Despite being France's third-largest city (behind Paris and Marseille), contestably the country's culinary capital and the home to a whole heap of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Lyon somehow remains largely overlooked by tourists.
This underrated city manages to be simultaneously old and new, relaxed and exciting, metropolitan and intimate, making it a fabulous place to spend three-four days.
Be sure to arrive in Lyon with an empty stomach because you’re going to want to eat everything. From family-owned bouchons, bistros, street cafés and brasseries to Michelin-starred contemporary cuisine, Lyon is a gastronomical paradise. I recommend dining at the following dinner spots:
Les Enfants Terribles - You can't really go wrong with any of the restaurants on Rue Mercière, but this is one I happened upon. The space is quaint, the service is attentive and the food is traditional Lyonnaise.
Regain - Don't let the lack of dress code and unassuming industrial, distressed interior confuse you, this is new-age fine dining. For dinner, they offer a three or four-course prix fixe menu, but there are several amuse-bouches included. Every dish is presented beautifully and is delicious. The portions are the perfect size, leaving you full, but not feeling uncomfortable.
Léon de Lyon - This is a culinary institution of Lyon, dating back from 1904. A fine restored interior sets the stage for purebred French dishes with a new twist.
In terms of daytime activities, let’s start at the top - literally. Take the funicular up from Vieux-Lyon station to Fourvière. It only takes a few minutes and costs €3.50. As soon as you exit the station, you will find yourself facing Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
From almost anywhere in Lyon you can look up and see this basilica atop the city’s tallest hill. Built in the late 19th century, to honor the Virgin Mary and demonstrate the city’s wealth, this neo-Byzantine basilica has become the symbol of Lyon.
Fourvière Hill is one of the best places to glimpse a panoramic view of Lyon. After exploring the ornate belly of the basilica head over to the terrace to view 2,000 years of history.
Take the funicular back down to Vieux-Lyon and pop into Saint Jean Cathedral to admire the stained-glass work.
If it's a nice day, take a stroll along the banks of the Saône and Rhône rivers, which split the city in three before converging in the south.
If you have time, fixtures align and you're interested, go watch Olympique Lyonnais play football at Groupama Stadium.
After exploring this lovely city, I highly recommend resting your head at the Boscolo Hotel. I really appreciated the lion touches (Lyon, lion...Get it?).
It’s hard to resist the allure of Lyon, particularly without the bother of large crowds. Get there before that changes!
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