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A Solo Trip to Lyon: My Experience and Tips for Solo Travel

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at SPU chapter.

This past summer, I went on a study abroad trip to France with SPU. Unlike other study abroad programs, this was a very independent trip. For about three weeks, seven other students and I were free to do and see whatever we wanted except for 9:30-12:30 on weekdays for class. I really enjoyed this aspect of the trip because everyone has different interests, and this allowed us to see all that was exciting to us during our time in France. 

Towards the end of the trip, I was feeling very content with all that I had seen in Paris. We had one more completely free day left and I was starting to think about what I wanted to do. Some of the other students were finishing up everything on their must-see list, getting their last-minute souvenir shopping in, or visiting other parts of France. I decided on a whim that I was going to book train tickets for a solo day trip to Lyon, France. The train tickets were relatively inexpensive compared to other doable day trips from Paris, and the train was only two hours long. 

On the morning of my trip, I had to wake up very early. By 6:30 a.m. I was on the metro to Gare de Lyon, a train station in Paris. I have traveled before but never alone, so the nerves started to kick in. Luckily the metro went straight to the train station and Gare de Lyon was easy to navigate. 

I really enjoyed the train ride. Riding through the countryside was a nice break from the city. The ride went by very quickly and before I knew it, I was at the train station Lyon-Part-Dieu. I quickly googled things to do in Lyon while getting off the train. A park called Parc de la Tête d’Or came up as one of the top things to do, so I decided to go!

The park did not disappoint. There were nature trails along a river that were beautiful. Also, there were not many people, so it made the walk extra peaceful. After a while, I ended up at a small lake. There was a little café tucked into the trees next to the lake. I sat down and had a wonderful crêpe. I stayed there for a while watching the peddle boats move around the lake and taking in nature. 

Once I was finished, I continued my walk. When I say this park has everything, I mean that it has everything. In addition to the lake, there was a small zoo, a botanical garden, and a rose garden. To my surprise, every one of these activities was free! The rose garden was probably my favorite. They had every color of rose bush displayed in the most picturesque way. 

After a couple of hours, I decided to go to the main part of Lyon, Vieux Lyon. This was like a town center. The one monument I researched before coming to Lyon was the Basilica of Notre Dame of Fourvière. Everything I had read about Lyon mentioned that this was a must-do. The Basilica is at the top of this very high hill so to get there you take a funicular, a trolley-type mode of transportation that is meant for steep hills. I was able to get a ticket easily and boarded the funicular. I think it was a quick 5-minute ride. When you step out of the funicular station you immediately see the Basilica. The site was breathtaking and definitely exceeded my expectations. 

The Basilica was free to go in, so I was able to see the architecture inside. The ceiling appeared to be painted blue and gold. I stayed for quite a long time taking in everything. When I was finished, I went around to try and see the other side of the Basilica, but I found out you cannot from the top of the hill. The Basilica was built at the edge of the hill. What I did get to see was a view of all of Lyon. The view was magnificent.  

I went to walk back to the funicular station when I turned around and saw what looked like a miniature Eiffel Tower also at the top of the hill. I was trying not to laugh as I was met with such surprise. 

After taking the funicular back down I decided to walk around and see what I could find. I saw the Cathedral Saint-Jean-Baptiste, the city hall, the Bartholdi Fountain, and much more. I really fell in love with the architecture of Lyon and the colors of their buildings. While walking around to all these sites I crossed two rivers that are in Lyon, the Saône and the Rhône. I felt like these rivers added to the peaceful vibes of the town. 

At this point, I had about an hour left before I needed to go to the train station and things got a little rough. It was about 95 degrees in Lyon that day and my phone started to really struggle in the heat. It was overheating and if I tried to turn it on it would completely shut off. I started to get a little bit nervous since I needed it to get to the train station and it had my train tickets. I felt very content with all that I had seen so I decided to stop at a café to get a Coke and I thought that maybe getting out of the heat would help my phone. 

After being there for an hour my phone started to work. I was worried about my phone if I went out in the heat again, so I decided to get an Uber to the train station which was surprisingly very inexpensive. The rest of the evening was smooth sailing. My train was easy to get to and I rode all the way back to Paris to finish my study abroad program. 

Overall, my one day in Lyon was probably my favorite day of the trip. It did put me out of my comfort zone traveling completely alone but I am glad I tried solo traveling on a small scale before doing a bigger solo trip one day. I did learn a lot from this experience. Here are my tips and things I learned that are helpful for solo travel!

  •  Before going on your solo trip research a couple of activities to do in that place. If you are going for a day like I did I would recommend finding two or three activities and if you are traveling in a place for longer maybe pick some more. This way you have some activities already in mind to guide your day and you are not looking at your phone not sure what to do. 
  • With that being said, leave plenty of time for walking around and exploring. One of my favorite parts of the day was walking around and seeing the architecture, the rivers, and other statues in the city. I found a lot of beautiful murals and town squares this way.
  • Bring backup tickets and travel documents with you! In my situation it would have been smart to have a printed version of my train tickets before leaving Paris in case my phone did not turn back on. You never know what could happen and when you are solo traveling you cannot use a friend’s phone or resources!
  •  Have a go-with-the-flow-attitude! You never know what is going to happen, so you need to be able to handle when plans change. For example, I went to Lyon thinking I would take public transportation everywhere but was not able to due to metro lines being down or because I was in a time crunch. I adjusted and took Uber which were not expensive like they can be in the U.S., but this was not something I planned on doing. 
  • Traveling is possible on a budget! This is not the case for all cities but for Lyon all the activities and monuments I saw were free! Other expenses like food, Uber, and train tickets were relatively inexpensive compared to the U.S.

This was such an amazing experience! Do not let traveling on your own scare you. As long as you travel smartly and take necessary precautions you will be fine! I definitely recommend that people take a solo trip of some form in their life. It is an eye-opening and freeing experience! Safe travels!

Hello! I am a student at Seattle Pacific University majoring in Economics and Applied Math. I am originally from Olympia, Washington. I love to read, write, and hang out with my dogs.