Did you know that you can now fly to Lyon from Canada all year round? The gastronomic capital of France is now accessible in summer, spring, fall and winter to allow epicurean travellers to discover this underrated city (and its region!) that has nothing to envy to the real capital. Shaped by its history and carried by its future, animated by its traditions and nourished by its dreams, Lyon, France’s third largest city, truly deserves to be known for a most relaxed urban escapade. Here is our handpicked Lyon travel guide to find out where to eat, what to do, where to get the best views and, in any case, how to be surprised.
Firstly, Lyon’s historic district is full of treasures dating back from the medieval and Renaissance eras, which can be discovered strolling in its cobbled alleys. The area is easily accessible as it’ss located on the right bank of the Saône, at the foot of the Fourvière hill.
When in the area, make sure to explore the alleyways known as traboules, which are essentially secret passages between narrow streets and inner courtyards. The city has more than 300 of them! Initially built for practical supply reasons, they have had multiple functions throughout the centuries, for instance as a hideout during the Second World War. The Longue traboule is the best known and connects the rue Saint-Jean to the rue du Bœuf through three separate courtyards.
In Vieux-Lyon, you can also stop here:
- Saint-Jean Cathedral to observe the details of the Romanesque architecture
- The Saint-Georges footbridge for a photo opportunity of the city
- The Food Traboule food court, to discover local chefs and enjoy the view of the magnificent pink tower
- Rue du Boeuf for a bit of daydreaming, as the presence of numerous Michelin-starred restaurants has made it the most starred in France
- The Cinema and Miniatures Museum to immerse yourself in the classics of French cinema through nearly 500 mythical filming artefacts
Day trip from Lyon: hiking or skiing in the French Alps
As the gateway to the French Alps, Lyon is consequently the best place to plan a hike in the French Alps from spring to autumn. Indeed, there are several options for all levels of hikers. The Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc area, in particular, has everything to please, with short hour-long as well as full day trails all offering exceptional views of the Alps.
Conversely, the area becomes a ski hub come wintertime as it is acclaimed worldwide for its ski (and après-ski) facilities.
An electric bike ride
Thinking of visiting Lyon in an eco-friendly way? Yes, you can! The city is a playground for bicycles thanks to the many cycling paths that were laid out over the past decade along the two rivers and through the various districts. For that reason, plan a themed and guided electric bike tour and discover the city… like a Lyonnais would!
Lyon is built around its confluence of rivers and its two hills. To get the best view, climb the Croix-Rousse hill to reach the Place du Gros-Caillou and enjoy an unobstructed panorama over the roofs of Lyon. It’s a demanding walk to say the least, but well worth it!
History lovers should plan a stop at the Amphitheatre of the 3 Gauls, one of the most beautiful Gallo-Roman remains in the city of Lyon, right in the heart of the Jardin des Plantes. Finally, Croix-Rousse is the second district of the city with the most traboules; explore them while you’re there! The traboule of the Cour des Voraces is the most famous and worth a visit.
Here are a few places to stop in Croix-Rousse for refreshments along the way:
Standing guard over Lyon from the heights of Fourvière Hill since the late 19th century, the Basilica of Notre-Dame-de-Fourvière serves as a landmark for residents. Lavish, richly decorated and offering visitors a 360-degree view from its rooftops, the basilica is a must on any Lyon travel guide. It is even a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The more courageous will climb this second hill on foot, while others will mingle with the locals by taking the pretty red funicular to the Colline de Fourvière, leaving from the Vieux Lyon Cathédrale Saint-Jean station.
The Garden of Montreal
Any native or adopted Montrealer should go to the Jardin de Montréal to stroll through the works of art that have taken up residence there, enjoy a view (another one!) over the rooftops of Lyon and better understand the special heritage that unites the cities of Lyon and Montreal.
Les Muses terrace for aperitifs
Les Muses, the official terrace of the Lyon Opera, is a small hidden treasure that offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the old city at sunset. It is in fact the ideal place to enjoy a kir while admiring the local fauna from the top of the seventh floor, in the company of the famous statues that give their name to the place.
Day trip to Annecy
The Venice of the Alps is a perfect destination for a trip to the heart of Alpine France. Its pretty cobbled streets, turquoise lake, medieval castle, three romantic canals and surrounding mountains make it an idyllic place to experience Savoy’s formerly bourgeois heritage on foot, by bike or by boat. In summer and winter, the traditional cheese fondue is not to be missed!
Les Halles Paul Bocuse
This emblematic covered market is the Mecca of Lyon’s gastronomy and is home to around 60 traders, including cheese makers, pastry chefs, market gardeners and other food shops. If you are hungry, why not take a guided food tour? Some of Lyon’s regional specialities to try while you’re at Halles Paul Bocuse:
- Rosette de Lyon charcuterie
- Praline tart
- Dauphine potatoes
- Saint-Marcellin cheese
Lyon travel guide: the best restaurants in Lyon
It is impossible to visit Lyon without stopping at a real and authentic Lyon bouchon. Except perhaps for vegetarians or vegans; first thing to remember is that the typical bouchon gastronomy is just about as carnivorous as it gets. Nevertheless, here are some of the best bouchons in Lyon:
Besides, there are plenty of not-quite-as-traditional restaurants throughout the city. From a natural wine bar to a typical French brasserie, from a patisserie to the vegetarian counter of a Michelin-starred chef, there is truly something for every taste and budget:
- Brasserie Georges
- Culina In Via
- Bonomia boulangerie
- L’Auberge du Pont de Collonges de Paul Bocuse
- Canaille & Pétrin
- La Mère Brazier
- Les mauvaises herbes
Lyon travel guide: the best hotel in Lyon
Lastly, where to stay in Lyon? 4* Hôtel de Verdun1882 is located on Lyon’s Presqu’ile, a stone’s throw from Place Bellecour. Its elegant 19th century façade belongs to a handful of historic hotels dating from the 19th century. The rooms are littered with the travel memorabilia of the owners, Isabelle and Gilles, giving it atmospheric, historic vibes. At just 30 rooms, it is an intimate, pleasantly human-scale hotel, right in the city centre.