Hire a bicycle at one of the many Vélo’V self-service stations and take to the tree-lined left bank of the Rhône with the wind in your face. You’ll feel just like a local. The energetic can do the whole 5km length and get a panorama of Lyon sweeping past grand bridges and wide boulevards. See the buildings, church towers and bridges of the Saône on a boat trip from the Quai des Célestins. If it gets unbearably hot, a dip in the summer swimming pool on the Rhône will keep your temperature down.
A summer break in Lyon means outdoor entertainment in abundance. From June to September you’ll come across film screenings, musicians, actors and artists performing on the pavements and in the parks and courtyards during Lyon’s free Everyone Outside Festival. From Patti Smith to Mother Courage – the nightly Nuits de Fourvière packs a modern audience into the Roman theatre for magical performances under the stars during June and July. Night owls make for the floating barge bars and discos along the Rhône to drink and dance the night away against the backdrop of a city whose major buildings are illuminated with fantastic lighting.
All Lyon spills out on to the pavements and terraces in the long days and nights of summer. If money’s no object, book for the terrace, the view and the Michelin-starred innovative cooking at Les Terrasses de Lyon in a former convent in Vieux Lyon. Watch the spouting fountain from an outdoor table at the cafés and bars surrounding the Place des Terreaux. The restaurants in Brotteaux, the splendidly grand former railway station from the early 20th century, are a magnet for diners. Book for the terrace at L’Est, one of Paul Bocuse’s brasseries, and eat dishes from around the world.
To see some of the huge trompe l’oeil murals that cover the sides of many of Lyon’s seven- and eight-storey buildings you’ll need a stout pair of walking shoes – and a metro or tram ticket. Three different Towers of Babel confront you in the Boulevard des Etats Unis; famous Lyonnais characters stare down from the Quai Saint-Vincent. Don’t leave your walking shoes at your summer hotel: you’ll need them for an evening walk around the light show that transforms 300 sites and monuments in the city. The National Opera glows red and churches take on a new spiritual dimension, making you feel like a medieval peasant gawping at a great mystery.
The Parc de la Tête d’Or is a mix of formal gardens and urban playground. You’ll find pony rides, a zoological reserve which enchants children and jolly carousels. Families picnic beside the lake. The green-fingered trawl the different greenhouses for their camellias, cacti or carnivorous plants or wander through the four rose gardens. If you want more action, make the short trip to Fourvière Aventures to swing, Tarzan-like, through the trees by rope and monkey bridges.