French train stations are notable for their ornate architecture. The older they are, the more elaborate they are, and the Gare de Lyon in Paris, built at the start of the 1900s, has to be one of the most outstanding stations in the country.
Gare de Lyon is basically a work of art inside and out, but once you’ve had enough of craning your neck to admire the frescos and ironwork, you’ll probably want to get out of the station and take a break from the crowds.
You’ll be pleased to find out that, apart from standing outside and taking a selfie in front of the station’s magnificent clock tower, there are lots of things to do near Gare de Lyon. The station’s city center location also means you won’t have far to go to find them. So drop off everything you don’t need at a luggage storage location near Gare de Lyon and head out exploring!
What Is There To Do Near Gare De Lyon
There’s everything from tranquil gardens to rewarding walks to river cruises near Gare de Lyon and if you want a bit of history, there’s also an intriguing medieval chateau that, if you have enough time, is a definite must-visit. Here are a few ideas to inspire you:
Wander Around The Jardin des Plantes
It’s hard to imagine that a space like the Jardin des Plantes exists in central Paris, but it does. This beautiful botanical garden is about a ten-minute walk from Gare de Lyon and about as far as you can get from the hubbub without going outside the city limits.
The 70-acre garden is crisscrossed with walking trails that wind through open grassy areas as well as past manicured flower beds. This is a great place to come if you’re traveling with kids and want to keep them entertained, as there’s a super maze and a small zoo.
Visit The National Museum of Natural History
If you’re in Paris and the weather isn’t quite right for strolling around acres and acres of garden, put up your umbrella and still head in that direction. The National Museum of Natural History is on the Rue Cuvier on the outer edge of the gardens and is easily somewhere you can spend a rainy morning or afternoon.
The National Museum of Natural History is housed in the Grand Gallery of Evolution which contains four enormous floors of exhibitions. Going there won’t make an impact on your travel budget either, as admission to the museum is free. What will you see there? A specimen of just about every plant, reptile, animal, bird, and fish, including dinosaurs, that has ever existed on the planet. If that doesn’t keep you busy, then nothing will.
Discover The Real Paris
Walk out of Gare de Lyon and take the Avenue Daumesnil, and after 12 minutes, you’ll find yourself in the Bastille neighborhood of Paris. The Bastille quarter is one of the oldest and most characterful parts of the city. Think narrow streets lined with pastel-colored houses, a huge local market, stores, cafes, and, best of all, patisseries.
In the Bastille quarter, you’ll get a real feel of what Paris is like away from the usual tourist traps. Two other spots not to miss while you’re in the Bastille quarter are the Promenade Plantee, also called the Coulee Verte, and the Viaduc des Artes.
The Coulee Verte is an elevated urban trail that’s been created from an old railway line into a public walkway. Look for the Opera Bastille in the Place de Bastille, and next to it, you’ll first come across the Viaduc des Arts, where the archways are daubed with fantastic street art. Once you’ve seen the graffiti, you’ll spot the set of stairs with a sign saying – Petite Ceinture – which leads onto the walkway.
The Coulee Verte is an eye-opening walk where you can look down on not just the quarter’s urbanization but some amazing modern works of art adorning the local police station inspired by old masters. Be prepared, and have your phone or camera ready, because they’re awesome in more ways than one.
If you walk the entire three miles of the Coulee Verte, you’ll end up in the Vincennes neighborhood of Paris. That’s fine, but you’ll also have to walk or catch the metro back to Gare de Lyon, so keep an eye on the time if you have a train to catch.
Château de Vincennes
If you have enough time, don’t just turn around and go back along the Coulee Verte once you get to the end, but go and take a look at the Château de Vincennes. It’s amazing.
The Château de Vincennes is one of the best preserved medieval castles in France, and that’s saying something as this country has a surplus of them. While it is hard to miss, in case you have trouble locating it, which you won’t, it’s on the Avenue de Paris in Vincennes.
This fortress is an enormous structure with multiple turrets and a cobbled entrance leading with a drawbridge over a moat that dates back to the mid-14th century. Once you’ve entered through its massive portal, it’s not hard to imagine why the beleaguered royals of old felt safe within its walls.
There are so many fantastic things to do near the Gare de Lyon in Paris that you may start considering missing your train to do them. If you’re short of time, you can always grab some sandwiches and take a picnic along the Bassin d’Arsenal or if you have longer, take a short boat cruise down the River Seine.
The best thing to do by far, though, is to go and explore the Bastille quarter. It’s so close to Gare de Lyon and will give you a taste of Paris at its best, plus you’ll see things you would never have expected. And, after all, that’s what traveling is all about, isn’t it?