What’s not to love about Lyon? Its history is so rich that it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and its cuisine is so superb that the city is hailed as the gastronomic capital of France. Let’s not forget its charming scenery either – both the Saone and Rhone Rivers ribbon their way past the charming red-roofed houses that line the banks.
Culture is not forgotten either, with museums paying tribute to the city’s contribution to the silk trade and cinema industry because, of course, Lyon is the birthplace of the cinematograph. Located around 4 hours’ drive south of Paris, Lyon is the perfect place to keep the good times rolling after leaving the city of love.
Start your explorations of this gorgeous city at the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourviere. Shining bright white in the sun, this 19th century basilica sits like a crown on a hilltop above the city. Inside, the church is adorned with colourful mosaics and ornate gilt detail. Take a guided tour, which grants you access to the roof where you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of the city.
Walk back down the hill to visit the ancient Roman amphitheatre, which is still in use today, before moving on to the Musee Miniature et Cinema. Browse a collection of more than 100 intricately crafted miniature film scenes, take in a fascinating film-making exhibit and discover more than 300 original film artefacts and props, many of which you will no doubt ecognize.
Get acquainted with Lyon’s past as a major silk trader at Soierie Vivante, where you can tour the last remaining weaving workshops from the 19th century and see the original looms in use. The adjoining shop is a great place to pick up locally made silk scarves and gifts.
Eat and Drink
For quintessential Lyonnaise fare, take a seat in one of the city’s many bouchons. These local bistros are the place to find delicious and authentic French fare and wines for a good price. Speaking of wine, the local favourite is Beaujolais, which is grown and made just north of Lyon and is a classic accompaniment to regional dishes.
Local dishes to pick out from the menu include salad Lyonnaise, a green salad with poached egg, bacon and croutons, saucisson, a dry cured sausage, and cervelle de canut, a cheese dip made with herbs, shallots and olive oil. Coffee lovers will appreciate the espresso bars around Place des Terreaux and Vieux Lyon (Old Lyon).
Where to Stay
To immerse yourself in the historic essence of Lyon right down to its charming cobblestone streets, Vieux Lyon is the place to be. There are many trendy hotels to choose from, some set inside gorgeous historic buildings, though its best to request rooms facing the inner courtyards for a quieter atmosphere. Near Vieux Lyon, the 2nd district offers excellent hotels that look out onto the open squares, offering guests a lovely opportunity to soak up the vibe of the city from their room.
From unique boutiques and luxury fashion to art galleries and major shopping malls, Lyon will satisfy any retail hunger. Head to the 2nd district for designer fashion and well-known chains or, for something with a little more character, the antique shops around Rue Auguste-Comte make for curious browsing. Rue de la République, the main shopping artery of the city, is a pedestrian-only street perfect for a relaxed wander.
Lyon Like a Local
Once you enter the Parc de la Tete d'Or you’ll see why the locals cherish it. Pack a picnic and prepare to spend hours exploring the botanic gardens, lush greenhouses, rose gardens and the zoo, which takes pride of place in the centre. Laze in the sun and picnic among local families and couples, or get active with a canoe or pedal boat rental.