I loved my three days in Lyon. It has six particular features that made it one of the most satisfying weekend breaks I’ve ever had…
… A beautiful riverscape with photogenic bridges
I love a French city with a great river and strollable quays. They do it so well over there. Old Lyon boasts two rivers: it sits at the junction of the Rhône and the Saône, offering spectacular watery views and dreamy reflections.
River views in Lyon
… Ancient twisty streets and secret passageways
Vieux Lyon is gorgeous. Rue du Boeuf, Rue St Jean, Rue des Trois Maries, Rue Juiverie and their tributaries roughly make up the warren of the old historic centre and it’s very atmospheric, with little squares tucked away here and there.
Lyon also has hidden traboules that make a fun diversion as you tour the city. These are “secret” passageways and tunnels that linked the streets whilst offering protection for the city’s silk-weavers as they carried their wares from one part of Lyon to another in the 1800s. We explored good traboules at 16 Rue du Bœuf (the UNESCO-listed Tour Rose, below left), 9 Place Colbert (odd) and 27 Rue Saint Jean.
The Tourist Office (Place Bellecour) will provide you will details of where to find accessible traboules.
… Gastronomic curiosities
Lyon is home to the colourful bouchon: unconventional, often rough-and-ready restaurants that specialise in some earthy dishes such as Andouillette and Rosette de Lyon which I’m pretty sure involve intestine and anus. My brave companion had Tablier de sapeur which appeared to be a large tripe burger in breadcrumbs.
Unless you are a fan of offal, a glossary is essential in a bouchon – I spent a good while translating Lyonnaise nose-to-tail dishes before I went.
I stuck to safer offerings like the Quenelle Lyonnaise, a kind of sausage-shaped fishcake made with pike (see below left), and cassoulet, my go-to French favourite.
Some bouchons are clearly tourist-traps. I wasn’t impressed with the busy L’Amphitryon, where I had a very challenging cut of beef, but we had a very good meal at Le Cabaretier on Rue de la Fronde, which I’d recommend.
Look out for the ‘Authentique Bouchon Lyonnais‘ sign, below left:
… Charismatic rooftops
French towns and cities always have good rooftops and Lyon has some very sexy ones. The multiple old chimneys of the historic city centre and the Croix Rouge area are much-photographed and Lyon is famous for them.
… Non-boring museums
As well as its world-class new ones like the Musée Des Confluences, Lyon has a few quirky museums that are worth checking out if it rains.
The city is the home of the iconic puppet Guignol, a kind of French Punch/Pulcinella; his image is an emblem of Lyon and is everywhere:
Accordingly, there is a Musée des Marionettes du Monde inside the Musées Gadagne that houses a collection of puppets from around the world.
For some reason I can’t not go to a puppet museum. The very good Musée d’Histoire de Lyon is also situated in the Musées Gadagne.
Inside the Musée des Marionettes du Monde
… Lots of walking up hills and steps
Lyon is extremely hilly and generously offers loads of opportunities for overeating and then walking it off. My legs were killing me on day 2: take good shoes. There is also a funicular railway which is always a fun bonus.
Montée de la Grande Côté, one of Lyon’s most beautiful streets:
A city full of steps:
Viewpoint at Jardin de la Grande Côte at the top of Montée de la Grande Côté :
Views over the old city:
A stroll along the river:
Misty morning, Lyon:
Snorting horses, Place des Terreaux, Lyon:
The “oldest cafe in Lyon”, Rue du Boeuf:
Fun at the weird puppet museum:
Unmistakably French views: