18 May LYON – YOUR NEXT MUST-VISIT FRENCH CITY TRIP
Nestled in the heart of France, Lyon stands as an irresistible fusion of rich history, tantalizing cuisine, and a vibrant cultural scene. With its UNESCO-listed architectural wonders, vibrant neighborhoods, and mouthwatering gastronomy, Time to Momo’s Lyon is undoubtedly a gem waiting to be discovered. We will unravel its hidden secrets, revealing its lesser-known corners and enticing experiences.
For many, Lyon is only a short stop on their way to the South of France. Such a shame, because we’ve discovered that France’s third city deserves more than just a drive-through. Besides, if you are a food-lover, a stop in this city is mandatory.
The Secrets of the Vieux Lyon District
Venture into Vieux Lyon, the city’s enchanting old town, where cobblestone streets wind their way through a labyrinth of medieval architecture. Lose yourself in the charm of its Renaissance courtyards, explore its hidden traboules (passageways), and uncover the tales that whisper through its ancient walls.
Discover the Traboules
Lyon’s hidden treasures lie within its intricate network of Traboules, secret passageways that date back centuries. These hidden corridors weave their way through the city’s historic neighbourhoods, connecting streets, courtyards, and even entire buildings. You can recognise the traboules by a plaque hanging on the wall. Not all are open to ‘outsiders’ and sometimes you need to push a button to enter. Important to respect the silence and privacy of people living here. Extra tip: try traboule Rue Saint-Georges between no. 10 and 12. It’s fun to try and spot them whilst wandering the city. Every time we entered a traboule, I felt different. Sometimes it’s like stepping into a fairytale and many times it felt like we were trespassing.
Typical bouchons in Lyon
From quaint bouchons to atmospheric restaurants, Vieux Lyon is teeming with culinary hotspots. Indulge in hearty dishes like parmentier (meat and mashed potatoes), quenelles de brochet (pike dumplings), and the iconic Lyonnais sausage. The traditional cuisine is best described as comfort food. You can expect a family-style serving, especially in the bouchons, typical Lyonnais restaurants. Although pork is a favourite for many locals, the Lyonnais cuisine also offers many fish dishes and vegetarian options, like the ravioles gratin. Tip: a popular bouchon, where we ate and felt very welcome is Les Lyonnais in Vieux Lyon.
From Vieux Lyon to Fourvière for a panoramic view
When in Vieux Lyon, don’t skip the Fourvière district. Perched atop the Fourvière Hill, the Fourvière district offers breathtaking panoramic views of Lyon and an array of captivating sights to explore. To get here, take the funicular to the top. Start your journey with a visit to the majestic Basilica of Notre Dame de Fourvière, a stunning example of Byzantine architecture adorned with intricate mosaics and soaring towers. From the square, you’ll have a mesmerising view of Lyon. Afterwards, make a peaceful stroll down the hill, through the serene gardens of the Esplanade de Fourvière, where you can admire the city below.
Gastronomique capital of France
Besides the traditional bouchons, Lyon has more to offer when it comes to gastronomy. Thanks to its geographical position, it attracts chefs who love working with local produce. Think of poultry from Bresse, wine from the Beaujolais and Rhône Valley, milk for the cheeses and more. Currently, Lyon is the home of 20 Michelin-starred restaurants!
Paul Bocuse was one of the famous chefs of Lyon, who owned multiple Michelin-star restaurants and was known for his high-quality cooking. In addition, he created one of the most prestigious cooking contests in the world: the Bocuse d’Or. In 2018 he passed away at age 91. His restaurants are still open and we visited Brasserie Le Nord for lunch. Also, the indoor food market named after him (Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse) is worth a visit. Try fresh oysters, brioche or take something for the way home.
Tip: pink praline is also a speciality in Lyon. These pink sugared almonds are found in every bakery, added to the brioche or cakes.
Save this one: Upcoming district La Confluence
We took the Vaporetto (river shuttle) to drop us at La Confluence. It gave us a breathtaking first impression of this upcoming district. Modern architecture and street art turn La Confluence into an open-air contemporary art museum. Lyon’s modern and dynamic district shows the city’s innovative spirit.
Located at the confluence of the Rhône and Saône rivers, this former industrial area has been transformed into a vibrant hub of contemporary architecture, design, and urban development. Especially the colourful building on the Saône riverside impressed me. Find futuristic architecture, browse the trendy boutiques and concept stores, and immerse yourself in the cultural offerings of museums and galleries that make La Confluence a must-visit. Tip: try Musée des Confluences at the very end of the peninsula. Even if you are not the museum type, you’re going to love this one (fun fact: the mammoth is actually found in Lyon).
Street art in Croix-Rousse district
Croix-Rousse district embraces its creative side through captivating street art that adorns its walls and alleys. As you wander through its bohemian streets, you’ll encounter vibrant murals, thought-provoking graffiti, and captivating stencil art that showcase the district’s artistic energy and rebellious spirit. Each piece tells a unique story, adding an extra layer of charm and character to this artistic haven within Lyon. There are over 200 murals in Lyon (including suburbs) of which the Wall of Canut is the most well-known. This enormous mural showcases the atmosphere of the district. Therefore, every few decades the mural is adjusted to a more up-to-date reflection of current society.
Whereas many street artists choose a wall as their canvas, the anonymous artist Ememem (translating to lovelovelove) chooses the cracks in sidewalks and façades. With colourful mosaics, Ememem ‘heals’ the streets with art. We’ve found one in the Croix-Rousse district, but we know there’s another one at the very end of the peninsula in La Confluence.
Hotspot tips in Bellecour district in Lyon:
- We stayed in Hôtel de Verdun 1882, a charming hotel with a boutique atmosphere and French/English influences.
- Visit bar Le Dôme at InterContinental Hotel for a drink. This former hospital has an impressive 32-metre high Dôme. Tip: choose the award-winning signature cocktail Panthéon.
- Look for antiques at Marilyn. I promise you’ve never before seen a cluttered shop like this one. All items are stacked on top of each other, and it looks like it is ready to collapse. I’ve seen them collect a 100 yr old glass bottle (I bought) from the back of the shop. Quite impressive, I must say.
- Sit down at Little – Petits Gâteaux for a delicious piece of cake and a cup of coffee.
- Shop vintage at Rosa Vintage or Les Fringantes, two colourful boutiques with retro items.
We’ve made our way from the Netherlands to Lyon by train with NS International. A very comfortable voyage of half a day, in which you can admire the changing of the landscape, read a book or even get some work done.
Once in Lyon, get your Lyon City Card which allows you to travel by public transport and gives you free admission or entry with a reduced price to many activities. You can even use it for the Vaporetto, the river shuttle.
This city surprised me more than once during my visit. The mixture of street art, food, history and architecture is a promise of Lyon to all visitors. A promise of surprise. Once discovered, you wonder why you’ve never been before. My three days here weren’t nearly enough. I can already hear Lyon call my name.