Lyon makes the most of her ideal location in east central France, looking toward the magnificent ridges of the French Alps. In the best of all worlds, Lyon spreads between the Fourviere and Croix-Rousse hills and the Rhone and Saone Rivers to provide lovely waterfront scenes and broad hilltop vistas. C’est magnifique, so you will want to settle in for a few days to enjoy the many pleasures of this vibrant city. And the friendly Lyonnais are part of her scheme, urging you to every historic quarter and riverside quai, up their magnificent hills and into their fabulous bistros. In fact, they so believe in their city that they have a legion of volunteer Lyon City Greeters who share their insider tips and best kept city secrets!
Where to Stay
Many are partial to Vieux Lyon – Old Lyon – hugging the shores of Saone’s left bank and set beneath the Basilica on Fourviere Hill. The College Hotel is a unique choice – crisply clean and comfortable and whimsically decorated to recall college days with old leather sofas and a library. Even your all-white, airy room has a blackboard with your room number to reinforce the school theme. A 3-star choice from 115 Euros with a 12 Euro breakfast.
La Tour Rose – just down the street from The College, this 4-star deluxe hotel also is in the heart of Old Town. You’ll enjoy genuine luxury with finely restored architecture and rooms decorated in elegant fabrics from the best silk houses in Lyon. A genteel experience from 230 Euros/night – handsome bar, restaurant and delightful terrace dining options, the hotel spreads through three Renaissance buildings dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth century.
Dining in Lyon
Lyon is no less than a gastronomique paradise, a world-wide magnet for food lovers. Exceptional bistros and restaurants cluster throughout the city – in the old town and on the Presqu’ile area between the two rivers, on the hilltops and around the dominant Place Bellcours. Inside cozy interiors, you’ll discover steamy traditional meat and potato dishes. Or you might sip a glass of classic Cotes du Rhone on a canopied outdoor terrace. The range of restaurant offerings is incredible with Michelin-starred bistros vying with traditional bouchons to capture your imagination. A couple of suggestions will get you started, but you will discover your own dining jewels along the way.
L’Auberge de l’Ile – 1 Place Notre Dame, Ile Barbe, 69009, Lyon with 2 Michelin stars, expect a gastronomic pleasure trip in an elegant setting with prices to match.
Chez Hugon is at the other end of the spectrum, a real local favourite that is both unsophisticated and inexpensive. Located near the Hotel de Ville (City Hall), the restaurant menu offers regional specialties from hearty sausage dishes to black pudding.
Lyon is proud, progressive and primed to welcome visitors. Start with a visit to the Office of Tourism located in a Pavilion on La Place Bellecour. Representatives are helpful in providing maps, restaurant and event information. Popular walking tours take you from the 12th century to modern Lyon, through the silk district and the lively Presqu’ile (peninsula) between the rivers to the Museum of Gallo-Roman Civilization.
The Place itself is the largest clear square in Europe, void of trees but nonetheless a thriving center. Two prominent statues honor King Louis XIV and the Petit Prince author Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Shopping areas and restaurant choices spill off the place in lively pedestrian areas.
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Lyon is steeped in history with centuries-old ties to Rome. The Old Town area of Saint-Jean and the Croix-Rousse area offer stunning examples of Renaissance and Roman architecture. Throughout Vieux Lyon, fascinating traboules – secret passages – thread their way between houses and tiny streets, passages that were once a salvation for silk merchants en route to work and, more famously, a protective route for resistance members to elude German soldiers.
Museum of the Resistance – Lyon’s importance during World War II is reflected at the Centre d’ Histoire de la Resistance et de la Deportation In the very building that housed Gestapo Headquarters (and, consequently captured and tortured prisoners), the museum combines various exhibitions with living stories, historic collections and films to offer diverse views of the wartime experience. Lyon was so important to the resistance movement, that General Charles DeGaulle in 1944 declared Lyon the “Capital of the Resistance.” Located at 14 Avenue Berthelot in the 7th arrondissement, the museum is well worth a two- or three-hour visit.
Institut Lumiere Museum – Cinema buffs may want to pay a visit to the museum that honors the Lumiere brothers who were among the first filmmakers, holding their first screening of projected motion pictures in 1895. Their accomplishments continue to feed local pride and interest in the cinema, so you will find exceptional exhibits and special movie showings, including an annual film festival.
Notre-Dame-de-Fourviere, Lyon – No doubt the gleaming neo-Byzantine basilica will draw your interest , as it sits majestically above the city for all to appreciate. Slender turrets mark each corner, and the bell tower encloses a gilded statue of the Virgin Mary. It is a beautiful setting, next to the ancient Chapel of the Virgin with a terrace providing a panoramic view of the city and the basilica. Before your return walk down to the city, be sure to enjoy the nearby gardens of Rosaire and the Hauteurs Park.
When you walk along the shaded riverfronts or climb the hill behind View Lyon, the city seems to preen for you, showing off her natural beauty and deep cultural and historical roots. Indeed, the city is a vibrant mix of old and new, of respect for tradition and embrace of industry. With a dozen or more of universities and colleges, the student populace adds to the relaxed rhythm of Lyon. Beyond your museum visits and mouthwatering meals, you will take pleasure in simple walks throughout the relaxed, cosmopolitan city.