If your image of Lyon is of a crowded airport en route to an annual ski trip, it’s time to think again.
France’s third largest city was founded by the Romans in 43BC and is the gastronomic capital of the country, so pack your loosest trousers.
But it’s easy to zap excess calories walking around the varied neighbourhoods that straddle both the Rhone and the Saone rivers, and you’re never too far from a brilliant glass of Beaujolais.
A map of Lyon, France’s third largest city, which is the gastronomic capital of the country, so pack your loosest trousers
WHERE TO STAY
What this modern hotel lacks in location — it’s in the ‘burbs, but just three minutes’ walk to a metro station — it more than makes up for in trendiness. The lobby is also a shop, where you can buy everything from backpacks to lamps, leading on to a buzzy restaurant that hosts live DJ. Rooms are minimalist and, instead of TVs, they have iMac computers that show free movies. Room-only doubles from £71 (mamashelter.com).
Away Hostel & Coffee Shop
Is it a hostel, is it a hotel? More the former — yes there are dorm rooms, but also private doubles, which are good value. It’s not far from the centre of town and a metro stop is close by too, as is the Rhone if riverside jogging is part of your plans. Room-only doubles from £58 (awayhostel.com).
Close to Perrache rail station, the Victoria has a train theme — if you get one of the smaller rooms you might certainly think it’s authentically recreating a cosy overnight sleeper cabin so opt for a larger ‘comfort’ category if you can. Room-only doubles from £49 (hotelvictorialyon.com).
This new hotel, near the Confluence Museum, ramps up a hip vibe with a reception that’s also a grocery shop and trendy bedrooms: some have Smeg fridges and pop-up screens for showing movies. There’s a lively communal area that morphs from table football to pizzeria to bar, and a co-working space. Room-only doubles from £62. (mobhotel.com).
WHAT TO SEE AND DO
Lyon’s hilly old town, which you can zig-zag through via covered passageways and staircases called traboules
You can zig-zag through Lyon’s hilly old town via covered passageways and staircases called traboules. They were designed so silk workers could carry their wares without getting them damaged in bad weather. It’s certainly a good workout for anyone on foot. Luckily, if you want to visit the city’s impressive Notre Dame basilica, perched high over the city, you can take the funicular.
The once rundown Confluence area of the city’s docks has now been zhuzhed up with trendy shops, cinemas, hotels and a science and anthropology museum. The building has a modern love-it-or-hate it design: some say it looks like a scrunched-up ball of aluminium foil. Exhibits are labelled well in English. (museedesconfluences.fr, £8).
Lyon is the cradle of cinema and one-time home of the Lumiere brothers, inventors and pioneers of moving pictures. If you’re in town in October visit the Lyon film festival named after them (festival-lumiere.org). This year it has Hollywood director Francis Ford Coppola as its main guest. There’s also an interesting Miniature and Cinema Museum in the old town, which looks at special effects, film props and miniature scenes from Mrs Doubtfire to Spiderman (museeminiatureetcinema.fr, from £8).
Cruise on the Saone
A leisurely cruise down the Saone River, pictured, gives you a chance to get your bearings as well as observe life in the old part of the city
A leisurely cruise down the river gives you a chance to get your bearings as well as observe life in the old part of the city on one bank and the newer buildings of the Presqu’ile peninsula on the other. It lasts about an hour, or if you’ve more time, there’s also a two-and-a-half-hour trip that includes lunch (lesbateauxlyonnais.com, from £13; plus lunch from £45).
WHERE TO EAT
Gourmet restaurants in Lyon — it has 20 Michelin-starred establishments — offer better-value menus at lunchtime, so make this the time to splash out. At this chic spot on a quiet street near the opera house, overseen by 29-year-old head chef Florent Poulard, you can tuck into a starter and main course for under £20. No Michelin star but a real bargain. (monsieurp.fr).
Bouchon Chabert & Fils
A bouchon is a Lyonnais bistro, first developed to serve the needs of those working in the silk industry. You’ll find them all over the city offering hearty local dishes such as Salade Lyonnaise (lettuce with bacon, croutons and an egg), various types of sausages. Bouchon Chabert & Fils, on buzzy Rue des Marroniers, is tourist-friendly without being touristy and has outside tables for hot summer evenings. Two- course menus start from £18. (chabertrestaurant.fr).
Lyon City Cards include transport on buses, trams and the metro as well as entry to museums. Pictured is Jacobins Square
Les Halles de Lyon Paul Bocuse
Local chef Paul Bocuse, who died last year, was the grand fromage of French gastronomy, and it’s hard to overstate his contribution to cooking in France.
This covered market is named after him and features several dozen stalls, restaurants and cafes where you can either sit down to eat or put together a top-notch picnic to take away. It’s open from 7am every day except Mondays. (halles-de-lyon-paulbocuse.com).
Lyon City Cards include transport on buses, trams and the metro as well as entry to museums (including those mentioned, previously), a Saone riverboat cruise and a guided walking tour (lyoncitycard.com, £29 for two days). A train from the airport to the city costs from £20 return (rhonexpress.fr). For further information, log on to visiterlyon.com.
EasyJet (easyjet.com) flies from Bristol, Edinburgh, Gatwick, Luton, Stansted and Manchester from £67 return.