Mazy streets of cobblestone and intrigue. Street art besides 2000-year-old Roman ruins. Outstanding museums and fantastic shopping. And the world capital of bourgeois cuisine.
France’s third city is France’s most interesting city right now. Fresh from winning Emerging Destination of the Year at the 2021 World Travel Awards, we explore what’s on offer in Lyon.
First, Let’s Eat
Lyon isn’t just France’s culinary capital, it’s the gastronomic capital of the world. This city invented haute cuisine and has over 4000 restaurants, including 17 with Michelin stars.
A central location was its early secret, combining the best produce and chefs from all over France. Dine at restaurants honouring the original haute cuisine. Then try one of Lyon’s official bouchons, unpretentious eateries the opposite of luxury fine dining.
When Lyon created haute cuisine for the aristocracy, they also developed a fine culinary tradition focused on the cheaper foods. Where else could you eat the original escargots a la Bourguignonne, snails with parsley and garlic butter sauce?
Spending time and money on amazing food is a given in Lyon. The experience is most alive in its contrasts. Compare La Commune, an industrial-styled food court, with Mathieu Viannay’s uber-traditional Mere Brazier restaurant.
Now the Art & Architecture
A home to over 100 outdoor murals, Lyon is often seen as the European capital of street art. Quirky Croix-Rousse is the most vibrant neighbourhood, where murals measure hundreds of square metres and narrate stories from the city’s past.
While you’re there follow Les Traboules, a warren of secret passageways created to transport silk in the 19th century. These continue all the way to Vieux-Lyon, the medieval centre known as Old Lyon, with gothic Cathedrale St-Jean-Baptiste at its centre.
For more art, Musee des Beaux-Arts is the best gallery in France outside of Paris, especially its sculpture collection. Or visit Place des Terreaux, where the centrepiece fountain is by sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, who’s best known for designing the Statue of Liberty.
Step into the future as well at the new Confluence, an old industrial district along the riverbank, where geometric forms of glass and steel reflect a new architectural age. The only comparable place in Europe is the area around Bilbao’s Guggenheim.
Extend Your Lyon Holiday
Lyon is often used as a gateway city for a French skiing trip, with Chamonix among the resorts nearby. So you can combine a weekend of urban exploration with the slopes.
Or travel an hour north by road to Burgundy, for more food and lots of wine, not to mention the postcard perfect town of Beaune.
France has the fastest trains in the world. Lyon to Paris only takes two hours on the TGV, so how’s that combination for a one-week holiday? Or take the train south and in 90 minutes you’re practically at the French Riviera.
It was a central location that made Lyon such a prosperous city over the last 2000 years. That location now means Lyon is so easy to incorporate a France holiday.
And we’re only getting started here with the things to do. So much of Lyon excites the inquisitive urban explorer and our travel designers will tell you a lot more, as well as get you reservations at restaurants that are booked out six months in advance.
Now Lyon is the world’s emerging destination of the year, expect it to get busier and busier over the coming years. So why not go now and discover why it’s so trending?