From its world-class food scene and cobbled old town to its dynamic new district, France’s second city is a cultural and culinary delight. Simply strolling around its beautiful streets is a history lesson, from Renaissance-era Vieux-Lyon to the cobbled, hilly streets of La Croix-Rousse. The former is famed for its traboules, secret passageways once used by silk-workers. During the war, Resistance cells used them to evade the Nazis; now, they’re a shortcut for in-the-know locals. The moving image was born here, too. Catch a classic movie at the Institut Lumière, the birthplace of cinema.
That’s not to say Lyon isn’t moving with the times. Look out for Korean artist Choi Jeong Hwa’s trippy Flower Tree sculpture – a guaranteed Instagram sensation. It’s all change at historic landmark Grand Hôtel-Dieu, a sprawling former hospital. Freshly renovated, it’s now a sleek new hangout for the city, with shops, offices, eateries and a five-star hotel. Wander the lovely courtyards, then hit its glam cocktail bar. Need more inspiration? Here’s how to spend 36 hours in Lyon.
Hitch a ride on the funicular to hilltop basilica Notre-Dame de Fourvière, built in thanks to the Virgin Mary after Lyon escaped the plague. Seek out La Cour des Voraces’ 19th-century staircase, a local icon forming part of one of the city’s most famous traboules. Then get lost in the city’s 20-acre botanical gardens, with their lush tropical palms and cool carnivorous plants.
A temple to legendary chef Paul Bocuse’s legacy, Les Halles de Lyon’s indoor market makes an ideal lunchtime pitstop. Think oysters, charcuterie and more. Airy café Mowgli serves feelgood food, from chia bowls to creative tartines. Co-owned by a talented pâtissier, pared-back Le Kitchen Café punches well above its weight, but do make sure to book ahead.
Come apéro hour, go wild for the globe-trotting tapas and cocktails at chic newcomer Sauvage. The laid-back vibe’s contagious at La Madone, in bohemian Croix-Rousse. Pick a local beer, then find a spot on the terrace. Set in the once-industrial Confluence district, former sugar factory Le Sucre is now a club with a relaxed rooftop bar and mellow river views to boot.
The glass-and-steel Musée des Confluences boldly tackles the big questions: life, death, rituals and the history of humankind. From Picasso paintings to Egyptian mummies, the Musée des Beaux-Arts’ fine-art collection has it all. Make time for the Musée Miniature et Cinéma. This quirky museum is devoted to miniature sets and movie props, from Spider-Man’s suit to Marty McFly’s hoverboard.
Chefs Tabata and Ludovic Mey cleverly riff on global flavours at Les Apothicaires: think squid with smoked chayote squash, or yakitori-style chicken. The city’s traditional bouchons are not to be missed. With friendly locals, a meaty menu and delightfully old-school décor, Le Musée offers a classic experience. For the finest of dining, polished two-star La Mère Brazier delivers every time.
We’d like one of everything in Inès and Pascale Dayet’s store Le Dadashop, from the arty, offbeat postcards to the Baggu rucksacks. Prepare to be blown away by Cica Gomez’s minimalist ceramics, made in situ and glazed with metal oxides. Stock up on playful jewellery and prints in studio-slash-store La Fabriq, where five local creatives showcase their designs.
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Image credits: © Mowgli; © Mowgli; © www.puxanphoto.com; © Mowgli; © Sauvage; © Musee Miniature et Cinema; © Nicolas Villion; © www.puxanphoto.com; © Eurostar; © Kevin Faingnaert; © Shutterstock