Lyon is highly regarded as one of France’s top gourmet destinations with a type of city pride that revolves food with top chefs, restaurants, and a location perfectly placed between Burgundy, Beaujolais and Côtes du Rhone for a selection of wine that cannot be beaten. There are a couple of standard places you must see when visiting Lyon: The Basilica Notre Dame de Fourvierve, Les Halles, and Le Vieux Lyon.
The Basilica overlooks the city high upon a hill. If you’re making room for a multi-course gourmet meal, all you have to do is scramble to the top. And quite the hike it is, starting with staircases off the main streets in the old part of Lyon that seem to go on forever, highlighted by fun street art and beautiful views of the city.
The path soon turns to a steep zigzag winding past the rose garden, which if you are lucky enough to catch in bloom, is breathtaking, and religious sculptures to stop and admire (as you catch your breath).
The journey itself to the top is certainly rewarding, but it’s also important to note that there is a Funicular you can ride to the top. The views of the city are stunning showing just how much it has expanded, especially as it is one of France’s oldest cities. The Basilica greatly resembles the Sacre Coeur in Paris having been built at about the same time in the 19th century in the neo-Byzantine style with shimmering white stone.
While at the top take a moment to view the old Roman amphitheatre still used today during the summer for a music festival.
Vieux Lyon, the old Lyon, a beautiful part of the city with winding narrow streets and historic buildings dating back to the Renaissance. Get lost and see if you can find the “traboules,” secret covered passageways between buildings dating back to the 4th century. They are unique to Lyon and some say there are more than 400 in the city. Throughout history they’ve been used for several different reasons, the original being that they provided a more direct route to fresh water for the cities residents than the winding streets provided. Later in the 19th century, they were used by silk workers to carry their heavy wares from their workshops to the textile merchants, especially useful in bad weather. During WW2 they were used entirely differently for secret meetings by the resistance, keeping the Nazis from completely taking over the city. To find these passageways, just take a look online, or poke around in this section of the city and you’re sure to run into one.
A gourmet site not to be missed is Les Halles de Lyon-Paul Bocuse, a covered market near the train station named after one of the most famous chefs of the city: Paul Bocuse. Inside you’ll find more than 50 different food stands mixed in between highly rated restaurants, so be sure to visit with an empty belly!
When you are visiting Lyon, try these popular Lyonnaise dishes/foods: Salade lyonnaise, a salad with butter lettuce, croutons, bacon, and poached egg; charcuterie including the lyonnaise rosette; quenelles, a filling dish with creamed meat or fish that is mixed with breadcrumbs, shaped into an oblong shape then poached and served with a cream sauce; praliné, rose-colored candied almonds that are used in a variety of pastries from tarts to croissants to the famous brioche at Pralus; and raviolis- you thought these were just Italian, but they are very traditional to Lyon as well, filled with anything from foie gras to cheese.
Restaurants of note to discover/enjoy: L’Âme Soeur with seasonal traditional lyonnaise dishes in a modern but comfortable bistro setting, and Pierre Orsi, Michelin 1*, serves up the classics with a refined twist in a bourgouis house in the heart of Lyon.
Beautiful Places to Stay when visiting Lyon: Cour des Loges a classic and beautiful 5* hotel in the heart of Lyon. Each headboard is a unique piece of art. Just a little bit outside of Lyon is the Maison d’Anthrouard, situated in the French countryside, a relaxing retreat.