Experience the Gastronomical Delights and Architecture of Lyon

In this latest guest post from guest contributor and cruise enthusiast, David Wishart takes us on a tour around the 2,000-year-old city of Lyon.

France has a lot to offer, starting with Paris. The south of France has beaches and glamor, Bordeaux with its glorious wine and Marseille has its lively Old Port and its famous bouillabaisse fish soup. But there is also a city equally dynamic and second in size only to the capital: Lyon, which has – everything!

Located two hours south of Paris on the fast TGV rail system, Lyon is close to the Burgundy region, surrounded by vineyards, as well as top Michelin-star restaurants.

Monsieur Antonin, owner of Chez Antonin in Les Halles (David Wishart)

Monsieur Antonin, owner of Chez Antonin in Les Halles (David Wishart)

Often called the gastronomic capital of France, the heart and soul of the city is a big indoor market called Les Halles. Here foodies will find the best of everything such as Bresse chicken, many cheeses such as the creamy, local St. Marcellin and delectable cakes with almond-rich pralines. You can eat fresh oysters with a “pot” of Macon wine, and dine at any of the cozy restaurants offering traditional Lyonnais cuisine. Chez Antonin does a wonderful seafood lunch.

Paul Bocuse’s name is on the market because he is the city’s most famous chef, but his 3-star Michelin restaurant is actually just out of town at Collonges. It was here he created his celebrated truffle soup in 1975 for a French president, and it can be yours for about $100 bucks. He has however, a string of brasseries around Lyon, and one of them L’Est, is in an old railway station. Aptly, a miniature train runs around the restaurant just below the ceiling. Recommended for kids of all ages!

Fourviere Basilica Rises Above the Elegant Buildings on Lyon's Riverside (David Wishart)

Fourviere Basilica Rises Above the Elegant Buildings on Lyon’s Riverside (David Wishart)

Adventurous eaters should explore the bouchon restaurants where traditional Lyonnais fare is served. I stumbled on the Le Garet where the menu featured calf’s head and tripe. I had herring with lentils, followed by saucisson (a large, very tasty sausage) and boiled potatoes. Add a glass of Rhone wine for a meal to remember. The staff was friendly, spoke English, and it was not expensive.

Not far away is Lyon’s modern art museum, the Beaux Arts, endowed with Impressionists and a charming garden, it’s a good place to escape city crowds.

In fact there is much to see and do in Lyon. A good place to start is the Lyon Tourist Office, open 7 days a week from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m, that’s located in the centre of the city at the elegant Place Bellecour. Once again the staff is friendly and speaks English. A City Card is a good idea, which gets visitors into 22 museums, as well as the Lyon City Boat, a guided river cruise excursion, and a 10 percent discount on L’Open Tour, a hop on-hop off bus service, that will get you to all the main attractions.

Dinner Cruise on Hermès (David Wishart)

Dinner Cruise on Hermès (David Wishart)

The Lyon City Boat also offers lunch and dinner cruises on the luxury Hermès, recommended for a hot day as the vessel is beautifully air-conditioned. However there is a good-sized aft deck, partly shaded, perfect for taking photographs. The cruise starts in the city centre, goes around the Confluence, heads north to Ile Barbe, where a monastery was founded in the 5th century and had a library given by Charlemagne. Hermès then turns around and goes back the same way – perfect for those seated by windows, allowing them to see both sides in comfort.

Lyon is lined with handsome waterside buildings and some breathtaking landmarks such as the Fourviere Basilica, a hilltop basilica overlooking the city, whose very location at the confluence of the Rhone and Soane rivers is quite remarkable. The rivers converge just south of the city centre creating a narrow peninsula, or “presqu’ile” whose former docklands are being redeveloped as the Confluence with some striking buildings and a huge glass and steel museum that reminds the visitor of Bilbao’s Guggenheim or Star Wars.

The Confluence is a work in progress, one aimed at creating a cultural hub that will reshape Lyon, a city that was the ancient capital of Roman Gaul and later a center of the silk industry. The historic covered alleyways, known as traboules, where the canuts (silk weavers) worked are changing too, with emerging fashion studios and cafes.

In fact most stay seated during the trip, which lasts two and a half hours, because they are served a delicious lunch by an excellent wait staff. I had tasty scallops, sea bass and a meringue desert, accompanied by a good Macon wine – as good an epicurean experience as I’ve had afloat for a long time.

Finally, seek out the Lumiere Film Museum, a tribute to the Lyonnais brothers, pioneers in photography, who went on to invent the cinematographe, a derivation of the word cinema, and showed it off to universal acclaim in Paris in 1895. Better still, be here October 12-18 for the Lumiere Film Festival.

Fourviere Basilica Rises Above the Elegant Buildings on Lyon's Riverside (David Wishart)

Fourviere Basilica Rises Above the Elegant Buildings on Lyon’s Riverside (David Wishart)

Fly.com Expert Tips

How To Get There: As noted by the author, to get to Lyon is by taking the high speed TGV, which is about two hours from Paris. Paris has two major airports: Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) and Orly Airport (ORY). de Gaulle is Europe’s second busiest airport (behind London Heathrow) and is served by over 100 different domestic and international airlines including Air France, Delta and United, with nonstop service from Chicago, New York City, San Francisco and more. Information regarding area transportation is available here.
You can catch the TGV to Lyon directly from de Gaulle Airport, and one-way fares start USD$30. If you’re traveling from Paris, the train to Lyon departs from Paris Gare Lyon, and one-way fares start from USD$36. Reservations and schedule information is available through Rail Europe.
Best Time To Visit: Like with many destinations in Europe, the best time to visit is dependant on what you’re looking for. Summer is the best time to visit for the good weather and tourist activities, but is also crowded and expensive, with July and August being the hottest summer months. Rain in Lyon can be unpredictable, but fall is generally the wettest time of year. Winter is the cheaper time for hotels and airfares, and even though the weather is cold and you’ll encounter attractions that are closed for the season, but it rarely snows and the temperature ranges from 37 to 50 degrees. Spring weather is generally in the high-60s and is a pleasant time to be in Lyon, especially when the flora and fauna are blooming.

Sample Fares: Calendars display lowest roundtrip fares over the next 90 days to Paris from:

* All fares are roundtrip including all taxes and are accurate at time of publication. For updated pricing, conduct a new search on Fly.com.

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Featured Image: Hermès River Boat (David Wishart)

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