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A Lyon travel guide – 2,000 years of history, gourmet treats and cultural masterpieces in France’s second city

Find a place to stay

A Lyon city break feeds the stomach and the soul with Michelin-starred restaurants and traditional bistros, Renaissance palaces and world-class museums. Book a Lyon hotel and discover a city with a Roman past and a vibrant contemporary life.

Get your bearings

Wherever you book your Lyon hotel, you’re not far from the mighty Rhone and Saône rivers that flow majestically through the city. On the Saône’s west bank, the Renaissance streets of Vieux Lyon are dominated by the ancient Roman city and the huge 19th-century Basilica on Fourvière. Over the river, the modest houses and squares, neighbourhood bistros and shops mean La Croix- Rousse feels like a small town. Grand buildings and spacious open squares in Presqu’île, sandwiched between the two rivers, contain museums showcasing everything from fine arts to wartime history, specialist shops for silks, chocolate or antiques, and buzzing bars and restaurants. To the south where the two rivers meet, former industrial district Perrache is being developed for the 21st century. Prosperous 19th-century residential areas, La Part-Dieu business district and the convention complex of Cité Internationale line the Rhône’s east bank.

Walk through 2,000 years of history

Climb up the uneven steps of the huge Roman theatre of 15BC and imagine the roars of the 10,000 strong-crowd in Roman Gaul’s capital city. Fast forward to the Renaissance for a stroll past the former palaces of the wealthy Italian banker-merchants in Vieux Lyon. In the tiny, dark traboule between 9 Place Colbert and 10 bis Montée Saint-Sébastien in La Croix-Rousse, an 18th-century six-storey staircase leads seemingly to the stars. Bringing Lyon right up to date is this century’s exciting Cité Internationale and the Museum of Contemporary Art.

France’s gastronomic heart

With so many Michelin-starred chefs, a Lyon city break becomes a grand gourmet tour. Join the top chefs shopping for saucissons from Sibilia, chocolates at Richart and cheese at Mère Richard in Les Halles de Lyon. The really serious (and wealthy) take a trip to Paul Bocuse’s restaurant just outside Lyon. Otherwise book one of Lyon’s famous brasseries, where the rich decor matches classic cooking. You’ll find great value in the bouchons, the old Lyonnais bistros where eating quenelle dumplings and drinking local Côtes du Rhône or Beaujolais in a 45cl pot is an established pastime.

 

Museums for every taste

The rich collections in the Museum of Fine Arts rival the Louvre in Paris, with rarely seen masterpieces like the Sarcophagus of Lady Istemkheb and Picasso’s Woman Seated on the Beach. Watch the complex process of silk weaving on a Jacquard loom at the Maison des Canuts. See the first film ever made at the Musée Lumière and venture to the 17th-century chateau that houses the Musée Automobile Henri Malartre for vintage cars which include Hitler’s Mercedes and Edith Piaf’s Packard. 

Shopping

Go with a full wallet to the Carre d’Or (Square of Gold) in Lyon’s historic centre for big-name shopping. The glass-canopied, 19th- century Passage de l’Argue houses old- fashioned shops selling umbrellas, hats and gloves. Antique hunters make for the Auguste Comte area off Place Bellecour.