generally quite temperate year-round. But let’s be honest, the weather can be a bit unpredictable. You might be basking in the sun one minute, and then running for cover from the rain the next. But hey, that’s all part of the fun, right?

Festivals: Nantes is renowned for its cultural scene, and there are several festivals throughout the year that make it a good time to visit. Le Voyage à Nantes is very popular with over 500,000 people flocking to the city to be there. The festival features live music performances, food and art installations. It’s held from July to September and definitely worth a look!

Crowds: Summer is great for catching one of Nantes’ many outdoor events or festivals. But, it can get very busy. If navigating bustling streets isn’t for you, try visiting between September and November.

Average Monthly Temperatures

I apologize for the oversight. Here’s the updated table with the Celsius (°C) and millimetres (mm) units included:

Month Lyon Avg Temp (°C) Lyon Rainfall (mm) Nantes Avg Temp (°C) Nantes Rainfall (mm)
January 3.3 52 5.5 86
February 4.7 50 5.9 65
March 8.4 51 8.8 60
April 11.4 60 11.0 52
May 15.4 81 14.2 64
June 19.1 79 17.4 47
July 21.7 68 19.8 40
August 21.2 68 19.6 43
September 17.6 81 16.6 59
October 13.1 96 12.6 85
November 7.6 79 8.4 86
December 4.2 57 5.9 89

Getting around

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.

Getting Around Nantes:

Nante has a good public transport system that covers most of the city’s major sights and attractions. But, due to the size of the city, you’d be better off walking most of the time. You’ll be able to experience the city properly and see all the interesting little things you miss when you’re on a bus or a tram.

If you do plan on making the most of public transport, the trams and buses are clean and reliable. Getting a Nantes City Pass is a good way to save money and hassle. Renting a bike is a nice way to see the city at a quicker pace. A ride down the river is a nice way to spend an afternoon too.

Top things to do in Lyon

Visit the Basilique Notre-Dame de Fourvière: This hilltop basilica is very impressive, and 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, a 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 restaurants per head here than anywhere in France! Ensure you allow plenty of time to try local specialities 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: Home to Lyon’s own astronomical clock, this cathedral is located in Vieux Lyon and is famous for its stunning architecture. Built on the ruins of a 6th-century church, it was finished in 1476.

Top things to do in Nantes

Visit the Château des Ducs de Bretagne: Once home to the Dukes of Brittany, this beautiful castle is now a museum. Its rounded walls and moat are particularly impressive. You can walk around the walls for free. But, if you want to go into the museum you have to pay.

Explore the Île de Nantes: The island of Nantes is a former industrial area that has been transformed into a cool and trendy district. There are some very impressive art installations to see like ‘The Rings’ by Daniel Buren.

Take a Vineyard tour: Nantes is located in the Loire Valley, one of the most famous wine regions in the world. So it would be rude not to tour some of the local vineyards! Well, that’s our excuse.

Walk through the Passage Pommeraye: This three-tiered shopping arcade is stunning and a must-see when visiting Nantes. Its beautiful architecture and elegant shops are great for wandering around.

Visit the Musée d’Arts de Nantes: One of the largest museums of its type in the region, it has an extensive collection of over 12,000 works of art. Including works by famous artists like Monet, Picasso and Kandinsky.

Take a boat tour on the Erdre River: Known as the most beautiful river in France, is there a better way to see it other than being on it? Some of the countryside and chalets along the river are stunning.

Walk along the Quai de la Fosse: This promenade along the river is perfect for an afternoon stroll. You can enjoy the views and look at all the boats.

Visit the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle: Filled with skeletons of animals. You’ll marvel at the impressive collection of specimens on show here. There’s even a whale skeleton that’s over 18 meters in length.

Go to Les Machines de l’île: The Machine de l’île is an experience you won’t forget! A park featuring giant mechanical creatures, it’s not something you see every day. Great for kids and adults alike!

Explore the Musée de l’Imprimerie: Take a tour of this impressive museum and learn all about Nantes’ long history with printing. You’ll never appreciate how much work used to go into printing until you’ve visited here!

How to spend three days in Lyon

Day 1:

Morning: Begin the day with a coffee and a croissant in Lyon’s beautiful old town, Vieux Lyon. Spend the morning wandering around admiring medieval architecture whilst the city wakes up. Stop off and see Cathédrale Saint-Jean-Baptiste which has its 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 Romanesque 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.

Day 2:

Morning: Visit the Musée des Beaux-Arts, one of the country’s 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 known for its silk production but now it’s full of great restaurants and cool bars. It’s a bit hilly, so take some comfortable shoes!

Day 3:

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 artefacts to see.

Afternoon: Take a guided tour of the city’s 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 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.

How to spend three days in Nantes

Day 1:

Morning: Grab a coffee then head to Château des ducs de Bretagne. This 15th-century fortress is very impressive. Walk around the walls for nice views of the city, or visit the museum if you want to learn more about its history.

Afternoon: After a morning of history, why not visit the Musée d’arts de Nantes and see some artwork from renowned artists? Even the building itself is very beautiful so it’s definitely worth visiting.

Evening: Head to Bouffay, a great neighbourhood full of bars and restaurants. Grab some traditional French food and local wine and relax for the evening.

Day 2:

Morning: Head to Les Machines de l’île nice and early to avoid the crowds. This crazy art project combines sci-fi with real-world engineering. Make sure to reserve a ticket in the high season.

Afternoon: After a morning of watching a robotic elephant walk around, head to the Jardin des Plantes and have a relaxing afternoon. There are so many interesting plants and trees to see and even a herbal garden.

Evening: Go for a walk down the Loire River. It runs through the heart of Nantes and there are plenty of bars and restaurants on its banks. Is there a better way to spend an evening than watching the sunset whilst eating amazing food and drinking good wine?

Day 3:

Morning: Head out of the city and visit a local vineyard. There are plenty of local wine tours that will take you. It’s a great way to see how the wine is made and sample some of the local produce.

Afternoon: After lunch, visit the Muséum d’Histoire Naturelle. This natural history museum will keep adults and kids entertained for a while! Theres plenty of exhibits featuring a wide array of animals. There’s even a vivarium with live snakes!

Evening: Wander around the Graslin district, this beautiful part of Nantes is full of chic shops, amazing restaurants and cool bars. Make sure you try some seafood dishes and indulge in some local wines and beers.

Lyon and Nantes Ratings

Category Lyon Rating Nantes Rating
Attractions 8 8
Accommodation 7 7
Food and drink 9 9
Safety 8 8
Transportation 7 8
Shopping 8 7
Culture and history 9 9
Nightlife 7 7
Total score 63 63

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