Only two hours from Paris by TGV (France’s intercity high-speed train), Lyon may be the French city with the most flourishing gay life (after the country’s capital, of course). In 2009 and 2014, the French gay magazine Têtu dubbed Lyon “France’s most gay-friendly city.” So let’s take a trip to gay Lyon, the former capital of the Gauls (and one of the hotbeds of the French Résistance during WWII), which has been recognized as Europe’s Leading City Break Destination by the World Travel Awards in 2016.
Must-see Lyon attractions
At the foot of the Fourvière hill, the Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon) is the city’s Medieval and Renaissance district. Along its cobblestone streets, small shops and restaurants thrive, especially the famed bouchons (restaurants where you can eat Lyon’s gastronomic specialties). On the top of the hill, the Basilica of Fourvière provides a breathtaking view of Lyon.
If the weather is fine, take a walk in the Parc de la Tête d’Or. A hotspot for locals during weekends, this green zone in gay Lyon will delight you with its lawns, its lake, its walking trails and its zoo.
Museum fans have a choice between the Museum of Contemporary Art (near the Parc de la Tête d’Or), the Museum of Fine Arts (which showcases about 700 paintings and a fine collection of antiques) or the Musée des Confluences. Inaugurated only three years ago, the Musée des Confluences includes collections of natural science, anthropology and cultural history.
Gay Lyon nightlife
Lyon’s nightlife is vibrant, and the city is home to several gay bars and clubs. For a beer in the early evening, go to the XS. Small (as its name suggests) but cozy, this bar is almost always crowded with guys of all ages giving off a friendly, no-fuss attitude.
For a cocktail later in the evening, check out the Chapelle Café. DJs regularly spin their favorite music here during weekends. On warm days you can enjoy a magnificent view of the Basilica of Fourvière from the bar’s terrace.
With its stone vaulted ceiling, the timeless United Café (or, simply speaking, l’UC) is Lyon’s oldest gay club still in existence. It’s open every night of the week but is of course busiest on weekends, offering different DJs and parties almost every Saturday.
Besides these clubs, gay Lyon also hosts big monthly parties, like the Garçon Sauvage (“Wild Boy,” or GS) at Le Sucre. Every edition is an event in itself and is very quickly sold-out. It attracts about 800 clubbers each month, some coming from far away. Its success is likely thanks to expert organization by the Plus Belle La Nuit collective, to a tasteful lineup mixing live performances and DJ sets and to a colorful audience where drag queens mingle with younger gays and glitter beards.
Also not-to-be-missed: the gay Lyon party La Garçonnière (which settled in La Cour des Grands in September), which has been entertaining local clubbers for nine years now. One room is dedicated to electro-house music (with regular international DJs like John Dixon, Pascale Voltaire, Antoine 909) while the other is more pop- and disco-oriented.
Gay Lyon events
Since 2011, Lyon has been home to one of France’s finest LGBT film festivals. The 8th edition of the Écrans Mixtes Festival, from March 7–15, 2018, will honor A-list guests like directors Monika Treut (Germany), João Pedro Rodrigues (Portugal) and Bruce LaBruce (Canada).
After a successful first “real” edition last summer, the Intérieur Queer festival will be back in Lyon in July 2018. Launched by the Plus Belle La Nuit team (which also organizes the Garçon Sauvage party), the festival includes parties, exhibitions, screenings and public discussions. It aims at making Lyon a European queer capital like Berlin or Barcelona. This exciting project is one of many reasons why gay Lyon is one of Europe’s top destinations!
Do you have any gay Lyon recommendations? Sound off in the comments.
Photo by Clément Caudal for Les Engagés