As the ancient capital of the Gauls,
Lyon is not only famous for her heritage but also for her gastronomy, and with a duo of famous chef sons, Bocuse and Boulud, the city makes an excellent historical and tasty home base should you consider exploring further afield. With its ancient center bisected by narrow streets of Medieval and Renaissance houses, Lyon has much to offer the curious and hungry visitor. Often referred to as the “world capital of gastronomy”, the city owes its tasty reputation to its original guinguette’s – those welcoming and familiar outside bistros bordering the banks of the Saône. And the casual, convivial feel of its famous Bouchon’s: traditional Inns, later restaurants, where arriving carriages with tired travelers were served reviving plates of tête de veau, andouillette lyonnaise, quenelles, and pistachio-studded sausages on red lentils by Lyon’s mothers, les mères, those healthy, robust women who defined its cuisine. La Mère Brazier, who in 1933, was the first female to receive a two-star rating. Her contemporary, La Mère Bourgeois, who opened her restaurant in Bresse, or La Mère Guy, whose eel stew was highly prized in the 18th century. And into the 21st Century, La Mère Richard offers perhaps some of the best local cheeses by the first Mère Richard’s daughter Renée, who shares her mother’s famous first name.
You can easily connect to Lyon and the Rhône-Alpes region of France as Air Canada has begun offering year-round service between Montreal’s Trudeau airport and Lyon–Saint-Exupéry Airport. Canadians now have a direct link to the second-largest metropolitan area in France. And with up to five flights a week with 37 international business class lie-flat suites and 228 economy-class seats, there isn’t any reason not to be in love with Lyon and enjoy this historic and tasty part of France. Let Skyscanner help you book your flight or hotel:
followsummer always travels with a handy copy of the Lonely Planet series: take along this handy copy on everything Lyon:
Here are nine things to do in this followsummer favourite city:
Les Halles de Lyon
Spend a Saturday early morning savouring Paul Bocuse’s Les Halles de Lyon. Dried hams and salamis, sausages, salad Lyonnaise, pike dumplings and of course, terrines and pâtés from Maison Sibilia, “Lyon’s Charcuterie since 1925”. ‘Coco’ became one of the preferred suppliers of many Lyon restaurants including Paul Bocuse’s three-starred establishment. Wine from Fac&Spera by Michel CHAPOUTIER who have been producing great wine, with his family’s respect for nature and terroir since 1808. ANYTHING chocolate from Maison Sève who in 2010 and 2011, garnered the best Chocolatier in France award. Make sure you sample at least one of their incredible chocolate Macarons. You’re welcome. And finally, fantastic cheeses from La Mère Richard’s very daughter, the generous and warm Renée, who on our visit, graciously talked to us about history, family and of course, cheese, all the while offering great, gooey dollops of her speciality, Saint-Marcellin, spread on fresh, warm baguette. Heaven.
Dinner at Les Trois Dômes
Enjoy dinner at the Sofitel Lyon Bellecour’s romantic Les Trois Dômes with stunning views out over the rippling Rhône river. Seven years ago we travelled to Lyon for my 50th birthday celebration where we sampled and savoured all things classic Lyonnais food. Les Lyonnais take their food very seriously with delicacies like andouillette, tête de veau and veal foot salad a must on their must-eat collective dining tables. Not for the faint of heart and perhaps one of the odder food experiences we’ve had in our around the world travels. The saving grace of our food-focused trip was dinner at Les Trois Domes: let’s just say come for the Foie Gras Tasting, stay for the Foie Gras Tasting.
Wander le Jardin du Rosaire
Hire a Lyon City Greeter, organized with Lyon’s Tourism Board and lace up your walking shoes and wander Le Jardin du Rosaire, directly below the beautiful Basilique Notre-Dames de Fourvière. Still high above Vieux Lyon and in her Parc des Hauteurs, take in views of the valley and rushing rivers Saône and Rhône with the white-capped Alpes just beyond. The majestic and well-preserved Theatres Romains de Fourviere welcomes jazz enthusiasts and other festival friends to its ancient stone seats and is the oldest of its type in France: a must-see for history buffs.
Explore the Long Traboules
Push open an ancient, wooden door and (and shhh! quiet please!) explore the hidden, off the beaten track walkways of the Long Traboules, winding their way through and under the buildings, courtyards, and alleyways of residential Vieux Lyon. Open only during the day Les Traboules is a pleasant shortcut connecting you to the Old Town between Rue Saint-Jean and Rue de la Boeuf.
Enjoy a Bottle of Craft Beer
After your Traboule shortcut, you may have acquired a mighty thirst. Exit out onto the Rue de Boeuf and taste some of Lyon’s exceptional and largest selection of craft beers, available in bottles from La Chope de Lug. Take away over 300 locally brewed, sourced and largely unfiltered, unpasteurized amber, white, blonde, imperial and even triple fermentation beers from the Rhone-Alpes region to slake your walking thirst.
Connect at Confluence
Wander the unusual and fantastic Confluence, Europe’s largest urban redevelopment project, a newly reclaimed common gathering point for local Lyonnaise, literally where the Rhône and Saône converge and the former site of the old Port and the historic center of Lyon. Enjoy shopping, sit and enjoy it’s open canals, superb dining or simply prends une verre on one of its many patios and people watch. Make sure to view the water side of Jakob+MacFarlane’s Orange Cube Building. Stunning! And while there, check out Euronews TV Channel flagship headquarters, the Green Cube, another Jacob+MacFarlane stunner!
Lunch and a Museum: Confluence
The stunning Musée des Confluences is a must where we thoroughly enjoyed the spectacular Antartica exhibit; running until December 2016, a complete penguin overload for our senses! Indulge your curious collector in their popular Chambre des Merveilles, where you will view some collected curiosities from the curio cabinets of the ancient and modern world: stuffed exotic birds, shrunken heads, petrified body parts, all present a curious and scientific vision of the world, our own chamber of wonders. Lunch is a must at the Museums’ Brasserie des Confluences where you will enjoy typical Lyonnais food served in a spectacular light-filled cathedral overlooking the Rhône and Saône.
Wander the Cité Internationale
Make the six large statues of Xavier Veilhan your personal guides as you stroll the sculpture gardens and walkways of Renzo Piano and landscape architect Michel Corajoud’s beautifully imagined Cité Internationale . The Marriott Hotel Lyon Cité Internationale, is a convenient and excellent home base as you explore and stroll this urban oasis. While there, plan a visit to macLyon (currently closed for renovations but reopening September 2016). The museum showcases current national and international artists and focuses on all forms of modernity: ‘sound’: La Monte Young, Laurie Anderson, John Cage, ‘choreography’: Anna Halprin, Trisha Brown, ‘painting’: Marc Desgrandchamps, Keith Haring, BenRobert Combas and ‘video’: Bill Viola and ‘performance’ pieces by Jan Fabre.
Enjoy the Light Show
Journey to Lyon in December and enjoy the Fetes des Lumières, Lyons annual love affair with light. Having postponed Le Fete in 2015 because of the attacks on Paris, 2016 looks to be bigger and more enlightened than ever. Needless to say, I was excited to return to Lyon where my partner and I spent a glorious 50th birthday week enjoying the fantastic Fête des Lumières. Bundle up, bring your tripod to catch the amazing show and enjoy this early-Christmas gift of light!
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World Traveler, Writer, and Blogger, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of the followsummer.com travel blog. A former Actor, current shower-singer, and non-hipster foodie. Loves his week-end house in St Marys, Ontario. Happily married to John Mountain and Dad to Sophia and Ariel, two of the best cats in the world.