Guide to Lyon

Guide to Lyon hero

Ideas to inspire you on your trip to Lyon, the gastronomic capital of the world.


The food capital of the world

For decades, Lyon has been celebrated as not only the food capital of France, but of the world. This might be seen as a traditional view, but you can't deny that the city has some incredible restaurants and food markets, such as the famous Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse (named after the revered chef).

This indoor market has dozens of stalls that are overflowing with gastronomic goodies. As you walk around you can try all kinds of delights, from delicious French cheeses to richly flavoured saucissons, for which the area is famous. On Sundays the market is particularly popular, and you can rub shoulders with the locals as they wine and dine for an early lunch.

There are countless fantastic restaurants to choose from, and whilst many of the Michelin star restaurants have a price tag to match, you can eat well in Lyon without breaking the bank. You will find meat here in abundance; pig and cow cooked every way imaginable, accompanied by creamy sauces and fresh dressed vegetables. For contemporary food at a manageable price, head to Le Jean-Moulin, where you'll find classic French dishes revisited. Daniel et Denise serves up traditional Lyonnaise food in a comfortable setting and offers a fixed menu, which is great value for money.

If you want to try your hand at cooking, Lyon boasts some great cookery schools that do lessons for visitors and children too. Délicieusement Vôtre holds classes in a handful of different languages, and the team here is committed to learning, helping you to discover your hidden culinary talents! If you've got a sweeter disposition, head to La Maison de Karen Chocolat, where you can take home your chocolate creations at the end of the lesson.

Plenty of things to do

The great thing about Lyon is that it's jam packed full of activities for all ages to enjoy, so make sure you put enough time aside to explore France's third largest city. The warm climate here means that watersports are a popular pastime for many, who head to Gorges de l'Ardèche just 200 km south of Lyon. If you're looking to see the city from the comfort of a boat, take one of the many cruise tours along the rivers Rhône and Saône.

Kayaking along Gorges de l'Ardèche

Lyon boasts a fantastic aquarium, Aquarium du Grande Lyon, which explores the life within our oceans, and is divided into sections such as fresh and tropical water, and has a shark tank and touch pool which is great for kids. For more hands-on activities for the family, France Aventures is an adventure park in Lyon where kids from four and up can climb trees, and adults can go bungee jumping and take part in fun team building activities.

If golf helps you to unwind, there's a great selection of courses in and round Lyon. Golf Blue Green Lyon Chassieu is home to one 18-hole course and another 6-hole course, which is just a fifteen minute drive from Lyon's centre. Also not far from the centre is the Lyon Salvagny Golf Club, where you'll find 18-hole and 9 hole-courses, great for intermediate players. There's also a kid's golf school here, and they boast some great lessons for beginners.

Parks and recreation

Lyon is home to a handful of beautiful parks, and during sunny weather, exploring them is a great way to unwind during your stay in the city. If you only have time for one, head to Parc de la Tête d'Or. This green expanse to the south of the river Rhône has a large lake in the middle, an impressive rose garden, a botanical garden, and a zoo that holds some rare animals, such as the Barbary lion, which is extinct in the wild today.

You can take part in plenty of sports activities here; cyclists can head to the park's velodrome, there's also a boules court, a mini golf course, and you can take horse riding lessons. A great way to see the park with young children is to take the miniature train.

Looking to pamper yourself during your stay? Head to the Lyon Plage Spa, where you can relax in a Jacuzzi, take a dip in the Olympic-sized pool, or have a makeover at the beauty salon.

Take a stroll through Parc de la Tête d'Or

A city for culture vultures

The historic part of Lyon is recognised by UNESCO, and was founded by the Romans in the first century. The entire city has architecture from all periods, and you'll find something special in each of the city's arrondissements, or districts. One of the Renaissance districts worth visiting is Vieux Lyon. Venture down the Rue de Gadagne to see beautiful examples of renaissance architecture, and pop into the Musée Gadagne to find out more about Lyon's history.

Connected to this street is Rue du Bœuf, where you'll find more stunning buildings from the 16th and 17th centuries. These cobbled streets are a wonderful place to get lost, and you can find a few select restaurants hidden away in these narrow buildings. Wander down the streets of the Saint-Paul quarter, and watch out for the many traboules that this part of the city is famous for – tall elegant passageways that were originally constructed for silk merchants.

The Fourvière district is known for its location on a hill, sitting neatly beside the river Saône, as well as being the home of the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière, which can be seen from across the city. Next to the hill you'll find the Ancient Theatre of Fourvière, which was built in 15 BC and finished in the second century. Another landmark to watch out for is the Tour Métallique, which used to be a restaurant and observation tower.

The Lyon Museum of Fine Arts is one of France's biggest art museums, and houses an incredible number of pieces ranging from Egyptian coffins, to Japanese ceramics, classical portraits and modern sculptures. This museum is definitely worth a visit, even if just to admire the building itself, a vast 17th century structure with beautiful gardens, and the Fontaine Bartholdi nearby.

Getting there and around

Lyon is just a six hour drive from Calais, and only 2 hours south of Dijon. France is so easy to explore by car, and you can get across the channel from Folkestone to Calais in just 35 minutes with Eurotunnel Le Shuttle.

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Photo Credits:
Cheeses at Les Halles de Lyon © ricardo
Saucisson brioche © Jean-Marc ALBERT
Kayaking along Gorges de l'Ardèche © kmaschke
Meet Nemo at the Aquarium © Stéphane Leignier
Parc de la Tête d'Or © Katri Niemi
The buildings of Vieux Lyon © Guillaume Baviere
Place des Terreaux © Anthony V.
All pictures licensed for commercial use at time of publication.

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