Toulouse or Lyon – which French city will you visit next? Are you drawn to the warm, pink-hued beauty of Toulouse, with its bustling streets and rich history? Or do the culinary delights and enchanting alleys of Lyon intrigue you instead? In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the pros and cons, cost comparisons, and must-see attractions of both cities. Hopefully, by the end, you’ll have a better idea of where you’d prefer to visit.
Toulouse is a charming city in southwestern France that is often overlooked by tourists. We’re not too sure why, to be honest! It’s a beautiful city that is bisected by the Garonne River. Filled with amazing restaurants to try, and interesting architecture. It is also located close to a lot of other interesting places.
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
Pros and Cons of Toulouse and Lyon
- Rich history: Toulouse offers an array of historical sites and museums, such as the Basilique Saint-Sernin and the Musée des Augustins.
- Vibrant food scene: Renowned for its local cuisine, visitors can indulge in delicious dishes like cassoulet and duck confit.
- Cultural attractions: With venues like the Théâtre du Capitole and the Cité de l’espace, Toulouse offers a diverse range of cultural experiences.
- Lively atmosphere: Known as “La Ville Rose” for its pink-hued buildings, Toulouse boasts a bustling city centre with numerous cafes, bars, and shops.
- Better weather: Due to its southern location Toulouse gets better weather throughout the year than Lyon.
- Parks and green spaces: The city offers a variety of parks, such as the Jardin des Plantes and the Jardin Japonais, for relaxation and recreation.
- University town: Home to multiple universities, Toulouse has a vibrant student scene, contributing to its youthful energy.
- Garonne River: The picturesque river provides a scenic backdrop for walks, picnics, and boat tours.
Underrated destination: Toulouse is somewhat off the beaten path, making it less crowded than other major tourist destinations in France.
- Limited nightlife: Toulouse’s nightlife may not be as extensive or varied as in other major cities.
- Language barrier: Not all locals in Toulouse are fluent in English, which may create communication challenges.
- Limited shopping options: Toulouse may not offer as many high-end shopping experiences as other larger cities or popular tourist destinations.
- Noise levels: Toulouse’s lively atmosphere can result in noise, particularly in the city centre and during events, which may be an issue for those who prefer quieter environments.
Best for: History buffs, food enthusiasts, culture lovers, and those who prefer a less crowded, underrated destination.
- World-class cuisine: Lyon is renowned for its gastronomy, with numerous Michelin-starred restaurants and traditional bouchons.
- Rich history: The city boasts a wealth of historical sites, such as the Roman ruins at Fourvière and the well-preserved Old Town (Vieux Lyon).
- Silk heritage: Lyon has a long history of silk production, with opportunities to explore its silk workshops and buy high-quality silk products.
- Museums and galleries: Lyon offers a diverse range of museums, from the Musée des Beaux-Arts to the innovative Musée des Confluences.
- Festivals and events: The city hosts numerous events throughout the year, such as the Fête des Lumières and the Nuits de Fourvière festival.
- Accessible location: Lyon is well-connected to other popular destinations in France and Europe by train and air.
- Outdoor activities: With its location near the Rhône and Saône rivers and surrounding countryside, Lyon offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor pursuits.
- Vibrant nightlife: Lyon’s nightlife scene features a variety of bars, clubs, and live music venues to suit different tastes.
- Expensive: Lyon can be pricey, particularly when it comes to dining at high-end restaurants and accommodation during peak seasons.
- Language barrier: Not all locals in Lyon are fluent in English, which may create communication challenges.
- Colder climate: Lyon has a milder climate throughout the year compared to Toulouse and gets much colder in winter.
- Steep terrain: Some areas of the city, particularly Fourvière Hill, can be quite steep, which may be challenging for those with mobility issues or who prefer flatter terrain.
Best for: Food lovers, history enthusiasts, culture aficionados, and those seeking a vibrant city with a rich heritage and diverse experiences.
How long to stay in Toulouse
Toulouse may not be a big city, but there’s plenty to see and do. You could cover most of the city in a day, but you’d miss out on the best parts. Toulouse is a city best enjoyed at a slow pace. Take your time to explore and discover all that it has to offer.
Toulouse is Frances’s fifth biggest city, so there is a lot to see and do. We feel like most people would happily spend two to three days here and not get bored. If you really wanted an interesting holiday though, you could use Toulouse as a base to explore the region. There are plenty of amazing towns and cities nearby like Albi or Carcassonne, you could even hire a car and drive to Andorra!
There are plenty of museums and galleries like the Muséum de Toulouse, Georges Bemberg’s Foundation — Hotel of Assézat and even a scientific discovery centre that focuses on spaceflight called the Cité de l’Espace.
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 much is food and drink in Toulouse?
Toulouse is home to a diverse culinary scene, and you can find everything from traditional French cuisine to international dishes. Here are some estimated average prices for food and drink in Toulouse:
Beer: A beer in a typical bar or restaurant in Toulouse will likely cost between €5 and €7.
Glass of wine: As Toulouse is located in the heart of the Occitanie 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 Toulouse will likely cost between €1.50 and €3.
Meal at a midrange restaurant: A meal at a midrange restaurant in Toulouse 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 Toulouse?
The cost of accommodation in Toulouse can vary depending on the location and the type of accommodation you choose. Here are some estimated average prices for accommodation in Toulouse:
Luxury hotel: A room in a luxury hotel in Toulouse 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 Toulouse 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 Toulouse 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 Toulouse 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 Toulouse?
Toulouse 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 Toulouse is relatively mild throughout the year. Summers can get hot. Winters can be wet and mild. We recommend visiting in Spring or Autumn when the weather is mild and there aren’t too many tourists.
Festivals: Toulouse hosts a variety of festivals and events throughout the year. Like the Festival de Rio Loco (one for music lovers) and the Violet Festival which celebrates the city’s emblematic flower.
Crowds: Like most places, the summer months can get pretty hectic, so avoid July and August if you can. You’ll find a much more relaxed vibe in the off-season.
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 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 Toulouse are:
The average monthly temperatures for Lyon are:
Getting around Toulouse:
Toulouse is very easy to get around, with regular buses, trams and a metro system there are plenty of options. The public transport system is clean and well-maintained. You’ll find it easy to get around the city when using it. The Toulouse city pass is well worth getting if you plan on using public transport a lot.
If you want a more active holiday, the city is very walkable. You could even hire a bike if you wanted to get around a bit quicker. As with any city, taxis and Uber’s are readily available.
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 Toulouse
Visit the Basilique Saint-Sernin: One of the most visited landmarks in Toulouse. This was once part of the Abbey of Saint-Sernin, but unfortunately, only the church remains. Take a guided tour to learn more about the history of this amazing building.
Explore the historic city centre: Wander around the city, take in cultural sights, admire the architecture and eat some good food. Is there a better way to experience a city?
See the Canal du Midi: Considering it is 240 kilometres long, you won’t be able to see it all. But, you could go for a nice walk along its relaxing banks or even hire a bike!
Visit the Musée des Augustins: Housed in a former Augustinian convent this museum possesses an impressive collection of European art from the middle ages to the early 20th century.
See the Cité de l’Espace: Toulouse might not be the first place you think of when you think of space. But, this space museum is well worth a visit. The planetarium presents shows throughout the day, there are plenty of exhibits to keep you busy too.
Take a food tour: Food tours are always a great way to experience a city’s cuisine and learn about its history. You’ll often get to visit restaurants most tourists won’t know about. You’ll get to try cassoulet, a hearty bean stew, and other delicious dishes.
Check out the Musée Saint-Raymond: Opened in 1892 this archaeological museum went through various transformations before becoming a museum. It was even a prison at one point! It features exhibits from prehistory to the middle ages, history buffs don’t miss out.
Visit the Jardin des Plantes: Not to be confused with the Jardin des Plantes in Paris. This botanical garden is the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and relax.
See the Capitole de Toulouse: This iconic building located in the heart of the city is home to the offices of the local government. Free to enter, it’s full of artwork and impressive interiors.
Take a day trip to Carcassonne: Located about an hour’s drive away from Toulouse. This medieval fortified city will take your breath away. Even if you’re not interested in history it’s very impressive and well worth a visit.
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 is more restaurant per head here than anywhere in France! Make sure 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. Build on the ruins of a 6th-century church, it was finished in 1476.
How to spend three days in Toulouse
Morning: Start your day at the Place du Capitole, a stunning square in the heart of Toulouse. Try and get there early so you can enjoy a coffee overlooking the square whilst the city wakes up. Have a wander into the Capotiole building to see the artwork and lavish rooms.
Afternoon: Visit the Musée des Augustins to learn more about the history and art of the region. The museum has a brilliant collection of sculptures and paintings.
Evening: Enjoy a leisurely dinner in the Saint-Cyprien district, once one of Toulouse’s roughest areas. It’s now one of the coolest parts of the city. There are plenty of bars and restaurants to keep you busy for the evening.
Morning: Get the train to Carcassonne, an amazing fortified medieval city about an hour away by train. It almost looks like something out of a Disney film. Walk around the castle and visit the Basilica of Saint-Nazaire. Opt for a guided tour to fully immerse in the city’s history.
Afternoon: Get the train back to Toulouse and spend a relaxing afternoon seeing the Canal du Midi. Either walk along the banks or hire a bank if you want to see more of it.
Evening: Go and find a nice French restaurant and try some of the local cuisines such as cassoulet or saucisse de Toulouse. Once you’re suitably full go and explore the Carmes neighbourhood. It’s the perfect place to wander around aimlessly stopping off for drinks and exploring the little side streets.
Morning: Start the day with a visit to the Cité de l’Espace, a space museum not too far from the city centre. An interesting place for adults and kids alike.
Afternoon: After lunch let your food settle with a relaxing afternoon in the Jardin des Plantes, one of Toulouse’s most beautiful parks.
Evening: Go and see a performance at the Théâtre du Capitole, one of France’s most prestigious opera houses. Or if opera isn’t your thing, go and see some live music at La Dynamo, a small club that hosts a variety of different live performers.
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 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.
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 is 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 are 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.
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 9
Total score: 61
Food and drink: 9
Culture and history: 9
Total score: 63