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.
I hope to go back to France and make it a long relaxing visit. Will add Lyon to my list of places to see and experience. Where would you suggest that I find a place to eat….I am a vegetarian. I very much enjoyed your post and photos.
Lenore?….I don’t have a smat-phone, etcetera, but I do know that there are a number of “Apps” that give advice to vegetarians travelling in France/Italy, etcetera. Search the New York Times “travel” section; they regularly have informative articles on this topic (Along with informed articles on travelling in Europe if you’re disabled, etcetera).
It is the grace with which you write that opens avenues of adventure to me.
Looks wonderful! What is the name of the restaurant pictured in the opening photograph? It’s so inviting, I want to be there!
Oh, Sharon….a Salade Lyonnaise…..perhaps my favorite thing to eat when in France over all these years. I never grow tired of it or the regional variations. There’s a good reason that Salade Lynossaise is the dish Ann Willan chose for the cover of her stupendous (it’s wonderful and BIG) “The Country Cooking of France”. I once made it for my old-fashioned, Very Southern parents (visiting from Tennessee). My father hated it (Thank you, and in contradiction to Patricia Wells, he will inform you that, no, Salad is NOT a “meal”). My mother was deeply suspicious and asked “What are you supposed to do with the egg?”. I told her that she could pick it up and put it in her purse if that made her happy, and she told me (and I cut into the two eggs and let the yolk dribble around) “Oh, I know why you like it……you ALWAYS wanted to play around with your food!”. One of my mother’s main reasons for remaining deeply suspicious of all French Food (and she’s had PLENTY over the years in this household) is that, too much of the time, it’s all “covered with sauces” and encourages folks to commit the ultimate sin……which is letting different things on the plate touch each other and, thereby, “playing with your food”. You, Sharon, will recall this from England (I do, and I’m not even English; I just went to school there for a few years)…….the chop goes HERE on the plate, and the mash goes “THERE” on the plate, and never the twain shall meet except later, in the stomach (the vegetables, of course, go back into the boiling pot for another two hours, since they arrived “underdone”).
As for Quenelles? I love them (had them mostly in Lyon and in the Loire Valley/Tours, where Herve’s from). I’ve made them, myself, here in North Carolina, using, yes, lake bream (similar to pike in texture) and crayfish (We got plenty of them, and they’re fine frozen). the rather dispiriting aspect of the business is, as you probably know and as Julia Child came to wistfully remark upon, is that making quenelles (and any number of mousselines, etccetera) used to be a task that involved DAYS of intense, skilled labor. This was NOT home-cooking, and it involved any number of sieves and mashers and strainers and god-knows-what-else in the way of batterie de cuisine.
And then, when Julia was about 65, God gave us the food-processor. A dish that used to keep at least six kitchen underlings steadily employed every day suddenly allowed dumbies like me to make quenelles in about thirty minutes in my North Carolina kitchen. I’m sure that Escoffier would scoff (and Richard Olney would scowl), but I’m very happy to have my food processor. It frees up a infinite number of hours to, once again, try mastering irregular French verbs.
thank you , of course, for the obviously evocative posting……
quail roost farm
I can’t wait to visit Provence next June ! Your photos and post serve as inspiration to my first visit!
Oh Sharon, what a lovely introduction to Lyon. It has not been on my radar before, which is why it is so valuable to have city snapshots like yours to read. Please keep them coming.
Nine years ago, lived in Valence for one year, maybe 90 minutes south of Lyon! I adored Salade Lyonaise also! Many fun trips there! Wonderful fun to read this! Merci! ⚜️
On one trip to Lyon, we ate in two different two-star restaurants (figuring three stars were just too expensive and too much food). Wow. One was very traditional (Mère Brazier; I had quenelles) and one very modern (La Neuvième Art); both were fantastic and a great experience. However, all that eating (we also tried out a number of bouchons), I put on five pounds, even though we walked everywhere.
We live in Beaune (during the summers) and visit Lyon at least once a year. Last year we stay at the Loges in a room designed by Philippe Stark! Wow! It was fun! Restaurant there is very good…I will save all your info for our next visit! Thank you…
What a beautiful and comprehensive introduction to Lyon. Thank you. My husband and I are planning too spend some time there. We used to live near Paris, and now live in the Loire-et-Cher. I’m going to earmark this blog in my Lyon file!
Where would you recommend staying? I am planning a trip to France from 4-10 October and I haven’t booked a hotel stay yet
OMG everything looks super cute and delicious as well !
My daughter just finished a summer semester at the Catholic University in Lyon, and of course we had to go meet up with her in her adopted home! What an amazing city – a gorgeous view around every corner. The pedestrian bridges over the Saône give such spectacular views, too. I’d also recommend the many museums – I particularly enjoyed the Musée des Confluences, which explores, in a very unique and informative way, the place of the human species in relation to earth’s other species. Very eye opening. Thanks, Sharon – your wonderful post makes me want to go back!!
I do love your blog posts, they make me want to get out and explore and learn and taste the world around me.
Such lovely photography too.
thank you, sharon
It looks lovely! I hope to visit Lyon one day…soon and try the foods you’ve suggested!